No judgments! Shereé Whitfield opened up exclusively to Life & Style about her unconventional relationship with boyfriend Tyrone Gilliams, who’s currently serving a 10-year sentence in federal prison for an alleged white-collar crime. Though her romance has raised a few eyebrows among the Real Housewives of Atlanta cast, Shereé revealed that her children are surprisingly cool with it.
“They don't know deep, deep details [about our relationship], but they do know that I'm talking to a guy that's incarcerated,” the mom-of-three — who shares son Kairo, 21, and daughter Kaleigh, 18, with ex-husband Bob Whitfield, and eldest daughter Tierra, 30, with a previous partner — said. “My daughter said she's not gonna judge, and I kind of try and teach them don't judge a book by its cover. You can't be defined by your past or things that you've done, and I teach them that as well. If you made a mistake, that's OK as long as you learn from your mistake and do better.”
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Despite the negative comments made about Shereé’s relationship with Tyrone — ahem, we’re looking at you, NeNe Leakes! — the “Who Gon’ Check Me Boo” songstress, 47, remains unbothered. “I love that guy. He's my best friend,” she gushed to Life & Style, adding that she isn’t opposed to becoming Mrs. Gilliams one day. “I feel like he's my soulmate and I definitely see a bright future for us.”
Sparks first started flying between longtime pals Shereé and Tyrone years ago, after the RHOA beauty finalized her divorce from Bob, 46, in 2007. After pressing pause on their romance for four years, the duo reconnected and dated for eight months until the Atlanta businessman was put behind bars. “He was sentenced to 10 years for wire fraud and securities fraud. He's actually fighting it now and anyone who’s, of course, incarcerated — it's harder to fight when you're inside as [opposed] to when you're on the street,” Shereé explained. “So it's definitely taken much longer than he's anticipated, but there was a new filing recently by his attorneys and he's hoping to have another trial and he can get out way sooner.”
Until then, the Wives, Fiancées, and Side-Chicks of Hotlanta author is doing her best to keep her and Tyrone’s love alive. Their physical distance may be frustrating at times, but — according to Shereé — their limited communication has unexpectedly provided an opportunity to get to know each other on a much deeper level.
“They give him 15 minutes [on the phone]. However, he can call throughout the day, we email all throughout the day — I mean, I get 15 to 25 emails from him a day, so I spend a lot of time on the computer and it's almost like reading love letters. It's almost like The Notebook or something,” she said. “I probably need to start saving them because it's really like a cute little love story. I almost feel like it's like a long-distance relationship."
Shereé continued, “But again, we do nothing but communicate. We've taken time to really get to know each other on a much more intimate level where a lot of couples don't do that…We’ve taken a couple of years to get to know each other. I feel like there's nothing he doesn't know about me and I don't know about him.”
While she was initially hesitant about sharing her and Tyrone’s relationship with viewers, the Bravolebrity eventually realized that she might be able to help others by addressing the situation on RHOA. “I was kind of on the fence about it. It's something where I was kind of like, 'Do I do this?' but you know, I talked to other people and I realize that I'm not the only one who deals with this," Shereé told Life & Style. "It's so many people that have a friend, a friend of a friend, or a family member, or a loved one that is incarcerated — and it's nothing that I need to be ashamed of."
"Because honestly, openly I love this man, and I should not be ashamed of something that happened to him and he's fighting,” she added. “But I feel like [sharing my story] can help other people as well. And we are on a reality show and I say this, that I feel like I've always shown my reality — where it's the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs on Bravo Mondays at 8 p.m. EST.