My Story

Growing up, from sugar to shit

Originally from Ocean Township, NJ, I grew up living somewhat of an All-American childhood with both of my parents and brothers under 1 roof, for the most part. My brothers and I played sports year round, from football, to basketball, to baseball. Our family never had a lot of money so instead of vacations all the time we kept ourselves busy with sports. Every holiday in our household was filled with life, love, and laughter of dozens of family members and friends. It was amazing. Life started to take a turn around 7-8 years old with the passing of my uncle John, my father’s younger brother. Less than a year later my father’s older brother also passed away then life became dysfunctional for us. Death was no stranger to my family or myself.

The 5 of us lived at my grandmother’s house at the time and my father and grandmother started to have a falling out. It hit all of us hard, as death usually does. I dealt with more death and tragedy than most people I know from then through my early 20s. One thing hasn’t changed, it never gets easier. It was so dysfunctional at home that we moved out. At the time, I was in 2nd grade, and it was so sudden that we had nowhere to go so we ended up at a run-down, beat-to-shit, dark-hole of a motel. Every other room had shattered windows, the pool was empty and filled with dirty water and trash stacked to the top. The perimeter fences were all broken in. It was like out of a movie. It was unfamiliar territory and my brothers and I didn’t know what was going on. We lived in a tiny room with 2 beds for 6 months until our parents finally found a house where we lived for the next 3 years.

In 5th grade my grandfather passed away and everything went to shit again. My parents fought, while drugs and alcohol played a part in their failed marriage. I went to visit my cousin for two weeks because he was heading off to the Marines. When I got home I returned to a house with a TV, a couch, and my mom. My parents split up while I was away and my father and brothers moved back to my grandmother’s house. I was confused and distraught and didn’t know what to do, and then my mom was evicted. She spent the next few months bouncing around hotels and motels, and even spent some time being homeless with nowhere to go. One day I spent the morning with my mom in her car. We got Dunkin donuts and went to watch the sunrise at the beach. With everything going on, that’s one of my fondest memories as a child because the world stopped and everything was okay for a couple hours.

It was a rough time for all of us for a few months. After a short time my mom reconnected with a friend from when she was younger and his been with him ever since, who’s now pretty much our stepfather. He practically saved her life and his been another father to my brothers and I ever since. My father ended up dating as well and was pretty much always at his girlfriends. After they broke up, my parents never talked to each other. In fact, they hated it and it was about 8 years before they were even civil with each other. It was hard for us to see and deal with because it was strange to us. Our family had a bad reputation for some time as well. Middle school was kind of a blur. I hated being home because it reminded me my parents weren’t together. I spent all my time at school and with my friends and playing sports. My parents were very involved with our sports and were almost always there for games and practice. That was the most normal thing about our childhood. They were our biggest fans and that went a long way in making things feel ordinary. I did what I could to stay away from my house, even spending school nights sleeping at my friends. I spent 6th-8th grade spending as much time as I could with my friends because they helped keep my mind at ease.

When I finished little league baseball after 12 years old, I spent the next 2 years working the snack bar there making $300 a week in cash during the baseball seasons. That was technically my first job, but I also helped my dad out every summer with his construction business as the trash and garbage cleaner while I was younger. I grew up at an earlier age than most because I saw things more clearly than most, especially my brothers. I knew my parents didn’t have a lot of money and I realized that. I was a natural born leader and it helped me grow up. I understood in order to have certain things or eventually take care of myself I was going to have to work, early and often. I always had a drive to do better and that’s one thing I’ve prided myself on. My parents went through a long stretch where income wasn’t always good, let alone promised. Just enough to keep a roof over our heads, clothes on our bodies, and food on our plates. That’s what they were best at, making sure we were taken care of. Even when my mother spent some time being homeless she always made sure to be at the bus stop with us before we went to school.

high school expectations

Going into high school was scary as my last name and reputation proceeded me, in a bad way. There were a lot of rumors around town and my family was well-known for the wrong ones. During freshmen football practice one day we warmed up with the varsity team and one of the coaches saw my last name across my helmet. His comment to follow made me want to punch him in the face. “Oh shit, another Pisano to deal with,” he said. It was normal to him, like it was a regular issue. I had 2 cousins and an older brother that went through the school before me, all 3 of them dropped out. School isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay, however they built that reputation that put me in the same conversation and that was frustrating. I didn’t realize it until years later, but everything worked itself out, as I believe it always does. They’ve all done well over the years and have even furthered their education in community college. By the end of my freshmen year my father was living with his girlfriend most of the time. My younger brother was with them and my older brother was living with my mom and her boyfriend. I spent the next two+ years primarily living alone with my grandmother, which I learned was a blessing in disguise. I had two goals at the time; work, and graduate high school. With the reputation that I had, I wanted to prove myself right that I could do it. I wanted to change the narrative and dialogue around my family and that’s what I strived to do, mostly to prove to myself that I could do whatever I told myself I’d set out to do, while at the same time changing that perception of my family and especially the ones that went there before me. Freshman year is also when a bunch of us started drinking.

I spent that year working on changing my image while continuously surrounding myself with my friends and sports. I never wanted to be home because nobody was there, besides my grandmother. I learned as time went on it was beneficial because it was the best thing that could have happened to me. I was forced to mature and grow up quicker than most, so I took an appreciation to independence very early in my adolescence years. During my freshman year I stopped working at the little league field and started working at the Pop-Warner football games on Sundays. I worked every home game from 8am to 6 or 7pm on the chain gang that year making $20 an hour. It wasn’t a lot, but it kept me busy and kept me occupied. I made sure to keep myself busy because I hated the idea of being home without my parents or brothers. I saw them plenty, just didn’t really live with them a lot for 2-3 years early in high school. That year was primarily about finding my identity and getting past the stigma of what was expected to happen. It was step one into proving myself right while making others change their perception of my family. It was pretty hard when it came to a bunch of my friends. I had some friends whose parents wouldn’t even let them come to my house, so that was challenging to hear and know. It hurt, pretty badly, but I got used to it. One friend w.0ould have his parents drop him off down the street at another kid’s house and then walk over to mine so they didn’t know.

Moving into sophomore year it was about growing and thriving in high school, and then the partying started. We started drinking a lot that year and there was always a party. The 2ndhalf of the school year was always likely at my house. I had a party almost every Saturday night from January to the end of the year. The one thing I never did that not many people I know can say is that I never tried marijuana or any other drug, just alcohol. I took advantage of my grandmother’s trust and when that came to light I never threw a part again until I was 21, and with her permission. It’s one thing when someone tells you they’re mad or upset at you, but another when they tell you they’re disappointed, and that’s what happened. That summer I worked my ass off with my dad. When it came time for football I did both. I’d work construction from 6am-4pm and then go to football from 5pm-9pm. My sophomore summer was all about parties, work, and football. When the school year came I wanted more. I always had a leadership mentality and I wanted to do more and to be more, so I ran for a Junior Class Officer position. I wasn’t expecting anything major, just a spot in the group. When the day came where the officers were announced I didn’t hear my name, until the last name was called. “Junior Class President, Louis Pisano.” I was shocked and excited as fuck. The next step in the journey.

It was nothing major at the time, but it was a big deal for me based off the perception of me and what it meant to me to represent the class as somebody who was supposed to drop out of high school. It went a long way with my confidence. At home, it was still myself and my grandmother. Both of my brothers were back and forth with my parents and my dad was always at his girlfriend’s house. Again, I saw them a lot, but I still felt alone and abandoned, often. I knew that wasn’t the intent, but nevertheless it was an uncomforting feeling. To this day I wouldn’t change it because I had to grow up much quicker without really living with either of my parents. I had no other choice but it was the best scenario at the time. Luckily, I had my friends and sports to keep me company and keep me occupied almost every other hour spent outside of school. Football became my life and addiction, and training for it became my drug. It was the thing I was most passionate about because what it provided me. I was a release for all my anger from at home and all the anxiety I dealt with as a teenager. That shit is real as fuck and I’m grateful to have loved the game so much that it brought me pure joy just being on the gridiron with my best friends and some coaches who were like fathers to me. Football became my escape from reality and became one of the very things that helped me grow up. It showed me maturity, comradery, respect, strength, and many other attributes that have contributed to the man I am today.

After junior year it was time to prep for college, but I was so financially unstable that I didn’t really know where to start. I didn’t have money to take SAT classes or even buy the book to study. That entire summer I spent training for my last year of high school football and figuring out where I wanted to go to college. Construction by day, football practice or training by evening, partying with my friends by night. I had three mentors throughout high school and even through today, my football coach Don Klein, my strength & conditioning Coach Joe McAuliffe, and my class advisor Irene Gilman. The 3 of them played a huge role in the man I matured to be then, while aiding in the gentleman I’ve become today.

They helped me stay motivated, helped me see the bigger picture, and helped me when times were rough at home. They did everything they could to make sure I was feeling okay, to ensure I tried to stay positive, and to help me get to the next level of my life. They were not only always there for me, they challenged me to push myself to do better, to be better, and to raise my own expectations for myself. Whenever I was around them I was automatically in a better mood. They helped me elevate my ambition and work ethic and for that I owe them. It’s important to always have a mentor, at every stage of your life. In return, you’ll be able to become a mentor yourself one day, which is what I’m trying to do. There’s very few people I owe a lot to, and the three of them are on that short list.

During my senior year I took my SATs and scored a measly 1060. I could only afford 2 applications because I was out of work and my parents were financially unfit, so I applied to East Carolina University as my top choice and Towson University as a fall back because a couple of my close friends were admitted there. I got in to both, and I was excited as fuck. The next phase of my life was on the horizon, something that wasn’t even considered an option for being ‘a Pisano.’ The rest of that year was smooth sailing, between working, partying the last year away with my hometown friends, and prepping for graduation. Senior year I earned the title of Senior Class President and had the honor to lead the class for the 2ndyear in a row. I also won homecoming king, prom king, male student of the year, and was dubbed ‘Most School Spirited.’ None of that shit mattered. The accolades meant nothing to me and none were as important as what would come next, high school graduation and then off to college. It was a far cry from ‘another damn Pisano to deal with,’ and it was how I proved myself right. I weathered the storm, and every storm that came my way. I controlled my surroundings, led my own path, and created my own success. I did whatever I had to do to continue to excel and move forward. High school graduation came and went. I remember the entire year like it was yesterday and it’s a bittersweet feeling every time. I haven’t seen most of my classmates since that day in June 2009 and while I sit here in June 2019, planning our 10 year reunion, I can’t help but think about how great those times were and how grateful I am for who I’ve become since those days. That summer was all about ‘one last party.’ It was great until the end of the summer.

depression, drinking, & College Mishaps

August 2009 came and I packed up my bags and was ready to move down to East Carolina a week early, then the 2ndworst phone call of my life came. The admissions office called me and told me my financial aid and loans were dropped and needed a $10,000 check or money order or I’d have to withdraw from the university. No way was that money coming, so I had to withdraw. It was one of the lowest points in my life and I went into depression mode for the next 6 months. I ended up going to community college close to home in NJ for the next 2 years and got a job working at Ed Hardy as a stock associate in the Fall of 2009 to keep myself busy. I saw 90% of my friends leave for college and I was stuck at home.

Depression and alcohol took over for several months, but I at least I was still in college. I didn’t realize that so I put myself down often, and didn’t see the bigger picture. I had graduated high school and was on my way to getting a college degree and that was a feat in itself. My first semester of college I started my Ed Hardy job. I worked my way up from a Seasonal Stock Associate to Part Time Key Holder, (assistant manager in retail terms), in less than a year where I retained that role until the company closed in January 2013.

The first year of college went quick and the drinking became worse. I blamed the world I hated my situation because I wanted to go to away for college and I couldn’t. I let the situation get the best of me and responded poorly, but still I went to school and got a job to pass the time. To make things worse, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and then things got really tough. I would spend several days a week driving her to and from chemotherapy. Every week got worse and worse, with some good days in between. She grew weary and tired more and more, losing hair, energy and strength. It was hard on our family and it was so up in the air what would eventually happen or what the timeframe looked like. It was always the unknown and it was hard to swallow. Like when everything else went sideways for me, I turned to drinking to ease the pain. This went on for a couple years and then the cysts finally stopped. She’s been in remission since 2017 but it was a long journey dealing with the battle time and time again. After the year I went back for my sophomore year to get my Associate’s Degree in Business Management & Administration. During the year I visited a friend at Rowan University in Glassboro, NJ and had so much fun that I applied to transfer there for my junior year and to stay in state for my financial aid. I went there to visit 1 weekend per month to party with my friends and to get away from home.

My routine for those two years was school, work, workout, and party, on repeat. All I wanted to do was make money, get school done, and have fun. I drank and I drank and 15lbs later I was still partying and eating like shit. I let myself go, and then I transferred to Rowan and it got even worse. It was like finally going away for my freshman year for the first time. I made some of the best friends I’ll ever have and we partied a lot. I just wanted to let loose from the beginning and I partied 5-6 nights a week, ate everything and anything, and worked out. I ballooned up to 165lbs (at only 5’ 3”) and kept going. The entire time though, through all the partying, I still maintained A’s and B’s in all of my classes, and that was always important to me because I continuously held myself accountable to my goals, and nothing was going to stop me from graduating college, nothing.

Since I maintained a great relationship with my management and corporate team from Ed Hardy they granted me a Seasonal management positon to continue working for them while away at school. I went to school Monday through Friday, drove an hour and a half home Friday nights, worked at the store Saturdays and Sundays, and drove an hour and a half back to school Sunday nights. That was my routine while I was away at Rowan during the 2011-2012 school year. I did what I had to do to stay busy, stay in school, and make money to get by. One thing that always seemed to happen was that no matter how good something seemed, something bad always follows, and that’s just the way life works.

My father got a DUI while I was away at school and I wasn’t aware it happened. He lost his car insurance, which my car was registered under, and one day pulling back into my dorm parking lot I got pulled over. Police ran my plants, saw the discrepancy, and had my car towed and impounded on the spot in front of dozens of students in the middle of the day. At the time, I was saving up money to go to my cousin’s bachelor party in Montreal a couple months later, but instead, my savings went to get my car out of the impound, register it under my name, and purchase my own car insurance. It was a shot to the stomach and really fucked things up for me. Just another bump in the road to hurdle and overcome, which seemed often. The rest of that year was about having a shit ton of fun with my friends and getting good grades, and that’s exactly what happened. We drank 6 nights a week and the party never stopped. I even auditioned to be on MTV’s The Real World, twice! I liked taking chances and I always wanted to take risks or do something different. At the time I started to formulate this idea that I wanted to build myself as a brand to reach a platform of some type, I just didn’t figure out what until sometime later. So I auditioned for several MTV shows, but obviously didn’t get on any. It was a cool experience auditioning though!

Towards the end of the year we geared up for a summer with more partying, and work obviously. I was still working at Ed Hardy part time and continued that through the next several months. That summer I was getting ready to go back to a seasonal/part time position and head back to Rowan, but that didn’t happen. I lost my financial aid, again. For the 2nd time in 3 years I was fucked and didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t go back to community college because I already did that part. I was lost, broken, and defeated, and again turned to more drinking because that’s what I did. At least I still had a job, but then the company went out of business months later and we closed our doors for good January 2013. A few of us spent the next few days in Atlantic City, NJ, partying like usual. A couple weeks later I reached out to a promoter, while I was drunk, and asked how to get involved in the club industry. I was invited down to the Pool After Dark at Harrah’s Resort in AC where I got my first job in the industry as a promoter. I was out of school, but again found a job to keep myself busy and occupied. The first few months I made $400 a month, at most, commuting an hour and a half 1 way just to get there to work. I was almost paying to work there. Being in the industry I saw what it would take to make it, and my current state wasn’t it. I ballooned up to 177lbs and 25% body fat at 22 years old. I was fucking disgusting, and disgusted with myself even more.

I woke up one day in March and decided it was time to change my life. I decided it was time to change my perspective and my approach, as well as my lifestyle. I knew I had to or I’d hit rock bottom soon enough. It was time to turn it all around and re-create myself, and that’s what I did. My life changed forever after completing Shaun T’s Insanity at-home workout set over the next 60+ days losing 15lbs and 10% body fat. That’s when my fitness journey truly began. It saved my life. A few months later I was bumped up to a base-pay structure and made a little more money and I loved the industry, and I flourished. On top of that I was re-admitted into Rowan to go back in the fall. Everything was on track again and things were starting to look up for the first time in over a year. Going back to school took a huge weight off my shoulders. The whole time I was out of school I began questioning if it was really what I should be doing. It was the first time I started to question if my goals were attainable, if I was worth it, if I was just supposed to do the bare minimum and let life beat me down. But I knew I couldn’t do that, and I knew I still had so much more to do in life.

I powered through, like I always did. I continuously weathered that god damn storm that always came for me and I always punched life right back in its fucking face. I went back to school with a clear head and I even stopped drinking for a little while. After the first 6-8 months working in the Nightlife & Daylife industry, I began to revamp my image and what I stood for. I slowly stopped drinking and by time I was back at Rowan, my focus was just on work, school, and graduating by the end of 2015, no exceptions. 2013-2014 was about growth, in every aspect of my life. My fitness transformation really started to gain some traction, my career in the industry looked promising, and doors started to open up for me. I worked my way up to Entertainment & Nightlife Coordinator managing the promoters for the company, making more and more money, being the college representative dealing with student affairs for college night events, and Emceeing a beach bar at Bally’s Casino on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. The hardest part about this time period was my financial situation. I wasn’t making crazy money, just enough to get by. I drove to my boss’s house to get my paycheck every week just so I could pay my bills off in time. I was so focused and driven and removed from the partying that I went 11 months without a sip of alcohol, beer, and wine just because I didn’t care for it. It got that serious and I was more determined than ever.

I continued to lose weight and got back down to 150lbs. I was thriving in Atlantic City and exceeding my own expectations. I was back to proving myself right that I can do well, accomplish my goals, and succeed how I saw fit, but there was still one more thing to do, graduate college no matter what. No one in my family even graduated high school so getting a college degree wasn’t realistic early on, until it was. I re-invented myself I wouldn’t let anything get in my way. Over the next 16 months I kept my head down, handled my business in school, managed my finances as best as possible (still living paycheck to paycheck) and grinded it out in school and at work and watched my career begin to take off in the process.

The summer of 2014, while living back in Ocean Township, I packed up two suitcases and a bag of prepped meals, drove to Atlantic City every Wednesday afternoon, stayed in the hotel and lived out of the suitcases until Sunday morning, then drove back to home. It wasn’t fun, nor was it easy living out of bags every week, but it was better then moving to AC on my own. I sacrificed the lifestyle and did what I had to. From September 2014-May 2015 I worked in AC every Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday night to make a living while finishing school. Finally, in May 2015 after 5 years of college in a 6-year span, I walked across that beautiful fucking stage with my head held high, proud as fuck, turned around and took a selfie with the crowd behind me to document it, and remembering that I did what I said out to do. I accomplished my most important goal and graduated college with a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management, while proving myself right in the process. I knew I could do it, I knew what it would take, and I knew I had no other choice. Through everything, it was the proudest moment in my life to that point.


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