Toni Braxton Opens Up on VH1’s Behind The Music
I love to hear other people’s stories of triumph through diversity. Toni Braxton is a testament to the strength of a woman. One can have all the money in the world, but life sometimes has the habit of reminding us that deep down we are all human. What matters is how you deal with the blows and the low points, and find the inner strength to jump right back in the saddle. Which is what Toni has been doing for years! Braxton has won six Grammy Awards, seven American Music Awards, and five Billboard Music Awards and has sold over 60 million records worldwide. She topped the Billboard 200 with her 1993 self-titled debut album and continued that streak with her second studio album Secrets, which spawned the number-one hits “You’re Makin’ Me High” and “Un-Break My Heart”.
VH1 Behind The Music special aired Monday night, and folks tuned in to find out exactly why, after winning a bunch of Grammys and selling over 20 million records worldwide, she had to file bankruptcy not once, but twice throughout her career. According to Toni, she signed a slave contract with LaFace/Arista Records and was left with just $2,000 after the label recouped their money for her travel, wardrobe, hair, make up and everything that went into making her a star. I hope upcoming artists, especially the new crop of fame hungry Kenyan artists, are paying attention to that. She was also bombarded and sued by creditors after she had to cancel her gig in Vegas after being diagnosed with Lupus. On top of the bankruptcies, she had to deal with a divorce and finding out her son had autism. You know most of you out here would crack under the pressure!
During the special, Toni also revealed that she felt humiliated by Oprah after a visit to her show because she felt as though Oprah was painting her as an over-spender. She also talked about always feeling the pressure to help her sisters with their own careers while bringing them in as background singers and trying to get them record deals:
On Her Childhood: I had a very strict upbringing. My dad was a minister [and] we were very religious. I couldn’t listen to secular music because it was ‘worldly.’ I couldn’t go to the movies. We were the kids who were singing all the time. While our friends were outside playing, we were singing.
On Choosing a Solo Career Over Her Sisters’ Girl Group: My sisters [were] devastated. I remember I called my manager and told him “no”. He told Babyface that I said “no”. [My sister Traci] was crying balling, I’m balling, and she said, “You know what? Maybe you can go put out a record and then you can come back and get us.” I said, “Okay Traci I will do that.” And I made it my vow that I would do that.
After [Love Should Have Brought You Home] my career went from zero to sixty in six months. It was an incredible roller coaster ride. I remember the feeling and sometimes I look back on it and I can’t believe that it actually happened to me. I was very fortunate and blessed.
On having to file bankruptcy: I knew I was due to get this great, wonderful royalty statement because I knew what I sold, but it was less than $2,000. Excuse me? I didn’t understand what the hell that meant. I immediately called my business manager and asked “What is this about?” When they put you in those limos and give you those great dresses, it’s all recouped, meaning, they get their money back for all those things they purchased to make you look like a star. You get what’s left over after you have paid them back. This is normal, this is what the record business is, this is the norm. That’s what I was told.
I had no money. How was I supposed to pay my own personal bills? My business manager said, “We’re going to have to file bankruptcy.”
On her visit to the Oprah Winfrey Show after announcing her bankruptcy: She was so freaking mean to me. I was in shock. I couldn’t believe it because I loved her so much. I admired her and looked up to her, and she pretty much reprimanded me. She says to me, “I heard you have Gucci flatware. I’m Oprah Winfrey and I don’t have Gucci flatware.” You didn’t have Gucci flatware because you didn’t want to buy it, not because you couldn’t afford it. What do you mean? And immediately she made me feel this big. That moment completely changed my career. It made people look down on me.
I remember being humiliated like I was standing there completely naked like everyone was looking at me. I remember calling my mom and she had wanted me to come home. I just remember crying and crying.
On her son Diezel having autism: I knew something was wrong. As a mom you can tell. The first thought was , “Okay, at least I know what it is.” Then afterward it was, “Oh my God, my kid has autism!”, because I knew nothing about it.[…]I became heavily involved in early diagnosis. Diesel is nine-years-old now, he’s in regular school. If he walked into this room, you’d never know.
On her lupus diagnosis: One day I’m on stage and I thought my heart stopped beating for a second. I told my husband Keri that I had to go to the emergency room right now. They took me in immediately and did all these tests and said, “She’s having a heart attack”. It was the scariest moment like, “What do you mean I’m having a heart attack.” They did all these tests and came back and said, “She has lupus.”
On being financially responsible for her Vegas show after her insurance wouldn’t cover the costs: I had to file bankruptcy. I couldn’t pay all of those creditors for the show. I felt like everyone was saying, “I told you so. She spent the money the first time and she spent the money the second time.” I was disappointed that I had to file again. Actually, I was angry at myself that I was back in this situation.
On splitting from her husband: I had to figure out a plan for my life that had nothing to do with him. I was angry with everybody. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me. I felt that I was a person dealing with a lot of struggles and here comes another one.
On ‘Braxton Family Values’: It definitely makes me feel like, “Okay, I’m helping my family,” but then I discovered that they didn’t need any help because they were so talented.
You can watch the full episode here.