Joumana Kidd "Let's Talk about Pep" Interview with Kam Williams
By Kam Williams
Jason's Ex Expounds on Life and Love Post-Divorce
Born in Beirut, Lebanon on September 28, 1972, Joumana Kidd is a graduate of San Francisco State University with a degree in Speech Communications. She launched her career as a model while still in college, making appearances as a Bud girl for Anheuser-Busch.
After graduation, she joined the company as a marketing representative, an opportunity which paved the way for her entry into the field of broadcasting. Ms. Kidd's resume' includes stints as a television correspondent for both Extra and NBA Entertainment.
Joumana has consistently been active in many non-profit organizations, such as the International Children's Foundation, which raises money to help children with medical needs in impoverished countries. With her then-husband, NBA All-Star Jason Kidd, she founded the Jason Kidd Foundation, an organization which focuses on improving the welfare of youth in the community.
She is also the national spokesperson for the North Shore Animal League, and is active on several boards including the Yogi Berra Museum, the Nets/Devils Foundation, the Arizona Heart Ball and Crisis Nursery.
In the wake of the tabloid attention devoted to both her very rocky marriage and her messy divorce, Joumana devoted herself to raising her three children: son TJ, and twin girls Miah and Jazelle. Here, she talks about the delicate balance of her home and love lives, now that she's decided to date again and to let the cameras chronicle her every intimate moment on the new VH1 reality show "Let's Talk about Pep."
Kam Williams: Hi, Joumana. How are you?
Joumana Kidd: Good, how are you?
KW: Thanks so much for the time.
KW: What interested you in doing Let's Talk about Pep?
JK: Well, first, I got to know Salt [of the hip-hop group Salt-n-Pepa], we became close friends, and I did a couple of cameos on the Salt-n-Pepa Show for fun. Then, I got to know Pep, and we became so close, too, and had so much fun that this wasn't even a decision when she said, "VH1's interested in this. Are you in?" I was like, "Yeah, totally!" I felt that it'd be worth it, if I could inspire just one woman out there who's been divorced. Divorce is so painful. You go through stages where you feel like you've failed yourself, you've failed your kids, your life is over and everything's coming to an end. It was enough for me to be able to inspire other women to embrace the moment and to get back out there to date and to have fun with their girlfriends. That was my main reason for doing it, because it is a little scary when you know you're getting into a reality show.
KW: Salt's not on the show, right?
JK: No, it's Jacque, Kittie, Pep and myself. But Salt is one of the show's producers.
KW: Did you see the film Good Hair? Pepa was featured in it.
JK: I did. I attended the premiere with her. I thought it was hilarious.
KW: In terms of Let's Talk about Pep, do you feel pressured by the producers to behave differently from how you naturally are? Do you feel they're editing you to create a certain TV persona?
JK: That's a tricky question. I know that in terms of my personal situation, I was wondering, where do I fit in? Because the others are so black and white. Pep has been celibate, and is looking for Mr. Right. Jacque wants a child, while Kittie is off the chain, and you never know what to expect from her. I would go to the producers and tell them I felt so lost, but they said, "You're great. Just be you." I think my innocence, especially in the dating world, is really what intrigued them, and they wanted to capture that. And also the fact that I tend to see the good in everybody, and that I can be comedic as well. At the premiere party, the executive producer said, "Thank you, Joumana, for always making us laugh."
KW: Did you even see the good in that guy that goad the police into arresting him during your date on Episode 2?
JK: Oh, totally! I'm not one to completely write someone off. I'm optimistic to a fault. That's a trait of mine I wouldn't change, even though it's definitely brought some negativity into my life.
KW: On the show, you said you just started drinking alcohol for the first time a year ago. Did you have a very religious upbringing?
JK: No, not at all. There was no real reason. I just never liked the taste of alcohol. I preferred root beer or something yummy. And I never felt like I needed a drink to relax myself. That's why you see me in that episode going for the shots. I did it to get a buzz while partying and having fun. But it's not a big part of my life. I might never have another drink.
KW: Did you do a lot of dating before you married Jason?
JK: No, because I had had the same boyfriend since high school for about 6 years. When we broke up, Jason swept me off my feet like my knight in shining armor, and we got married. Now, 11 years later, I'm single for the first time in my life, really. It feels very weird. Very frozen.
KW: Reverend Florine Thompson says that when you were married, you and Jason used to attend services together at her church, CCC, in NYC.
JK: Yeah, that's where I met Jacque.
KW: She'd like to know how the church affected your spiritual life.
JK: I don't know how much you know about the way in which my divorce went down, but that was so devastating, and shocking. I experienced a media slaughter due to the PR team that Jason hired. Ugh! My friends were amazed that I didn't lose it. And honestly, if it weren't for my faith, and my church, I don't know whether I would have made it. God kept me in a safe space in the center of the storm where I could be at peace and stay strong for my kids. I did my best to make light of the situation and to stay positive about their father. I owe that all, 100%, to God and the wonderful support I received at church. It's far away, a good hour and a half drive for me, so I don't make it out there as often as I should. But I do go to some local churches, and we also have a prayer room in the house that my kids and I go into when we feel the need to be closer to the Lord.
KW: Going through a messy divorce is bad enough, but having it splashed across the papers has got to make it even worse.
JK: Yeah, divorce is a painful thing to begin with. But having to be in the public eye on top of it makes it all the more awful. It's like a death.
KW: Plus, given the adversarial nature of the legal system, the parties are encouraged by their attorneys to make outrageous allegations about each other. What percentage of them about you were true?
JK: Honestly? None! I don't want to sound too negative here, but when I started reading his claims, I realized that they didn't even have to be partially true. They could be total fabrications. It was crazy. It wouldn't even matter if I was born yet when something supposedly happened. What was worst was how it affected my son, TJ, who was 8 or 9 at the time. I'd keep the newspapers out of the house, but he'd still hear things from friends or come across stuff on the internet. For instance, he asked, "Mom, when did you send me into the locker room to get dad's phone?" I told him this was a great learning opportunity not to believe everything he hears, especially since he knew the truth.
KW: Why did Jason go along with making stuff up about the mother of his children?
JK: I don't even believe that Jason really intended for things to get that bad. It's kind of like the way you described divorce. Jason had suggested we try mediation. So, I was sitting home with no attorney, meanwhile this sneaky smear campaign was being planned. In the press, the divorce suddenly had a personality of its own that probably even took him by surprise. But he didn't step up and put a stop to it, because he was following their advice. So, when they created a media storm, he had to back it up. He called me, after getting a restraining order, which I thought it was a trap. I wouldn't talk to him, so he told my best friend that I should take the kids to Mexico until it all blows over. I couldn't believe that he would do all this to us and then suggest that we leave town so we wouldn't have to experience the wrath. You live and you learn.
KW: Have you ever asked Jason what was the point of all that?
JK: Yeah, but he just very abruptly tells me to get over it, and to move on with my life.
KW: How much does he see the kids?
JK: He does visit, when he can.
KW: Did you lose the support of a lot of people you thought were your friends because of the divorce?
JK: One thing I learned, and so did my kids, is that more people than not, have their price. They'd give me that "I'm sorry, but he's the breadwinner" look. The experience has really filtered my life. I still have a handful of players and players' wives that I'm closed to. It really revealed some people's character. For instance, my assistant who I actually had felt very close to, and had arranged to get pay raises for, she was the mastermind lining everything up for Jason's big kill. Overnight, I went from having a support team around me to nothing. That was scary, and a lot to deal with, which is why I am so grateful for my faith and the handful of real people in my life. Here I am now, still standing. It made much stronger.
KW: Reverend Thompson asks, how are your children doing since the divorce?
JK: To be honest, my son has struggled quite a bit. We're best friends. He cries on my shoulder, and we have journals that we write in to help him get his feelings out. My girls are definitely handling it better.
KW: Rev also asks, how are you able to balance your career and family?
JK: I'm not going to lie. That's been tough, because I have a hard time delegating. When I'm off, I make my BJ's Wholesale run to stock up. I cook and I freeze food for my babysitter.
KW: Larry Greenberg says, that was a pretty tough divorce you went through. Do you have any advice for ladies who are dreaming about marriage with a sports star?
JK: I'm so optimistic to a fault that I hate to throw anybody under the bus. I will say, get to know the person really well first, their character, their family and their upbringing. Base your decision on that.
KW: When I watch you on Let's Talk about Pep, I found myself wondering whether you are really looking for love, or just using it as a career move.
JK: It's not about replacing Jason. It was an alternative to sitting home and watching TV with the kids and a bowl of popcorn every night. Why not have some fun going out on a date once in a while that you know is never going to amount to anything? There will never be a guy that would step foot into my house unless he's good enough to meet my children. I would never have a revolving door, so I want to know in my heart that this is who I'm going to be with for the rest of my life before I introduce them. Plus, this series is really about Pep.
KW: Well, I'd say you're the most magnetic person on the show, judging from the first few episodes.
JK: That's such a compliment, thank you. That's sweet, but I'm so impressed by the rest of the cast that I'm always wondering why I'm even on the show.
KW: Children's book author Irene Smalls asks, are you living the life you envisioned?
JK: Yes, 100%, even though I had never envisioned going through a divorce or having a broken family. But the storm calmed, I was able to focus on the right things, and it all fell into place.
KW: Mark Bershad asks, what are you doing Friday night?
JK: Hmm.... It depends! I need more details, Mark. [Laughs]
KW: Jimmy Bayan asks, what message do you want to convey to the viewer?
JK: There are several messages. I want those people who have already formed an opinion about me due to the media slaughter to get to know me for who I really am, although you don't get to see the mom part of it. That's not so sexy. I also want to let people who are down in the dumps because they have to start over to know that God has a plan for you. And I want to encourage people to embrace good friends, and to be there for each other.
KW: Jimmy also asks, how do you prepare for dates on the show?
JK: I'm going to be really honest about this, and I hope I don't get in trouble with the network. Normally, you'd take a bath and take you're time getting ready. But here, there was a lot of pressure, because we working around Pep's dates and VH1's schedules. But overall, it was still just like a date. Most of the time, I'd get a hotel room in New York, so I could get TV-ready with my make-up artist, because that's a little different. In the end, I'd be just as nervous as if it were a real date.
KW: Tommy Russell, a Yale grad, would like to know, what you think about the Obama Administration's granting temporary protection status to the Haitian refugees who have immigrated after the earthquake?
JK: Personally, I think he did the right thing. But I think that Obama's generally under so much pressure because everybody's so closely scrutinizing and evaluating his first year in office. That makes me think about how tough it must be for him at this point to try to make decisions based on what he truly believes. That's where my heart has been with Obama.
KW: Tommy follows that up with, what have you learned is the most important thing about keeping a relationship healthy?
JK: Communication, friendship and honesty. Gosh, honesty is probably the number one thing.
KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would? If so, please answer it.
JK: I've been asked a lot of questions, but usually it's the ones about my kids that I love answering, because they're my heart and my passion.
KW: So, tell me a little about the kids.
JK: The twins are 8 and TJ's 11. He's into basketball, golf, you name it. Speaking of the devil, here he comes. Hold on [Greets him and tells him she loves him] And the girls love dancing and playing piano.
KW: The Tasha Smith question: Are you ever afraid?
JK: Oh yeah, tons. But then, it doesn't take me very long to remind myself that God is not fear. Also, as a mom dealing with your children's fears and problems, you don't really have the luxury of being afraid for very long. That keeps you strong.
KW: The Columbus Short question: Are you happy?
JK: Yes, I'm very happy! It's almost a guilty pleasure because, when I started feeling better, at first I kinda thought it was wrong to feel happy because I was divorced. But I'm happier than I've ever been.
KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?
JK: Oh, like today. I was on the phone with Jacque Reid all morning, and we were busting up. [Laughs]
KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?
JK: Oh, do you have to embarrass me like this? It's totally teen reading. [Chuckles] I'm going through my vampire stage. Of course, first I read the Twilight series. Now I'm reading Charlaine Harris' True Blood series. The last one I read was Club Dead.
KW: The music maven Heather Covington question: What are you listening to on your iPod?
JK: I'm the most random person. I'm really in love with Owl City. I have all their music downloaded. They have a hit that out on the radio, "Fireflies," but my favorite song right now is called "The Saltwater Room."
KW: The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
JK: Just by being supportive and by watching theshow. My website's up, www.joumanakidd.com, so they can help by getting on there and giving me feedback, constructive criticism. There's nothing like getting a message from an intelligent person who's articulate.
KW: Looking at your website, I saw that you work with a lot of different charities.
JK: Yeah, it's very personal. They're all my friends' charities. We're very involved, and very into it.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
JK: Oh Gosh, let me see... [pauses to look in a mirror] I see a mom. That's totally what I see.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
JK: I have a very yummy lasagna that I made up, called Mexicali-sagna. It's lasagna with a South of the Border twist to it. My kids love it. And I make a salad bar for them every night. And they love that, too. That's sort of my signature dish.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?
JK: Sitting in front of the TV in Cairo, Egypt, listening to Anwar Sadat speak. He was the leader at the time. I was fascinated by him.
KW: So where did you grow up?
JK: My dad worked for the American embassy. He had us travel everywhere with him. I didn't move to Foster City in Northern California until I was 5.
KW: The Boris Kodjoe question: What do you consider your biggest accomplishment?
JK: My kids... My children...
KW: The Mike Pittman question: Who was your best friend as a child?
JK: Jessica Roberts. There's an E! True Hollywood Story airing on February 10th and she's the one they interview on it.
KW: The Uduak Oduok question: How do you think Africa will affect America in the 21st Century?
JK: Unfortunately, people tend to embrace whatever images the media disseminates. My dad was stationed in Africa for years, so I grew up surrounded by nothing but African artifacts and photos. The average American attitude towards Africa was foreign to us. My mom traveled the world and she said Zaire was the most gorgeous place on the face of the Earth. I just hope the media will broaden how it covers and ortrays Africa.
KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
JK: To have the ultimate man walk in the front door, who would be the most amazing dad to TJ and the twins, and also my best friend and life-long partner. My new husband!
KW: Well, I think that's the perfect note to end on. Thanks again for the interview Joumana, and best of luck with the show and in your quest to find Mr. Right.
JK: Thank you, bye.
To see a trailer for Let's Talk about Pep, visit:
Kam Williams is a syndicated film and book critic who writes for 100+ publications. He is a member of the New York Film Critics Online, the African-American Film Critics Association, and the NAACP Image Awards Nominating Committee. Contact him through NewsBlaze.
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