Dominique Lenard is ready for her close-up. Catch the Detroit-bred entrepreneur in the current season of VH1’s juggernaut reality show Basketball Wives. If you’ve somehow avoided being bitten by this particular species of bug, the show follows the lives of former and current girlfriends and wives of NBA players. Spoiler alert: drama ensues.
Lenard – married until last year to retired shooting guard Voshon Lenard – is real-life friends with original cast member Jennifer Williams, who approached her with the prospect of joining the show last season. “But I wasn’t quite open to doing it then. I was going through my divorce,” she says. The ladies revisited the idea more recently, and in a clearer head space, Lenard met with producers and jumped on board for season 8, which aired on June 19.
Filming was “different,” she says. “When you get thrown in a group of girls and you really don’t know them,” it can foment tension, but then, that’s the goal. Adding to the awkwardness, Lenard says, was that she came on as a friend to Williams, and if you keep up with the excitement then you know that Williams is the odd woman out, the supposed villain that every reality show needs. “People didn’t want to really get to know me without attacking me for being friends with her,” she says.
The series shoots in Los Angeles, and Lenard flew back and forth from Detroit, twice a week. She says adjusting to having cameras on her was also tricky, especially starting from the back of the pack. “These ladies are veterans at reality TV. It took me a while to get comfortable, and once I was in my comfortable space, it was over.” Though, she hopes the cameos this season will lead to a main storyline in a future season.
During filming, she also had to deal with the first anniversary of her divorce. “That was kinda hard,” she says. “I was married to an actual basketball player – in a relationship with him for 20 years. I think I hold my title as a – quote on quote – real basketball wife. I wasn’t a girlfriend, I wasn’t a baby mama.” The couple has three daughters together.
A common criticism of reality shows, especially ones that predominantly feature black women, is that they portray us in the harshest of light, just bathing in unflattering rays of negativity, vanity, bullying and backstabbing. “I knew what I signed up for,” Lenard says. “I’m familiar with reality TV, so I didn’t walk in the door thinking it was going to be squeaky clean or that it would be Church Wives.” Amen.
“You could be humiliated, you could be depicted as a person that you’re not – all of that. But, I was equipped for that because I know who I am. So, I took it on with a grain of salt kind of. I know how I’m gonna conduct myself. I’m not gon let nobody take me out my square or take me out of my character, and they will try,” Lenard says.
Of course, it’s not all junk food. We see women running businesses, raising families and garnering the attention of broader audiences – Exhibit A: Love & Hip Hop‘s Cardi B. A lifelong fashion lover, Lenard’s brand of corsets and decorative stockings, Loyal Hosiery, has been going strong for five years. “It started off as a little hobby, something for me to do outside of… We had restaurants at the time, but I wasn’t running them. My ex-husband was running them, so I started that just to have something for myself, and it became a big deal.”
Lenard hopes Basketball Wives viewers learn that, “I do have a sense of vulnerability, that I’m educated – I’m not just a basketball wife.” She became a mother of twins at 16 and had her third daughter by the time she was 20, but she also graduated from the University of Michigan, and co-owned three franchise restaurants by 30. “I’m not just a girl who can afford to buy nice fashions. I appreciate everything and where I come from. I’m from the inner city of Detroit; my life hasn’t always been glitter and gold.”
Catch Basketball Wives Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. on VH1.