Evelyn Lozada of ‘Basketball Wives’ is supporting domestic violence survivors
The TV personality is partnering with two nonprofit agencies in the Bronx
Living in the public eye can be tough for anyone. But when reality TV star Evelyn Lozada found herself in a situation that took her from being the take-no-nonsense Basketball Wives standout to a domestic violence survivor, it changed her life.
That label, domestic violence survivor, is not one she takes lightly. Lozada recently announced a new online campaign, Turn Hurt Into Joy, as part of the Evelyn Lozada Foundation. The goal is to raise money for two nonprofit organizations that help domestic violence and sexual assault survivors. The campaign will run throughout October, which is Domestic Violence Awareness Month.
The funds will benefit the Sauti Yetu Center for African Women and the Violence Intervention Program Inc., both based in the Bronx, New York. According to the campaign website, the Turn Hurt Into Joy online campaign is Lozada’s testimony that a negative situation can be transformed into a positive one.
The mission of Lozada’s foundation is to transform society’s response to domestic violence and to support healing. It does so in three ways: healing, education and advocacy. It currently supports existing services for survivors residing in the Bronx, but she is looking to expand soon.
“I was born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx,” Lozada said. “The Bronx is very dear to me and a place where I grew up. I feel like Evelyn is the way she is because she grew up in the Bronx, and I will never change it. I love it.”
According to the Violence Policy Center, nearly three women are murdered every day in the U.S. by current or former romantic partners. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 1 in 4 women and 1 in 7 men has been a victim of severe physical violence by an intimate partner in his or her lifetime.
In 2012, Lozada wore an original Ines Di Santo dress for her wedding to former NFL player Chad Johnson. Three weeks later she was in the hospital with six stitches on her forehead after an altercation with her new husband. Forty-three days later, she was divorced and living her truth in front of the world. Johnson was charged with simple battery and misdemeanor domestic violence and was later sentenced to one year of probation and domestic violence counseling.
“I received so many emails,” Lozada told The Undefeated. “I received messages through social networking, just from women that are in abusive relationships, domestic violence survivors, still in relationships, not in relationships, still going through the motions. But because my story was so public and I was now the face of domestic violence, I wanted to do something positive. I wanted to help as many women, and I’m going to say men also, because I’m learning that men are also in abusive relationships and are also abused. I decided to start the Evelyn Lozada Foundation.”
A donation to the campaign will afford givers a chance to win her wedding dress. The winner will be announced in mid-November.
Lozada spoke with The Undefeated about her evolution, showing compassion for others, her massive social media following and charitable giving.
What’s it like dealing with good and bad times in the public eye?
You never know what life is going to throw at you, and especially because my life is so public, even when I try to not live in the public it ends up in the public. It’s the path that I’ve chosen. I would say you have to take the good with the bad, and that’s just what it is.
What’s been the hardest part of your journey?
I feel bad for domestic violence victims because sometimes the victim gets revictimized. I still deal with it. I still deal with the, ‘Well, it was your fault.’ Which, I get it. People are going to have their opinions, but I think that for me is the hardest part. Right now with the dress and everything that I’m doing in connection to raise money for these two nonprofits that I’m working with, women will put their stories on there and then you’ll have people saying negative things to them. I think that, for me, is hurtful. It’s hard for me to see that because, unless you’re in my position, unless you’ve ever been in an abusive relationship — whether it be physical, emotional — you don’t know what that person has gone through, for you to take time out and say something negative to them when they are expressing and reaching out or trying to help.
How did you vet the organizations that will benefit from the campaign?
Myself and my amazing PR people that I work with decided that I wanted to start this foundation. Obviously, I’ve never done anything like this. You want to do it the right way. You want to have all the paperwork that you need. You want to make sure that everything is done the right way. We just took it day by day, and we’re still working at it. That’s how it pretty much came about. I have always felt, even in having conversations with something like my mentor, Iyanla Vanzant, who I love and respect, she would always say, ‘Well, what are you going to do with this? What is your legacy?’
What do you want your overall outcome to be for the campaign?
I want women and men to feel empowered. I want women to know it’s not your fault, to love yourself. If I can do it, you can do it too.
How did the Bride’s March inspire you?
I went back to my hotel and I was so overwhelmed by just the love and the sisterhood. There’s all these women that I met that we all did this march together in honor of Gladys [Ricart] and for every domestic violence victim, survivor. It’s hard to explain what I felt. I just felt so good. I was like, ‘This is what I’m supposed to be doing.’ It’s just really to bring as much to end the violence and abuse.
After I did that march, that same day … one woman, she stopped me. She’s like, ‘Right now, as we speak, I have a broken collarbone. I’m hiding in a closet.’ These are the kinds of stories and messages that I get. ‘What do I do?’ … Sometimes we just need somebody to talk to and just somebody to tell us that it’s going to be OK.
How does helping other women lift your spirit?
It makes me feel good. I want to do something for the world that is good. Like years ago, I took so much negativity into the world and I didn’t care about anything. Now it’s like my goal and I’m just so focused on wanting to do something positive. It makes me feel good to know that I’m helping somebody. I’m invested. If I start a conversation with this woman who’s just going through it and has kids, and I’m like, ‘OK, we’re going to figure this out,’ I am invested until I feel like I’ve done something to help or I’m helping. And not just the domestic violence survivors and victims — just people in general.
Do you think that compassion comes from your own experience?
I’m glad for those experiences because I feel like it made me who I am today. If I didn’t go through any of that, who knows who I would be? Not that I’m like, ‘Woo, hoo. I’m glad I was abused.’ That’s not what I’m saying. I just feel like certain things happen in your life for a reason and it’s up to you to, like, what are you going to turn that into and how are you going to respond and what are you going to do? I just try to be the strongest person that I can be and just keep on moving. It’s really about my kids too.
I want my kids to know, OK, Mom, you’ve been through some things, but she always had a smile on her face. She was always there for us.