The life and death of “Big Ang” from Mob Wives: She left her husband while suffering cancer.

In a world filled with ordinary lives, there are rare individuals who possess larger-than-life personalities that simply cannot be ignored. Angela Raiola was undeniably one of those remarkable people.

Perhaps you recall her as “Big Ang” from VH1’s popular show “Mob Wives,” but Angela will forever hold that endearing title for me. Unfortunately, this vibrant star’s life was tragically cut short at 55 after a grueling battle with cancer.

Angela revealed a heartbreaking truth during her final interview before passing in 2016. She warned others, imploring them not to repeat her devastating mistake. 

With her distinctive raspy voice and bold demeanor, Angela, or “Big Ang,” captivated the hearts of audiences when she burst onto the reality television scene in 2012.

Throughout her three-year stint on “Mob Wives,” she became the show’s shining star, dazzling viewers with her larger-than-life personality destined to bring laughter into our lives.

However, those who knew Angela personally testify to her incredible kindness and genuine acknowledgment of everyone around her. When she passed away on February 18, 2016, the world didn’t merely lose a beloved reality star; Angela left behind a family, sons, and grandchildren who were utterly heartbroken.

But how did the woman behind the dazzling makeup and multiple plastic surgeries transform into one of America’s most adored reality television personalities?

What lay beneath the surface of the “Mob Wives” star with her voluminous lips, striking figure, and husky voice? Unveiling Angela’s ties to the Mafia in New York City sheds light on her intriguing background.

Angela Joyce Raiola was born on June 30, 1960, in the busy neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. What many people don’t realize is that Angela was the niece of the late Salvatore “Sally Pup” Lombardi, a legendary “capo” or captain of the Genovese criminal family—one of the city’s famed “Five Families” that ruled over the underworld.

Angela’s childhood was shaped within a large family, boasting four brothers and two sisters.

In 2001, Angela faced legal trouble due to her involvement in a drug ring based in Brooklyn. She was apprehended for selling cocaine to undercover police officers after receiving the drugs from the organization for distribution on the street level. 

Federal agents identified her as an associate of the drug ring’s leader. Consequently, in May 2001, Angela was indicted on six felony counts. Ultimately, she pleaded guilty and received a three-year probation sentence in 2003.

Angela reflected on her past actions, saying, “People ask me why I did it. I was a single mom, supporting my family and paying $3,000 in rent. I did it for the money. I wouldn’t do it again, and I haven’t since. I learned my lesson.”

Angela also spent four months under house arrest as part of her punishment, compelled to wear an electronic monitoring device. For someone as vibrant and outgoing as “Big Ang,” this confinement proved a significant ordeal.

“My girlfriends and family came by daily, making me feel less claustrophobic. But for someone like me, who thrives amid action and loves going out, being confined to one place was pure torture,” she revealed.

In her book titled “Bigger Is Better,” Angela delved into her lifestyle and offered advice to those facing the challenges of house arrest. Her tips included:

  • Hiring a personal trainer.
  • Bringing the party to your abode.
  • Hosting sleepovers.
  • Even getting a tattoo to commemorate the experience.

Although Angela Raiola occasionally expressed an attraction to charismatic gangsters, she veered onto the right side of the law after gaining fame through “Mob Wives.”

Her meteoric rise began in 2012, when she joined the show’s second-season cast. Angela instantly endeared herself to audiences as a Staten Island local and remained a significant presence on the show until its closure in 2016.

“Mob Wives,” which aired on VH1, was about a group of ladies in the New York City borough of Staten Island who were all involved with the Mafia. Jennifer “Jenn” Graziano, the show’s producer, created the concept. Following the premiere of the first season, critics were divided.

T.V. critic Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly wrote, “As someone who’s watched at least a few episodes of every version of the Real Housewives franchise and feels a bit nauseous about it, I didn’t come to Mob Wives with high hopes. But this floridly comic, vicariously vicious reality series exerts a vulgar charm.” 

However, not all critics shared the same sentiment. The New York Daily News dismissed the show as a “tired concept” that was “so bad it should sleep with fishes.”

Despite varying opinions about the show itself, Angela “Big Ang” Raiola left an indelible mark on the hearts of viewers, garnering immense popularity and earning the title of the most affable among the mob wives.

Many regarded her as the embodiment of love, sweetness, and groundedness, setting her apart from the other women on the show.

Due to her widespread appeal, Angela received her own spin-off shows, “Big Ang” in 2012 and “Miami Monkey” in 2013.

It comes as no surprise that Angela was an advocate of cosmetic surgery. Her journey began in 1985, after giving birth to her first child when she experienced profound insecurity about her body and felt compelled to take action.

 “After I had the baby, my boobs were lifeless. They sagged down to my waist like prunes. In 1995, I underwent my first surgery to have them redone. The sponges were removed, and saline implants were inserted. I’ve always had a large chest; even at the young age of 14, I was a double 36 D,” she candidly shared.

 Many speculated that Angela had undergone excessive cosmetic procedures throughout her time in the spotlight. Towards the end of her life, the charismatic Mob Wife openly admitted her obsession with plastic surgery, stating that she enjoyed constantly altering her appearance.

In early 2015, Angela began experiencing neck pain and sensed that something was amiss. She sought medical attention at a hospital in Staten Island, where doctors made a distressing discovery—a tumor the size of a lemon in her throat. 

They promptly removed it. Later that same year, Angela received another devastating diagnosis: stage 4 brain and lung cancer.

“At first, I thought I was cancer-free. I was ready to throw a big party. But a month later, I was diagnosed with stage 4,” Angela shared. Despite her ongoing battle, she continued to appear on “Mob Wives,” albeit visibly suffering.

 During a February 13, 2016, reunion episode, she summoned the strength to join the cast for two hours, demonstrating her unwavering commitment to the show.

Angela had two children, Raquel and Anthony “A.J.” Donofrio, and six cherished grandchildren. In 2009, she married Neil Murphy, although their relationship had its complexities. However, Angela decided to part ways with her husband amidst her battle with cancer.

“I felt like he never stepped up to the plate, so I was done with it,” she expressed. “Now, it’s too late. I would rather be by myself. I would rather be alone.”

Before her passing, Angela made a poignant appearance on The Dr. Oz Show, using the platform to shed light on her experiences and share her thoughts. Reflecting on Angela’s last months, Dr. Oz revealed the emotional turmoil she endured. 

“By the time she came on the show, she wanted to get things off her chest, to say things she knew she needed to say before the end because she had weeks to months, not months to years, left,” he recounted.

Dr. Oz described Angela’s profound fear as she faced her mortality, understanding that the darkness of death threatened near, engendering trepidation in her heart. He added, “The most important emotion I heard from Big Ang outside the show was fear—she was scared.

 I think she knew the end was grasping at her, that she was looking over the abyss of death, a darkness down there that we all fear, and she knew that it was close.”

One of Angela’s primary motivations for appearing on the show was to caution others about a habit that likely contributed to her demise: smoking cigarettes. 

Angela had been a smoker for over 40 years, consuming at least one pack daily. However, upon learning of her illness, she immediately ceased the habit.

“I believe the significant legacy she leaves behind, the primary reason she came on the show, was to ensure that everyone understood cigarettes had claimed her life,” Dr. Oz emphasized. “She began smoking at a young age, as many do, and it felt too late by the time she desired to quit. 

She joked on the show about discarding her pack of cigarettes in the trash as she walked out of the hospital after receiving the throat cancer diagnosis. She quit cold turkey, but it was a little too late.”

On February 18, 2016, Angela Raiola, affectionately known as “Big Ang,” peacefully passed away in a Manhattan hospital, surrounded by loved ones. 

A statement released after her passing conveyed heartfelt gratitude to her fans, acknowledging their special place in Angela’s world and expressing her immense love for them.

When news of her death spread, a flood of tributes poured forth from celebrities, castmates, friends, and family, inundating social media with heartfelt messages. 

Renee Graziano, a fellow star of “Mob Wives,” shared a photo of Angela on Instagram, accompanied by the poignant caption, “We will always love you, forever and ever, Angela. You are part of our family. #rip #withtheangels #inabetterplace. RIP ANGELA. FOREVER IN MY HEART.”

Some family members shared heartbreaking photos of Angela on her deathbed, where she found solace and comfort in the embrace of her loved ones. 

Neil Murphy, Angela’s husband, who reportedly remained by her side until her final moments, took to Twitter to share a picture of the couple, accompanied by a heartfelt message, “I will always love you forever. Please watch over the grandkids; I know you will.”

With her genuine, loving, and down-to-earth nature, Angela Raiola stood out as the most relatable among the women of “Mob Wives.” She unapologetically acknowledged her past mistakes and never attempted to be someone she wasn’t. 

Her authenticity resonated with audiences and endeared her to all who knew her. May she rest in peace, leaving behind a legacy of love and an irreplaceable place in our hearts.