Basketball Wives has been under the microscope recently, with critics complaining that it portrays women (and women of color, in particular) in a negative light. Shaunie O’Neal has responded to that by saying that though she doesn’t support the “bickering, drink throwing and fighting” she believes that if you look “beyond the arguing and the fighting, you’ll see a group of women trying to get their lives back on track and figure out who they really are.”
When we sat down with each of the cast members at the reunion recently, we asked a few of the other women what they thought of their critics. Not surprisingly, they all defended the show and explained that they didn’t sign on to be a role model. We talked to Suzie, Tami, and Evelyn, who all have children, and each of them makes it clear that their roles as mothers are very different from their roles as entertainers. As Tami says, ” People’s children should not look to reality TV shows for mentors or role models or anyone worthy to look up to…Reality TV is TV, it is there to entertain us.”
Do you worry that if kids are watching the show and they see you guys behaving badly toward each other you’ll become a bad influence?
That’s a big thing for me, because in season one I threw a drink. And then I threw a bucket. And there were kids at my daughter’s school who were like “I saw you on the show! Why did you throw water on that girl?” And I was like “Oh. My. God. Little kids are watching,” and that’s not who I am and I hated being portrayed like “Oh, that’s the water girl!” and I was like no, it’s not, I’ve never done that in my life. So I did want to show more of me and who I am. I don’t like fighting, I like to have fun. Life is so short. For me it was my dad battling cancer, dying and really trying to enjoy every minute of his life so happy and stress-free up until the end that I was like, wow, I need to enjoy every single day and not let stupid drama overtake me.
The show has had a lot of criticism lately, as a mother of teenage daughters, what do you say to critics who think the show reflects women poorly?
I say it’s a reality show, it’s no different than Jersey Shore or whatever else is out there. People’s children should not look to reality TV shows for mentors or role models or anyone worthy to look up to. For my daughters, they watch it for entertainment value only. They look up to my mother, me, their teachers, people that are in their lives doing positive things that matter. Reality TV is TV, it is there to entertain us. Within those moments, there are some valuable tidbits that you can take away, for instance, me and my daughters’ situation with their dad. Seeing a family work through that type of conflict and reach some resolve. Evelyn and her father coming to terms with their relationship. There are things you can take away, but for the most party, our show in particular is built around drama and you should watch that s— and keep it movin’, you know? Don’t look up to us in that way. We’re on a TV show. They take hours and hours of footage to make forty minutes of viewing, you’re seeing a snapshot of who we are, you can’t see us in our entirety and you can’t possibly look up to us. You don’t even know who we really are as a whole. How we’re being portrayed is how we’re edited into certain characters so that you can have something to identify with and be like “I like Tami” or “I don’t like Evelyn” and just making characters you can relate to. But in terms of role models, you’re not even seeing the full us.
The show has come under a lot of fire for portraying women in a bad light, as a mother of a girl who’s at the age where she’d watch the show, what do you think?
You know what baffles me about this? I’m gonna tell you how I really feel about this. There are other shows out there that all they do is fight. Housewives of New Jersey, Mob Wives, and this is how I feel, I feel that because we’re women of color we get the s—ty end of the stick. Oh, they’re being ghetto, meanwhile these other shows are on Good Morning America and on these other talk shows but they’re doing the same thing we’re doing. They curse, they fight, they have kids, why do we have to be the ones to hold that torch and become role models? I think it’s unfair. Do I think young kids should be watching our show? No. I really don’t. There are sexual conversations and cursing, fighting, I don’t think it’s something a young kid should be watching, but honestly, kids do. And that’s for your parents to be a role model and sit there and monitor what you’re watching.
Do you care if Shaniece watches?
My daughter is eighteen and going to college. She watches and she doesn’t look at the show and think “This is how I’m going to handle situations,” she’s her own person and I raised her to be that person, don’t look at TV shows for role models, you have that at home with your family. Growing up, I wanted to be Wonder Woman, or Sandy from Grease, but I didn’t watch TV shows and think wow, this is what I wanted to do. I would sing “Like A Virgin” and I didn’t know what the hell I was singing to, we just liked the song, so I just think it’s so hard when people ask about that, I didn’t sign on to be a role model, I’m not here to do that. If I touch someone’s life because I was a teenage mom or because of my situation with my dad, then great. It’s hard to have pressure thinking “Oh, if I do this, I’m not going to be a role model” I don’t think anyone has that thought process when you’re filming.