At first glance, E!’s reality TV series WAGS (Wives and Girlfriends of Sports Stars) seems almost like a threat to the feminist movement. Hour-long episodes of glammed-up ladies living a life of luxury afforded only to them as a result of being romantically linked to a man? Yeah, you’d be hard pressed not to baptize yourself in repeat spins of Beyonce’s “***Flawless” afterwards. Similar to the wives-of-such-and-such shows that came before it (looking at you, Basketball Wives), WAGS offers you a glimpse into lit yacht rides, lavish mansions and expensive shopping trips.
But for season two of the hit show, the network that brought you Kim K and nem will zero in on what these women possess besides black cards and Birkins. At least that’s what Sasha Gates, entrepreneur and wife of the San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, hopes for. “I want the world to see what I have to offer and who I am, because there’s more to me than just carrying an athlete’s name,” Gates tells VIBE of her decision to join the show. “I wanted to take a chance and see what would come from it. It’s like, is it a blessing from God or is it the devil at your door?”
Last season, the show wasn’t much more than establishing that, in this world, wives are the true gatekeepers to the sports world’s spoils. And girlfriends? Well, they better just pray they don’t get traded out of their plush seat at the table. Gates, dubbed “Queen WAG,” and fellow wife enthusiast Autumn Ajirotutu, wife of Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Seyi Ajirotutu, led the charge (unintentionally says Ajirotutu) against the single gals. “I like to screen the girlfriends,” Ajirotutu says as a way to avoid unnecessary drama. “As wives we get emotionally attached to the women, then these guys leave them and we’re stuck with the new girlfriend and the ex-girlfriend.”
After peeping the season two premiere, this go ‘round looks to be a lot more of the same: women in designer threads playing petty drama games and pandering to a divisive hierarchy. However, while the WAGS pecking order still incites many-a girlfight between the ladies with longtime rings and the rest of the castmates––former WWE Diva Barbie Blank (wife of former NHL defenseman Sheldon Souray), model Nicole WIlliams (longtime girlfriend of Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Larry English), and Natalie Halcro and Olivia Pierson, whose relationship statuses ping-pong between complicated and dating––the women still manage to put their champagne glasses down long enough to showcase their non-WAGS aspirations as models, recording artists and lifestyle bloggers.
VIBE dialed up Sasha and Autumn for more tea on being portrayed as a mean-girl duo and their plans to build solid brands from their reality TV buzz.
VIBE: Going into it, what did you think the show would be like?
Autumn: I thought it would be a safe situation. Because it’s E!, I thought that we were gonna be able to showcase a different side of what people from the sports world might see, outside of the rumors or whatnot. I wanted to go on there, show a Christian aspect as a young mom, friend and all that. Just a different light.
Do you feel that’s in line with how you’re being portrayed?
Autumn: Hmmm. No. [Laughs]
Sasha: Well, we film so many scenes, how can you fit it into one episode or 12 episodes? There are things in there that portray who we are, but there are so many sides to me that there’s no way we can fit in into 12 episodes.
One thing they definitely show is the wives vs. girlfriends beef that started last season. This season, they’re really trying to pit you both against Olivia Pierson and Natalie Halcro. Why do you think this issue still has so much steam?
Autumn: I don’t know. I’m a real person. I say what I mean and mean what I say, and I’m not a person who talks about them and can’t back up what I have to say. When you know you’re in a group of women who are opinionated or some are more passive, it makes it seem like I’m more harsh. There’s just things as a wife and a mother that I would not do. Even if I was a girlfriend, I just wouldn’t do it. There’s just a difference in character and morale. At 27 years old, it’s not realistic for me to only have married friends, so I think that’s where things are misconstrued. I just can’t do what the single girls do.
Sasha: This is what I can say. Just because they call me ‘Queen WAG’ doesn’t mean I think I’m above anyone. I started from the bottom on my own. My friends and family are from all walks of life, and I don’t judge anyone. I don’t care about money or status. The people I keep close, we all share certain things in common––hardworking, loyal, independent, strong and classy.
It’s getting ugly a bit on the show, though. Are things better between you girls now IRL?
Autumn: Throughout the season, you’ll see the progression, and I just want to leave it where we ended off. I don’t even watch the season. It just helps me stay neutral.
Sasha: Things get misconstrued, but at the end of the day, we all get along and we figure things out. We all share [this lifestyle] in common.
The narrative, even with the new girl, seems like the black girls are the villains.
Autumn: We’re really not. We’re sweet girls. I mean, we don’t play now… [Laughs]
Recently, Ayesha Curry’s Game 6 tweets stirred up a lot of controversy regarding how wives should act publicly in regards to their man’s career. How would you have handled a situation like that?
Autumn: I definitely wouldn’t say anything. My husband is a great, team guy and kinda reminds me of Steph [Curry] in a way. When he got ejected, I couldn’t say anything. In general, I kinda wait it out. If I’m still feeling [upset] the next day, I’ll say it. But if I don’t, then I won’t. Your feelings can change in a couple hours. People always take what you say out of context or they’re gonna judge you for what you say, so let [the men] play. Talk about it at home. For me to talk about it on a public platform for them to blast on ESPN is not my thing.
Now, plenty of reality TV stars have managed to flip their TV fame into a business or brand outside of their man’s careers. Is that your goal?
Autumn: I’ve always had this passion for baking and cooking, so I’m creating a food and lifestyle blog. I have healthy recipes, workouts, toddler temptations…It’s for everybody. I want to get our younger generations into food and home. You know, some of those old school values. Women can have a place they can come if they need a 30-minute meal or they’re having a girls’ night. I want to help moms, especially moms of multiples, to find good baby products, because when I had twins I couldn’t find anything. So, I want to help make their journey easier through motherhood.
Sasha: Well, I released my first single last year called “Oh Yeah My Hitta,” and the second single is called “Go Hard.” [My music] is kinda pop-y, kinda R&B, kinda rock. I’ll be performing with my band at least once a month, so my fans can see and hear my music live. I’ve been doing music since I was in high school. It’s a creative outlet for me, and I would do it even if I couldn’t sing. People don’t always get to see that side of me, but I love to perform and turn up.
What do you want audiences to learn about you this season that they may not already know?
Sasha: I hope they see that there’s more to me than the stereotype. I’m not a wife who kicks her feet up all day, sips champagne and goes shopping. We are the women that stand behind our great men because we’re great too. We do have a lot to offer, and I’m talented. I’m down to earth, and I don’t think I’m better than anybody.
Autumn: I would like them to know that I’m more than just somebody’s wife. I’m educated. At the end of the day, I’m a mother of two girls that I want to be proud of me. We’re more than just wives and a pretty face behind an athlete. Hopefully, I can shift the dynamic so they can see more of my passion and see what I love to do. I’m a girl’s girl. I ride hard for the people I love. It may be a tough love, but I appreciate when people are real with me and I only try to give it back in return.
Tune into WAGS on E! every Sunday at 10/9c.