Premiering at 10 p.m., the third season of MTV's wildly popular reality series follows seven regulars, as well as the lone addition -- Cortese.
She replaces villainous vixen Angelina Pivarnick and is the show's only member from South Jersey.
“It's been nothing but surreal,” Cortese said.
Shot in Seaside Heights over the summer, the Jersey Shore gang packs up the party -- as well as the stilettos and Ed Hardy T-shirts -- and returns from its Season 2 Miami Beach abode to the old, infamous Jersey beach home.
Describing herself as “class in a glass and party in a body,” Cortese was excited about entering a household already full of divas, debauchery and, of course, drama.
“If someone steps on my toes, I'm going to stand up for myself,” said Cortese, who earned the nickname “Energizer Bunny” among her seven housemates.
A lifetime of partying and crashing at beach houses made her adjustment into the hedonistic household an easy one, she said.
“That's what the Jersey Shore is,” said Cortese, one of only two cast members actually from New Jersey. “It's a place where you rent out a place with people you may not know just to cut costs.”
Her biggest adjustment, she says, was adapting to the constant surveillance, especially when she had to, umm, go.
“I would try to hold it until I got to a tanning salon,” she said, laughing.
The omnipresent cameras, however, “become like furniture after a while,” she said. “You don't even notice them.”
Yet people are noticing the footage now.
Even before appearing on the show, Cortese has made some bold headlines. Promos for the season premiere show the new starlet stripping down to nothing in front of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, though she said she thought she was wearing a swimsuit beneath her shorts.
“I told my family everything I did once I got home,” explained Cortese, who resides with her parents in New Egypt in Ocean County, just outside Burlington County.
Cortese, who auditioned for the first season in 2009, says Snooki called her following the taping of Season 2 and asked if she wanted to be her “partner in crime'' for the upcoming season.
Jersey sure, she says.
“I was so excited,” said Cortese, who then got approval from the producers.
Since taping ended in August, she has put her life on ice, not returning to her former waitressing position at an area LongHorn Steakhouse nor employing her dental assistant certification.
“Everybody keeps telling me not to change,” Cortese said.
Some aren't as excited about another Jersey Shore season, believing the show reinforces many Italian stereotypes and New Jersey punchlines. Cortese, however, says the show is a boon for beach business.
“I don't think (the show) puts down New Jersey,” she insists. “It's brought so much money into Seaside and is definitely promoting it. It's such a good thing for Seaside.”
Whichever direction Jersey Shore takes her, Cortese is proud to represent South Jersey.
“I don't wish I did anything differently,” she said. “I feel like everything that happened was meant to happen.”