A Long Convo With… Shaunie O’Neal

Shaunie O’Neal knows drama, both on and off camera. In her personal life, she’s dealing with a high-profile divorce from basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. In her career, she provides a glimpse into the hectic lives of NBA wives, girlfriends and exes as the executive producer of Vh1’s new series, Basketball Wives. The soon to be former Mrs. O’Neal uses her show as a platform to guide other NBA affiliated women on their quests to make sense of their situations. But just when it seems like she was set for a smooth new start, her first TV show received negative criticism from bloggers, and reports surfaced that her future former hubby is out to shut her production down. However, Shaunie remains calm and collected. VIBE caught up with her to find out how she deals with naysayers and blog hateration, get her thoughts on cheating men and jump offs, and her plans to build a reality TV franchise. —Starrene Rhett

VIBE: People think reality TV is scripted so when you do confessionals on your show are you reading from a teleprompter?

Shaunie: No. The first show was more me just giving an overview of what the show is about. It’s about the women in that world and all the issues on the other side without coming off as complaining. It’s our reality so to answer your question, there’s no teleprompter. You’ll see in further episodes, with whatever is going on, that I’m just paraphrasing what I feel about it.

What’s your response to the criticism about some of the women not being actual wives?

I always tell people they can talk to Vh1 about that. They named the show, not me. When I [first] stated the concept, it was a lot different. We went through several phases in the two years it took to create the show, a lot changed. Two years ago, Evelyn was shopping for her wedding dress and getting the venue and all that. She would have been a wife by the time the show aired. I was married then. Jen is married. Honestly, when we first casted the show you had at least four actual wives and since then all hell has broke loose but here we are. But Vh1 named the show. Look at all the other wives shows, all those women aren’t wives. I think it’s just a catchy thing that’s going around.

Some critics are calling the women ghetto. Would the response have been different if the cast was White?

I haven’t heard that one but I honestly don’t think they’re ghetto. You got Evelyn, she’s from the Bronx and that’s just Evelyn. You got Royce who is very prissy. She was raised in an upscale community and her parents are high society. It’s funny that people judge off the first episode. Don’t get me wrong, there’s some wild stuff going on but I wouldn’t say they’re ghetto. They don’t usually call a bunch of White girls ghetto [but] trust me that’s all to come so we’ll see what they have to say when it’s a bunch of hockey wives.

Explain your decision to make Royce part of the cast.

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