From T.V to UnBroken
From T.V to UnBroken
Top Questions I'm asked about the "TV" part of my life.
How did you guys get put on TV?
Was the show real?
Did yall really do all that stuff?
Do you miss being on TV?
I've gotten these questions a lot over the years since the show has ended. Unfortunately, there is no short answer that really tells the whole truth but I'll wing it.
Here: Marketing luck.
Real as in a real tv show, yes.
Still have questions? I thought you might. So, how did we get put on the magic box? Well, we basically just did our jobs. I mean, it's not like we were trying to get put on television when we filmed the video that would ultimately be the reason for our future rise to stardom. We were just trying to pay the bills. By the time we started to put out videos, we had already been through a few business failures. Lights out, no place to build a kind of failures. We did quality work, well, he did. I didn't touch a tool to a gun for many years after the video. I did, however, manage the sales books and the range and we got a paycheck here and there. My father always talked about the ultimate goal. He was dreaming big and selling it to me pretty well. We started doing things to get attention for a boost in sales, ultimately it worked.
Will slept in the office and ate over his bench. He did that for years. Carton of Marlboro Lights a week. two pots of coffee a day. When he wasn't building he was on "The forums" talking to the people who would become some of his biggest buyers. Atlantic Firearms. Mississippi Auto arms.. He was building relationships with them. We even talked about "Building his online character" so that it would help push a few sales. He thought if people liked him they may try out his work; and as far as he was concerned he was the best builder outside of Tony, a master and the owner of Tromix firearms, and " maybe one or two of those other guys". Once the work was in the people's hands he knew it would sell. One thing I have noticed in "Men's World" is that arrogance is often confused with confidence. Confidence has never had to be so loud.
He was right about getting attention and increasing sales though. One of those big names on the boards decided to take on the risk of asking a cocky newcomer to put together an order. I think it was like 20 kit builds or something like that, all I really remember was that we had our first big order. The bills got paid. The guns got built and shipped. They were very well done.
We started to put together the videos around that time. It was just really videos proving his stuff worked. The video that got the producers' attention was a 6-second video of Will doing a test fire after being up most of the night trying to work out the kinks. His hair was a mess, he had a smoke in his mouth and he was wearing his famous bunny slippers. The video wouldn't make it to Discovery's eyes for quite a few years but when it did they loved it. I should have been wary of any group of people who found that old video and said, "Yep, that's our guy!". One time during filming I remember one of the producers saying "Everyone loves to watch a train wreck' and with a shake of his head he turned away and continued a scene that didn't exactly make our family look like the best in the world.
Question two and three are pretty closely related so let's not waste words. I'm not sure if I'm under some contract with Disco or not anymore, to be honest, but I can tell people to use their heads. Yes, of course we really had the ability to build the things we showed. We had to be able to back up our claims once people were in front of us or we would have been called out as frauds the first time a guy at a gun show asked us the right question. We wore microphones constantly and they did have the right to film us at any time, however, I want you to ponder this. You have a home security system, you need to find out who was in your yard while you were gone. You were gone for a week on a family vacation. How long would it take you to find the person? Filming reality tv is kinda like that. You can't just film everything or you'd end up with tons of useless trash to wade through to put together anything that a viewer would want to watch. The film has to tell a story, or you guys, the audience, won't watch. I didn't really feel a need to talk about the show a whole lot because what was done on the show isn't really all that important when we are talking about reality. The show had a budget to blow and we had explosives. We put them together and made for some entertaining tv. We had a rock-solid formula that most of the new shows today are still using, and we made it all the way to number one. We even did some good for some truly amazing people along the way. What you saw was not our lives though. It included almost nothing of our real, day to day lives. That's probably because we didn't let them. I was terrified of the world already. My debut on tv was anything but a glamorous feeling. I was attacked for my looks, for what I did and any other thing nasty people could come up with. I had people talking for me every time I turned my head. My weight became such a topic of discussion that I was asked by one of the production team to start taking diet pills. We were working day and night, we had tons of family issues we were basically just ignoring. I was trying to raise two kids and build a new relationship. I think you all saw .02% of any of that and we were all happy about it. We were already the rednecks with guns from the south, we didn't need to be handing out ammo to the critics. Not to mention the way the media and particular individual behaved towards me after the news of my fathers offenses broke, I can only imagine how social media would have taken some of our real-life dramas. When I look back I'm still amazed at how far I've come as a person since those days. How that pain almost crippled me but instead I got kinda ticked off at the idea of that and decided to keep walking.
Now for that final "top question I'm asked all the damn time" Do I miss it? Well, that's a little harder to answer. I miss parts of it I suppose. I miss the abilities that being on tv gives you. When you are on TV and you want to help someone you can post a link and thousands of people will help you to help them. I was able to help out a wonderful family by doing just that. When you are not, people wonder what scam you are trying to pull. I miss being able to build things, come up with crazy ideas and finding out they actually work. I don't miss the pressure though. I don't miss being told what to do or how to talk or what to wear all the time. I don't miss 18 hour days. I don't miss the screaming. The rage when things didn't go right. The manipulation. The things I didn't even see until much later, once I had moved on in my life. I had the ability to look back with clear eyes. Really examine what happened over my life.
Many people ask if I miss the money at least. I don't think people realize how much money I didn't make doing the show. There's this thing online that tells you what your net worth is, and let me tell you, it's wrong. Very wrong. At least it was in my case. At one point it had me worth almost a million I think. Funny thing is I was still trying to make sure the bills got paid. I had never really been on my own, he, my father, was always there; planning my next day. This was no different. He had a beautiful plan for all the money that we were ALL making. Do you remember the scene in 'The Lion King" when Scar is telling his henchmen hyenas the plan to kill the king, and they all get excited until Scar reminds them they "won't get a sniff without him"? When I look back, that's what I'm reminded of. For the first season, he was even taking the guys' money. He had some elaborate reasoning that he was able to convince everyone that was the best plan of action for the betterment of the company, but strangely enough, he got paid. He was good, but not that good. He started to hate on the guys when they decided to take matters in their own hands and get separate contracts with Discovery. I know, I should have done the same, I didn't but I did start asking questions and wanted some real changes. He saw that coming I guess because he started giving me a "Talent check" for each episode without much fight. I also got a bit of a raise. I was making $3k a month. My talent check was about 5k per episode. That's not what I was supposed to get but I didn't find that out until after it was all over. No matter now, but it's always bothered me that people thought I had gotten rich. I never felt like my situation had changed much. Sure, I was able to go to dinner and take family vacations, but it felt more like I had moved from poverty to the bottom of the middle class. Not like I was a small-town girl that had just been launched into a number one television show on a major network. I had a shirt with my face on it and I never saw a dime for it. The little I did get, didn't make it past the first day in my hands.
He decided as soon as we started getting talent checks that Kris and I were going to buy the land next to his. He sold us both on the idea of a family complex. Kris thought it was a great idea and if you were to ask anyone else they would tell you I seemed to agree. I had a bad feeling about it from the beginning, however, especially when he already had papers drawn and had already set up everything for us. The amount we would be paying for our new plot of untouched wilderness equaled exactly what we received in talent payments each month to get a fast pay off. It was all but done, written up, and I hadn't even seen the land. He had this dream of a fort and a simple life. He knew, just knew, the show wasn't going to last very much longer so he wanted us to have something solid to use for collateral. I won't lie I had red flags going off all over the place but I let my "smallness" keep me from speaking up. I had never felt so much like "Alice" in my life. My world was being built around me and I was in a fishbowl watching it happen, wearing that porcelain mask for everyone to see. I just kept moving, the days at work and on set were so long and hard you didn’t have time to think about it all too much anyway.
I can't say that I didn't enjoy my life at this time. Hindsight is always 20/20 and yes, I'd probably make some changes if I could do it all over again, Ok, I definitely would, but when it was happening, I can't say I didn't get excited, or that I wasn't happy for a while. It was nice to look around and think for just a moment that I may get to have a normal life in a decent house that I owned with my kids and my husband and my dogs. I had never even considered that before. I never saw myself climbing out of financial death enough to ever have such things. It was just a trailer. It wasn't even a real house but it was the best trailer you could build. All the bells and whistles. We even had a large porch built on the back.
Even then I knew I should have been doing much better financially for what we were doing, I didn't know what to do about it. My father had all the lawyers "working on it". So I just kept going on with life. I went to work and I did the shows. I had a lot of fun when I was the girl from the show, at home things were different. I was a mom, I was tired, I hated my body, the clothes piled up and I had no idea how to deal with it. I had nannies that worked for me in exchange for housing at times but it was still very difficult to keep up with everything. I hadn't talked to my outside family in years it turns out...
It was always very strange. I felt like I had this double life. I was just me, the same me as always, but when we went out I was "the girl from that show". I got so sick of hearing that, I wasn't just some girl on a show. I was Stephanie, I deserved a name.. I had to behave as if I had a camera on me at all times because a lot of times I did. I became really distracted with life “on the show”. I believed that we were "this close to breaking over the threshold" as my father kept saying. Life was going to be what it was supposed to be for once. I had so many plans for things I wanted to do once we started making money like those "Other reality stars" that I was promised was right around the corner, but never came. I've learned a hard lesson since those days and because of those days I never get too excited about anything until after it's done. I trust God and believe that as long as I do good to others I’ll at least be happy. I may not be rich or free of troubles but that's ok. I learned to keep my happiness without those things. Not like I've ever had them before.
I guess the point is that my life wasn't even seen in a real light when it had cameras and microphones plugged into it. Things haven't changed much, to be honest, I think I'm just more comfortable with who I am now. I had this moment of thought. I was in the worst of places spiritually after all the news broke and I had begun to realize all the threads that built the web I was currently unraveling. I was angry with God and wanted to meet with my maker. Hash things out in person. Ask him why all the things in my life had happened to me. The more I thought about what I wanted to say the more my darkness started to shift. I began to feel ridiculous for letting these atrocities affect one more moment of my life. This was a good while after the media lashing I got from the news and I was still hiding in my room. I didn't come out for months and I contemplated never coming out again.
So I'm going to stick with a mostly "No", and hope you understand.