Dolled up with a silvery white wig, snow-white cable knit Fashion Nova two piece set and furry pink slides, reality star-turned-femcee Tabatha Robinson contrasted the dreary outside forecast in every way. She entered the room, propped herself on a jaded grey chair to put the final touches on her makeup. Visibly amped, she was prepping for a video interview that isn’t scheduled to happen. Since this is a life she’s been accustomed to for years––green-screen confessionals and cameras trailing her every move––the sigh splattered across her face as a sign of initial disappointment was understandable. However, she adjusted quickly to the idea of an audio-only interview, sat down, glanced out of the high-rise window overlooking Times Square, and awaited the first question.
The 25-year-old, biracial Bronx native is a misunderstood, walking paradox ready to rebrand and flee her reality television past that she says now haunts her.
Yearning to transition from “the nightlife” as she vaguely calls it––a past she mentioned but didn’t seem comfortable enough to give full disclosure on––she met radio host, DJ Self, who “tasked her to do a record.” From there, he signed her to his independent label, Gwinin’ Entertainment and the two have been actively on the grind to turn Robinson into Dream Doll: the brand where she craves merge her persona with… well, herself.
People often judge Robinson from her appearances on Bad Girls Club, Season 16 and Love & Hip-Hop: New York, Season 8. Tabatha was a malicious bully on BGC:16 who literally got dragged at the reunion because she felt entitled; entering the house with thousands of followers did little for her humility. However, moments before she was caught off guard, Tabatha tearfully apologized to fellow cast member Kailie Bijou because she’d hate for her little sister to see her actions and think that’s okay. On Love & Hip-Hop: NY, Dream Doll appeared to be dating Safaree and got into several altercations, including one with fellow Gwinin’ artist, MariahLynn. When asked about Safaree currently, Dream says it was just for show. “We never dated. Don’t add him to my body count.”
Like most reality stars, Tabatha feels people cultivate their own narrative.They tend to disassociate the television personality from the IRL person. “I’m a brand, I hate when people pass judgment, but I also understand because I’ve been that person: the watcher. Everything you see on TV ain’t real. First of all, that’s an edited show,” Dream said, irritated as if having a flashback. “When the cameras cut off, I still have to live that life.”
Dream Doll is her persona, shown through wigs and while she’s performing, but Tabatha seemed harder to explain. She contemplated her answer as if trying to piece it together carefully. Ultimately, she “wants to live out Tabitha through Dream Doll,” in an effort to “be more relatable, more involved and show people I’m still me.”
Robinson made her debut on Bad Girls Club as Tabatha, and later adopted the “Dream Doll” moniker. When asked how the Dream Doll persona affects her, she fumbled. “I just wanna be like––I don't know what to say. I don't know what the f**k I’m saying right now. I don't know.” Though mentioning that her as Dream Doll is more of a blessing than curse, she wishes she could turn fame off. “Like, I wish it could be like okay [to] walk in the street with a bonnet on and not worry about nothing. With toothpaste on my pimples, you feel me?” She longs to be, as Cardi B calls it, a “regular-degular-shmegular girl from the Bronx.” But her newfound position has more boundaries than she’d like. As far as whether Dream Doll or Tabatha are closer to who she truly is, her given name is the clear winner.
On her first reality TV stint, Robinson was 21 and a mirror of the behavior displayed on previous seasons. With no true idea of what she was getting herself into, she hates who she was on Bad Girls Club. “So much people passed judgment on me because of the situation,” she recalled. “And it’s like, I’m the oldest of five, so it’s my little sister watching that, and I’m like ‘Uh-uh. You not about to sit here thinking this is okay.’ So once again, that show still haunts me to this day.” Reflecting on things we might not have seen as the audience, she wishes she could take it all back. “People love me from that and I’m like ‘Nah I don’t really like myself on there,” she said. “I don't want that attached to me at all. I hate bullies. I don't want my sister to think that picking on someone and poking somebody’s buttons is okay.”
Luckily for Robinson, her bullying victim accepted her apology. As far as her current reality star status goes, she has allegedly parted ways with Love & Hip-Hop.
Walking down memory lane, Tabatha reminisced on her rookie days in college. Before Dream Doll, before BGC and L&HH, she was just Tabatha, doing talent shows as an independent entity and surviving the best ways she knew how. Upon connecting with DJ Self, she got the opportunity to record a track. Once she heard her song, “Everything Nice,” in Aces for the first time, she felt like she earned it. “I saw Future there and he was like bopping to the beat, the bartenders were snapping. I was just like, ‘I wanted to keep doing this.’”
Now on her second EP, Life in Plastic 2, Dream is living out actual dreams. She collaborated with her idol, Lil Kim for the project, and still hasn’t found the words to explain her elation. “I could sit here and talk to you for 30 mins on how I felt. Kim don’t collab with no females. People don't get that. People don't come across that. Everybody doing features with this person, but she not on that type of timing,” she said beaming with pride. “Me? I’m upcoming, fresh. I’m new in the industry and been putting out music less than two years, so this is a big win for me. And she helped me gain more respect because she co-signed me.” Meeting the millennial way, via Instagram, the two femcees connected in person while in Los Angeles. “Yo I couldn’t breathe and no woman has ever made me feel nervous besides her. She’s super sweet, humble. I’ve never seen her put another woman down and try fight for her spot. She know who she is and she know where she stands. Lil Kim’s Queen Bee is stamped.”
Tabatha’s top five may look like most people’s: a vibrant mix of Lauryn Hill’s lyricism, Eve’s badassery, Lil Kim’s originality, Missy Elliott’s innovation and Erykah Badu’s soul. The same can be said for her rising class of female rappers: spirited southern-bred Rico Nasty, rugged-diamond Maliibu Miitch, Chi-town phenom Cupcakke (who’s featured on Dream’s new EP), SoSoDef signee Miss Mulatto and Gwinin’ sister, MariahLynn. She does lament, however, over the lack of collaboration from female emcees in today’s climate.
“When they did the female rap cover for Vibe with Kim, Missy, Foxy, all of them, that don't really happen no more. Everybody competing for that top spot when they could just all collab and come together as one.” She notes that the female frontrunners aren’t setting a standard of togetherness, which can easily be characterized by Nicki Minaj’s almost-melee with her archenemy, Cardi B.
Despite many Cardi comparisons, as far as Dream is concerned, they only have a Bronx upbringing, nightlife breeding and a Love & Hip-Hop credit reel to tie them together, but she does give props to her fellow Bronx artist for paving the way. When the apoplectic dispute between Nicki and Cardi comes up however, Dream rolled her eyes. She’d been asked about this fight on more than several occasions, and like most, appeared to be over it. “My true honest opinion is that [this is] what happens when you fake it and it gets boiled up. I feel like that’s what happened with Cardi. Her buttons kept getting pressed and now she just exploded, but it’s just too much now,” Dream said. “First of all, Cardi’s from The Bronx. If you thought that she was gonna hear something like that and— we don't play about our families, our friends, our child. I don’t have beef with nobody, but you talk about my child or whatever, it’s gonna be a problem. So she’s doing what any female would do. When I see you, have that same energy.”
Dream, then switched gears to eradicate all misconceptions and claims that her career was given to her on a silver platter. People tend to associate her cult following on social media as a segue into the music industry. This is the complete opposite of her spectrum. Her looks cause her to work twice as hard because most immediately want to dismiss her, subsequently sleeping on her work ethic. Sighfully, she stated that her biggest challenge to date is being taken seriously in the industry.
Dream sat in her chair, appearing to reflect on her transition. “In 2017, we got to the BET Awards through the crack and now this year, we were invited. I performed for the live show on the Coca-Cola stage and my next goal is to present an award.” However while accolades and fame has its perks, she’d still prefer to take the money and go. “I dream about being a millionaire all the time because it ain’t a fame thing. I’d rather be rich than famous. I wish I could trade the fame in, and cash it out.” After all, it was the dollars and and cents that finally allowed her to move her mother out of the projects. By way of Dream Doll, of course.
“When the curtains close, I’m still Dream Doll. I’m still Tabatha.” That’s her— point blank period.
(Photo: Jonathan Gentil/@iamphotoj)