Michael Corleone Blanco, the only living son of Colombia’s "cocaine godmother" Griselda Blanco, insists that the new VH1 reality TV series titled “Cartel Crew” doesn’t glorify the violent narco lifestyle.
Blanco, 40, who claims he turned his life around after his mother was shot to death by a motorcycle-riding assassin in 2012, is the most notorious of the eight cartel descendants portrayed in the upcoming series.
According to VH1, the series aims to look at their lives "as they navigate adulthood and the effects the legacy has had on their upbringing" — the subjects allege to have disconnected themselves from their past, the network says, and hope to make a name for themselves beyond the drug world.
Blanco said he chose to come forward in “Cartel Crew” because he wanted the opportunity to share his story.
“I guess it was bound to happen,” Blanco told Fox News. “I’d rather be attached to a project that allows me to express myself and tell the whole story — how it’s meant to be told.”
The infamous Griselda Blanco, who grew up in the slums of Medellin and was murdered there at age 69, would go on to command a ruthless crew that shipped an average of 3,400 pounds of cocaine per month to the U.S., per the Miami Herald.
She is said to have inspired and even groomed Pablo Escobar.
Griselda's reign of terror started in the '70s, Newsweek reported, noting that unofficial tallies link the woman and her organization with at least 250 murders. She is believed to be the mastermind behind the drive-by motorcycle shooting and earned the nickname “black widow” for allegedly killing her three husbands. Two of her sons were later assassinated.
Police caught up to her in 1985, resulting in Griselda spending 19 years in U.S. prisons before cutting a deal in 2004 and being deported to Medellin, Colombia. She reportedly kept a low profile in her final years before her shooting death there.
Blanco was still facing cocaine trafficking charges in Miami at the time of his mother's death and his probation ended last year.
Ever since VH1 announced the premiere of “Cartel Crew” in December 2018, many viewers slammed the series online. Some said it celebrated a criminal lifestyle — one that is far from entertainment and much more horrifying. Others have compared it to "Mob Wives," a reality TV series that followed a group of women living in Staten Island who offered to give a glimpse into "the lifestyle." That VH1 show aired from 2011 until 2016.
But Blanco claimed “Cartel Crew” doesn’t glamorize drug kingpins as celebrities.
“We are not trying to glorify anything," he said. "We’re just trying to move on with our lives and make our own means in a legitimate way. … We’re not showing the past, we’re showing the present and the future.”
Blanco says he is aware his mother made numerous "enemies" in her lifetime. However, Blanco said he isn’t worried about putting his life in front of cameras.
“As far as being worried, there’s a certain element you always have to factor in,” he explained. “… We were trained to always be in situations that you have to be alarmed. That’s just life. That’s how we grew up, that’s how I grew up. That being said, we’re living in a new time. We’re living in a new era. This is the era of social media. This is the era of TV shows, movies, of ‘Narcos’ on Netflix. So I think that anybody’s entitled to tell their story.
“I think it’s us, who can tell people we suffered with what our family members did, and what some of us had to do in order to survive in the world we grew up in. … Fear? No, fear doesn’t live here. I fear the wrath of God, that’s what I say.”
In 2012, the Miami New Times reported Blanco and Griselda sold the rights to their life stories to First Born Films after she was the subject of a 2006 documentary titled “Cocaine Cowboys.” In 2016, The Hollywood Reporter announced Jennifer Lopez was poised to play Griselda in an HBO movie. Then in 2017, Catherine Zeta-Jones starred as Griselda in the Lifetime TV film titled "Cocaine Godmother."
“I can’t really disclose too much about certain things, due to contracts and stuff like that,” said Blanco. “I’m all for J. Lo playing my mother. She was one of my original choices. Catherine Zeta-Jones’ project was great as well. I’m all for it. Anything that I can lend consultation on my life. As long as it’s a lucrative project. … As long as the story is told correctly from the horse’s mouth. Meaning from myself and other family members.”
Blanco also runs Puro Blanco, which he describes as a lifestyle and clothing brand that pays homage to his mother. He is also in the process of finalizing a book, which is slated to debut this year. In addition, Blanco also provides consultation on projects associated with his mother’s life.
The youngest of the four boys, Blanco was given the middle name "Corleone" after Al Pacino's character in the gangster film franchise “The Godfather.” The original film, which premiered in 1972, chronicles how an aging patriarch of an organized crime dynasty transfers control of his clandestine empire to his reluctant son.
“I glorify my mother because she was my mother, and she fed me,” he explained. “The truth is public record is public record. You’re going to get all kinds of comments from people who hated my mother or were in fear of my mother. The truth be told, my mother was a mother. She had four male children. How couldn’t a mother be a loving mother with four kids? But I’m not going to sugarcoat it. My mother wasn’t a saint, I’m aware of that. But the truth is, she was my mother. She took care of me. When I was sick, she nourished me. To me, that’s my mommy and she’ll forever be my mommy.”
Blanco still has bittersweet memories of growing up with Griselda. Blanco said he was just 5 years old when he realized his family was different.
“I understood we had more than anybody,” he recalled. “I understood my father wasn’t the boss. My mother was telling everybody what to do and that she was the boss. We would move after she moved. I understood my mother was the queen of the castle. I understood she wasn’t a regular person.”
Blanco went on to follow in his mother’s footsteps. However, he claims he decided to turn his life around after Griselda’s death.
“To describe that moment, I guess in one word, would be pain,” he explained. “When my mother was killed, I got a phone call as they were looking at her body. So reality struck again. When you get slapped by reality so many times in your face, you become accustomed to it. When it’s the death of your mother, the woman who gave birth to you, then all reasoning leaves.
“Right then at that moment, I said to myself, ‘What type of world did I grow up in that my whole family’s dead?’ My brothers are dead, my father and they just killed my mother. … I don’t want to be in this life anymore because I don’t want my kids to have this generational tie, the generational curse that I was born into. I guess that right there, the pain that I felt that day made me understand that all the money in the world wasn’t worth it.”
Today, Blanco shares a daughter with his girlfriend of four years, Marie Ramirez De Arellano, who is also participating in “Cartel Crew.” He also has three other children from previous relationships. Blanco insists he wants to focus on his legitimate business, all while being there for his family.
“… A real man doesn’t deny his mother,” he said. “I’ll never deny my mother. … [But] we’re evolving. … We have businesses, like every other American… We’re trying to live the American dream, you know? It’s a work in progress.”
‘Cartel Crew’ premieres January 7 at 9 p.m. on VH1.