Jennifer Williams came into America's hearts as part of the original Basketball Wives lineup but the personality has just made a return to reality TV in a new series. VH1 had an exclusive chat with Jen about working with the likes of Benzino, Laura Govan, and Tiffany "New York" Pollard, as well as her new music career, her ex Cisco Rosado, and if she'd ever join the cast of Basketball Wives LA.
You just did the new TV One show The Next :15. Were you tentative to return to reality TV at all?
Jennifer Williams: I was tentative to come back to reality TV. I guess it kinda came about because Carlos King who’s the executive producer of The Next :15, he's also a friend of mine. He called me about a year ago and said he had this idea to do this show, and he told me some of the people that he was thinking of having on the show. I think only Laura [Govan] and Karamo [Brown] ended up being on the show, of the people he told me.
When he told me the idea, I thought, that’s an interesting concept to break the fourth wall and have the producers actually be a part of the show. For me to come back to reality TV, I like to be a trailblazer and that’s what I thought we were on Basketball Wives, and because this concept was different, I agreed to do it and because I love Carlos, and I trust him and I think when you do reality TV you have to be able to trust the people you work with.
How is this show different than Basketball Wives?
The one thing that was different for me was being cast with people that I really didn’t know. On Basketball Wives, I was actually friends with the girls that I worked with so it was kinda easy because these were conversations that I would have on or off camera. I think this concept was really interesting because on Basketball Wives, one of the things that I would always get was, “Is that show scripted? Are these girls really that crazy?” [Laughs] And I wanted to say it was scripted but I was like, “No, these things actually really happened.” I thought it would be interesting for the viewers to see what goes on behind the scenes.
On The Next :15 it came up that you were very quiet on Basketball Wives. Was it important for you to show that you weren’t on this show?
It’s funny because I still am very quiet. I don’t need to be the loudest person in the room and when I have something to say, I say it. I thought that I was that way on Basketball Wives but I was probably around a lot of people that were way more louder than me. So, it could come across that I was quiet or that I was timid.
And I was going through a divorce. A lot of people that have never been married, they can say, that you’re this or you’re that but, honestly until you’re in that position and it’s playing out on TV and for millions of people to judge and watch, you never know what you’re going to do. For me, my parents got divorced and it was something I really never wanted for myself so I was dealing with a lot internally and personally so there were times when I was probably quiet but it wasn’t necessarily important for me to show that but I just felt on Basketball Wives it was so much more focused on my relationship, and I get it because the show was called Basketball Wives. Then it turned into the drama with Evelyn. I just felt like you didn’t get to learn who Jennifer was, so I’m happy on The Next :15 that people got to see a different side to me.
What about your song “No Bricks,” how did that come to be? Are you really pursuing music now?
[Laughs] The music came about because I had been in the studio before [but] I never actually recorded a song. Carlos actually knew that so one day he came to me and he was like, “I want you to start singing again,” and I was like, “Wait. What are you talking about? You know I’m not an artist.” [Laughs] For me, my motto is, I’ll try anything once. I thought if I do this song, it needs to be something that’s true to me and I wanted it to be something that was fun, and dance and then it kinda made sense because Benzino was on our show and he’s a producer. He actually doesn’t really doesn’t produce dance music so for him, he was like, “Wait, what?” We both were kinda like, okay, this is different for us.
I love the song, I think it’s fun but will I be pursuing music? I don’t know honestly. It was really difficult doing the song because it was a week and half time frame that was just life changing for me. It was a very tough time learning of my mother’s illness, and having to do this song, and then literally two days before, they were like we need you to perform it too. I was like, “What are you talking about?” It just was a lot. I will say that I’m happy I did it and I’m happy that I had the courage to do it because a lot of people don’t chase their dreams because they’re scared. It was me stepping out of my comfort zone and I’m happy I did that. Will I do another song? I don’t know. We’ll see. [Laughs]
Maybe, we’ll see how this one goes. [Laughs]
Did you develop a close friendship with Benzino, since you were working one on one with him in the studio?
I did but it wasn’t really one on one. You’re in the studio and the engineer is there and the writer. Honestly, I was in the studio for two days, for hours and one of those days he wasn’t even really there because he was sick. Throughout the process [though] of the song and the song coming together, we absolutely developed a friendship and then with me finding out about my mother and his mother had passed away and so we had that in common, and we absolutely became close and helped me cope with a lot of things, just with everything that was going on. He was just very encouraging and I was like, “Oh my god, why do I have to do this song right now.”
I kinda just feel like, every time I’m on TV I’m going through something life changing. First it was the divorce and now my mother got sick and then she passed away, not on the show but this was leading up to that. I was like, “Oh my god, God must think I’m really strong but I can’t handle all of this.” Benzino was great, he’s an awesome guy and on the second part of The Next :15 reunion, Claudia [Jordan] was like, “Oh, Jennifer’s sleeping with Benzino.” [Laughs] Why is that I have to be sleeping with him? Just because we’re friends? No, we actually developed a great friendship. I can talk to him about whatever, and vice versa. He really has a genuine soul.
Did you know that Claudia said that prior to watching the reunion back?
No! I didn’t, and to be honest with you, I haven’t even seen the second part of the reunion yet. I’ve been seeing little clips but, of course, people have been talking about it. And I’m just like, really? Where did that come from? And [Claudia] bringing up the nude photos? I was like, I talked about that on my first reality show Basketball Wives, that happened in 2011. It was just like reliving all this stuff, all over again. It’s not the first time I heard something crazy about myself though, so I should be used to it.
Have you had a chance to meet Benzino’s fiancée Althea? Do you get along?
Yes, I actually met her at a Marriage Boot Camp premiere party. I went to the party that they had in LA. So, yeah, I’ve met her, I have no issues with her. I’m like please don’t start nothing shady, there’s nothing going on. Althea seems like a nice girl, I don’t know her like that but there’s no issues.
I’m assuming you know that Shaunie O’Neal joined Basketball Wives LA and Tami Roman and Evelyn Lozada pulled pop-ups.
Ooh, here you go.
Would you ever stop by to hang with the LA ladies?
Malaysia [Pargo]’s actually a really good friend of mine. It’s funny because [she’s] been like, “Come on the show, come on the show.” And she asked me last year, and I was like, “Hell no, I won’t do it. I won’t do it.” I recently went to brunch with her and she was trying to talk me into it and I said, “I guess now that I’m back on reality TV it could kind of make sense. I know people are probably dying to see me on Basketball Wives because I feel like the show was named after me because I was a basketball wife. It kind of makes sense but I don’t know. It’s just kind of crazy because now I live in LA and now Basketball Wives LA is the only one that’s on. I guess you gotta stay tuned for that and we’ll see.
I know there were real friendships and connection on Basketball Wives. Do you keep in touch with any of the Miami ladies?
I don’t keep in contact with anyone on a daily basis but if something life changing happens in someone’s life we normally, like everyone reached out to me when my mother passed away. Well, not Shaunie but everyone else. I mean everyone always asks, “Are you and Evelyn friends?” It’s like friends is a strong word. I wouldn’t say we’re friends but we don’t have any issues. We’re cordial, she reached out to me, she sent a beautiful bouquet of flowers to my mother’s funeral. We’ve chatted, well not chatted but we’ve texted. I guess I keep in contact but not in constant contact.
Did you hear from Tami?
Tami definitely reached out to me after my mother passed. Tami’s mother had passed away a few years back and she was like, “Listen, I totally understand what you’re going through. If you ever need to talk, whatever it is, please call me because I know it’s very difficult. I really appreciate her reaching out to me and being genuine because, because honestly if you haven’t gone through it you don’t know and no one can prepare you for it. I was happy to get that message from Tami.
Do you have any regrets from participating on that show? Or the way anything played out on TV?
I don’t. I tend to try and live without regrets. I just try and find a lesson in whatever has happened. I just feel like everything happens for a reason. If the things didn’t happen on that show then I wouldn’t be where I am now. I must say I’m in a very happy place in my life. I’m just trying to deal with this new normal of not having my mother. Otherwise, I’m happy.
What about bringing a romantic relationship to television again? You mentioned you were seeing someone on The Next :15 but we didn’t ever see him. Was that intentional?
That I’m really leery about because I just feel like when you put your relationship on TV. It’s already difficult being in a relationship and then when you open up to the scrutiny of everyone else, and what people have to say, and social media. I really don’t know if I would put a romantic relationship on TV. I just feel like the cameras tear that apart. Right now, I would say, no, but I could change my mind. I wouldn’t say I am dating one person specifically but I am dating. I would say, I’m not lonely.
So, before we wrap up, I need to ask you. Do you still keep in touch with your ex-boyfriend Cisco Rosado?
Oh, God. Well, he’s the first one that got me in the booth, actually. That’s probably the only positive thing I could say about him. [Laughs]
I do not keep in contact with him and I was very adamant with him like, “Don’t mention me on this Goddamn show. I don’t even want people to know that I know you. Please, I don’t want any parts of that. Like, hell no.” So, no, I do not keep in contact with him and I’m very glad that chapter of my life is over.
In preparation for this interview, his bio came up saying he was known for his relationship with you.
Well, that’s the problem. Before he got on Love & Hip Hop, and I kind of just feel like he just wanted to be on TV. Some people are just low-key groupies and I have to place him in that category. I felt like he was just so persistent, like wanted that light. Before he got on Love & Hip Hop the only way his name came up in a Google search was because of me. It’s weird. I don’t really watch Love & Hip Hop New York but someone asked me about some “creep squad” or something, I don’t even know. I was like, ew, that’s gross. I’m just, uh, no, I do not keep in contact with him. Wish him well but keep my name out your mouth, please.