Monica Ward, sister to Steve, daughter to JoAnn, has always stayed behind the scenes at Tough Love, instead focusing her time on her job at the family's Master Matchmakers company. But last night she made her big debut on Tough Love: CoEd, offering her relationship expertise and even going on a date with one troubled dater, Stu, to make him open up and come clean about his past.
We spoke to Monica, who says she always avoided the spotlight because she's always focused on her children and family first, to find out why she opted in this season and what it was like masquerading as "Heather," and how her advice differs from that of her brother.
What was it like to watch your TV debut last night?
Surpisingly more comfortable than I had thought. At first the jitters set in and it was definitely a new experience for me, but it was great. I really enjoyed working with the cast and I think having my brother there with me really did help. He really helped me shake off any jitters I had and it kind of came naturally.
Given that you're married with kids, what was it like to have to fake your way through a date as "Heather"?
That was interesting because I haven't dated in a really long time, but I do this for a living, so giving advice and hearing all about dates, what to do, what not to do, it was a unique situation for sure. In the back of my mind I was thinking "How is this going to look?" and it was fun, but I felt a little ambivalent about it because I felt like it was a little sneaky, which is not really my style, but it was for the greater good, and in the end, it kind of woke Stu up a little bit. Having done it, I think it showed me a side of Stu that nobody in the house really was going to get to see because he allowed himself to be vulnerable and really open up. Initially I was afraid he might be kind of resentful or upset with how it played out, but I do think [it made our working relationship closer], because we talk again later in the season and you'll see he's really open to hearing what I have to say.
How does your advice for the cast differ from your brother's? Does the female perspective change anything for you?
Usually Steven and I are on the same page. Occasionally we'll disagree and I have no problem saying so. We tend to disagree because he's a man and he's giving advice from a man's perspective, but I think having me there helps him.
Stu really seemed to genuinely like you after your date, and when I spoke to Chris last week, he also told me he loved you. They seem smitten. Is it funny to you that they both found you to be their ideal woman? You seem more put together than the types of women they've gone for in the past.
You know, I had to give Stu the impression that I was interested in him, or else this kind of ruse wasn't going to play out as we hoped it would. Although he could have not liked me at all! So obviously it did help that he was interested. And when I think about Chris and the kind of women Chris goes for, I wouldn't imagine he would be interested in somebody like me either. His playful nature doesn't really seem to appeal to a woman who, as you said, is put together. Maybe because they had access to me and worked with me that was why, but I don't see it either. Most of the girls Stu has dated haven't been serious and as I said on the show, revolved around sex, drinking and lies, which sounds like the perfect night for him.
Were you offended or shocked hearing Stu talk about your appearance the way that he did?
That was to be expected. That's classic Stu. That's how he talks about women. You've got to remember he's a hockey player, he's used to locker room humor and men say a lot of things that women don't usually get to hear, so being that fly on the wall, it wasn't that surprising to hear him talk about me in that way.
How did the dynamic change with you on board this season and the show going coed?
I think it helped because obviously Steven has a certain way of delivering his message and sometimes that works for certain people and it doesn't really work for others so the message is kind of lost. Some people can get offended or they don't really embrace what he has to say because they don't like how he's saying it, so in those types of situations, I like to tone it down a bit so it's hopefully more well-received. Especially with Porsche, you know she was a tough nut to crack and she gave Steve a run for his money. But if you change your approach with certain people, you kind of appeal to their sensibilities, and most people are open-minded enough to hear what you have to say.
[Photo: Brian To/VH1]