From Paula Abdul to Bobby Brown, reality TV has provided a slew of pop artists with career-defining second acts as TV stars. Toni Braxton is up next with WE TV’s new reality series, Braxton Family Values, where she’s joined by sisters Trina, Traci, Towanda, Tamar (formerly of the singing group The Braxtons) and mom Evelyn.
Braxton spoke to BET.com and set the record straight about her illnesses, where the cameras were not allowed to go and why she’s seriously considering retiring from show business for good.
Lots of music artists are doing reality show. Why are you?
I did not want to do it. My sister Tamar kept saying I should tell my story about my financial and health issues. Until now, other people were telling stories about it that often weren’t true. So I said,‘Okay, maybe she’s right.’ And when people hear what really happened, they’ll be surprised— because the story has never been told.
The draw of celeb reality TV for viewers is the all-access look into a star’s life. What areas, if any, did you make off limits?
They couldn’t come in the bathroom to watch me tinkle. No me brushing my teeth or washing my boobies. That was totally off limits. And my kids. My kids are in the show in little teeny bits here and there but I have a special-needs son. [Toni's youngest son, Diezel, has autism.] So anything with him I had to see it and make sure he was presented in a positive light.
A lot of pop stars use television to introduce and promote new projects to their fan base; will you be doing that also?
They’ll be a little glimpse into my work, a little bit, but I’m thinking about retiring. I’m not sure, but I’m really considering it. It’s just my health. Today was a really good day. But I have moments when I have bad days. I have lupus and sometimes work can be challenging.
Your health issue was widely reported as being a heart problem.
See, that’s what people don’t know. Well, some people knew. I have lupus and that's why I have heart disease. Lupus affects the heart.
Many of your health issues have been serious, but over the years it always seemed like you just worked through it.
I have kids and I have a special-needs son. My child is really important to me and I have to ensure that he has every facility to make him completely mainstream. So mama’s got to work.
What will audiences learn about you from watching Braxton Family Values?
I’m a sister but I’m also a mom. And I work really hard to be as good of a Mom as I can—I’m not being pretentious at all. You only see me as a diva when I go onstage, when we’re doing a show. Other than that I’m in sweats and a T-shirt. You’ll see me at home. Toothpaste dots on my face because I’m trying to dry up breakouts. And my hair is not looking fabulous.
And what will viewers learn about your family as a whole from the show?
My parents were divorced after 35 years of marriage and it changed our family—we feel like we’re still mending broken wounds. It just changes everything. We were PK’s—preacher’s kids—so everything my Dad told us about love and God was just deserted and it’s been challenging. But in the end, viewers will learn we’re like everybody else. And maybe they’ll be able to relate to some of the stuff we're going through.
Braxton Family Values premieres on WE TV on Tuesday April, 12 at 9pm/8c.
(Photo: Todd Williamson/Getty Images)