Shaunie Henderson Talks ‘Overwhelming’ Response to Her Memoir, Finding True ‘Love’ and Her 'Voice' (Exclusive)

The reality star and producer exclusively talks to PEOPLE about the release of her debut memoir, "Undefeated"

<p>Thaddaeus McAdams / WireImage</p> Shaunie Henderson on July 19, 2023

Thaddaeus McAdams / WireImage

Shaunie Henderson on July 19, 2023

Shaunie Henderson is living her best life.

On Tuesday, May 7, Henderson, 49, released her debut memoir, UNDEFEATEDChanging the Rules and Winning on My Own Termsvia Gallery Books, and the Basketball Wives star and executive producer tells PEOPLE the reception to her story from women who can relate has been inspiring.

"I have gotten an overwhelming amount of positive responses," says Henderson. "The ladies are feeling so empowered and so encouraged. I'm just very inspired."

The ex-wife of Shaquille O'Neal, Henderson says she's aware that naysayers will "sit back and say, 'Girl, how hard was it? You were married to this super rich man and probably had the best life ever,' " but she's unfazed by the critics.

"The journey that I had in this entire process was still very, very relatable. I still went through hurt. I still went through self-discovery. I still had to raise five kids, so it's just a relatable story and I believe it's empowering women to know that they can raise their voices and live in their purpose and walk in a feeling of just being undefeated," she explains.

Related: Shaunie Henderson Was ‘Nervous’ to Write About Ex Shaquille O'Neal in Upcoming Memoir (Exclusive)

The mother-of-five says that writing Undefeated helped her see her own journey in a more positive light. "Honestly, when I was writing the book and rehashing just life and my journey, I was like, 'Girl, you really did that. Okay. I'm proud of you.' Any challenge, I was able to take it and make it an opportunity to better myself," she continues.

Henderson and O'Neal, 52, married in 2002 and divorced in 2009, citing the former athlete's infidelity for the split. They share four children: sons Shareef and Shaqir and daughters Amirah and Me'arah. They also both parent son Myles, from Henderson's previous relationship, and O'Neal has a daughter, Taahirah, with his former girlfriend, Arnetta Yardbourgh.

Cassy Athena/Getty Shareef O'Neal (L) poses with Shaquille O'Neal (C) and Shaunie O'Neal (R) on Jan. 13, 2018
Cassy Athena/Getty Shareef O'Neal (L) poses with Shaquille O'Neal (C) and Shaunie O'Neal (R) on Jan. 13, 2018

Henderson writes about her marriage to O'Neal in Undefeated, but the book is by no means a tell-all or an exposè on the basketball legend. "My book is my truth," she says, adding that she's now focused on her future, especially after the cathartic experience of writing a memoir.

In 2022, she married pastor Keion Henderson, who she calls the "love of my life." She says it wasn't until her relationship with the pastor that she realized the difference between "loving someone" and "being in love with someone."

"I will be honest, I didn't realize that until I found the love of my life right now and I'm in this marriage. I'm like, oh my gosh. It's a different feeling," she explains.

<p>Gallery Books</p> Shaunie O'Neal's memoir

Gallery Books

Shaunie O'Neal's memoir

Related: Shaquille O'Neal and Ex Shaunie's Relationship Timeline

Henderson says releasing her memoir allowed her to find her "voice" and share that power with other women. "There were just so many different journeys where in the moment, I don't think I even was realizing that it's giving me a voice. But by the end of it, it was that eureka moment of like, 'Yeah, I had to give myself a voice.' I didn't realize I didn't have one," she says.

Beyond promoting her memoir and embarking on a 10-city book tour, Henderson says she's hard at work wrapping the 11th season of Basketball Wives before pre-production on season 12 begins "in a couple of weeks."

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She and her husband will also host a conference called Cry Out in Houston in June. The official site describes the three-day event as a "journey of spiritual renewal, personal breakthroughs, healing and wellness." The couple will also launch a new podcast, The Grow Zone, in the next few months.

This summer, she'll celebrate her second wedding anniversary with Keion before becoming an "official empty nester" as her daughter, Me'arah, prepares for her freshman year at the University of Florida to play basketball for the Gators.

"My baby girl will be going off to college the first week of June, so I can't say I'm looking forward to that part, but it's happening," she shares.

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