Nia Long had no idea how much love she was surrounded by — until she was at her lowest.
The “You People” star is candidly reflecting on her split from Ime Udoka, the former Boston Celtics coach who allegedly cheated on her with a staffer. She told rapper Jeezy in an interview Tuesday she was genuinely stunned by the overwhelming support for her.
“I had to realize everything that happened in the last year and a half shouldn’t have nothing to do with me,” said Long. “I was not embarrassed. The way that Black people stood up for me, the way that Black women were like, ‘Oh no, you don’t do that to her,’ I was shocked.”
She added: “I didn’t realize that what I had done in my career had so much impact.”
Long established herself as everyone’s favorite girl next door with roles in “Friday” (1995) and “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” Her continued success has made her a role model for young Black actors — and an object of affection for numerous rappers who grew up watching her.
Udoka, meanwhile, led the Celtics to the NBA Finals in his inaugural year as head coach during the 2021-2022 season. The team eventually suspended Udoka, who issued a public apology to the Celtics and his fiancée. He now coaches the Houston Rockets.
Long, who shares an 11-year-old son with her ex-fiancé, shared earlier this year how “devastating” the scandal really was.
“I think I’m exactly where I need to be,” she said Tuesday. “Which is, some days I’m like totally good and then other days I’m like, ‘Oh God this feels like so much work.’ I feel that, you know. And then other days it feels like women shouldn’t have to be this strong.”
Long continued: “I don’t want to be this strong sometimes.”
Jeezy, who spoke openly about his own divorce, said these emotional trials are harder for Black women — who’ve been forced to be strong within a white-dominant culture. Long herself recently slammed the Celtics for how the organization handled the scandal.
“Black people have survived insurmountable obstacles,” she told Jeezy. “The journey of being Black in America is not easy. And I’m not a victim to any of it, but I’m realistic to the journey. I know how I am treated differently in certain situations.”
“I understand that I have to raise my boys to be men,” she continued.
Long previously alleged Udoka has “failed” to provide support for their son, but acknowledged Tuesday the importance of letting people go if they’re unwilling to grow.
She added that the hardest thing is “to walk away from someone that you still love.”