Nicole "Hoopz" Alexander has been in the public eye for the last decade–scouted in an airport for the pioneer of wild reality TV show on VH1, Flavor of Love, and later appearing on I Love Money. In most recent years, she was more notably known for her public and candid relationship with NBA vet, Shaquille O'Neal. But after a failed relationship in the same public eye that watched her win both Flava Flav's heart and $250,000, Nicole Alexander slowly seemed to fade into a world of unforgettable reality TV stars who come and go.
That didn't stop her drive behind the scenes. She used that very money to buy a huge home in Tennessee, launch a clothing business, and build her brand which includes her latest project It Takes a Sister on Oxygen. For the first time, Nicole isn't just a pretty face cast on another show for entertainment purposes, she also serves as the executive producer. Now, Hoopz is aiding in the shift of society's perception about black women on reality television. She's capable of leading, and after one messy moment on national television, loving again.
“I'm still hopeful for love," she tells me as she skims through her three-year relationship with retired NBA star Shaquille O'Neal nervously, fidgeting at several points that inch closer and closer to the embarrassing part of that chapter. She notes that she isn't regretful about those years, dropping her lessons learned in the areas of self-development and business.
“Shaquille is so smart in business and look at [Shaunie]...being together with him, you just gotta sit back and soak up [that knowledge] and pray you're making the right decisions, too."
With her own reality show under her belt, her family under her wing, a business that she hopes blossoms, and a new partner by her side, it looks like Nicole “Hoopz" Alexander finally made the right shot.
On your recent reality show, within the first episode we see you crying over your ex. We've followed your relationship over the last few years, and you guys were very cute and best friends. What happened?
I don't want to say anything that may offend him, or if he thinks or looks at it differently--out of respect for him, but we just started seeing two different things. I just feel like, I started losing a little bit of who I was. Because I'm not overshadowed by him, but my focus became him. And I still had a career to uphold, and I still had a fan base, and I still have all these other things, so we just started to go different ways. And I came back home and we started doing long distance a little bit, just to get some space and you know-
It's so weird to watch myself crying on television, because you guys never see me cry in any of those shows. But I'm like a hopeless romantic, my heart is humongous so I do get hurt a lot.
I'm at my store and my phone started ringing off the hook from people I haven't talked to in awhile. And they're like, “Oh Nikki, I'm so happy you're on TV. You and Shaquille-you guys are at the Wimbledon." And I'm like, I'm not at the Wimbledon. I'm at my store right now, about to put up my opening sign. Then I looked, and the story was everywhere. And I'm thinking, but that's not me!
It was an uppercut. I just didn't expect him to do something like that!
And I literally sat there and I'm looking at them sitting next to each other and she's all over him, so I knew it had to have been longer than obviously what I just saw.
And everything was good before that right?
Yes, we were fine. We were in a little long distance relationship, but everything was fine. But the respect level of not being out in public. For me, let me have done that and he would have killed me. Out of respect, I would have never taken someone to a major event that you know would be televised. To me, it was like more of an 'F U!' And that's what hurt the most. We were supposed to be way better than that. Do that behind closed doors, not that I'm saying that would have been okay, but be better. Don't be sloppy.
At the end of the day, you can't hold on to that. People are going to do what they are going to do. There is no stopping that. I'm not saying it didn't effect me at first, because it still hurts now, but you gotta be like, okay, cool. It is what it is. It's what he decided to do and he has to live with that. I move on and be the best person I can be. I'm still hopeful for love.
Absolutely. As you should be. They only win when you stop being hopeful [for love]. But what I want to know is- did he ever tell you why?
No, we got into it. And, I don't know, with him it's weird -- we are still close, like the best of friends. We always will. No matter what. I love him still.
So you guys are working through it, but how does that work out? Because you have this amazing new guy that has just, showed you so much of his positive self, and he's treating you like a queen - but you're still friends with your ex. How does that work out?
By being honest, and that is the one piece of advice that I would give everybody in this world. If you're being honest about what is happening in your forefront about everything, who can say anything? You either respect it or you don't. And people usually respect that.
"There is not one thing in my life that I can tell you that I regret."
I make a decision 100 percent. So I feel like to keep hate in your heart, completely disown this person because you are with another, I don't know. To me, that's just a little inhuman. You have to forgive and just try and move on. You have to. The more that you hold on to, it affects everything. The way you think, the way you view things. I think that is one of the hardest things with being in relationship. Because when you are with that person, they consume your mind and everything. So you're not viewing the world through your eyes, you're viewing it through what they think their decisions and their reactions would be.
You get kind of confused, so you have to stay true to yourself. I think being in relationship is a risk all its own. And you have to be strong enough to take that risk.
Tell us about your new love!
His name is Ovince St. Preaux. We've been together a little over a year. I wasn't looking for anything. I was just happy I was going to be focused on me. Doesn't it always happen that way? The minute you're like no, I'm just going to focus on me, career, and that's it. And then, oh hi! You meet someone and then one thing leads to another.
I took a chance on love again, even after the past, which is really hard. But he is so patient and I love him to death for that. To be able to just be there and to still be okay with me letting all that go. And still loving me.
He has a big career on his hands too, [he is a UFC fighter], but we're juggling the time between our relationship and our careers between each other.
Do you think he is the one?
I think you always know, right? We're not intuitive for no reason. You have to follow that. But I don't know. I don't want to say just yet, I'm very superstitious. I know what I know but maybe that's another season.
From the looks of things, we can say that you are always winning! You won both Flavor of Love and you also received a huge quarter million dollar payout after winning I Love Money. Did you immediately flip it into your own business?
No, I bought this big house in Tennessee first. I chose to move. And I think that is one of the main reasons- family is always in my head. Big family, my sisters are always with me, we're always together. It was just me and I ended up in Tennessee initially through an ex-boyfriend. Guys take you everywhere.
It was a little bit before me and Shaquille broke up that I thought, "I can have an easy life if I chose to just want to be with a millionaire and just take his money."
But I had a life and career before Shaq, before any of those things. And to me, I just knew that nothing lasts forever, but family. Relationships in this day and age, it's sad to say, but you just never know. And that scares me. So you always have to have that foundation and that backbone on your own. I can't depend on whether me and someone else are going to make it last forever and this, that or the other. And if he walks out and we're together, then where the heck does that leave me if I stop focusing on what I need to do?
I knew I needed to start a business so that I had a brick and water, and something that just created a value on its own. Even though I don't have kids, I can pass the money down to my sisters and they can learn the business. Learn this, help me run this store, help me run this business so we can just keep going.
"I never opened a business before. But we as a people, we have to find those steps. It's not going to be handed to you. You've got to do the research."
It's been over seven years since you've done reality TV, what influenced your decision to return?
I've gotten offers to do shows before, but I need substance behind my shows or something deeper. I wouldn't do it if it was anything different. We were the forerunners of reality television. We started the love shows [with Flavor of Love], and we started the challenge shows. I like to forefront new movements. And I'm not taking away from any of the family shows on TV. I think they are all great.
I think I just wanted to bring a different element of real. I have five younger sisters, you get to see them all. And with all the 13 kids, which you'll only get to see eight, it's such a humongous family. And they are such a big important part of my life. They are the reason that I work so hard and have to keep maintaining. They are my drive. And you have to keep the business in the family. So, I'm just passing it on down.
Do you see yourself having kids in the future?
I definitely want kids one day, I just don't feel like that's a goal.
"A lot of women get older and they start feeling like a ticking time bomb. I don't feel that way. I feel great."
I feel like I'm right where I am supposed to be. And I think things like that happen whenever they are supposed to happen. But that's not even in my view right now. I'm just focused on getting my sisters right.
I wanted to give them another chance in life, just to succeed and give them the things that I've had, and see what they do with it.