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We’ve watched Shaunie O’ Neal rise from the seven foot shadow of her former husband Shaquille O’ Neal and emerged as a successful and respected businesswoman. She created an entertainment empire, spearheaded by the “Basketball Wives” franchise that spawned countless spin-offs. “Love & Hip Hop” may have never been if she hadn’t reopened the floodgates for reality TV shows post “For The Love Of…”.

Shaunie has faced wheelbarrows of controversy surrounding the drama and violence on the popular VH1 show, but five seasons in to “Basketball Wives,” she finds herself opening up and allowing audiences to see the “real” her–the funny woman who plays kick ball with her kids and goes on movie dates with her (fine) younger man.

We caught up with Shaunie, who recently launched a jewelry line “Forever Shaunie” in collaboration with Simone I. Smith that features hand-crafted statement pieces adorned in 18 Karat Gold over Sterling silver and encrusted with the finest Austrian crystals, in Macy’s. She dished on everything, from Evelyn Lozada’s domestic abuse incident with Chad Ochocinco to Miley Cyrus’s VMA performance and all things in between.

HelloBeautiful: Last season you caught a lot of flack for the drama that happened, and this time around you said you were going to reveal the “real” you. What does that mean?

Shaunie O’ Neal: I just feel like, at this point, I probably just didn’t speak up enough. Previous seasons, I kind of sat back and was like whatever, ya know, I’m here and I’m doing my job. Evelyn and Tami have a such a strong personality that it’s very easy to sit back and just let them go and not really have much to say. I think everyone has something to say [about the show] regardless. If it’s too dramatic, they have something to say. If it’s not dramatic enough, they have something to say and I realize that.

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HB: A few episodes ago, you and Tami bumped head over the, “It can go really right or really wrong,”comment you made to Tasha.  You told her ‘I stick by that.’ Is that an example of you taking more of a stance?

Shaunie: Absolutely. I really don’t see and didn’t see it as negative, but I could understand where she was coming from. I think it comes in a place where she’s defensive about her past. I think anything said is kind of a touchy thing with her. Maybe it was negative in someone’s eyes, but I don’t feel that way. I still stand by what I said. At the end of the day it didn’t make a negative impression, so why the hell was it an issue at all?

HB: Tasha Marbury made a comment about Evelyn Lozada wearing a helmet on her next date and Suzie laughed. How do you think Susie should have handled that situation?

Shaunie: Well it definitely wasn’t funny and that’s not the only moment that it happens (keep watching). Apparently Suzie actually thought it was funny. Tasha has a very different sense of humor. You’ll find her constantly saying ‘I was just joking’ and it tends to be inappropriate at times or bad timing. I don’t know how Susie should have dealt with it but it’s definitely not for giggles or to laugh at. It’s just not funny under any circumstance.

MUST READ: Tami Roman Faces Off With Evelyn Lozada ‘Basketball Wives’ [RECAP]

HB: You’re watching the show with the rest of the world. Did you find it odd when you saw the scene where Evelyn’s counselor seemed to be blaming her for the incident with Chad?

Shaunie: I was really shocked that the counselor did it. People really kind of blame her. At the end of the day it definitely doesn’t justify a head butt. I like Chad, I always have, I never had a problem with Chad but I was never around him like that.  At the same time, Evelyn is my friend, I support her. I want her to be safe. I don’t ever want to get a phone call like that again. I definitely support her staying away.

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