SINCE HER RUNNING START on VH1’s Shaunie O’Neal-prepped meal ticket, every detail of her life is entertainment. A messy domestic run-in with her ex-husband, former NFL star Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson, sent the 37-year-old spiraling, forcing a Michael Jackson-esque look in the mirror. Around the same time, Basketball Wives opponents refused to band behind the profanity-spewing TV staple that they chalked up as a bully receiving her karmic return. Then there was that whole PR-perfect Iyanla: Fix My Life stint that led some to believe that the Bronx-bred Latina had changed, and others to think that she had duped them yet again. “It’s crazy how it all worked out,” says Lozada of the timing of the soul-searching opportunity. “It was one of the hardest interviews but the most helpful. I still talk to her to this day.”
Now back in the mix for BBW‘s fifth season, she’s been filming nonstop (outside of the days she gave us face time for this cover). Miraculously she does catch her breath every now and then to build a healthy business portfolio: a follow-up to her fiction book series The Wives Association (a Nikki Turner collab due out this summer), an endorsement from youthH20 water and extending her E by Evelyn Cosmetics line. Above all, her almost 1.2 million Twitter herd still sees her as a reality TV queen. “I’m always going to be opinionated; that’s just who I am,” she admits. “Listen, I’m not ever in life going to do some of the things I did last season, but I’m still going to be me. You don’t ever know what will come out of my mouth.”
Today, it’s not about her unfiltered persona. On her day off, she’s ecstatic about her one-day vaca from the lens. “I’m not filming today,” she says. “I’m just happy to be at home in my sweats, my hair up, and relaxing all day.”
Time to pull back the layers.
VIBE Vixen: When did you first feel beautiful?
Evelyn Lozada: Growing up around my family, I always felt I looked different. I started feeling myself when I was probably about 10 or 11. I definitely didn’t feel like an ugly duckling. I wasn’t bullied and nobody tortured me about anything on my body. But I think I started finding myself when I was in high school.
That’s when the confidence kicked in.
Yeah. I lived in a primarily white neighborhood in Queens. But when I moved to the Bronx, it was a little tough because I wasn’t hip. I was a little culture shocked. But by the time I got to eighth grade, I got it together. When I went to high school, I started feeling that security.
When do you feel the most beautiful?
When I’m all natural. I don’t do that a lot because I’m filming.
You’ve never shied away from talking about your daughter, Shaniece. Do you feel you’ve given her the tools to feel beautiful?
I’ve never been one of those parents who tell their children, “Oh, you’re getting fat.” I tell her how beautiful she is every day. I’ve always been very open, talking to her about sex and things she needed to know.
Unlike the public, she personally experienced what you went through with Chad. What was that like?
She has truly been my rock through all of this. She’s been with me since the day of, and for three months, we were together. I was having anxiety, so I slept next to her; we were connected at the hips. She stepped up to do things that I mentally didn’t want to do. Whether it was running errands or whatever, she held it down. I was a little gone because it was traumatic for me.
Of course. But it led to your talk with Iyanla. The timing of it seemed both essential and brilliant.
Because of all the controversy with the show. She was one of the first people to reach out. Granted, I didn’t even want to talk about it, but I had to sit with Iyanla. I knew that even though she was going to be tough with me, she was going to try and figure out why I accepted [Chad’s behavior].
People still wonder how much her words changed your life.
I’m still going through the healing process. After I did that interview, I never talked about [the abuse] ever again. But I do reality TV; not talking about it doesn’t make sense. When we started filming [Basketball Wives] again, I started talking about it. I’m very emotional probably every episode because I’m dealing and filming and going through my healing process at the same time.
Folks are anticipating a new Ev on this upcoming season.
I had people saying, “Stay the same. I need to see all that feistiness.” I’m still going to have my little quotes; this is just who Evelyn is. And at the same time, I need to learn to handle certain situations. But if somebody is coming at me, I’m going to protect myself. It’s not like I’m going to be super perfect because I was on Iyanla and now I’m Mother Mary, because that’s not what it is. But at the same time, instead of going from zero to 1,000, let’s really think before we speak and not get physical. I just have to remind myself of that. It’s a daily thing for me because sometimes you’re tested.
And people are watching so much more intently now. That said, do you see yourself ever wholeheartedly loving or caring for Chad again? In such a public way…
We don’t speak. This is best for the both of us right now. But I think that we’ve gotten some kind of closure. I will forever love Chad and care about him and wish him the best. I don’t have one bitter bone in my body about what happened. For me to be able to move on with my life and find love again, I can’t hold on to that baggage. I pray about it every day; I pray for him every day. I hope when he finds whoever he’s with next, he chooses to do things differently.
Since you’ve been able to put that behind you, are you anxious to date again?
You and Chad met on Twitter. Would you ever do that again?
I’m not opposed to it, but I’m definitely doing a background check on you!
Well, what’s your dream guy like?
Somebody that’s loyal, very respectful, God-fearing. I really look up to Meagan Good and her husband, DeVon [Franklin]. I heard him preach, and this man had me in tears. I was like, “Wow, this is a man.”
So, someone designed by God and who knows how to run a household.
Yes, all of that. And good credit. [Laughs]
Well, until that guy comes, you’ve got business to think about! I hear you’re expanding E by Evelyn Cosmetics.
Yeah. We’re going to add new palettes, more lip gloss, nail polish. Right now, there are pigments, eye shadows, brushes and a skin-care line. I really love nail polish and having designs on my nails, so we’re going to add those products on the line as well.
In about five years, where do you want to see your beauty brand in competition to others?
I’m working on my clothing line, so I envision so many things. Kind of like what J. Lo did. She’s done so many great things. If I could take a page out of her book, I’m good.
And when the reality TV wave passes?
I would love to do production, turning my book into TV features and continue to work in fashion. I want my brands to be big. Global status.