Dawn of a New Era

My least favorite part of being on the show was dealing with people on social media. I call it 'Twitter Balls' Photo Courtesy: Jamie Ford
The amazing Dawn Neufeld is more than meets the eye. Photo Courtesy: Jamie Ford

By Amber LaFrance

TV personality. Pageant beauty. Attorney. Hot Mom. Wife of Tight End Ryan Neufeld. You may have caught a glimpse of her Mrs. America Pageant (you could call it the “Foxy Wives Club”), on KTXD’s The Broadcast talk show, or on VH1’s Football Wives, the name Dawn Neufeld might ring a bell. But, did you know she was a force in the courtroom as well? This quintuple-threat is not only beautiful, she’s incredibly smart. After visiting with Dawn, our favorite quality was how refreshingly down-to-Earth she turned out to be.

Dawn isn’t new to the TV circuit, we soon learned. “I’ve been doing TV-related things since I was little. I always had a passion for acting. Since I was a little girl, I actually thought my first car was going to be a limo because I wanted to be a movie star when I grew up!” The native Californian was bitten by the acting bug at a young age and even trained early on with the Al Fann Theatrical Ensemble and Kevin McDermott’s Center Stage L.A., which led her to landing  several roles in TV shows and plays across the state. Always focused on not just being pretty, but smart and  educated as well, Dawn took a break in junior high and high school to focus on academics (so she could get into a good college of course). During her stint at UCLA, the college beauty became incredibly interested in journalism and media, going on to finish her first degree in Communication Studies.

One degree just wasn’t enough for the Cali girl. After landing a coveted spot in UC Davis’ prestigious law school,  Dawn went on to become a force in the courtroom while practicing law at the L.A.-based firm Ivie, McNeil and Wyatt before moving to Buffalo, N.Y., with her college sweetheart and new husband Ryan, a talented football tight end.

“Even though I could have taken advantage of the industry in L.A., I decided I wanted to focus on my studies,” said Dawn, “I was really influenced by movies and television! I loved the stories about tough lawyers protecting the little guys, or girls you could say, from the big guys. Shows like L.A. Law made me want to go to law school to understand what justice was all about.” The seriously smart law student passed the California State Bar Exam on her first try.

Her husband Ryan, who played for our very own Dallas Cowboys in 1999, was picked up by the Buffalo Bills in 2003, prompting Dawn to get back into the limelight. “It wasn’t until we got to Buffalo, surprisingly, when I met my former acting coach Frank Rossi. Being in his classes renewed my passion for acting and being on film.” Rossi, Dawn’s acting guru, has coached hundreds of actors in New York and Los Angeles including stars who’ve appeared in Safe with Jason Statham, Adventureland with Kristin Stewart, How I Met Your Mother, Days of Our Lives and American Reunion.

In 2007, Ryan’s career with the Bills came to an end and the Neufeld crew returned to Dallas.

“One of the great things about Dallas is that even though it’s a big city, you can feel a part of it…it feels like a town. You really feel like a part of the community here,” said Dawn, “We’re both from California and we knew we didn’t want to move back there. We fell in love with Frisco and stayed ever since!”

Itching to become a TV and movie star, Dawn dove head first into the local TV scene, all the while establishing her legal career in her new hometown.

“When I got back to Dallas, I was able to get an agent and was on a show called The Bike which was broadcast in restaurants across the country,” she said.

Always up for a challenge, Dawn started participating in beauty pageants as well. In 2009 after she had just taken the Texas Bar Exam, she was anxiously awaiting her results.

“It was driving me crazy, literally crazy,” she said. I figured I needed something to help me pass time. I had a 1 year old at the time and [I thought to myself] what better way to get back in shape than to wear a bikini on stage! That was when I decided to join the Mrs. America Pageant.”

It was a challenge for her, but it proved to be a wonderful way to stay in shape while bringing awareness to autism, a condition that her son faces, through a national platform. She continues to compete in pageants to this day.

“For some strange reason I keep going back. I love being around those woman, they are so positive and accomplished,” said Dawn. “It challenges me and I think that’s why I keep going back.”

In 2010, Football Wives came along and since her husband Ryan played for the NFL for seven years, she was an obvious candidate for the show. Reality was a big departure from her previous acting gigs. “Reality TV is hard! You’re forced to be very open sometimes and that’s uncomfortable,” she said, “There was a night where we filmed until 3 a.m. and I had to be in court the next morning at 8:30! Throughout this entire time I was still practicing law, so I was trying to find a balance between the two. Boy that was fun!”

Football Wives, picked up by VH1 in 2010, was hyper-focused on the wives and girlfriends behind the sport’s most elite players. The appeal of sneaking behind the scenes into the never-before-seen glamorous, and dramatic, lives of these football spouses was apparent. Starring on the show was All-Pro retired cornerback Deion Sanders’ eccentric wife Pilar, Dallas guard Leonard Davis’ wife Amanda, Denver/Cleveland/Detroit offensive lineman George Foster’s wife Chanita, Dallas kicker David Buehler’s girlfriend Brittany Pigrenet, retired receiver Rocket Ismail’s wife Melani, Dallas punter Mat McBriar’s wife Erin, Dallas running back Marion Barber’s ex Mercedes Nelson and of course Dawn Neufeld.

The show focused on the ladies who “live the life, drive the best cars, live in the biggest mansions, wear designer clothes and jewelry, and travel first class,” but it also showed the less glamorous side of these football wives who were constantly in the limelight. These ladies were constantly faced with their husband’s life-threatening injuries while sometimes struggling to pay their bills.

“Enjoy the experience, because that’s what it is,” said Dawn when asked about what she’d like to tell budding reality TV stars. “You get so caught up in the filming and the process that you forget to take it all in. Just keep it real and know at the end of the day [that] they will edit and piece together things to make story lines.”

Dawn continues to stay close with the girls on the show, except for Pilar, who some could call the most dramatic one of the bunch.

“Now, I could pick up the phone and call any of them, with the exception of Pilar; we didn’t get along at all,” Dawn said.

Living the lavish life during filming and creating new friendships with her fellow Wives was Dawn’s favorite part. Staying in five-star hotels with limo service during their cast trips to NYC can’t be all that bad.

Living your life in front of millions of viewers can have its ups-and-downs. “My least favorite part of being on the show was dealing with people on social media,” she said. “You can never prepare for cyber bullying. I call it ‘Twitter Balls’, people hiding behind the internet.”

Cyber bullies are a necessary evil for reality TV stars in the limelight, keeping up on social media is how you build your fan base and keep people tuned in to the show. Dawn recounts a particularly harsh cyber bullying moment, where a viewer attacked her and her autistic son Will.

“I had someone say to me on Twitter that my son Will was my karma for me being a bitch, she said. “It was horrible. Imagine that happening every day, a few times a day. If you wouldn’t say it to someone’s face, then you shouldn’t be saying it at all.

“The girls and I did eight episodes together and didn’t get signed for a second season, which was fine with me,” said Dawn.

The beautiful mom of two struggled with juggling her wifely duties, taking care of two children (one with autism), and maintaining her law practice, all while being filmed eight hours a day. “It all comes down to being authentic and staying true to who you are,” she said. “As long as you’re doing that, you’ll be the best person you can be and you will have no regrets.”

Many reality TV stars leave the set big-headed, with a reel of publicly humiliating moments, but Dawn’s experience was different. She remains refreshingly down-to-Earth and humble.

Post-Football Wives, Dawn continues to stay in front of the camera. A host and legal commentator on KTXD’s The Broadcast, she also frequently emcees charity  and community events and shows off her killer body in local beauty pageants. The reigning Mrs. Frisco America, the quintuple-threat also placed in the top five at the Mrs. Texas pageant, a pageant where America’s hottest wives compete. She’s a member of The Junior League of Dallas and always stays involved with a cause that’s close to her heart, Autism Speaks, an autism advocacy organization that sponsors research and conducts awareness and outreach activities.

She also continues to stay connected to her fellow football wives through a national association called Off the Field. This hot mom of two spends her time with her kids Will and Bryn, along with her husband Ryan, in her downtime while preparing to open her own practice that will focus on special education law.

“I’m also in the process of writing a book,” she told us during the interview. “It’s about what it’s like to be a football wife and the ups-and-downs of the lifestyle, what it’s like to have a son with autism, and how you need to believe there is always hope.” When we asked her the book’s release date, she giggled and said, “It’s still a work in progress!”