Pilar Sanders has broken her silence to speak for the first time about her marriage and acrimonious divorce from former Hall of Famer, NFL star Deion Sanders, 50.
Even by the standards of celebrity splits theirs has proved vicious with allegations of infidelity and abuse, and a custody battle that saw Pilar, 42, held in contempt and thrown in jail.
Now, in an exclusive interview with DailyMail.com the model turned actress has hit back at accusations that she was unfaithful, branded her jail term ‘unjust’ and told of her determination to win full custody of all three children.
Pilar currently has primary custody of 13-year-old daughter Shelomi, son Shilo, 17, with 15-year-old Shedur going back and forth with between the parents.
And she has revealed that she is appealing the $2.2 million defamation suit brought and won by Deion last year after she alleged that he had abused her and the children.
Speaking out: Pilar Sanders has broken her silence on her divorce from ex-NFL star Deion Sanders and the bitter custody battle over their three kids, Shelomi (left) 13, Shilo (center) 17, and fifteen-year-old son Shedur
Even by the standards of celebrity splits theirs has proved vicious with allegations of infidelity and abuse and a bitter custody battle between Pilar, 42, and Deion, 50
Speaking from her home in Garland, Texas she said: ‘I have not lied about anything that’s all I can say.
‘And I draw strength from the fact that the one thing about life is that it always reveals itself in the end.’
Pilar and Deion’s divorce – finalized in September 2013 after a string of contentious court hearings – was back in the headlines after a recent Instagram post made by their eldest son, Shilo.
In the post the 17-year-old revealed that his mother, who up until that point had shared custody with Deion, had been granted primary custody.
‘Throwing shade’ at his father the teen wrote: ‘After what seems like forever I’m finally officially back with my mom!
‘My mom having full custody of me is all I have wanted for years. Thank you to the court system for finally seeing the truth and putting me in a healthy, loving environment.’
When the divorce was made final, Deion was granted full custody of all three children in a move that Pilar said simply proved that ‘the justice system ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.’
Pilar filed for divorce in 2011 after 12 years of marriage. Their split escalated into a nasty divorce battle between after Pilar was accused of being unfaithful and she claimed Deion had abused her
The couple and their family briefly appeared on an ill-fated reality show, Deion and Pilar; Prime Time Love
Their former marital home, custom built for the sports star the year they married in 1999, was a 29,000 square foot mansion with three pools – two indoor, one outdoor – a basketball court, barbershop and 13 bedrooms. The master closet alone was 3000 square feet
Since then she has fought to have that decision overturned and today has custody of Shilo and her daughter Shelomi, 13. She is still pushing for full custody of 15-year-old son Shedur. Right now the teen lives mostly with his father in a joint custody arrangement.
But Pilar said: ‘Children find their voices. Shilo has really been with me for two years and for two years we’ve been petitioning the court.
‘They’re giving ear to the children’s voices now and it’s turning around and we’re very grateful for it. I trust the process of life.’
She added that the reason Shedur is with his father is because he is starting quarterback on his football team at Trinity Christian School, Texas, where Deion is coach.
‘It’s important to him right now,’ she said. ‘That’s all that matters to me and that’s what he wants to do for the season but it’s temporary.’
Of Shilo’s social media post she admitted: ‘I didn’t counsel him to do that and I was a little upset about it, but at 17 there’s only so much you can do [as a parent].
‘Children have their own mind and I can understand his expression of his feelings of being overjoyed. He’s at a place where I haven’t seen him before – looking forward to life.’
According to Pilar it was for her children’s sake that she has remained publicly silent until now.
The couple briefly appeared on an ill-fated reality show, ‘Deion and Pilar; Prime Time Love.’
With an estimated net worth of $40 million Deion provided his ex-wife with a lavish lifestyle.
Their former marital home, custom built for the sports star the year they married in 1999, was a 29,000 square foot mansion with three pools – two indoor, one outdoor – a basketball court, barbershop and 13 bedrooms. The master closet alone was 3000 square feet.
It was put back on the market last year for $12.7 million.
Today Pilar is adamant she did not cheat on her husband.
She said: ‘It was all rumor. No it wasn’t true. Anyone who truly knows me knows I don’t operate in infidelity. I strongly believe in family and I strongly believe in loyalty.
‘Many things happened within the marriage. The allegations that he tried to put on me came from him.
‘When Deion didn’t get his way, he screamed “this woman is cheating. This woman is crazy.” You could see it a mile away through a hundred sheets of brick and mortar.’
She described it as ‘a mean thing to do.’
Shade: Pilar and Deion’s divorce – finalized in June 2013 after a string of contentious court hearings – is back in the headlines thanks to a recent Instagram post made by their eldest son, Shilo. The 17-year-old revealed that his mother, who up until that point had shared custody with Deion, had been granted primary custody
As for the allegations that Deion was unfaithful, Pilar said: ‘Yes he did cheat. And one of the girls he cheated with posted their fling on the internet. Holding the keys to our F350 truck along with pics of him in the bed being rubbed down.’
But she added: ‘My priority was for my children and their hurt. Luckily for me my relationship with my children is strong.
‘I didn’t have a nanny or a babysitter. My mother helped.
‘They knew their mother; they saw people come into the courtroom and they grow and they make connections. They’re very mature for their age.
‘They dealt with it as best they could.’
Twice married Deion now lives with businesswoman Tracey Edmonds whom he describes as ‘the best woman he’s ever met.’
Reflecting on her divorce and the 14-year marriage that preceded it, Pilar admitted to have been shocked and dismayed by the acrimonious courtroom battle into which it descended.
She said: ‘I thought it didn’t end so bad prior to the actual divorce.
‘There were great, great moments. He had a wonderful sense of humor at the time.
‘But one thing about people who hold loyalty as such a prize, sometimes you stay in a thing even when it’s no longer in your best interests.
‘You do it for the children; you do it to keep the family together.
‘It’s a hard thing to pinpoint when that changes. There was no one reason for us.’
Pilar, who is now living in Garland, Texas, says she does not consider all bridges burned between her and her ex and said she is open to ‘positive communication’
Speaking of her husband who played for the Atlanta Falcons, San Francisco 49ers, Dallas Cowboys, Washington Redskins, and Baltimore Ravens and was a two-time Super Bowl champion, she said: ‘I would make excuses [for his behavior], always give a reason for things being hard…he has a new team, he’s having a hard time getting adjusted.
‘Life happens in a marriage, it’s ups and downs. But you just finally come to a point where enough is enough.’
She added: ‘In a sense I put Pilar on hold in my marriage – not as far as the children were concerned but as far as my husband. And when it really wasn’t reciprocated and when the support really wasn’t there I didn’t get bitter. I got better.’
It has not been a straightforward path. Following the divorce Deion was awarded custody of all three children with Pilar granted visitation rights.
She explained this decision as a product of the fact that as the more powerful, famous half of the union, ‘he had a voice, he had a public face, he had the mic.’
But in 2014 Pilar briefly lost her visitation rights when a Collin County judge found her in contempt of court and threw her in jail for seven days for failure to return the children in a timely manner following her agreed visitation.
At one stage Deion called the cops and sought a court order allowing him to forcibly remove the children from their mother.
Now Pilar describes that decision as ‘unjust’ but says that her steady effort to win back her children is the only vindication she truly needs.
‘I was put in jail at Deion’s request solely because I had physical custody of my children on the days it was ordered,’ she said.
‘And regardless of me being in the right and following court orders the Collin County District Judge Ray Wheless wrongfully put me in jail.’
As for her ex’s decision to take her to court in such a fashion she said: ‘It definitely affected the children. It didn’t put a good light on their father in their eyes and they were old enough to know and understand.
‘That’s an issue he will have to work out with them for the rest of his life.
‘I can only be responsible for myself and I don’t take anything negatively personally. I don’t pick it up so I don’t have to put it down.
‘Doing wrong to someone who’s done wrong by me isn’t how I work.’
She added: ‘For his soul, it is what it is. He’ll have to answer for what he does and has done.’
And according to Pilar she does not consider all bridges burned between her and her ex.
She said: ‘I’m open to positive communication; I’m open to him playing a positive role in his children’s life. But it has to come from both directions.
‘I believe the more I speak up, the more people hear my voice, the truth will come out but I always remain hopeful. I keep that door open to him.’