The Wards Get Real: A Chat With Steve And JoAnn Ward On Their Special, Their Business, And Betting Against One Another

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This week, Tough Love took a break from the Miami heat and the romance woes of the women in the house to spend some time helping us get to know the Ward family a bit better in the special The Wards Get Real. We saw Steve and his sister Monica working alongside mom JoAnn at their Master Matchmakers business in Philadelphia, and it was a nice little peek into their world. I sat down with the mother and son recently to talk about the special and how their two huge personalities complement each other when they work day to day, and how they hope this show will make fans “feel like they’re a part of our family,” as JoAnn says.

Between this show, which shows your personal lives and your Master Matchmakers business, and Tough Love, do you have a soft spot for one show over the other?
Steve: That’s an unfair question. She loves The Wards Get Real because she’s the star!
JoAnn: No, it’s because I can just be me.

Do you feel like you can’t be yourself on Tough Love?

JoAnn: Yes, that’s right. It’s just a more structured environment.
Steve: It took her four seasons to realize that Tough Love has nothing to do with Steve and JoAnn Ward, it’s not about us. We’re delivering a message, a philosophy.

Did the fact that this most recent episode of Tough Love was all about Mommy Issues get you to be yourself more?
JoAnn: Yes, I really connected with Claudia because I could understand her, she has a child and there was a connection there and a lot of respect, the girls see that, they see that I raised Steve and I take care of myself and I’m a good mom and I have sympathy and I think they see a vision for their future, I wanna be like her.
Steve: I just want to bring back the point that I was making earlier about why my mom enjoys The Wards Get Real more than Tough Love is because it shows what a typical client would really go through with us. On Tough Love, she is indispensable, she helps pick all of the matches and she very much produces the show, she’s the unsung hero of the show, whereas I’m kind of the star of the show. But The Wards Get Real makes us more vulnerable, which my mom has no problem with, because she is very unapologetic about her philosophy and how she connects, she’s unconventional and sometimes caustic, but she believes that sometimes that’s the only way to make any headway. She doesn’t mind people battling her if they make a good point, and we do that on The Wards Get Real, but more naturally with our clients on the show. On this show, you’ll see how intuitive we really are and where our talents come into play on this show, and when we sit down with a client and talk to them…Matchmaking is somewhat of an art of illusion, we have to present somebody in their best light to someone.

Do you think doing The Wards Get Real will change how people view you since they’ll be privy to all the aspects of your life, not just what we’ve seen on Tough Love?

JoAnn: I think they’ll feel like they’re a part of our family, they’ll feel more connected to us. I think it’ll be great for Tough Love fans, because they’ll see how involved Steven is and the passion he has and how he wants to grow the business. You’ll see on the show, like how Steven was resistant toward working with Jillian, there’s the part where he said “My mom vouched for your character,” I know that if I feel it, other people will feel it too. The fans will have a better sense of Steven’s feelings and, I don’t want to sound emotional, but they’ll feel more connected and see that he cares. He’s the Tough Love guy, he’s tough!

How do you feel when you watch him interact with the women on Tough Love, do you personally ever think he’s too tough?
JoAnn: No, he’s usually right on.

How did you get involved in matchmaking?

JoAnn: Love. I love love. I just like to see people happy and when people are in love, they’re happy.
Steve: She answered an ad in a newspaper in 1986, that’s the real answer.
JoAnn: I was always matchmaking, my neighbors, in high school.
John (JoAnn’s husband): I saw the ad, this was something she had been doing forever and I said “Why don’t you do this, honey?”

What is your definition of success with your clients? Just personal improvement as a dater, or a long-term relationship?
JoAnn: My personal opinion is, we find them, we put them on dates and in today’s society, if people can keep it going for a period of time, I think that’s success. I think it’s difficult to have that today and I work my ass off keeping people together. But I can’t do that to the altar, people need to learn how to do that on their own.

How does your personal mother-son dynamic affect how you work? I know I’m similar to you guys where I can get into an argument with my mom and be fine five minutes later, but I don’t have to work with her.
JoAnn:
Are you a lot like your mom?
VH1: Yes.
JoAnn: Okay so there’s your answer. Steven and I are a lot like each other, too, and we have a good understanding of each other and can share with each other and that’s why it works. Sometimes he forgets I’m his mother, but we have that connection.

I love these shows because I get invested in how the clients do, what’s going on with Jillian and Therese now?

JoAnn: I saw Jillian the other day and interesting enough she was telling me about how she’s changed her photos on Facebook and how she’s dressing differently now, she really notices the types of many that notice her now because of how she looks. She really learned something from Steven that has helped her in dating and professionalism, anything we do, even if it’s not a successful match or marriage, everybody gains something from working with us. I believe everyone can learn from this show and I believe we get to know our clients even more by working with them long-term and are able to move forward with both the men and women.

You guys made a bet on the show about whether your clients would be compatible and you won, was that meal your mom cooked for you worth it?

Steve: Was it worth it? Being right was worth it enough. I wanted her to cook for me so she’d realize that maybe on occasion I can outmatch her.

[Photo:David Adame/AP Images for VH1]

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