Since TV One debuted in 2004, the network has been the answer to black America’s trashy TV woes for many television junkies. From “Unsung” to “Life After”, the network has provided two things: quality, guilt-free reality TV and updates on some of the most under appreciated black celebrities.
When “R&B Divas” premiered in August, it felt like the network’s first, true reality show. The show followed the lives of Faith Evans,
Monifa Carter, Nicci Gilbert, KeKe Wyatt and Syleena Johnson, all women R&B singers who had endured the ups and downs of the music industry. While most all-woman reality show casts devolve into a mess of catfights and gossip, “R&B Divas” steered toward growth and conversation.
Now that the first season of “R&B Divas” is over, Faith Evans is on tour promoting the compilation album the cast recorded during the show. This Friday, she will perform at Howard Theatre.
Evans, 39, spoke with The RootDC about the show, the “R&B Divas” album and how she has continued to connect with fans over the course of her career.
Now that the first season of “R&B Divas” is over, what are you focusing on?
I have been promoting the Faith Evans “R&B Divas” album, as well as doing some shows here and there. Just five dates right now. And also back in the studio working on my next album, in addition to taking meetings for other TV projects that I’m trying to develop.
What was it like taping R&B Divas and why did you decide to participate?
It was actually cool...I really wanted to be able to inspire these ladies to share their stories. I’ve had my memoir, and a lot of things in my life have been put out there. I got a chance to tell my story. Everybody in the show, just like everyone in life, has their own interesting story. They didn’t get the chance to share that, or haven’t been in the media as much as I have for reasons, good and bad. Either way, I thought it would be great to help them share their stories. Show that we’re still surviving and we’re still making it happen – everybody in their individual way.
It’s TV One’s highest-rated show, correct? Why do you think viewers are so interested?
We didn’t expect, or know that people would choose to tune in because there are already so many shows that people watch, and it was a little different in the fact that Nicci and I definitely were not trying to any kind of train wreck TV. We wanted the show to still be positive, and show there’s drama in every dynamic – in every part of life. But I think the thing is, the resolution. And also, them taking a chance, and being groundbreaking with our vision of Monifa sharing her story and not being afraid. That was a blessing of TV One picking up the show. They’re not that type of network.
What should audiences expect from this tour?
I am actually putting together probably a 20 to 30 city tour. Right now, I just have five gigs lined up over the holidays. Now, I’m just trying to regroup, and had auditions for background singers – all male, which is a first. It’s going to be a lot of fun. It’s a full band, and I’m working with this band called 1500 or Nothin that has been on the road with T.I. and Lupe. They’re just a really energetic group of young musicians. Just watching them perform is like a show, so it will be a little bit different – the movement, the energy. It’s a new set. I’ve added some songs that I don’t typically do in my shows that fans like, like some different interludes. They’ll be like “She never sings ‘Hello Kisses’!” or “Sing ‘Reasons’!”
It’s not like I’m doing a tour with two hour shows, but we’re working our way to that. It’s very possible to do with my catalogue, but I just have been on tour like that. I’m putting on a full-out tour, where I will have two hour sets, but these upcoming shows, is just about an hour and a half of taking people back, and bringing them to what I’ve been doing lately. I sing a couple of songs from the “R&B Divas” album, and from my “Something about Faith” record.
Your new single “Tears of Joy” has been received very well. How have you continued to make music that connects with R&B fans over the years?
I don’t change my method in terms of the creative process. Although, I didn’t write “Tears of Joy”, I knew it was a hit record, and I knew it was a good Faith Evans record – once I put my voice on it, and my arrangements. It’s me continuing to have that as my method. It’s not about what I think they’re playing on the radio. That I need to copy that. I’m cool with music that I feel, because that’s what my fans feel. It’s still just good soul music. Just good R&B music. When I hear a song and I’m like, “Oh my God, I can hear me on that” I just kind of know, in my heart that it will connect with people.
What was behind the decision to donate the proceeds from the “R&B Divas” album to the Whitney Houston Academy?
The ladies from the show were actually in attendance the night of Whitney’s last performance. I was the co-host of Kelly Price’s Grammy event last year. At the time, we were just trying to figure out a premise for the show. After losing Whitney – and us all being there – it just kind of came to me a few days later. I had an idea that, one day I wanted to do an album with all female singers. I had no idea how I was going to pull that off. It just kind of came that wow, maybe we should do the show and make it about us doing an album, and a good way to honor Whitney’s memory and giving back to the community, and give back to arts in schools, which played a huge part in my life. I thought that would be a great way to do it – myself, Phil Thornton, who is a co-executive producer on the show, Nicci Gilbert, who is a co-executive producer on the show – it just kind of all came together. It wasn’t set in stone. We didn’t have a lot of things mapped out about the show or the album, but after that night and after losing Whitney, I just had a real epiphany and it just fell in place through divine order.