'Marriage Boot Camp': Mama June tries to mend fences with Sugar Bear

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Thursday, December 3, 2015

Mama June Shannon was a dedicated fan of WE-TV's "Marriage Boot Camp" featuring marriage counselors Jim and Elizabeth Carroll.

So after she had problems with her long-time squeeze Mike "Sugar Bear" Thompson, she was happy to join the show when they offered earlier this year.  The episodes were taped in the spring and will debut on Friday, December 4 at 9 p.m.

"I knew this show was unscripted and raw. I wanted to get answers," she said. "And I want him to be more honest."

She had been with Sugar Bear for more than 11 years but the couple had never been officially married.

Mama June is pretty transparent and she says today, six months later, she and Sugar Bear continue to live apart but she isn't dating anybody else and sees him every weekend.

"You can't fix everything in 15 days," she said. "It's a work in progress."

She said she deeply values trust and honesty. "Sooner or later, your lies will catch up to you. That's no fun," she said. And though he claims he didn't physically cheat on her, she considers texts and talking to other women cheating.

Last year, TLC dropped "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" after revelations came out that she had reconnected with Mark McDaniel, a man who allegedly molested one of her daughters. She said that issue is addressed but it wasn't the major problem in their marriage. In fact, she said she took no responsibility for Sugar Bear's cheating.

"I didn't make him cheat," she said. "He chose to cheat. People are responsible for their own behavior."

And while Sugar Bear was quiet on "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," she said viewers will see a more emotional side of him on "Marriage Boot Camp."

"When he comes clean about everything, some housemates were shocked," she said.

In the first episode, which I screened, Mama June admits they were not having sex and Sugar Bear acknowledged frustration with that. (This issue was also brought on "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.")

She promises the series will help reveal "the truth and rumors will be laid to rest. That will be a great thing."

She and her family (minus Sugar Bear) last year moved out of their cramped 1,300-square-foot home in McIntyre, the one featured on "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" and ended up in Hampton, where she has family. Her new home is far more spacious: 4,000 square feet, five bedrooms, three baths. And being the frugal person she is, she proudly said she got a deal for it since it was a foreclosure.

She doesn't miss the McIntyre house but misses the residents there. She still donates money to a McIntyre charity that gives toys out for the holidays to impoverished families there.

Mama June was surprised to see three other Georgians on this season's cast: former "Love and Hip Hop Atlanta" stars Benzino (Raymond Scott) and fiance Althea Heart, plus Jimmy "Inkman" Coney, who is dating a "Bad Girls Club" star Sarah Oliver.

Although she felt some folks were in the house only for the money ("Some of them rubbed me the wrong way"), she liked the locals. She attended Benzino's Crab Trap opening in July. (My story of that surreal day here.) And Ink gave Mama June's daughter Jessica (who went by Chubbs on the TLC show) a new tattoo to cover up another one.

"I see Benzino and Althea arguing and I feel they have gone through what we've been through. We're the same people!" she said.

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

While Mama June does miss some aspects of "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," she said her daughter Alanah (the breakout star who went by Honey Boo Boo) probably misses it more. "She loves the attention," Mama June said.

The fame, Mama June said, has enabled them to travel and meet people they otherwise would never have met. She said she has no regrets about the TLC  and is not enveloped in bitterness over her show being dropped.

"Life goes on," she said. "There were great people at TLC. I think they did some things wrong but you can't go back and change it. It's their loss."

TV PREVIEW

"Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars," 9 p.m. Fridays, WE-TV, starting December 4, 2015