Tamara: Thank you for agreeing to do a follow-up interview with Blitz And Glam. Now that the season has ended, what do you think? Do you think Football Wives helped or hurt the image of wives and girlfriends of football players?
Dawn: Well, I can assure you that there are plenty of real-life wives of active and retired players shouting from the rooftops that they wouldn’t act like we did on the show and that the show doesn’t reflect their reality. Heck, half the time in didn’t reflect mine either. The focus on the drama definitely can’t help our image, but it is what it is. People need to understand we weren’t representing all football wives – we were representing Dawn, Chanita, Pilar, Erin, Brittany, Amanda and Melani. And our “representation” was done for the sake of entertainment. If anyone is interested in getting involved and thinks they can do a better job telling our reality, let me know!
Tamara: What is your opinion of the how you were portrayed?
Dawn: This is a tough one because I have very mixed feelings about my portrayal. I think on the one hand, I was shown to be the woman I am – strong-willed, educated and not likely to put up with other people’s crap. But these same attributes seem to have come across to some as me being bitter and jealous which can’t be further from the truth.
Tamara: What was your favorite moment of filming that we didn’t get to see during the eight 22 minute episodes?
Dawn: The vow renewal with Ryan was pretty special. Being surprised with such a wonderful ceremony was truly a gift. And I was thrilled that my dress still fit and that I got to wear it again. I’d pick that same Amsale dress all over again today.
I have to say though that my favorite moment from filming had to be the night in New York when I went out with Chanita, Erin, Brittany and Jay. It had been a long time since I’d had that much fun. We went to three different clubs that night and stayed out until after four in the morning. We went to Times Square on our way back to the hotel and it was empty. When is Times Square ever empty? Apparently at four in the morning.
Tamara: In the season finale, we saw things get heated between you and Melani. How is your relationship now?
Dawn: Melani and I are fine. Melani is a peacemaker and she hated that there was conflict between any of us. Viewers didn’t see us sitting on the boat (aka the Cookie Cruise) talking after the heated argument between Pilar and I. Melani was very upset – she was crying. She just wanted all of us to get along.
We’d talked before our trip to New York about how out of control things had gotten on the boat. I expressed to her my concerns about how editing of the show might negatively affect my career as an attorney. She told me she understood and that she was tired of cast members being thrown under the bus for the sake of good television. When we were sitting in that restaurant in New York, I was initially bothered by the fact that Melani was challenging me on my behavior in front of everyone and never confronted Pilar or asked her to own up to her behavior in front of the group. After Pilar left, Melani made the comment about how I wouldn’t go into a courtroom and call someone a “bitch.” She knows I wouldn’t. And I think she knew right away that she’d gone somewhere she shouldn’t have, which is why she was quick to apologize. I know she was just trying to prove a (valid) point, but I was upset and felt like she’d thrown me and my career under the bus. I still think Melani chose to pick someone else’s battle and I wish she wouldn’t have.
Tamara: Almost every episode showed you and Pilar in heated arguments. People have said, "Dawn's jealous of Pilar" and "Dawn's just mad because she's broke and Pilar's not." Did you ever look at any of the episodes and think, "Wow, I can see why they would say that"?
Dawn: Absolutely. Ryan and I were very transparent about the financial toll transitioning into life after football takes on most football players and their families, many of whom didn’t make anything near what Deion made during his career. It’s a lot easier to make the transition when you’ve got millions sitting in the bank. In just about every episode, we discussed money and how Ryan’s injury and pending retirement affected our financial situation. In contrast to our reality, we see Pilar who seemingly has no financial concerns. It’s a good story for conflict, and I think the show focused on the assumed jealousy way too much.
I think it is easy to assume that I was jealous of Pilar because Deion has money. I think a lot of viewers wish they had Pilar’s life, which is why it would be easy for them to call me jealous. But I keep making this point and I want people to hear it loud and clear – if money is my alleged motivation for being jealous, wouldn’t I be hating on Amanda Davis? She and Leonard have big money and she and I are good friends.
I learned a long time ago that there are far more important things in life than money. Ask the mom who has lost a child to cancer if she’d trade all the money in the world to have her child back. And I’ve known and met a lot of people over the years with big money who are miserable. Having a lot of it sure helps, but it doesn’t guarantee happiness. I wouldn’t trade my life for Pilar’s, so there’s nothing to be jealous about.
Tamara: I have to admit that after a while, I even said, “Enough already.” Looking back do you wish that you had handled any of the situations differently?
Dawn: I think these are two different issues. Was I tired of the Pilar vs. Dawn and Chanita storyline? You bet, especially because I experienced so many other interesting things throughout production that would’ve made much better television. The conflict got old. The truth is Chanita and I don’t get along with Pilar, but we certainly didn’t spend four months during production focusing on it. But the way the show was edited, it sure did look that way.
The one situation I know I would’ve handled differently was the argument with Melani. I still don’t like that she and I got into that argument. Now the cookie incident…In hindsight, I wouldn’t have wasted a perfectly good chocolate chip cookie on Pilar.
Tamara: Has there been any communication between you and Pilar since filming wrapped? Are you still open to sitting down with her to try to talk out your differences?
Dawn: There has been no communication between Pilar and any of us. None of the official cast members have heard from her since we wrapped back in October. I was open to sitting down with her initially, but I heard something a while back that really disturbed me. Pilar was on a morning radio show and in her misguided effort to destroy my credibility and character, she talked about my kids. She even referenced my son with autism tantruming on the show. I’m sorry – kids are ALWAYS off limits in my book. Talk about me all you want – don’t talk about my kids. Until she owns up to her inappropriateness and apologizes, we have nothing to talk about.
I do hope her comment might be a teachable moment for her. She does a lot of charity work, and I suggest she spend some time with children with autism. I bet she won’t be so quick to blame their behavior on their parents.
I’d sit down and talk with Pilar under one condition – if we were both hooked up to lie detector tests while we talked. That would be a good way to make sure fans were getting the truth!
Tamara: In the first interview, I asked if you would take part in a second season. Now that the first season is over and assuming that there will be a Season 2, would you still want to take part in it?
Dawn: I have to be honest with you – after watching the season finale, I’ve got some doubts. It was very difficult to see me edited into a bitter, jealous, envious human being. If there is a season two and I’m asked to participate, I’d have to think long and hard about it.
One thing that bothered me during this is that people always seemed to hold me to a higher standard because I’m educated – I wasn’t allowed to react naturally, cuss, react in anger, etc. to situations because I have a couple of really good degrees. My nemesis seemingly got a “pretty pass.” She wasn’t expected to apologize for her behavior because why should she? It’s not her fault – it’s everyone else being jealous of her that explains and excuses her behavior. I’m sure there is some sort of psychology surrounding this. Wish I had some time to read up on it because it’s fascinating.
Tamara: As I mentioned in the first interview, I think that a lot of what was shown was "Made-For-Reality TV drama", meaning that if the cameras were not there things likely would not have escalated to the point they did, because in your regular everyday lives, you guys would not have been hanging out together. You were put in these situations because of the show and personalities clashed. If there is a second season, would you like to see the show focus more on the wives in your everyday lives, including the relationships with your families and your real life friends?
Dawn: You bet! And you’re absolutely right. This is one thing I don’t know if viewers appreciate – when they are casting these shows, they are looking for personalities that are going to conflict. We wouldn’t have over a million viewers a week if we were singing folk songs around a campfire. I’ve been on plenty of boats with friends, have gone on trips with friends, shopped with friends – you name it – and I’ve never experienced the kind of tension and drama that played out in front of the Football Wives cameras. Our lives are so much richer and deeper and I hope they’ll do a better job to tell that reality if there is a season two.
Tamara: There are a lot of critics of Football Wives and of Dawn Neufeld. How have you dealt with the criticism and what would you like to say to the critics?
Dawn: Miserably! I like to think I’m a strong, infallible chick that can put up with just about anything, but at the end of the day, I’m human. I was prepared for the fact that some viewers might not like me – I’m very direct, I don’t beat around the bush, I cuss, I’m a realist and can totally be a bitch. But the personal, untruthful attacks took a toll. I’ve cried and let it get to me more than I’d like to admit.
For the critics, I’d try to explain how hard it is to put your life under a microscope. Of course I put my business out there and I can expect that people can and will respond. But opening up my life shouldn’t give people the right to be rude. I’m someone’s daughter, a mom, a wife, a sister – before folks embark on anonymous internet tirades, I wish they’d think about how they’d feel if someone they loved were being targeted the way we have.
Tamara: What has been the reaction of your family and friends?
Dawn: My family and friends have been very supportive and they love the show. Because they know the real me, they aren’t overly concerned with my portrayal on the show. My mom and sisters were extremely concerned by the comments they read on my blog I posted for VH1 every week though – it was their only opportunity to experience the obsessive hatred certain folks aimed at me, and I hated that it affected them so much.
Tamara: Did your colleagues watch the show, and if so, what has been their reaction?
Dawn: They did and they’ve been supportive. I can’t be that bad of an attorney if they’ve seen the show and are still sending work my way.
Tamara: Give me one word to describe each cast member of Football Wives. Chanita.
Tamara: One thing that we didn’t discuss during the first interview is that you are a fellow blogger. Aside from blogging for VH1, you have your own blog called The Gridiron Goddess. What inspired you to start blogging?
Dawn: Blogging was a great way for me to keep our family connected while Ryan was in the league. I started the blog when we were in Buffalo – our families are in California and it was a great way to keep everyone posted about our lives when we were so far away from home.
I’ve come to value the importance of blogging. It’s an amazing personal outlet – like keeping a diary of thoughts and happenings. I recently had a year’s worth of blog posts bound in book form. It’s incredible to be able to go back and relive the story of our lives. I’ll continue to do so – my kids, their kids, and so on will benefit from our blogged family story.
Tamara: Did your years of blogging about your life and your family prepare you for the cameras?
Dawn: I guess in some way, yes. My blog was always public until we went into production for the show, so I was used to writing and telling my story without worrying who was reading it. Of course, a million people weren’t reading my blog, so it didn’t prepare me at all for the attention the show has brought with it.
Tamara: As I’ve shared with you, I’ve read your blog from the first post to the most recent post and reading it is like watching a reality TV show. One thing that you have been very open about is your son, Will and his autism. What is the biggest challenge in dealing with autism? Are you guys still seeing progress?
Dawn: The biggest challenge with autism is trying to find some way to “fix it” when we don’t know what causes it in the first place. Traditional therapies like speech and OT work, but those cost money. We’re very fortunate that we live in a great school district with adequate resources and they are doing a wonderful job. Because of all of their work, we continue to see improvements. School isn’t year-round though, and Will does regress during breaks. Any additional schooling, therapy, etc. would be out-of-pocket since it is excluded under most insurance policies.
My kid is AWESOME. Over the years, we’ve learned to appreciate the little things, like tonight when Will grabbed my hand at bed time and led me up the stairs, letting me know he wanted mommy upstairs during bathtime. We played chase and tickle monster. To hear him laugh and interact with us and Bryn is just magical. Those are the good times.
There are bad times as well though – just a couple of weeks ago Will cried and flipped out for two hours and we couldn’t figure out what set him off. Who do you call when you need a break from that? Autism can be very draining and isolating.
Tamara: One of my readers, Sarondia V., emailed and said that she has a child who has a learning disability and wants to know if you feel as defensive as she does in ARD meetings when it comes to recognizing the progress her child has made?
Dawn: I’ve often heard of ARDs being very stressful and contentious. We’ve somehow been fortunate enough not to have to deal with that. It may have something to do with the fact that I’m a lawyer and I know what Will is entitled to. My concern is when I hear how well he is doing – I worry that they will retract some of the services he’s receiving when I know the only reason he’s doing so well is because he’s receiving those services. In the end, parents are the best advocates for their children, so if you run into something you feel is worth the fight, then by all means, keep fighting!
Tamara: So, what’s next for Dawn Neufeld?
Dawn: A big part of my next chapter involves helping Ryan continue to transition into life after football. He’s finally hanging up the cleats for good and 2011 will be our first year without football. We’re both trying to find employment that will allow us to continue to support our family, but it has been very tough in this economy. We’ve got some very tough financial decisions to make in the near future, like whether to downsize our home. We pray on it and we know that in the end, everything will work out exactly the way it's supposed to.
I’ve said before that I’m still the same Dawn I was before Football Wives came along. Now I just have a group of new friends and another chapter written in my life’s story. Time to just keep being me.
You can watch missed episodes of Football Wives and read Dawn's Playbook at VH1.com. If you want to learn more about Dawn, check out her blog, The Gridiron Goddess, for a "glimpse into the uber-glamorous life of a retired NFL/pro-football wife." Follow Dawn on Twitter @dbn13.