'RHOM' 's Julia Lemigova Surprises Wife Martina Navratilova with New Haircut as She Battles Cancer

In January, PEOPLE confirmed tennis legend Martina Navratilova was diagnosed with stage 1 throat cancer and breast cancer in 2022

Julia Lemigova. the photog is: Vlada Krassilnikova
Photo: Vlada Krassilnikova

Julia Lemigova surprised her wife Martina Navratilova with a brand-new look!

The Real Housewives of Miami star, 50, revealed that she chopped her long brunette locks into a Parisian-inspired shoulder-length bob for Navratilova, who shared the news in January that she had been diagnosed with stage 1 throat cancer and breast cancer.

Lemigova spoke with PEOPLE ahead of surprising her wife with her new hairdo and how she thinks Navratilova will react to her look.

"Knowing Martina, because she's so sentimental, I think she's going to cry. I think, I hope not, but she does cry when she sees black-and-white movies and romantic love stories. She just, like 'happy tears,' she called it. And she knows I did it a lot because of her," Lemigova said.

Lemigova also shared that when she met Navratilova, she sported a very similar hairstyle to the one she has now.

"Martina, she loved my short hair. When we met, I had a very similar style of hair, and my hair was short, and she fell in love with me then. So this was also to surprise her. Martina has on her phone a picture of me when we met, and often she shows it to me. Not relating to the haircut, but she's saying, 'Oh my God, I love how you looked then, you look so happy.' "

Julia Lemigova. the photog is: Vlada Krassilnikova
Vlada Krassilnikova

The reality star even revealed how she was going to show off her new hairdo, saying, "I have pictures, I have video. I'm going to put it on my Instagram, I'm going to be putting the whole process of my hair falling down."

To surprise Navratilova, Lemigova told PEOPLE that she was "avoiding talking to her on FaceTime" so that she didn't know she cut her hair. "I'm finding every possible excuse now, talking to her on the phone, not to put FaceTime on. I'm pretending I'm somewhere, in the shower, in a place with no Wi-Fi, so I cannot do the FaceTime," she said.

On how exactly she planned to surprise her wife, Lemigova said, "I'm going to New York next week and my idea is open the door and see her facial expression when she sees me. That's my plan."

Lemigova discussed how her wife's cancer diagnosis has opened her eyes and altered her outlook on life.

"After your wife is diagnosed with two cancers, it really changes your perspective. We all have to be strong for her. There is no time for sitting around and crying. And I wanted my hair to illustrate that I am reconnecting with my, well, sophisticated, strong woman who I am, but also showing that in a way I'm doing it for her. And something that I know for sure will put a smile on her face," she explained.

"I couldn't be with her all the time when she was doing her treatment, because I had a small window to go to Paris and see my daughter Emma, who I also haven't seen. So we made a decision that I would fly quickly to Paris, be with Emma, because she also needs me, and then go back to Martina to New York, where she's doing her treatment. And I cannot wait for her to open the door and see this new Julia," Lemigova said of surprising Navratilova after visiting their daughter, Emma, 17.

Continuing, she said, "I'm a strong believer that when life hits you with a tragedy, no matter how big the tragedy is, you have basically two choices. You submit, or you push back and rebel. And all my life I was, I'm a rebel in a way, and I always push back. So this is just one of those huge tragedies that hit our family. And there is no time or space to sit and cry because that will not help. That will only make things worse."

"And Martina doesn't need me crying, because even if I want to cry, I'm not going to show it to her. And in order to feel it, you have to really meditate, project positive energy, and believe, not just wipe your teeth and smile, because that is fake," Lemigova added.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

"I just want to push back that bad energy, and grief, and scare, and fear, and just really, really concentrate on the positive. And concentrate on today, and live today, because today we're young. Tomorrow we're going to get a day older. So feel young, no matter what age you are. And that put a smile on my face. That gives me energy. Today I'm healthy, I'm young, and that's the attitude" Lemigova explained to PEOPLE.

She also shared her secret to happiness, especially after processing her daughters, Emma and Victoria, 21, leaving home.

"What if you be happy for them, and just be happy yourself as a person, and take it day by day at the time, and just project positive, but for real and strongly? And I started doing it since we found this horrible news about Martina, the whole family reunited again and stayed with her and together, it doesn't matter if we're not in the same town," said Lemigova.

"How you can look at life differently, how you can enjoy it differently, just without concentrating on the sad points. Just think of the good ones, and hang on to those, because they will give you that smile. Those will give you this natural energy. And that's how I live now," she shared.

"Now, even though this whole thing with Martina and cancer is going on right now, believe me, or not, I am happy. And that's how I'm going to give my happiness to Martina and to the people around me. So it's not just a haircut, it's just like something shook inside me and woke up, that Julia that I let a little bit forget for years, for many, many, many reasons."

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Martina Navaratilova Diagnosed with Throat and Breast Cancer: ‘Hoping for a Favorable Outcome’
Trevor Jones/Getty Images

Lemigova also opened up about how her friends have supported her following Navratilova's diagnosis and that she "cannot wait to show" her new haircut to her girlfriends.

"Everybody, all my girlfriends, they're incredibly supportive. They all reached out, they sent flowers; they were so sweet," she said.

Lemigova and Navratilova tied the knot in 2014. They're the first same-sex couple ever to appear as full-time cast members on the Real Housewives franchise since it launched in 2006.

The tennis icon was first diagnosed with breast cancer 13 years ago — though she was declared cancer free in 2010. At the time of her initial diagnosis, Navratilova told PEOPLE: "It knocked me on my ass, really. I feel so in control of my life and my body, and then this comes, and it's completely out of my hands."

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