“That’s the thing. It was a situation when the reality format was groundbreaking and no one knew what it would turn into so many years later,” she said of her experience.
In its second season, she was a star of MTV’s The Real World and shocked the world when she went under the knife to have her jaw wired shut.
“I had self esteem issues in regards to my weight,” she says. “I wanted to be as thin as I could be because i had always wanted to model.”
Even more shocking was the first ever abortion on television, which Tami procured when she found herself unexpectedly pregnant at 23.
“My thought process when I did it was to show young girls what happens when you don’t handle your life responsibly. Here I am forced to make a decision at 23 that I shouldn’t have to make because I didn’t do the right thing.Â I didn’t handle having safe sex,” she says.
“Ironically, I worked at an HIV center and I was the person who got caught up in a situation like this. I wanted it documented. The turmoil I went through in making the decision, how it affected my mother, having to go to the clinic and have complications after… I wanted people to take that journey with me and see.”
Viewers certainly did see that emotional journey and many young people got their first glimpse of the hot-button issue through her eyes.
“I was under a lot of scrutiny because ether are a lot of advocated who do not agree with abortion. My intent was not to say to people, ‘this is a way to handle it’. My intent was to show how difficult it is to endure emotionally, mentally and physical, to go through something like this,” she says.
“That’s all I wanted. Even if I reached one person who said, I’m gonna use a condom or use birth control then I had a purpose. You want to be as safe as you can be in that area.Â I still to this day have my daughters watch that abortion episode to use as a teaching tool for them.”
Tami says she had to tell her daughters about her past earlier than expected thanks to some eager fans.
“I told my daughters when they were 13 and 11. Â I had them watch that Real World episode because people were constantly coming up to us in the mall and saying ‘I remember when you had the abortion on TV or I remember when I had your mouth wired,’ without respecting the fact that my children were standing there,” she explains.
“I took the opportunity to educate them on what I had done before they were born and educate them on the repercussions. The Â mouth-wiring episode was to instill in them that your mom was dealing with something back then called bulimia.Â I was dealing with a lot of things mentally that weren’t right and trying to teach my children to love themselves no matter what.Â never let anyone take you off your path and who you are.”
Luckily, Jazz and Lyric took the news in stride.
“I really have good girls.Â They were able to process it and people sometimes think their children are too young to handle things. I think we don’t give our children enough credit. They’re like sponges. If you give them the right liquid to soak up they’re always going to retain it in their mental bank,” she says.
“I try to be the best parent I could be and Im very proud of my daughters.Â I think they’re the best example and indicative of who I am as a person in my entirety and not just what people see on Basketball Wives.”