By Michael Tillery
The Christies are a great example of what love should be. In a society where people flip flop in and out of marriages, they are the constant. They project strength that is refreshing to see. It has to be very difficult being a celebrity couple, but they do what works for them. During a recent trip to Vegas for Chris Webber’s charity weekend, Bada Bling, I was able to observe their interaction with other people. I can say personally that the media’s negative characterization of them is incorrect. Jackie wasn’t overbearing at all. Doug certainly wasn’t put off by her being there. There were scantily clad women everywhere – Vegas is what it is – and her reaction to people seemed very genuine. It put a smile on my face to see them dance, laugh and smile with one another. At times you could see the separation from everything that was going on when they shared private moments. Taking it all in moments. You could surely see that they are indeed best friends. They are their own entity and their picture of love is what every couple in this world needs to view.
The reality show will air on DirecTV’s new network, BET J on channel 330 starting October 5th at 10 PM EST. They recently gave me an interview via telephone to in part dispel the negative perception of their rock solid relationship.
Michael Tillery: What is the main objective of the reality show?
Jackie: It’s called “The Christies Committed.” It’s about my husband and I. It really shows how committed to our relationship we are. You can look at it in different ways. Because he’s a pro basketball player, the cameras follow him showing what his day is like. It also shows what our life is really like and hopefully it will dispel some of the misconceptions and rumors of how we carry ourselves.
Michael Tillery: Why are you so close? What’s the secret to your marriage? It’s obvious that there is love between the two of you.
Jackie: I would have to say that my husband is just a real loving guy. We have a saying that we are committed to the commitment we made to each other on July 8, 1996. He made me a promise that day that I would never have to go through what some of the ladies (who are married to pro athletes) go through in terms of infidelity. That he would be devoted and committed to what we are sharing. He’s always lived up to that and I have too. The secret is that we put each other first and foremost. Other things that we have going on in our lives in terms of basketball, the clothing business and anything else is all secondary. That all means a lot to us obviously, but we mean more to each other.
Michael Tillery: What are your favorite things about each other?
Doug: I would say the favorite thing about my wife is that I know she has my back in any and everything that we do. That’s a love that you can’t buy, you can’t find just anywhere. I’ve been blessed. I know at the end of the day that I love her and she loves me. That gives me a peace that I can’t even explain.
Jackie: I would say his strength and knowing that he is the leader of this family. Quite the contrary to what people want to believe, my husband does wear the pants. He leads and he leads by a great example. His ability to be a leader is definitely my favorite thing about him.
Michael Tillery: What was it like having cameras around the house? Did you find yourselves altering your personalities for the sake of the show?
Doug: I would say not. At the very beginning, the first day or so, it was different because they we right there. After awhile we started just being ourselves. There are a lot of reality shows that are scripted. It wasn’t a problem at all. We found that as the day goes on sometimes it gets long because they are there when you go to sleep and when you get up in the morning.
Michael Tillery: Where and when did you meet? How long have you been together? Do you have children?
Jackie: We were together for about two and a half years on and off. Doug played for the Knicks and I lived in Seattle. We had a daughter during that time. He always said the he would never get married, but he surprised me and said “You know where I wanna go? I just don’t know how to get there. I would love to get married. Do you wanna marry me?” I told him yes and four days later we were married. We met in Seattle at a sports bar—Jerseys—and a mutual friend told us both that he had the perfect person for each of us. We have a son that’s six. A daughter that’s thirteen. We have another daughter from a prior relationship of mine that Doug adopted.
Michael Tillery: Why do you think so many relationships in sports and entertainment fail?
Doug: I wouldn’t pigeonhole it to being just about sports. American marriages are failing because of the lack of commitment. To be able to love your spouse regardless of their failings instead of just giving up is what is just not there. People get married and then become unhappy because their spouse does things that they don’t like. Everyone has a different way of doing things. If you truly love someone, then you are going to stick with them and fight through it. You can’t trade your spouse in like a car. The thing that my wife and I have done is being committed to the commitment. I’m not perfect and she’s not perfect. The bottom line is that we love each other. If you love each other and hold each other down you can go to sleep every night with a comfort that will help you be prosperous in what ever you do throughout your day. If you have that mentality of just getting a quick fix, then you life is going to be a continuous unhappy cycle.
Jackie: Part of my not lashing out at the media is that I had to trust and believe that what my husband tells me is true. When I see him walk the walk every day it gives me an assurance that I know I’m not that person that the media tries to make me out to be. I’ll take that misconception if it means that us as African Americans—especially—can be happy. In the long run people will see that Doug says who he is and I am who I say that I am. We’re just a loving couple. We enjoy each other. He’s my best friend. I’m not changing for no one. We’re gonna keep our thing the way it is. We’ve been married ten years so obviously something is right.
Michael Tillery: Individually, how do you think your spouse is portrayed? What is the truth?
Doug: I personally feel that the way my wife is portrayed is unfair. Being an African American woman it’s hard because you are put down the pole. So for her to be strong in this day and age—especially in sports. The media seems to look at her in a negative way. Her strength makes me a stronger man. Society seems to say she’s domineering and she’s overbearing and all these other things. She loves her family. She loves her husband and she’s trying to support us in every way that she can. I do the same for her and that mutual respect is misunderstood by society at large. It’s unfortunate, but it is what it is.
Jackie: I agree with my husband 100%. A lot of times I think people don’t understand because it hasn’t been done in sports. Everyone has this perception that athletes are players—have a bunch of woman and a wife at home. We’re just being ourselves. We never set out to be different. People noticed right away because Doug loves his family and doesn’t give into a perceived peer pressure or what societal expectation of what an athlete should be. He respects himself. He eats well, takes care of his body and does what he has to do to maintain focus when he’s out there on the court. They always want to ask, “Is your attention there?” Which is ridiculous. It’s definitely there. It also helps me to maintain focus because they (media) want him to be about all the fanciness and all of the women. It’s a grounding thing for all of us.
Michael Tillery: Doug, athletes are getting younger and younger. What kind of advice would you give athletes to help them balance the fame with the responsibility of having a relationship if they choose early on to get into one?
Doug: First and foremost, you have to respect yourself. You can’t bring anything to anybody if you don’t have that respect. How can you expect someone else to respect you if you don’t have that respect. If you go out and see someone that catches your eye, you are gonna come correct to them if you have that respect. In turn, if they are worth it, they will respect themselves and that’s the basis. What ever seed you plant is the fruit that you are gonna reap. If you start with something good, you are gonna end up with something good.
Jackie: I would tell women that to get into a relationship with a pro athlete, they are going to hear all kind of rumors and horror stories about the expectations that people have on your man. Athletes put up a facade because they don’t know how people are coming at them. If you truly love who you are with then you are going to have to trust. They are human beings. There are going to be things that you have to work through. You have to look at them like they are a normal hard working person who is not in the limelight. I love Doug for his soul. You have to see if you are on the same wavelength and forget about all the glamour that comes with basketball. If the athlete that you are with has problems respecting themselves, then lead by example and show them how to do it. A lot of the NBA wives ask me questions and I tell them that they have something special with who they are with and to stick with it. Even the ones who aren’t married, I tell them that if they do the right thing they will be married one day. Some men know what they want, they just don’t know the route to get there. Ignore the media and ignore negative people, because they are going to always be there and come at you in different ways.
Michael Tillery: There has been much said about the decline of the Black family. In your opinion, how do you think media images play a part in how our youth view relationships?
Doug: I would say that the media automatically plays to negative stereotypes. You don’t see the Black nuclear family like the Cosby’s and that didn’t happen until the eighties. Your mental image is always something that isn’t you. It’s hard for you to grasp that image. I’ve been blessed to find my wife who has the same image and vision. She understood that I just wanted to love and be with her. It enabled me to find the strength that I never saw in society. It’s unfortunate that our children continue to go through that. They don’t have a good knowledge of self. They don’t have a good example to look in the mirror and say “I’m beautiful” because beauty here in America is shown in a totally different light. They need to know that they are beautiful. You can love, you can be whatever you want to be. It can be that fairy tale if you are with someone and it doesn’t have to be what you see on television. It can be what you create yourself.
Michael Tillery: Jackie, how does it make you feel that there really aren’t many positive images associated with Black women? i.e. Cheerleaders, commercials, music videos.
Jackie: It bothers me quite a bit. I’ve modeled for quite a while in my life. It bothers me because I have daughters and one of them is an aspiring model who has done a lot of things. I try to instill in them all the time that they are beautiful and to have a certain sense of confidence in their wonderful appearances. The picture of beauty in this country is the Caucasian woman and it’s shoved down your throat. Beauty comes from the inside. A lot of it comes from low self esteem. Now they are saying that AIDS is a Black disease and Black women are loose. Some women feel that they have to do things with all these gentlemen. It’s a shame. They don’t feel pretty and they don’t feel loved. I tell my girls or whoever asked me to be a diamond in the rough. Don’t give in to what society says you should look like. This is for all women. Be who you are and be proud.
Michael Tillery: What do the hand signals to your wife during the games represent?
Doug: It just represents that I love her. She’s so loved. It turned into something I do more and more. It also helps me stay grounded out there. Life is bigger than basketball. As much as I love basketball, I love my wife and my family that much more. It’s something special for her. I think that bothers people too, because it’s something they can’t do anything about. It is what it is. I love her.
Michael Tillery: Do you see yourselves as role models?
Doug: No question. First it starts with our household—being role models for our children. The more we are seen the more we become role models. You can’t look at yourself as anything else. The self respect we hold dear affects our children first and then hopefully the people that see us out there.
Michael Tillery: What’s the aim of your foundation?
Jackie: The name of our foundation is the Doug and Jackie Christie Infinite Love Foundation. Our mission is to help as many people as we can. We don’t have a specific group. So many people out there need help. Wherever we are needed that’s where we will be. We’ve done a lot of things for various children’s hospitals. We’ve done a lot of work with Seattle Millionaires Club. We just want to have kind hearts and big hearts. Part of the reason why we wanted to do this reality show is to raise funds for charity. We figured if some members of the media are going to paint negative images of us, then we are going to flip it and use this opportunity to help people. Depending on how long the show will run, we are going to do a lot of different and positive things through our charity.
Michael Tillery: Jackie, what are your fashion aspirations?
Jackie: I tell Doug that he’s a fashion icon because he draws a lot of the designs. He does the men’s line and I do the women’s and then we collaborate. We are definitely going to take it to another level. We were just in New York for fashion week. That was our first time and that was awesome. We can’t say we are better, but we have a lot to offer the fashion world so we are going to continue sketching and moving forward with fresh ideas. Doug is going to come up with a name for his line. Mine is Jackie Christie.
Michael Tillery: Doug what’s going on with your career? What should your legacy be?
Doug: I’m working out right now. Hopefully by training camp we’ll be signed. It’s just the business end that’s holding me up right now. If I was writing about myself, I would say that I’m just a good teammate and a good all around player. Not just defensive or offensive and plays the game of basketball the way it’s supposed to be played. I can do a little bit of everything. You give basketball justice when you try to do everything as well as you can.
Michael Tillery: What is your favorite basketball moment?
Doug: That’s a tough one. I would have to say—even though we lost—the Lakers series. Especially game seven. It was a heart breaking game. I think I learned so much about myself and about the game. That was one of my biggest highlights. It was awesome just being involved in that. That’s what the game is all about. Playing hard until the end.
Doug and Jackie Christie, we appreciate the voice.
Michael Tillery is a Maryland writer. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org