A glimpse in to the lives of VH1’s ‘Basketball Wives’
By Brandon I. Brooks
Co – Managing Editor
There will always be a certain mystique that goes along with being the wife of a famous athlete, or anybody famous for that matter.
We as a society are obsessed with the lives of celebrities. That is why, in common everyday society, we are constantly bombarded with gossip television and magazines based on celebrities’ lives. We love to compare our regular everyday lives with the lives of people that we assume have it better off than we do.
Over the last five years, VH1 has been the leader of this type of programming as it helped coin the phrase “celebreality.” Since 2005, VH1 has launched many successful reality series based on celebrities’ lives.
With the guidance of Shaunie O’Neal, the former wife of NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, it was no surprise that VH1 struck ratings gold when it launched the highly anticipated series “Basketball Wives.” Who wouldn’t be interested in seeing what the wives of famous athletes are up to everyday? And it doesn’t hurt that the ladies of interest are drop-dead gorgeous.
That was part of my introduction when I sat down for lunch and met with some of the ladies of “Basketball Wives” for an exclusive interview.
The first thing I had to admit to the basketball wives — Shaunie (O’Neal), Evelyn Lozada and Jennifer Williams — was that I was, what we call in the industry, an “in-the-closet-show-watcher.”
Basically, I admitted to the three women that I watch the show when I am alone (no pun intended). What I meant to say was, I see myself as a “macho” type of guy. You know, “a man’s man,” so I can’t be caught watching a women’s show based on gossip and drama. I laughed with the ladies that I might lose my man stripes if people knew how much I liked the show, but after sharing a good laugh with Shaunie, Evelyn and Jennifer, I admittedly told the ladies the truth of the matter, which is I watch “Basketball Wives” not only for the gorgeous women but the unique entertainment that comes along with it.
The show makes for great television and even better water cooler talk at work. What else do we want out of television besides drama, beauty and a little more drama? Sounds like a winner to me!
Now returning for its second season, “Basketball Wives” is supposed to be more entertaining than ever. After last week’s premiere episode for season two, it was only right I catch up with the stars of the show and get an official glimpse of how things really work for the Basketball Wives.
The Sentinel asked Shaunie to share how she came up with the concept of the show and what inspired her to bring it to television.
“It’s obvious, the concept: I was a basketball wife,” said Shaunie. “And I think being in all the arenas all over everywhere, people always have questions like, ‘Who’s cool and who’s not cool,’ and, ‘Do you guys get along,’ and, ‘What do you all do?’ So it was just natural. When I started dating Shaquille I worked at FOX in marketing so I always had ideas and things going through my head as far as TV.”
Shaunie shared that the Producer gene was always in her, it just took the right opportunity and timing to bring the situation together.
“Life just gets going and you don’t really think about it,” said Shaunie. “So I had the idea and it took me years to just even speak on it. When I finally did, people loved the idea and I immediately thought what we had to do was lock down a city, and when we did that, I already knew who I was calling (looks at Evelyn and smiles across the table) and thank God she trusted me on this one (laughs).”
Evelyn Lozada and Shaunie have been friends since the days Antoine Walker and Shaquille O’Neal played for the Miami Heat. At the time, Evelyn was engaged to Antoine and Shaunie was still married to Shaq. As the ladies reminisced and laughed over lunch, they seemed to be very comfortable. They talked about what it was like to be married to an NBA star, to be moving from one place to another, their businesses and relationships with their children. They even let us in on some juicy star/NBA news (off the record)!
Shaunie made it clear that she came up with the idea of the show two years before splitting up with Shaq. They even talked about it together.
“He was totally cool with it, Shaunie said. I mean like, it just didn’t fit into our life at the time. With that whole basketball world, it’s really hard because you are moving from city to city; we have five kids, you know, it was hard. So it was like we would talk about it from time to time, but he was doing his thing, and you know, it was like, ‘ Yeah, yeah, yeah, Shaunie. Ok, I don’t know, whatever?’ And you know, so he knew. I mean we talked about it. It was a couple of years before it even came out.”
Each of the ladies talked about their overall experience filming the show and what they thought about the show idea when it was originally presented.
“Well, when Evelyn actually kind of threw me under the bus with the show,” said Jennifer (laughing and smiling at Evelyn across the table). “She was just like, ‘Yeah, come here tomorrow for an interview.’ ” And I was like, what? Like what’s going on?
“I knew that they needed more girls and she (Jennifer) was in Miami at the time, so we were being interviewed at my store. So then I told her come to my store at this and this time, and that’s how she got thrown under the bus,” said Evelyn.
“I mean but, it ended up being a good thing, so I definitely can’t complain,” said Jennifer. “We have had some challenging times filming, but I think overall I don’t have any regrets. I’ve been friends with Evelyn for over 10 years. Shaunie’s a great friend, so nothing was really forced. It was sort of like a no-brainer because we weren’t casted, and I think that was really key.”
Life for the Basketball Wives has been different for each one of them since the airing of season one.
Life has been different for Jennifer, because she is accustomed to being under the radar and that’s no longer the case.
Evelyn shared that the transition hasn’t been difficult at all.
“I think how they portray us is you know, is pretty fair,” she said. “For season one, I didn’t feel like, oh well that’s not me or editing. That was one thing that I was worried about initially because you know, you hear nightmares of, ‘Oh my God, you know, you are going to look like you’re saying this, but you said this.’ But I had full confidence in Shaunie that she would have our back. And whenever we were filming if something happened that we were, you know, worried about I would call her, and you know, she would handle it and stuff like that. So it’s good that not only is she like, producing the show, but she’s very involved.
Shaunie’s involvement with “Basketball Wives” varies week to week, but overall she stressed that she has definitely put her stamp on the series. She is even behind the creation of VH1’s new series “Football Wives.”
The Sentinel asked the women to share if there is a reason behind the show or a moral to the story.
“No,” Shaunie replied.
“I don’t think there is a formula to it at all. It’s not like a moral-to-a-story type thing. I think it’s a take-it-as-it-is. It’s everybody’s life as we are filming. Stuff happens, things change, life changes and you just take it as it comes. So it’s not a moral to the story because we don’t know. Like who would of thought that any of us would be sitting here? But I don’t think any of us had any idea it was going to be this successful.”
“I don’t think there is a moral to the story,” said Jennifer. “But I think that there are a lot of misconceptions about us, so pretty much the goal was to show those misconceptions. People think that we have this glamorous life, which, on one aspect, it can be, but there is so much more to it that people don’t see. They just see the material and don’t know what we go through on a day-to-day basis. I think that was pretty much one of the goals for the show.”
“When they turn the cameras on, it’s who I am,” said Evelyn. “I am not going to lie, though, initially when I signed on to do the show — because I had just opened up a shoe store — … I was like, ‘This would be a great opportunity to help promote my business.’ That was the main reason I signed on to do it. But when the cameras are on, what you see is really what you get. I am a little raw with my mouth sometimes. I am very blunt and straightforward.”
The reality of my encounter with Shaunie, Evelyn and Jennifer is the ladies of “Basketball Wives” come just as they appear on television. What you see is what you get. There is no script or motive behind the show.
So weather you watch “Basketball Wives” for the reality, beauty or drama, one thing for sure is you will not waste your time, because the ladies promise that season two is going to be all that and then some.
For more information on season two of “Basketball Wives,” visit www.vh1.com.
Biko Poindexter-Hodge contributed to this report.