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Nicole “Hoopz” Alexander is known for three things: winning the VH1 reality television shows “Flavor of Love,” and “I Love Money,” and getting her heartbroken by NBA vet, Shaquille O’Neal.

After scoring $250,000 from working the reality show circuit, and being publicly humiliated by her famous lover, Nicole slowly faded into a world of unforgettable reality TV stars.

Now she’s back in the spotlight and opening up about how she used her reality show spoils to buy a huge home in Tennessee, launch a clothing business, and build her brand, which includes her latest reality TV project “It Takes a Sister” on Oxygen. Nicole also serves as the executive producer on the series, and her aim is to use it to help shift society’s perception about black women on reality television.

“I’m still hopeful for love,” she tells xoNecole as she skims through her three-year relationship with retired NBA star Shaquille O’Neal. “Shaquille is so smart in business and look at his wife [Shaunie]…being together with him, you just gotta sit back and soak up [that knowledge] and pray you’re making the right decisions, too.”

Below are excerpts from Nicole’s chat with the celebrity news site about her sibling series, her ex-boyfriend and her new love.

On your recent reality show, within the first episode we see you crying over your ex. We’ve followed your relationship over the last few years, and you guys were very cute and best friends. What happened?

I don’t want to say anything that may offend him, or if he thinks or looks at it differently–out of respect for him, but we just started seeing two different things. I just feel like, I started losing a little bit of who I was. Because I’m not overshadowed by him, but my focus became him. And I still had a career to uphold, and I still had a fan base, and I still have all these other things, so we just started to go different ways. And I came back home and we started doing long distance a little bit, just to get some space and you know — It’s so weird to watch myself crying on television, because you guys never see me cry in any of those shows. But I’m like a hopeless romantic, my heart is humongous so I do get hurt a lot.

I’m at my store and my phone started ringing off the hook from people I haven’t talked to in a while. And they’re like, “Oh Nikki, I’m so happy you’re on TV. You and Shaquille-you guys are at the Wimbledon.” And I’m like, I’m not at the Wimbledon. I’m at my store right now, about to put up my opening sign. Then I looked, and the story was everywhere. And I’m thinking, but that’s not me!

It was an uppercut. I just didn’t expect him to do something like that!

And I literally sat there and I’m looking at them sitting next to each other and she’s all over him, so I knew it had to have been longer than obviously what I just saw.

And everything was good before that right?

Yes, we were fine. We were in a little long distance relationship, but everything was fine. But the respect level of not being out in public. For me, let me have done that and he would have killed me. Out of respect, I would have never taken someone to a major event that you know would be televised. To me, it was like more of an ‘F U!’ And that’s what hurt the most. We were supposed to be way better than that. Do that behind closed doors, not that I’m saying that would have been okay, but be better. Don’t be sloppy.

At the end of the day, you can’t hold on to that. People are going to do what they are going to do. There is no stopping that. I’m not saying it didn’t effect me at first, because it still hurts now, but you gotta be like, okay, cool. It is what it is. It’s what he decided to do and he has to live with that. I move on and be the best person I can be. I’m still hopeful for love.

Tell us about your new love!

His name is Ovince St. Preaux. We’ve been together a little over a year. I wasn’t looking for anything. I was just happy I was going to be focused on me. Doesn’t it always happen that way? The minute you’re like no, I’m just going to focus on me, career, and that’s it. And then, oh hi! You meet someone and then one thing leads to another.

I took a chance on love again, even after the past, which is really hard. But he is so patient and I love him to death for that. To be able to just be there and to still be okay with me letting all that go. And still loving me.

He has a big career on his hands too, [he is a UFC fighter], but we’re juggling the time between our relationship and our careers between each other.

It’s been over seven years since you’ve done reality TV, what influenced your decision to return?

I’ve gotten offers to do shows before, but I need substance behind my shows or something deeper. I wouldn’t do it if it was anything different. We were the forerunners of reality television. We started the love shows [with Flavor of Love], and we started the challenge shows. I like to forefront new movements. And I’m not taking away from any of the family shows on TV. I think they are all great.

I think I just wanted to bring a different element of real. I have five younger sisters, you get to see them all. And with all the 13 kids, which you’ll only get to see eight, it’s such a humongous family. And they are such a big important part of my life. They are the reason that I work so hard and have to keep maintaining. They are my drive. And you have to keep the business in the family. So, I’m just passing it on down.

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