First Wives’ Club

Former Spouses of Will Smith, Eddie Murphy and More Are Focus of VH1’s ‘Hollywood Exes’

The former wives of stars like Will Smith, Eddie Murphy, and R. Kelly are striking out on their own on VH1’s ‘Hollywood Exes.’

Piotr Sikora / VH1

Nicole Murphy admits she was slightly taken aback last year when her former brother-in-law called to discuss an “amazing” idea. It seemed he had visions of the onetime model starring in a reality show based on the lives of women married to very famous men at one time. Murphy filled the bill well, given her 12-year marriage to comic superstar Eddie Murphy.

“I was kinda surprised by his call about a show like this, but then again, we are family,” Nicole Murphy says with a laugh. “I’d been offered the chance to do so many reality shows over the years that I’m not sure I would have listened if it hadn’t been him.’’

Murphy also clearly saw her former in-law’s vision and happily agreed to sign up for yet another VH1 show focusing on the ever-fascinating lives of women who are on television because of their involvement with famous men. Hollywood Exes airs on VH1 on Wednesdays.

Not surprisingly, each of the five exes chosen for the show spoke passionately about inspiring other divorced women with their personal stories of survival after a divorce and of finally stepping outside their famous husband’s shadow in the new, hour-long show.

Sheree Fletcher (Will Smith’s ex), Andrea Kelly (singer R. Kelly’s ex), Jessica Canseco (baseball player Jose Canseco’s ex) and Mayte Garcia (Prince’s ex), say they bonded quickly over similar goals while filming the tried-and-true concept formula that’s produced such controversial hits as Basketball Wives and Love and Hip Hop for VH1.

“I wanted people to see the real me and who I really am,’’ says Jessica Canseco, who receives vaginal rejuvenation on camera in the premiere episode of the show. “I lived in my husband’s shadow for so long and just wanted something to finally be about me.’’

“About me’ appears to be the recurring theme of Hollywood Exes, as it showcases the women fawning over and modeling millions of dollars of diamonds, lunching with their well-known ex-husbands, and testing their luck with a high-end matchmaking service. Mayte Garcia required dating services in her attempt to find love again after a failed marriage to Prince and a failed two-year relationship with rock star Tommy Lee. She says she’ll never date another musician.

In a Hollywood era where Kim Kardashian continues to strike gold in the game of fame all because of a sex tape, many former spouses seem to be insisting that they are entitled to the same celebrity status as their former famous halves, whether they have talent or not. More interesting is that while many of these women say they resent the ugly toll fame took on their marriages and personal lives, few have any issue with using their familiar last names to gain that same attention and stardom for themselves.

“The perks were fabulous, and that’s an amazing part of the life,’’ said Nicole Murphy. “But the downside is, everyone is in your business all the time.’’

Indeed. When reports surfaced last year that Nicole was conned out of millions from her divorce settlement, African-American blogs wasted no time in reporting her mega business deal gone wrong. Murphy uses this already public information to bond, complete with tears, over lunch with Sheree Fletcher (Will Smith’s ex). Such a rare visual of loving sisterhood on a VH1 show between women of color is nice but odds are, it won’t last. For her part, Fletcher said she waited until her son with Smith, Trey, 19, was an adult before fully exploring all the opportunities Hollywood had to offer a woman with her particular set of credentials—a divorce from an international superstar.

“I was married to Will for three years, and we were both very young,’’ says Fletcher. “After the divorce Will was able to provide very well for us, so I could be a stay-at-home mom. I remember starting a business when my son was about 3 years old and feeling like it took too much time away from him. He’s 19 now, so I feel it the time is right to go and do my thing, and my son is so happy about it.’’

Fletcher said she isn’t sure if her ex will be watching Hollywood Exes, but she is quite sure he won’t be making any cameo appearances.

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“No, you won’t be seeing Will Smith on an episode of Hollywood Exes, she says with a laugh.

Another famous ex who probably won’t be asking for camera time on the show is R&B singer R. Kelly. Though most people were unaware of it, the Grammy-winning singer was married for years to his former choreographer, Andrea Kelly. Divorced recently, Andrea Kelly decided her filming a high-profile reality show would be the ideal way for people to recognize she was more than “a pretty face and small waist,” and an even better way to let the world know her “quiet time” was now over.

“I stayed in the background while we were married in a mutual decision with Robert,’’ says Kelly. “This way I could go to the park with the kids or wherever and give them a chance for a normal life. But the downside of that ‘normal’ life where no one knew us was that people would say so many horrible things about my husband right in front of us. That was really horrible because I couldn’t say anything.’’

During the couple’s marriage R. Kelly was accused of having sex with underage girls. He was acquitted of child-pornography charges in 2008.

Andrea Kelly also makes it clear that she doesn’t think it’s odd or strange that her new VH1 show about life after the fairy tale ends debuts the very same week her ex-husband releases a new book about his life and album. In fact she believes it is divine intervention.

“Hey, what helps him helps me, and vice versa; that’s the way it works,” she says, laughing. “It’s my time to do what I want and get back to the business I was in before I met him and married him. I was somebody before him and I’m somebody now.”