Lisa’s father, Stanley Wu, takes time to shower his daughter with well-wishes and love. Image source Essence.com.
ESSENCE.COM: Throughout this season you’ve been pretty even tempered and even joked that you were “boring.” What element of surprise can we expect for the reunion show?
LISA WU HARTWELL: Super drama! Let’s just say, Kim [Zolciak] pushed the wrong and the last button, which takes me there. Normally, I conduct myself professionally and I prefer to turn the other cheek, but you can’t allow people to continue to play with you because they’ll think they can do that all day, every day. So I’d say that people will be surprised because I was surprised and somewhat embarrassed myself, but I’m human and you have to let people know that they can’t just say whatever they want to you. I’ve been extremely diplomatic and there are horrible things I could have said but I have chosen not to and still do. When you come after my integrity or my family, then you’re going to see a different person. I think that I know all of the women-NeNe, Sheree, Deshawn, and Kim-better now and I will deal with them differently next season. I was naïve coming in and I’ve learned some people just have ill intentions, so I will deal with each individual accordingly. But people need to know that yes, I’m a businesswoman but I’m also a sparring woman.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs) The Wu ain’t nothing to mess with! Wait a minute, you spar?
HARTWELL: Yes, I have a brown belt, one belt away from a black belt in Kajukenbo. That’s a combination of Karate, Judo, Kimbo, Chinese boxing and Kung Fu. My dad is Chinese and he made me, my brother and sister go to classes ever since we were kids. We used to be so embarrassed. We even had competitions and I have trophies. I practice pretty regularly, especially when I go home my brother will invite me to spar and we go and take a class and get to work. Actually my kids Jordan and Justin were taking it, but Justin stopped but is starting to become interested in martial arts again.
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs) Somehow it’s always the one you’d least expect that will knuckle up. Seriously, it is a shock to learn that you can kick butt because there have been rumors that you were allegedly in an abusive marriage with your ex-husband and New Jack Swing artist Keith Sweat. Is that true?
HARTWELL: I’ll just say it was a very tumultuous relationship. I was very young and impressionable-20-when I married him. So it was a difficult marriage but it made me stronger and wiser. When you’re young and impressionable, you have to know who you are and love yourself, so you don’t accept anything less than love and respect. I don’t believe that I didn’t love myself, but I lacked confidence. Once you have confidence and your own identity, no one can tell you who you are. When you’re in love, you take more than you normally would and it doesn’t have to be physical or verbal. When you’re independent and know who you are, that isn’t ever a problem. A lot of people tolerate relationships that aren’t necessarily good for them because they are dependent upon their partner. It’s so important for every woman to have independence.
ESSENCE.COM: Everyone should know thy self. The blogosphere has criticized you and accused you of not being a good mom because you don’t have custody of your kids. How does that make you feel?
HARTWELL: Throughout the custody case, everyone who testified said I was a great mother and that I even treated his daughters like my own. I was a housewife and mother in every sense of those words. Until this day I still can’t believe I lost custody because they were convinced that because I was an aspiring actress and Keith [Sweat] was more stable and settled in his career than I was. So because I’m a working mother that means I’m a bad parent? I still don’t get it. It was an unfortunate ruling that was handed to me. It was devastating and if it can happen to me it can happen to Mary Poppins, because there was no [behavioral] misconduct on my part. I’ve never done drugs, I don’t party and I helped raise his kids. How do you take my kids when I’m raising yours? I believe quality is more than quantity. Three days out of the week, I am at my sons’ football practice. I’m the only one they see because I’m hands-on with them. Was I done wrong? Absolutely. Do I think justice wasn’t served? Absolutely. I’m hopeful that one day soon that will change.
ESSENCE.COM: So will we see you with all of your children for the second installment of “Real Housewives”?
HARTWELL: My wish is that the circumstances will be different with the children. I don’t think the children were shown in a negative light as their father thought they would be. None of the kids looked crazy on the show. Right now, that’s my only wish. I want people to get the whole picture of my family.