Meet the new Jennifer Williams.
The former star of the once explosive “Basketball Wives” franchise is experiencing a renaissance. She just wrapped a season starring in TV One’s “The Next 15” alongside reality TV alums Claudia Jordan, Laura Govan, Benzino, Tiffany “New York” Pollard and Karamo Brown. And, her entrepreneurial empire just keeps growing.
The new reality TV franchise was touted as revolutionizing reality TV. It did two things, gave the answer to the question about how real reality TV is. We learned the shows are produced — situations are influenced and instigated — and not necessarily scripted. Second, it was a last-ditch effort to help cast members showcase their pop culture relevance sans their former reality TV personas.
On “The Next 15,” we met the Jennifer Williams who pressed reset and subsequently introduced her alter ego when the New Jersey native collaborated with Benzino on a single titled, “No Bricks.” It’s a modern-day TLC’s “No Scrubs,” and chimes in on getting rid of dead relationship weight. It was a project she worked on during what she described as her life’s worst week ever. It happened when she learned of her mother’s terminal illness.
Here, Williams is transparent in revealing how she dealt with pain and triumph while under the scrutiny of millions of viewers on television and online.
Who is Jennifer Williams? Are you the same diva we met on “Basketball Wives”?
My life is completely different. I am a different person. I was a basketball wife then. My life is different. I am single and now living in Los Angeles. People feel like they know me, but I have evolved.
What’s the emotional impact of having your life play out on a large platform like television?
It was difficult at first. There were times when I said, “Get this effing camera out of my face,” but, it’s what I signed up for. I had to be real. I went through a difficult situation with [a man] who is now my ex-husband. It played out in front of everyone and everyone had an opinion. I lived and filmed it. Then a couple months later when it aired, I had to relive it. People asked me why didn’t I leave sooner. You can’t say what you’d do unless you’re in the situation. I developed tough skin. I am sitting here now. I am happy and it took awhile to get here. When you go through a divorce and it is public, you have to take time to heal. I took care of Jennifer.
What was your first reaction to your ex, Eric Williams, throwing a drink in your face on national television?
My first thought was, “Did this really happen to me?” I then thought, people are going to think I get my a– beat. It was totally out of character for him. His ego was bruised, not saying it was right. It came out of left field. Nothing like that had ever happened like that in our relationship. At that moment, I knew any chance of us getting back together was over. It was the nail in the coffin.
He felt bad about it. He got a lot of backlash from it. He apologized to me. Then he’d go on interviews saying I needed to be baptized with holy water. I am glad I am past it. It made me a stronger person.
Do you feel reality television pushes people to act out of character?
Hell yes! Drama sells. In the reality world, bad behavior is rewarded. I literally have seen people change before my eyes. I actually think people turn up for the camera. Two, it’s the producers as well who encourage it. Fame is a powerful drug. If you wanted to be famous all your life, you will do anything for your next, your first 15. I don’t care about fame. For me, I’d rather my bank account is stacked and no one knows who the hell I am. Producers know how to play on weaknesses.
Why did you turn up the drama on “The Next 15” with Claudia Jordan, but not so much on “Basketball Wives” with Evelyn Lozada?
It’s funny because, I have always been this way. With ‘Basketball Wives’ and going through the s— with Eric and everything else, I was in a different space. Evelyn — I consider her my sister. I love you from a distance. We are cordial; we are good. When everything happened with her and I — I would never fight my sister under any circumstances. I love her and will just walk away from any situation. I was not raised that way. I was baptized with her. She was in my wedding. There’s so much that people don’t know we did. This b—- Claudia, I don’t know you. I am quiet. I am reserved. I am not that girl. But, once it’s go time — I don’t care.
How does it feel to enter into a reality television situation with friends, a husband, and in the end, you are separated or the relationship is damaged?
I will say going in my marriage wasn’t 100 percent. Reality TV has a way of escalating things. I call it the red light special. When that red light comes on on the camera, you just don’t know whom you are going to get. It brings out literally the worst in people. I started my life one way on reality TV and it turned into something else. Whether it is losing a friend [or] a husband, it’s difficult. Things that play out on camera can be life-changing.
You recently lost your mother, which was a major tragedy. But you had to keep on filming. I can’t imagine what that’s like. What kept you going?
My mother was the healthiest person I’ve ever known, very into holistic everything, never had surgery or any health problems. I learned my mother had terminal cancer when I was filming “The Next 15.” I am still digesting it. It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. It is extremely personal. The news broke toward the end of filming and wrapping up the season. Once again, I found myself in a situation where I have to be real. I couldn’t even hide my emotions. The day I found out she had cancer I had to film. I just wanted to get to my mother. I needed to just be there with her. I found out on the 8th and she passed away on the 28th. It was a roller coaster.
The day before she passed, I was in the hospice with her. We were supposed to have a family meeting. She said some things that were incomprehensible. I leaned over and she said, “I love you.” The next day, I went to visit her, she wasn’t responsive. I realized she was telling me goodbye. I am still in shock! She is the most important person to me. Everything I do is to make her proud. She can no longer experience these things with me.
Please give us the backstory about the talk show, “Just Saying.”
Three of my friends had a talk show. One of them, Sheree Fletcher [Will Smith’s ex-wife], left. I was a guest on the show a few months prior and when I moved to L.A., they said they were looking for a new host. I shared that hosting really interested me. That’s how it got started. It’s on Black Hollywood Live. It’s like happy hour with your girlfriends. We talk about everything; love, sex, relationships, marriage.
Please give us an update on your entrepreneurial ventures.
Lucid Cosmetics is doing well. There will be expansion and rebranding. I’m opening, Classy Girl Wardrobe; it’s an online boutique. I love fashion. Being here in L.A., we have the fashion district and wholesale opportunities. I enjoy fashion buying. [Jennifer is also the proprietor of Flirty Girl Fitness boutique with two locations, Chicago and Toronto.]
Describe your ideal mate.
I like good people. I am in a place in my life where you have to bring something positive and have good energy. I want my man to have a relationship with God. I want to have fun and want us to travel together. He needs to be established. Not looking for a billionaire, but you have to have your s— together. Bring something to the table. I am all about supporting your dreams; I can’t support your bank account.
Would you sign a pre-nup?
I think pre-nups are good. There are pros and cons, because I feel you are already dooming your marriage. When things happen and people go their separate ways, it makes it easier. If it’s about love, go ahead and sign it. “I’m with you for you and not your money.” It’s a good way to show him you want [him]. If you are a boss b—-, you should have your own s— anyway. You should be an asset.
Story by Yvette Caslin
Interview by Demi Lobo
Images by DeWayne Rogers