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Nicole "Hoopz" Alexander Dishes On Breakup With Shaq & How She Flipped A $250,000 Reality Show Check

Article originally posted in October 2016.

Nicole "Hoopz" Alexander chats about her new love, and finding happiness after a devastating breakup in this interview with xoNecole!

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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.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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