By Vanessa Torres: First interview since her national TV appearance on the Dr. Phil Show.
USA-(Ammoland.com)- In this first exclusive interview since her television appearance on Dr. Phil, we are speaking with Stephanie Hayden Ford, one of the stars of the former hit television show “Sons of Guns” on the Discovery Channel.
I asked her about the recent family drama that has surrounded their business, the current events at Red Jacket Firearms (RJF), and her plans for 2015.
Its clear that they are back in action after the abrupt end of her ten-year employment with RJF and their hit reality series.
Stephanie was very candid on how much she has grown in recent months with the unveiling of the struggles she had with her father, the past with Red Jacket and the growth of her new company with her husband. She has also found herself in new role, encouraging victims of abuse learn to overcome their fear of speaking out. Stephanie has turned into a positive role model for women all over the country, despite the negative attention from the press about her father and family issues. She told her truth exclusively to Dr. Phil, hoping that people would understand why she reacted the way she did about the initial allegations of sexual abuse by her father on her sister, but was highly criticized online regarding that initial statement stating that “nothing inappropriate ever happened in their home” when shortly thereafter, her sister’s story changed.
I asked her what she is doing these days and she quickly stated that she is “focused on running her new company and her business plans” for IAC Wargames: Airsoft Range & Event Facility for family style fun. They have been doing these types of events for a while with some of their airsoft fans and it naturally spills over into their ability to market products and provide training classes for newbie firearms owners.
Stephanie organizes and runs the events with her husband and former “Sons of Guns” co-star Kris Ford. She admits things have been really hard getting a new brand up and running, especially now having to overcoming the stigma surrounding the company and RJF, formerly her family brand.
However, stigma or no stigma…seems nothing is going to stop Stephanie from moving forward! She is a warrior woman that is for sure.
When asked about the situation currently at RJF, she stated something many fans don’t know already and was surprising even to some industry insiders.
“Red Jacket for the past few years, has been run by Joe Meaux. He has been the one making the final decisions on the day to day business operations and making plans to expand the RJF brand. I haven’t been working there at all for a couple of years now, except for filming the TV show. Joe recently took down the sign of RJF and put up his own for ‘Meaux Guns’. I’m concerned that people think this was a decision made by the shareholders, which I am still one, but we didn’t have anything to do with that. With the outstanding debts, back orders and other issues before and after my father being arrested, we haven’t been able to completely close RJF until those things are taken care of. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything to do with making those decisions anymore and wouldn’t expect that our assets would be used to start something new like that? Joe never technically fired us, but ever since he took over we haven't had a voice or able to make any positive impact. In Joe’s defense, it would be difficult to operate successfully with the influence of my father in the shop for anyone in his position.”
I just don’t know how to help fix anything at this point. It is what it is and we’re just trying to move on.”
I know a lot of people want to know…Why did you really make that initial statement in support of your father?
“Bottom line is I was expected to do it and I was pressured. My dad was hovering over my shoulder when he asked me to write that statement. I only did it for him because my sister had totally denied any abuse, which we all know that has changed and got him arrested. I also didn’t have time to get any advice on it.”
Stephanie says that after her second conversation with her sister, she decided that it was her duty to take a stand and reveal her truth. She stands firm on the facts she has reported and hasn’t done interviews, until now because others use that to try and taint the case. She isn’t worried that it will make a difference, but is still being careful.
Why did you choose to come out and tell your story on Dr. Phil?
“I wanted people who are in that situation to know that you can tell someone. You can get the support you need, you can get help. You just have to stay strong and don’t let opinions hurt more than the abuse. They are only words from people who don’t understand. Luckily, many people do and have come out with their own stories of abuse because of it. ”
Was it scary knowing the whole world was going to know what happened to you?
“I will be honest, it was terrifying to get behind a camera and come out with my story on Dr. Phil. My publicist arranged it because it was getting ridiculous with press people staking out the house, speculating on what was going on and generally having no regard for the pain and suffering we were all going through, so she wanted to put a stop to it once and for all in a way that they couldn’t misreport. I had already told the police what happened, but then I had to tell it to the world. Dr. Phil was really gracious and kind, asked the right questions, so I could answer without worry that I would impact the case against my father. I couldn’t just talk to some rag mag about it.”
“I guess people don’t get how twisted the media can be. On Dr. Phil, I was saying it on camera. There is only so much you can twist in a video edit and I know this from experience, though they still manage to twist a lot! It also just felt like it was the right place and time to do it. I have personally been ridiculed a lot because of it. People were really mean and said I was just trying to get more fame or money out of it. Dr. Phil doesn’t pay people for interviews, by the way and I still don’t get what kind of fame that I would be seeking.”
“I was already on a hit prime time cable show?! This is the first real interview I’ve done since then and you know…no one wants to be in the limelight for something so horrible. It makes no sense. They obviously don’t understand what its like to be a victim or the sister of someone who is. I told my story because it was the right thing to do for me and for my sister. Where and to whom I told it really doesn’t matter..just that I did it. But the point of it was to move forward and it did the job stopping the speculation and some harassment, that is for sure.”
How is the relationship with your sister now?
“Now that some time has passed, things have gotten a lot better. We are closer than ever and my sister is finally getting her life back. Most importantly, she is getting her smile back learning to cope with life, and move forward.”
What was it like for you personally, after your father’s arrest and allegations of abuse were brought to light?
“After the arrest of my father, things really started to change. At the time, we thought that we would still be having another season of Sons of Guns, but then everything came out and we were thrown into a tailspin. I felt really depressed and still have a lot of anxiety over all of it. We couldn't focus on the show anymore and had to concentrate on our own projects just to survive. We needed to surround ourselves with positive supporters and family, so Kris started working more with his own dad’s family business, Ford's Firearms ( www.fordsguns.com ) in Baton Rouge, LA. I just wanted to secure a future for myself and my family and do something we were already passionate about and loved. I had to find something to stay positive about so I continued to work on building IAC Wargames and a new brand people could love someday. “
What about the allegations, and charges put up against you and your husband?
“With the allegations, and charges that were placed upon Kris and myself, they were dropped. There was no evidence that allowed for the charges to be warranted. Fact of the matter is we love our children very much, and do everything we can to be the best parents possible for them.”
How has it been starting over after so many years working at RJF?
“It has been challenging starting everything from scratch and we are still looking for investors to help us get to the next level. Until you do it all yourself, you don’t realize there are so many things needed for a start up company. We still have a lot to offer to the industry and look forward to that without the ongoing RJF drama we’ve dealt with.
Tell me something else that the fans who think they know you, don’t really know…
“Wow, well there is a lot! I guess people don’t get that we’re just people. We have kids to care for, get them up and off to school everyday and keep them all happy and somewhat sheltered from all this. We have to have a lot of faith in God that things are going to get better. One thing they probably wouldn’t guess so much, is that even during the last season of the show, Kris and I had lost a lot of our confidence. We didn’t know how we would be doing from day to day.”
“We were emotionally beat down by lost opportunities for branding that were kicked back by the management at RJF, especially when the show was popular, so we did not have any “nest egg” and were not so “squared away” as people want to believe. Everything happened so suddenly and we’ve struggled to make ends meet. Not so different from most small business owners and typical American middle class families do these days.”
“Kris and I have been trying for a long time (along with some well meaning other professionals), to take advantage of the RJF brand having a hit prime time cable show and make some real money at it. I t just ended up being a losing battle with those who controlled the company, including my dad. After all this happened, we didn’t think we would ever get on a good track again. We now realize when you stand up for what you believe, enemies always attack harder. Some may have seen the news report on our arrest, which never had any criminal charges, thought they would want you to think so. We’ve been fighting our own battles with local child authorities and an ex family member who wants to see us miserable. That whole story by the media is just a reflection of what people think they know about us, but don’t really. Hopefully that will all be over soon and I can talk about it.“
What are you going to be able to do now, that you weren’t able to before?
“When we actually were working at RJF, we did not have any support or creative freedom to do anything new and many of our licensing and firearm builds, were shot down before they were ever considered. Now that we have IAC, we can really put our experience and passion toward good use and hopefully make a new, positive impression on families and fans, so many of whom have held us up with their support during these hard times. Teaching conceal carry classes to new firearms owners and building an Airsoft range event facility, is a dream come true and the product line is just an expression of who we are and what we love to use ourselves. We have been blessed to be on a really great ride through the years with a hit show and have always tried to use any of our publicity to give back to veterans, disabled children and victims of abuse.”
“If we were doing it during the good times, before people know what they know now…we are not about to stop doing good things during hard times.”
That’s not who we are. Oh and Kris, well he writes some compelling music and lyrics these days. Guess hard times helps with creativity too.”
I hear you are attending SHOT Show this year. What are your plans?
“Well, we have a couple parties to attend and a lot of networking to do. We didn’t book any appearances at booths this year… not surprisingly, people just don’t know what to think about us since all this bad press, but are hopeful people will reach out and actually talk to us. Not because we are signing autographs this time, but to create some new and lasting business partnerships. At SHOT people can find us looking for dealers, distributors and purchase orders for IAC & IAC Wargames.
One of the mottos for the products we’ll be selling is “A tactical line for those unafraid to express themselves.”
We thought that was pretty appropriate for us. We have a cool product ready to launch that we know people are going to love. It’s affordable, fun, edgy and could be mass distributed in stores nationwide. We’d also like to meet with companies that want to be more engaged with female gun owners. There are so many who continue to support me and they really have a lot to offer the industry right now.”
Do you have a message to the fans and/or former fans of the show “Sons of Guns”?
”This is only the beginning for us, not the end. We’d really like to show everyone what we can do without all the drama of RJF dragging us down. We understand the confusion by the fans and just want them to know that there is always things going on you don’t see, behind the scenes. We have gone through a lot in the past few years and its not over yet, but we are sure eventually everything will come out in the wash and we are trusting that the justice system can do its job. I am not here to give opinion or to sway it. Just answers and facts about me and our situation.”
“We have hope that things will get back to being as great as they were before, maybe even better. We keep trying to do what is right on all fronts. We take some comfort in the fact, that if you don’t have people mad at you sometime in life, you’ve probably never stood up for anything or anyone before. We know a lot of bad things that happen to good people for that reason alone! We have faith that everything happens for a reason and hope you do too. Thanks for your support through these rough times. We really appreciate it and feel blessed even in bad times, because there is always something we can learn from it.”