On Tuesday night, VH1 is giving the people what they never knew they needed: a Hollywood Exes reunion special six years after the hit series came to an end.
The gang is all there (with the exception of Jessica Canseco), as Andrea Kelly, Nicole Murphy, Mayte Garcia, Shamicka Lawrence, Shanna Moakler and Sheree Zampino recount their experience from the show and catch people up about where they are now in the one-hour special, Hollywood Exes: Reunited. And plenty has changed in the lives of the women. There were broken engagements, divorces, deaths, public controversies and more. The only thing that really has remained constant is the relationships between the former cast members and now, forever friends.
“We really do stay in contact with each other and spend time with each other and love on each other,” Drea Kelly told us in a phone call. “More important than that, spiritually we’re connected. Something could be going on and we’ll be like, hold on, let me take a pause. Something doesn’t feel right in the spirit. What’s going on?”
We talked with Kelly as well Sheree Zampino about what drew them to Hollywood Exes in the first place. We also discussed how they felt about the abrupt cancellation of the hit show after three seasons in 2014, ending their second marriages after the show ended and the role the show played in that, and the best part of letting people see into their lives to show that they’re much more than just the ex-wife of a celebrity.
MadameNoire: What initially ran through your head when the opportunity to do this series came about? Were you sold on it or apprehensive about sharing your life? Why or why not?
Drea Kelly: I looked at it as a wonderful opportunity and a platform, because unlike my sisters, no one even know my ex was married. So I felt this was a great platform and introduction to the world. I feel like I came into it as a blank canvas because there’s no preconceived notions about who I am or who people think I am or seeing photos of me in a tabloid or anything like that. It also allowed me on that blank canvas to paint with any colors that I wanted to. I decided to go neon, honey, because that’s who she is! I saw this as a really, really great chance for people to really get to see, who is Drea Kelly? What is she about? What is her personality? So yeah, it was an amazing experience for me, and it was a gift.
Sheree Zampino: Well, on my end, I’ll tell ya, I was extraordinarily cautious. I know when I was approached about it — I mean, ’cause I watched reality TV — I was terrified. But I was assured that that’s not the show that this is. But you know you really never know. Much to my surprise, it was a leap of faith but it was one that I’m so glad that I took.
MadameNoire: Were conversations necessary to be had before you agreed to do the show? Did you feel that was required?
Sheree: I think because of the nature of the relationship that we have, we were always connected because we’ve done the co-parenting and blended family thing. I thought that would be odd because we do have that kind of relationship, for them to turn on the TV and there I am. So yeah, I didn’t feel I needed permission or approval, but it was just more to communicate and give them a heads up.
Drea: No, because there wasn’t the communication there. At that juncture where we were dealing with the divorce and everything that was going on, we were communicating through lawyers. There really wasn’t a way to communicate it, but I think if things would have been different in our relationship, if it was a healthy relationship, oh definitely, it would be something I would share. I think I would have been supported. But unfortunately, mine is on the flip-side of the coin. It wasn’t that.
MadameNoire: Drea, you said you came out of your shell to show a different side of yourself publicly. Was it hard trying to get back to you, the fun side of you, after what you had been through in your marriage and being hidden?
Drea: It was definitely hard. But I think anything in life, just like fitness training, the beginning is very hard until you build that muscle and you build endurance and then you get to the place where you feel strong. I think it’s hard for any woman that is in a volatile relationship, coming out of domestic violence, because you have to deal with the victim shaming and the shame you carry yourself. You feel like you’re not going to be believed. You have all of these things stacked against you. Then you couple that with the fact that this is also a celebrity. Somebody that is an “icon” in our community. So it’s not just me speaking my voice. I’m well-aware that I’m going up against a machine. I’m going up against promoters, record labels, people who shoot videos and go to concerts. The list is so long that yes, it took a very long time, but I finally got the point where I took ego and stuff out if it. I realized that God called me for this and I’m a vessel, and as long as I’m doing the work for Him and He gets the glory, He will give me the strength to endure to the end. So that was my saving grace. I knew that me, I could never do it in my own power, but I knew that God was leading me and this is my ministry. Now it’s what I live for.
MadameNoire: You both were in marriages during the show. In what ways did being on TV maybe expose things about your relationships or perhaps put a strain on them in any way?
Sheree: I would say that sometimes you don’t know how you’re coming off until you’re able to see yourself. And I will say that the show was not responsible for the demise, or my divorce, but it definitely didn’t help it. And the other part of it, being able to watch myself and just be able to identify some things that I needed to change and I needed to address inside of me and the way I did things, I’ll tell you, I had to apologize to Terrell. After I was able to watch the show and kind of get on the other side of that, it was an opportunity to grow and to do things differently and to do things better and to make amends.
Drea: Season 3 you did see me get remarried on the show. For me, I would say the show itself wasn’t the demise of the relationship, it was somebody being unfaithful. At the end of the day, whether there was a show or not, you were an unfaithful man. Whether there were cameras or not, you were going to show up as an unfaithful man. I think what the show did though was give a platform and fuel somebody being unfaithful. Now in your mind you’re a TV star and you have people coming at you so you’ve been put in a position where a lot of people didn’t know who you are to the whole world knowing who you are. Unfortunately, that is a ticking time bomb for some people.
MadameNoire: Would you both be interested in marrying again?
Sheree: Whew! I wanna say yes, but I don’t think I can answer that question and I’ll tell you why. It gets exhausting dealing with me. That’s what marriage does. It ain’t ever about the other person, it’s about what they’re triggering inside of you. It’s like, okay, what do I have to work on? So I don’t know if the rest of my years I want to spend it being that selfless. I don’t know! It’s a lot. It’s a lot of work. I don’t know.
Drea: Well I would say…I’m a hopeless romantic. I still believe in the sanctity of marriage. And I think for me, the reason I would get married again, and I said it once and I’ll say it again until Jesus comes back, at the end of the day I was married but I was never a wife. When you are in a situation like I was and it’s toxic, it’s impossible to say that you were a wife. I was just married because that’s not how you treat your wife. You’re supposed to cover, protect, love, uplift and care for your wife. And when that’s not in place, it’s impossible to feel like a wife. I do look forward to the day that I am a wife. Not saying that’s going to complete me, because if God says that’s it and that’s the end of the journey, she fine! [laughs]
Sheree: I tell you, I don’t think I want another last name in this lifetime. I do not. [laughs] But never say never. I’m always open and receptive to what God is doing and the blessings he’s bringing into my life. I wouldn’t say never.
Drea: I’m with you ‘Ree. I’m okay with somebody saying we go together! [laughs]
MadameNoire: In the vein of what Sheree said, Drea, what do you think of criticism you’ve received for choosing to keep your marital name? How do you deal with that?
Drea: I get people right together. I’ll tell you why. The very thing that people try to crucify me for is the very thing they’re curious about. Because if my last name wasn’t Kelly, you wouldn’t be on my Instagram page lurking and trolling. You wouldn’t care what I had to say when I had to say it. There are so many women who go through abuse every single day and they lose their lives every second, every day of every month of the year. Nobody bats an eye and nobody cares. At the end of the day, I paid for my name in blood, sweat and tears, literally, so I have every right if I want to keep my name or not. That’s the thing, it’s my name, not yours. People need to realize me keeping my last name is not going to add to your life, nor is it going to take away. So why are people that worried about it number one? Number two, this last name gets things done. If that means that I can get on The View or have 20/20 or Nightline follow me, or on Sister Circle, or I can work with the state to get legislation passed, and if the only reason you’re going to listen is because my last name is Kelly, people shouldn’t be so concerned as to why I kept my last name. They should be celebrating what I’m doing with my last name.
MadameNoire: Sheree, when the show ended, why was that kind of it for you with reality TV?
Sheree: My thing is, I never sought to have any fame. And I actually didn’t even see myself as that visible. So that for me was a huge step to just do it in the first place. When the show wrapped, I was grateful for our show because when I bought into what they said, I told you initially I was terrified by it, they kept their promise. They had something in mind for us and they were creating a brand, a brand of sisterhood and fellowship and women who basically had the same common denominator. So we were able to have that unbreakable bond and connection. So thank God because it was positive. All the things we bought into when we signed up to do the show, I think were fulfilled during the show. We were rare in that case. To this day, we were the classiest reality show out there. Hands down, to this day. I’m very proud of that but I’m very protective of that. I wouldn’t want to rush to get into another reality show just for the sake of being visible. To me what you have to give up and what you have to sacrifice along the way, it’s just not worth it.
MadameNoire: And what do you think of Garcelle Beauvais saying she would love to have you on Real Housewives of Beverly Hills? Did you hear about that?
Sheree: I did! I’ve done some filming with her and I’ll tell you in this space and time, I’m more comfortable in my skin. I’m more aware of what I’m called to do in this season, so I think God is trying to soften me to the idea that maybe it is reality. Maybe there will be a round two. So I’m not shooting it down. I wouldn’t sit here and say I wouldn’t do it again. We’ll see. Never say never. I’m open to God being God.
Drea, I know you were on Growing Up Hip Hop Atlanta for a time. Would you say that was or wasn’t a fit for you?
Drea: I think things need to be cleared up with me. A lot of people say, “Oh she joined.” You can’t join a reality show, you get cast. I accepted the casting offer. It wasn’t something I went and sought. That was the reality of what happened.
But it was a wonderful fit. My children, music is in their DNA, it’s who they are. That’s what Growing Up Hip Hop is about. It’s about the children of great legends in the music game. For me, it was wonderful, but the show’s focus isn’t on me, it’s really about my children and I’m pretty much just the cheerleader, helping them navigate their way through life in the music industry, in the entertainment business. It’s really not about me even though they do highlight some parts of my life. I think it was an amazing fit, because you get to see at the end of the day, these children have to go out and figure out what life is for them whether they’re famous or not. On the show, do they have famous parents? Yeah. The world is still hard and they still have to do the work, though. As a mom, you have to step back and say, “Okay, you have to go out here and make your own mistakes. Find yourself. Go on your own journey. But I want to kind of be here to help you and co-pilot.” So that’s what the show is and was for me. Our second season actually airs in January, and God willing, if there’s another season, I would do it again with my children.
MadameNoire: Why exactly did Hollywood Exes come to an end, and were you surprised with the cancellation that they wanted to do a reunion all these years later?
Sheree: Honestly, I was surprised because we never had a reunion in the three seasons. This is our very first reunion. Who would have thought that it would come six years later?
Drea: I was gonna say, for me, when we didn’t get that [fourth] season I was walking all through this house like, “You are not the father!” You would have thought it was an episode of Maury Povich [laughs]! I was like, how could y’all snatch us off TV like that? A girl’s feelings was hurt, do you hear me? We had grown in that third season and it was like a cliffhanger because it was like, what happened after? There was so much going on in our lives because at that time you had social media so the audience was being privy to things that were happening in our lives in real time but they weren’t seeing it on TV. And like we said, we never had the reunion ever after any of our seasons so it was kind of open ended. Our audience didn’t really know, okay, what happened? Baby we just disappeared like some of these people’s edges around here. We was gone.
Sheree: What’s funny is, there was a prophet, Prophet Brian Carn actually came to our church in San Diego when I was still with Terrell and he whispered in my ear, this was when we were waiting to see if we’d get Season 3 and it took forever for them to renew. He whispered in my ear, and this is in the middle of service and he didn’t do it over the microphone, “You will do a third season but you won’t do a fourth.” I thought it was just me because it was a good show, our numbers were good. But when I look back at it, look at all that happened in the six years after. That’s the grace of God. Can you imagine us having to go through all that on camera? That would have been very, very difficult. We could have done it because we have the support of one another, but I just see that as God’s covering and God’s grace. To bring it back in a time now when we need that positivity and we need to see women come together to support one another and doing it in a way that’s honorable and respectful. I see the hand of God in the timing of all of this.
Do you all keep in contact with the rest of the cast?
Drea: That’s the wonderful thing about Hollywood Exes. We are friends in real life. We love each other in real life. This is a sisterhood and a bond that can never be broken. That’s the beauty and that’s what I think resonated with the audience. They saw that these women really, genuinely love and care for one another. That will never go away. We’re there for one another and it’s a beautiful thing. And to piggyback off of what Sheree was saying, this reunion is coming at such a time when this nation itself is so divided. We’re separate from our friends, family and loved ones because of the virus. To have this reunion and to see unity and not only just unity but unity among women and women of color, is so needed right now. God, like Sheree side, His timing is impeccable.
Drea do you talk to Jessica Canseco?
Drea: You know I actually saw Jessica in LA and we had a wonderful talk. We really, really did. I can go on the record and say this because people know how I felt about Jessica, honey. I didn’t hide it. It is what it is. I will say, I have seen so much growth in her after having that conversation with her. Really being able to step back, going through everything that I’ve gone through and telling my story, just as a woman, it was a new level of respect. You have to allow people to grow. When they know better, they’ll do better. She had to go through that and I think too stepping away from it seeing yourself on camera and taking in, ‘That’s how people view me?’ It’s going to make you change. I feel like she did. Now, whether she decides that we’ll be best friends or not at all, I don’t know that. But what I can say is that we were able as women to agree to disagree but to find that common bond to say, I see your growth and that was in the past. Let’s move forward, whatever that looks like.
Looking back, what was the best thing about letting people into your life to get to know who you are outside of just being a former celebrity wife?
Drea: I would say the best thing about it is it was my own introduction to the world. That was a beautiful thing. I was able to do reality TV that I’m proud of but beyond that, do reality TV and know that I really walked away with a family. That I have people who love me and support me, good, bad or indifferent. Whether I was famous or not, whether we were married to famous men or not, whether we live in Beverly Hills or not. It wasn’t about the camera and the reality fluff. We have a solid, true blue friendship and sisterhood. We just love each other and everybody can’t say that.
Sheree: I’ll say it was awesome because we always talk about these men and how they could have had pretty much any woman they wanted. They could have chosen anybody. So what makes these women unique? And we are unique. Our light deserves to shine just as brightly as theirs. And not only that, it’s like, being on this platform, being on the show, I kind of gave myself permission to let my light shine and to know that it was okay.
Hollywood Exes: Reunited special airs on Tuesday, November 24th at 8:00pm ET/PT on VH1.