For the most part, VH1’s hit reality show Hollywood Exes is what (we’re guessing, anyway) Shaunie O’Neal was aiming for when she masterminded Basketball Wives. That is, women brought together by one common narrative: men. Men who, on their own respective terrains, ruled the world. And when those ladies’ worlds ended as they knew it, they picked the pieces back up, linked up with other women who knew their path, and got in front of reality TV cameras to have one big group therapy session.
Former fashion model Nicole Murphy, the ex-wife who helped to conceptualize Hollywood Exes, was married to the king of all comedy, Eddie Murphy. Her life with him was storybook: covers of magazines (including EBONY’s), private planes and exclusivity to places so, well, exclusive we would have no idea what we were missing.
But when their marriage ended, she made bad investments, lost much of her settlement and had the access to the glitterati all but wiped away. Now there’s no everyday people tearful story here, mind you. But there’s a connector with real women here.
Is it the absence of fistfights and wine bottle tossing? Perhaps. But there was a bit of drama on the inaugural season of Hollywood Exes, and early previews suggest that’ll be amped up a bit more.
Still, it’s perhaps empathetic in a way we hadn’t thought ex-wives of mega stars to be.
“You know what? It’s real,” says Nicole Murphy, who’s currently engaged to former NFL great and daytime talk show host Michael Strahan. “No matter what status these women are on, I think we all share a common bond. There are women out there who are watching this show who might be recently going through a divorce, and they’re going through the same issues. It might be on a different level…”
She gives a quick laugh.
“But they have a connection and they can relate to it. I’ve had women say, ‘Oh my God, you guys helped me so much!’ So I think there’s a connection there no matter what the situation is. And then these are a great group of women. They’re a lot of fun to be around. I’ve had women talk about how they wish they could come kick it with us.”
The cast of women on the show—it airs every Monday nights at 10 p.m. on the network—rival the same level of prominence Nicole Murphy had once been privy to. There’s Mayte Garcia (ex-wife of Prince), Jessica Canseco (ex-wife of baseball great Jose Canseco), Sheree Fletcher (ex-wife of Will Smith) and Andrea Kelly (R. Kelly’s ex-wife). Joining the cast this season is Martin Lawrence’s ex-wife, Shamicka Lawrence.
Here’s what Murphy had to share.
EBONY: How on earth did you get this group of women to do this reality show?
Nicole Murphy: Isn’t that funny? Thank God these women are my friends and we’ve all been through similar situations on different levels. It’s like a sisterhood that we have, and it’s a great support system all in one. That was one of the things that a lot of the fans would write about, saying “You know what? I’m so glad that you have this show because I just recently went through a divorce and I didn’t know how I was gonna get through it, and you guys inspired me and you showed me there is a light after divorce, and I can do other things and there’s other men out there.”
EBONY: It does look like a therapy session for you guys. How easy—or not—was it to be that revealing?
NM: You do think about it. You think, “Golly, the cameras are gonna be on me, it’s gonna be a little awkward. Am I gonna be able to be myself?” But I have to say, the people that I’ve been working with—the cameramen, the producers and all them—they actually become like a second family. They become your friend and you forget that camera is there eventually. Eventually you’ll be like, “Oh shoot, I didn’t say that! Did I say that? Oh God!” But you have to keep it real. If you don’t keep it real, it shows. It’s gonna come across and I don’t think people are gonna be interested. So what you see, you’re seeing a real thing with me, how I am.
EBONY: What does Eddie Murphy think about the show?
NM: He thinks it’s great. He’s very supportive. It’s not like we’re on there and we’re bashing our ex. Thank God I have a wonderful relationship with my ex-husband. He’s a wonderful father and we have beautiful kids together. So it’s not like I’m on there and I’m like, “Augh!!” You know? I’m not doing that. It’s all about what I’m doing in my life and it’s positive.
EBONY: What does Michael think about the show? And will we see him on this season?
NM: Mmmm. Michael is so busy with his show. He’s got too many jobs. He is so busy. There might be a little something.
EBONY: Will we see you making wedding plans? Or getting married on the show?
NM: You will see some stuff like that (wedding plans). But you’ll have to watch the show! I can’t give you all the details.
EBONY: Your daughters Bria and Shayne have been getting a lot of attention lately. I know one has already followed in your footsteps, but will the others? And will you become a momager?
NM: Well, my 18-year-old Shayne, she might be going down that road as well. Her and her sister Bria, they may be doing something together, which I hope. And then my son, he’s in college as well and he’s also a writer and he likes doing the behind-the-scenes stuff; writing scripts and stuff like that. So I have some very talented kids as it happens.
All I can do is advise them and just pray! I always tell them: find something that you love to do, that way it won’t be hard for you. Everything will come easy. And so I always put that in there. Who knows what the future will be, but whatever it is, I will support them 100 percent. All I can do is just give ’em that advice when they want it.
EBONY: Now that you’re on a reality show, are you seeing a boost to your modeling career? Ready to get back out there?
NM: Yes! I kind of jumped back into it. Which is funny, because [I was] thinking I’m too old to be back in the modeling game! People want to shoot me and use me for stuff.
EBONY: Are there thoughts to branch out and go into other markets? Will there be any spinoffs, and will we see high profile ex-wives in Miami or New York?
NM: I’ve heard talk about that and I really don’t know. We’ve been so busy with our show. But it might be quite interesting to see something like that. The thing is pulling women together. Who’s willing to do that?!
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EBONY Entertainment Editor