Everyone has friends. But the popular saying is that you haven’t really accomplished anything in life until the haters start rising up like weeds in the cracks of the sidewalks. From this criterion alone, we can conclude that burgeoning media maven Shaunie O’Neal is doing something right.
Still, it is interesting watching the dichotomy of perspectives on the ex-NBA wife since the meteoric success of VH1’s “Basketball Wives.”
In this corner are the makeup artists, the hairstylists and the fashion designers — industry vets who’ve worked with thousands of celebs and other high-maintenance types. They could scarcely contain their adoration for the creator and executive producer of “The Basketball Wives” and “Football Wives.”
They assured me that her genuine sweetness during the all-day shoot is a rarity in their business. Heck, they all wish they could bottle up some of O’Neal’s personality and pour it on their other clients who pretty much have porcupine needles where their teeth should be.
“The biggest misconception about Shaunie is that she is a diva. She is far from that. From the outside, they think that she is high maintenance,“ says business partner and best friend Alicia Malone. “She is not like that at all. Far from it. She is just a regular girl, an around-the-way girl.”
However, some blog sites practically dripped acid into cyberspace with opinions about O’Neal that differed drastically from the supporters, particularly after the season two finale.
Despite O’Neal’s admirable transition from stay-at-home mother to successful businesswoman, and the fact that she rose from the ashes of a publicly messy divorce to sculpt a dynamic media career, and the fact that she has kept up her amazing appearance as she leans past her mid-30s, there are some determined souls out there just prowling around in her closet for a skeleton and a reason to hate her.
Well, look no more. You can stop snooping under the couch and rifling through her laundry basket looking for dirt. Rolling out has found something to satisfy your craving. We’ll pause here while you pour yourself a stiff libation and buckle yourself in for the news:
Shaunie O’Neal does not work out.
It’s true, confirms Malone. The woman who sports a body that looks like it was designed by an hourglass maker, works out about every other solar eclipse. We’ll provide a hater hotline for those who are about to go volcanic because they’ve lived in the gym for years and can’t get the kind of body that O’Neal so easily pours into a breathtaking Parisian dress.
Kind, But Not a Saint:
To say that she is sweet is not to say that O’Neal would overdose a honeybee or to say that her likeness should be painted on a church window. Let’s get it straight: She is a businesswoman, and she’s going to handle hers. Those same come-hither, bedroom eyes are also used to mine the entertainment terrain for prospective profitable business deals. Those same brown, moon-shaped portals can also transform into black lasers. that burn holes in the skulls of those who blatantly disrespect her, as we saw in season two of the “Basketball Wives.”
The fruits of O’Neal’s business savvy are evidenced by the scripts and TV offers flowing into her office, as well as the growing following of young female admirers.
“People do tell me that I’m an inspiration to them. I don’t know what to say to that. I’m thankful, but I’m just doing me,” she explains. “And don’t think that I’m perfect. I make mistakes. I do the best that I can. And I’m always thinking, ‘How do I make the best of this situation?’ ”
The Lady in Red:
The first look rolling out put O’Neal in for her photo shoot was a spectacular full-length red dress that sported see-through lace along one side of the front. It’s enough to cause a brain freeze in men.
“Anyone who knows me will know that this is not me. But I love it. I feel sexy and pretty and all the things that a woman likes to feel like. I’m, like, rocking it with confidence. I need to go somewhere in this dress.”
O’Neal is going somewhere all right, figuratively and literally. And it all starts with the wonderful space she finds herself in, since entering her post-Shaq days.
“I just feel more comfortable with myself. I’m 36 years old and I look pretty darn good. There’s always someone who is going to look better and have a better shape and have better hair or this and that. But I think I’m doing OK.”
Keeping it Sexy:
“I’m an Italian-food girl,” she laughs heartily. Take me to an Italian restaurant; [it’s] just naturally sexy. It’s always a little dark and [they’ve] got the candles. I go to Marino on Melrose [in L.A.]. It’s like super Italian. The woman greets you at the door and she can barely speak English.”
Speaking of keeping it sexy, O’Neal’s new man, 23-year-old model-actor Marlon Yates, seems to be just what the doctor ordered for the busy mom-mogul.
“You could catch us on the promenade in Santa Monica, [Calif.], when they have all the people performing. I love that. He’s super athletic and we’ll go bike riding. We were just talking the other day that we should get one of those corny double [seat] bikes, [laughs heartily], and we’ll take walks near where I live and to the yogurt place. That’s kind of sexy and romantic and our little quiet time,” she says.
Doing Big Things:
O’Neal’s second look was a silver dress on loan from Paris that is made entirely of sequins. She was supercharged as she channeled her inner Beyoncé, like she was about to roll out on stage and blow the set up. It was more of a red carpet power look. The dress was tightly attached to her voluptuous frame as if it were hanging on for dear life.
“I love the dress,” she purred, with slightly labored breathing because the dress was on her like a snake wrapped around its prey. “I can’t really move around a lot in it,“ she laughed again, needing help just to bend to sit down. “I think it is a performance dress, and [an] important, event-type dress. It’s not giving too much, but it’s still sexy.”
The “power” dress helped put Shaunie in the mind-set of an independent woman making deals in the boardroom and in expensive restaurants that impact millions of people, like with “Basketball Wives.” Speaking of power moves, rumors are running wild that some major changes are going to be made between seasons two and three of “Basketball Wives.” O’Neal didn’t deny that Royce Reed may not be back.
“Every season, we need to do something different … whether it’s someone leaving [or] someone coming. But I can’t tell you,” says O’Neal.
She can tell us, however, that she is not living and dying off the success of the show. She has something bigger in store.
“I didn’t put myself out there and on TV just to be on a reality show. I have a plan and a vision, and as it continues to go, my vision and my plan get bigger. It’s to build a [legacy] for my kids and … [to] have something that I’m proud of, outside of being mommy. It’s just [about] trying to be smart. That window is cracked, and I’m trying to open it all the way,” says O’Neal.
She’s prying the window open with her production company, Amirah Inc., so that she will have a portal by which to funnel the ideas generating from the wellspring of possibilities in her mind, and move them into the boardroom and onto the airwaves. This is where O’Neal gave life to her upcoming shoe line and soon-to-be released book. Set for a fall 2011 unveiling, O’Neal admits that her being very particular has slowed the process.
“So, it can be a little tedious. I am picky. The shoe has to make me feel sexy and tall,” she says.
Leaving a Legacy:
One reason O’Neal doesn’t work out is because, as Malone says she related to her, “I miss a lot of meals running after five children.”
O’Neal devours bird-sized portions as she tears through traffic from one of her children’s activities to another. And now that she has emerged from the gigantic shadow cast by Shaquille O’Neal, it’s even more important for her to hold onto those dear moments with her children.
“There are certain daily things that are important to me. Like me and my kids talking [on the way] to and from school, asking them how their day went, doing their homework. No matter what I did during the day — this photo shoot, the conference calls or meetings — the pickup times and the homework times can’t help but keep [me] balanced. And I appreciate that time with the kids every day,” she says.
All O’Neal has to do is think about her kids and their future and it’s enough to rev her into fifth gear to ensure they have a foundation that will propel them to their dreams.
“They’re definitely [the] motivation to continue to do what I do. I want them to be proud of me, and [I want to] leave them something. Ours is a generation where our parents were not able to leave us with some type of business,” she says. “I want to … leave some type of legacy for my kids. That’s my goal … I want them to say, ‘Wow, my mom did this.’ ”
It looks to me like “mom” is going to be OK handling hers.
Words by Terry Shropshire, Images by Michael Melendy for Steed Media Service, Stylist: Anthony Bradshaw, Hair: Taylor Davis, Makeup: La Trice Johnson