Lorenzo Lamas and his family star in "Leave It to Lamas," Sundays on E! We spoke with Michele Smith, Lorenzo's ex-wife and mom of three, about being on the show.
Momlogic: How has your life changed since being on the show?
Michele: My life hasn't changed at all -- it has probably changed more for the kids. Being on the show wasn't really a hard decision -- I don't mind putting myself out there. It's honest, and it's real. A lot of people think it's scripted, but it's not.
ML: You're described in the cast bios as being meddlesome and intense at times. Do you agree with that assessment?
Michele: Communication has always been my big thing -- whether it be as a wife, a girlfriend, a mother, or a friend. Communication is huge. As the children grow up, you feel they just don't want to communicate with you as much. They think you are prying or being meddlesome -- especially Shayne. It seems like, when I want to talk to her, she says, "Mom, I really don't want to talk about this." We have an ongoing thing ... every time I call her, she says she can't talk right now. I thank God I'm not 3,000 miles away. At any given moment, I can just hop in the car and go see them. We do talk and speak a lot. I say, "I will never stop being your mother -- even if you're 50, I will still be your mom!"
ML: How is it being an empty nester?
Michele: I was very involved in my kids' life. They were always very involved in sports and pageants. They just grow up so fast! I never wanted it to end. It's very difficult when they move out ... when all of a sudden, you are alone in this big house. When they're in the terrible twos, you want to rip your hair out, but then before you know it, they're 23 and moved out!
I also have a different perspective because I'm single. A lot of couples look forward to the day when their kids go to college so they can have their time together, but I don't have that.
ML: How is your relationship with your kids now?
Michele: I am proud that they are so independent. I really look at them as the greatest people I've known. They've taught me more than any school, and any book, ever could. My children have been my education.
I've eaten dinner with the president, I've been to the White House, and I've traveled the
world, but my biggest accomplishment is looking at my kids and saying they are
good, good people.
ML: Has it been hard for you being a single mother?
Michele: My children have two different dads. AJ and Shayne's father is Lorenzo, and Dakota's dad is Craig. I am very close with both of those men, thankfully. We have co-parented -- that's the thing I am very grateful for. You can get divorced, but you can't divorce yourself from the fact you are both still parents to these kids.
Being a divorced mom with small children, I parented a lot out of guilt. You feel so guilty that the other half is no longer living in the household, you kind of give in more than you would normally. There's no more: "Wait 'til your dad gets home!" But it made me all the more closer to my kids.
I remember a small little incident when my older two kids were going to L.A. to visit their dad. There was some problem with the plane, and they ended up in Bullhead City, Arizona, for the night. I drove there and spent a night with them in a hotel. I just remember AJ looked at his sister -- he must have been 9 or so -- and he said, "Shayne, we have the greatest mom in the world to have done this." I still remember that to this day. It just made me so happy that they had that appreciation.
No matter how meddlesome I am in their lives, I think they would rather have it that way than the opposite. I was not close with my own mother. She didn't come to recitals or plays. I always thought, "When I have kids, I am going to do everything the opposite." I was there for every single event. I think they are better people and more secure as a result.
ML: How was it for them growing up in the spotlight?
Michele: For most of their childhood, they were out of the Hollywood scene. They were never really like, "Oh, my dad is in showbiz -- we're set." Sometimes the other kids would get jealous, but my kids always knew we put our pants on one leg at a time just like any other person. I guess that was my one concern with the reality show ... is this going to change them? So far, all is good.
ML: Tell us about your son AJ.
Michele: AJ got the acting bug at age 12. He was on his bed watching TV and said, "Mom, I think I can do that better." He started studying. He's very determined to make a mark in the industry. In fact, reality TV was the farthest thing from his mind. He did not want to be known as a reality personality. He's very serious about acting. He was on a soap opera, but he didn't really like doing that because he didn't feel it had substance. He didn't want to be pegged as a soap star. I am going to a screening of his new movie, "Elbows & Vogues," over the weekend. I have been told his performance is amazing.
ML: Your daughter Shayne was on "The Bachelor," right?
ML: Yes. She was sitting in Starbucks at the Grove [an outdoor shopping mall in Los Angeles] when she was approached to do the show. She is an actress, so she wasn't sure if she should do it or not. I told her to go for it. I said she'd have an adventure, she'd get to travel, and she'd get to meet people. I wanted her to have fun with it!
She was one of the last people to be cast, so two days later, she was whisked off to London and I didn't have any communication with her for two months. She had a great time. She made great friendships -- she is still very close with many of those girls to this day.
Shayne was the winner of "The Bachelor: London Calling," and Matt asked her to marry him. It was a relationship that the public loved. They loved Shayne and Matt together. But they ended up breaking up in the end. The tabloids did not tell the full story. I feel they both really tried, but you're not going to see the real side of somebody when you are dating on camera. What interested her in the first place was that he wasn't interested in show business. He was a banker. But then once the show was over, he got an agent and a manager and wanted to be a TV host. Who emerged was a total different person than the man I met on the hometown date.
ML: Tell us about your youngest daughter.
Michele: From the day she was born, Dakota has been an old soul. We can't believe she is the baby of the family ... she's always been so logical. The kid is incredibly smart, and she's so down to earth. On the E! website, they call her the "moral compass" of the family.
ML: You and Lorenzo seem to have a great relationship. Do you have advice for other single moms on getting along with their exes?
Michele: If one person shuts a door, you have to keep banging on it. If you have to kick it down, you kick it down. There's a lot of bitterness that goes along with a divorce. If your ex marries someone you don't agree with, that's tough, too.
I saw the interview with Kate Gosselin, "Kate: Her Story." I have watched "Jon and Kate Plus 8" from the beginning. I didn't always like how Kate treated Jon on the show, but I think she has handled herself beautifully during the divorce. She has held her head up high, and has never spoken ill of Jon. She has class about the whole thing. Your kids are going to grow up someday, and they are going to see all these things you said. That's why I think she is doing such a great job.
When I divorced Lorenzo, it was a bad divorce. There were a lot of false things reported. I got a lot of offers to do interviews, but I knew my kids would grow up and read these things. If the parents are bickering, it makes it worse on the kids. I don't think people realize how stressful it is for kids to see their parents fighting.
Kids don't want to hear "Your dad is this, your dad is that." That made me close the door to my own mother, so I've always had to remember to just keep those feelings to myself. Never let your kids hear what you think about your ex. It's very damaging.
ML: Lorenzo's ex-wife, Shauna Sand, has a sex tape out. Has that been hard on your family?
Michele: Well, from day one, it was the outfits, the Playboy ... My son had a very embarrassing time of it when she appeared in Playboy. It's a tough thing, it is. All I have to say about that is: I hope it was worth it for her. Really. I mean, I don't know. [Sigh] It's just something that ... my head doesn't even go to that place. It's unfathomable to me. I don't get it.
I feel bad for the little kids. They're my kids' little sisters. And I feel bad for Lorenzo. But she is no longer my children's stepmother. I think that makes it a lot easier to remove ourselves.
The whole thing is just a mess. Some people just don't think too much, especially when there are kids involved.
I saw that Lorenzo was quoted somewhere as saying what a decent mom Shauna is. He said he doesn't want to bash his kids' mom in the press, which I respect.
The proof is in the pudding. Let's see years from now how their kids are going to feel about it. Lorenzo is such a big part of their lives, and their kids are going to ask the questions eventually.
But let's put it this way: He married this woman. Have you ever had an ex who turned into someone other than you thought he was? You bring them into your family's lives, and then you think, "Why did I do this? This is not someone I would want around my children." You have that guilt.
See Michele and her family on "Leave It to Lamas" Sundays at 10:30/9:30c on E!