Basketball Wives creator, star and executive producer Shaunie O’Neal has officially stepped out of the shadows of ex-husband Shaquille O’Neal. No longer just a so-called “basketball wife,” the mogul has created a hit franchise, and the show’s main staple, Basketball Wives: Miami, is back this week for more. New season. New cast members. New drama.
“I am looking forward to this season so much,” shares O’Neal. “I’m really proud of the finished product. You’ll see a lot of growth out of us. Don’t expect some Girl Scouts and us to be perfect, but you’ll definitely see that we have grown in our own different ways. I’m really proud of the outcome.”
Also shouldering executive producer duties, O’Neal says there’s another side of her that we’ll also get to see this season: she plans on holding her castmates more accountable for their actions.
“I’m more vocal,” says O’Neal. “I think things that I sometimes have saved for when the cameras were turned off or we talked on the phone later. Last season, I got to a point where I was so tired and frustrated and sick of all the extra drama. I said to myself I’m going to tell them when you’re acting a fool. I’m never one to act a fool. Not at home and not in public.
“Granted, nothing too crazy happened this season, but there are times where I’m just saying it like it is and how I feel,” O’Neal said.
The new season, which premiered on Monday, will feature a shake-up in characters, but the show’s most popular stars (Tami Roman, Evelyn Lozada, even Suzie Ketcham) will be returning. Wondering if those who were axed from the series have any bad blood with Shaunie? “I’ve never really had a relationship with Royce [Reed] anyway, so nothing changed,” shared O’Neal. “I haven’t spoke to Jenn [Williams] in quite some time, and the last time I did, we were on good terms. That decision came from the network itself. It wasn’t a production call, it was a network call. Once it gets to that point, it’s out of my hands.”
With a generation that loves to indulge in “ratchet reality,” yet at the same time loves to complain about lack of decent television programming, there’s a possibility that less drama can affect the show’s ratings. “It very well could,” shared the former basketball wife. “As much as people complain, the numbers seem to show that they like it. It is what it is. I’m proud of this season more than any other, and I love that. I hope it doesn’t affect the numbers, but if it does, I’m still very proud of it. I wouldn’t change it for anything. Ratings, numbers, anything. It will just speak for itself. It will show in a lot of ways what people want to see.”
Shaunie O’Neal has faced a lot of criticism for Basketball Wives over the past few years. “It doesn’t really phase me too much anymore,” she confesses. “At first, I would be like, ‘That didn’t happen,’ ‘It didn’t go down that way,’ or ‘Nobody said that.’ I’m just over it. It’s repetitive. I know I’m able to sleep well at night knowing I’m not sitting around instigating or encouraging any nonsense. I just feel like people are who they are. They’re adults, and I’m an adult, and we all handle things differently. We all may disagree on how you deal with things. I just don’t feel like another adult’s actions are my responsibility.”
Remember when actress Tatyana Ali even took a few digs at Shaunie, along with Love & Hip-Hop executive producer Mona Scott-Young last year with her web series spoof that went viral? Well, Shaunie O’Neal isn’t the least bit concerned about Tatyana or her opinions. “No, I didn’t see it at all,” she says. “I’ve seen spoofs on Basketball Wives, but nothing with her. I probably wouldn’t have addressed it either way if I had seen it. That would have been a non-factor for me.”
It’s possible that the Basketball Wives franchise may be expanding. “I would love to add another city,” says O’Neal. “We have definitely talked about adding another city or maybe even two.”
Despite the declining ratings of Basketball Wives: Los Angeles, Shaunie O’Neal confirms the show will return for an upcoming season. Whether the show’s new additions will live up to the hype of this latest season of Basketball Wives will remain to be seen. “It’s kind of hard to come behind such a successful city and show, if the characters or the cast members aren’t as explosive as the first go-round,” says O’Neal, explaining the difference between the Miami and Los Angeles shows. “Everyone is going to be compared, so it’s a little difficult. I will say that they are coming back for another season, so we are going to try it again. We’ve changed up the cast, added a few new girls, took away a few girls. I feel like we’re starting fresh.”
And how does Ms. O’Neal maintain her sanity within a culture built upon materialism, gossip and faux relationships? “Staying true to myself,” revealed the mother of four. “I never wanted to lose who I am, my character or my integrity for the sake of Hollywood.
“I always want to remain true to me and know I’m not faking. I’m not one of those people to hang out with girlfriends for the sake of paparazzi or a moment on a blog. Being in this industry, you see this all the time. It’s a crazy world, and I just want to remain true to myself, if that means I remain true to my core group of friends that I’ve had for umpteen years and being a mommy.”
Kimberly N. Wilson is a NYC-based lifestyle/entertainment writer and digital strategist. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland, College Park and completed her juris doctor from Howard University School of Law. Follow her on Twitter @kimberlynatasha.