The Basketball Wives reunion, part one and two, was quite difficult to watch. If I’m being honest, the entire season was tough to sit through.
While the show hasn’t ever been an exemplary model of Black excellence, I never really felt like the women featured on it were flat-out mean and vicious. Instead, I thought they were responding to the stress of filming a show like this. But now I think they are some ill-mannered chicks. I would say that has a lot to do with Shaunie O’Neal and the lengths people go to get in her good graces.
An executive producer on the show since the beginning, Shaunie used to come off as the one person that everyone on the show could talk to, even if she wasn’t crazy about you. She often came into the fold after drama ensued, or could be heard in the background shouting for someone to calm down or stop being violent. But as time has passed, she has gone from being somewhat detached from the bullsh-t to being a big part of the reason it occurs. She can dish it (as in reprimand and mock), but no one is allowed to throw it back at her (call out her hypocrisy), so in some ways, her invincibility has emboldened her.
Going back over the season’s quarrels during the second part of the reunion, I was reminded of the ways in which she had yielded her EP power in mean girl ways. When she’s not doing impersonations of the ladies (i.e., Cece Gutierrez), she’s a fan of isolation. For instance, despite hugging things out with Jennifer Williams early on, receiving a letter from her and having no issue inviting her to the trip to San Diego, Shaunie excluded her from the Costa Rican getaway (a blessing in disguise for Jen) for reasons she didn’t even believe. She just all of a sudden didn’t want to be around the girl. This convenient lack of invitation came at the same time that Malaysia Pargo and Evelyn Lozada all of a sudden had an issue with her over photos being taken of them with Jennifer at the cancer event for her mom. She tried to explain her choice to not invite Jennifer, while inviting all her violent homegirls, to host Marc Lamont Hill by saying that she can wish the best for Jennifer, but from a distance. From the outside looking in, it just seemed like she wanted to go along with her friends, who obviously didn’t want to be around Jennifer, and that was the best excuse she could find.
And of course, Shaunie has attempted to isolate OG Chijindu for some time. Remember when she jumped in OG and Feby’s argument over the “fake clothes” rap that sis denied? She went out of her way to try scold OG like a child in front of everyone for telling Feby she “could kill you with my bare hands, but I won’t” knowing that OG couldn’t really say anything strong back because Shaunie’s a producer on the show. She also attempted to tell Jackie that OG wouldn’t be invited to the final group dinner in Costa Rica because of her behavior at the pool the day before. That behavior included blocking a raving Evelyn from jumping on her friend Cece from behind, trying to protect Cece from Evelyn, which Shaunie kept coming at her about, and barking right back at Kristen for barking at her. Oh yeah, OG was a threat to any and everyone…
Despite not inviting OG because she felt like the energy shifts and things get violent when OG is around, she had no problem in the next scene, following BFF Evelyn to find OG and unsuccessfully antagonize her about those DMs with Chad Johnson. After Evelyn was found to have inadequate receipts, Shaunie herself antagonized OG as the car she rode in drove away, telling her that “Jesus loves you!”
And as for the reunion, we know she had no issue with OG being put in a separate room from the women. When OG didn’t let the distance keep her from pulling everyone’s card, Shaunie would say and do childish things. When the colorism discussion was brought up, she breathed a heavy sigh of annoyance and told Marc that OG always takes things too far. When OG talked about having to deal with the negativity of women who talk sh-t and poke at her all of the time and how not uplifting that is, Shaunie said “Yet you’re here.” She went out of her way to call Jackie “hilarious” for poking fun at OG’s toe in a never-before-seen clip shown to create tension between them, and pulled out the schoolyard tactics of bugging out her eyes, rolling them, acting like she was exhausted, or laughing obnoxiously loud when OG would make a point she didn’t agree with and/or couldn’t counter. Also, the veiled threat of women being cut from the cast because people in the group can’t co-exist, as she said, was yet another one of her ways of reminding people that she has the power — the power to be quite nasty.
So imagine my confusion when that same woman, at the end of the episode, was featured front and center for a conversation about colorism and said she hated that OG felt isolated and mistreated. She sure didn’t seem to hate it in the moment when she was doing the isolating; when she was calling her aggressive; when she was laughing at the insults directed at her by the other ladies; when she was turning up her face and nose at the valid points she made; when she was trying to drop hints that sis might either not be back for another season, or that she might continue to be isolated if retained for Season 9.
Shaunie only hated it when she, and Evelyn, who has been on an Afro-Latina damage control run in the press for the last two weeks, started to be called out as the main perpetrators of colorist behavior. She only hated it when people online started to criticize and threaten to stop watching and went after big name sponsors with petitions to pull their ads. And yet, she thought the best way to address it all was to be the face of a conversation on colorism to acknowledge that it is indeed a problem in the world, but not on the show, and to say that she was sorry OG felt her experience was that. No apology for participating in the troublesome behavior with other grown a– women. No guarantee that anyone would do better in future seasons. No belief that at any time was their behavior that of a bully. No admission that she could have done more to hold everyone accountable.
I’ve always respected, despite early shots at Shaunie’s often violent show even when the show began, what she’s been able to create for herself after her marriage. I think she’s a great mom and businesswoman. Still, her behavior this season, especially at the reunion, reminds me that you’re never too successful, grown, or taxed with major responsibilities to stoop to childish, disrespectful sh-t when you get around your “friends.” When that happens, even with the best intentions, you can become toxic and see no problem with it. Perhaps that’s the overall reason Tami Roman left the show, and coincidentally, her friendship with Shaunie, in the dust…
Hit the flip for the hilarious reactions to last night’s finale: