The âRealâ Tamar Braxton [EXCLUSIVE]

When Tamar Braxton walks into the New York office of EBONY.com, she’s a quiet star. She’s by no means shy or unapproachable, but the Tamar we’re used to seeing on her two hit reality shows, Braxton Family Values and its spin-off, Tamar & Vince -- the one who’s usually turned-up to 10--isn’t there.  In a bright yellow A-line dress, a black blazer, perfectly-snatched blonde waves in her hair and a baby bump for days, the Tamar we meet is, no doubt, self-assured. But something is different about the singer, who often refers to herself in the third person (as "she-me-her"). Her confidence is strikingly more subtle and unannounced, like a woman who has accepted she’s finally arrived--and doesn't even have to tell everybody.

She's completely unfazed as Tamar & Vince producers and cameramen swarm her and prep our office for shooting. Her all-star producer husband and manager Vincent Herbert is in his usual place, Velcroed to her side, and they make eyes at each other in a way that says they’re at home together, wherever they are, in front of the cameras or not.

“We forget they’re even there,” she says, an old pro now that she's been a reality TV star for the past three years. “We just go about our life, and they follow” -- everywhere but in the bedroom, she clarifies. 

It’s unnerving. As a producer mics me up, I get a quick nose-powdering and the cameras start rolling.  I can’t stop thinking about how my hair will look if this interview makes it onto the second season of Tamar & Vince, and I’m wondering why (oh why!) didn’t I splurge on high-definition make-up in preparation for this interview. Since my questions have flown out of our conference room window in a self-absorbed panic, Tamar, Vince, a couple of EBONY.com and Jet employees and I sit around the table, spread with fruit and desserts, and just chat.

Immediately, we talk about the bump in the room: their baby—a boy, if you let Tamar’s best friend, Tiny Harris, accidentally (and hilariously) tell it. But they play it cool, denying that Tiny ever admitted, "I've seen his little face." She's having crazy Dunkin Donuts' apple fritters cravings, but Vince won't get them for her, she says. “He’s like, ‘Nope. Don't do it. You're gonna be mad.” Vince chimes in, “Even before the pregnancy, she was very conscious about her weight, so I'm just helping her to be a better person.” 

Tamar Braxton Through the Years

Black Woman Rising: Tamar Braxton Through the Years

Vince plays for the office three hot records off of Tamar’s new album: an EBONY.com favorite, “Hot Sugar,” her latest single, “The One,” a top-10 iTunes R&B hit which samples Biggie’s “Juicy,” and a gospel track.  Between nodding to the beats and dancing in our chairs, we are awed by the range and versatility of her voice, with these samples hinting that her summer album will be an eclectic vocal masterpiece.  She’s gracious and even humble when I acknowledge what her superstar sister, Toni Braxton, has said about her: vocally, Tamar is the most talented of the Braxton sisters.  Vince backs me up and she smiles.

And after about an hour, they leave and I begin kicking myself.  I’d spent the last week re-watching every episode of Braxton Family Values and Tamar and Vince (thanks to Netflix and YouTube) and there is much more to Tamar Estine Braxton-Herbert than the caricatured version of her that exists perpetually on the internet: the one who is loud, rude, obnoxious, and overthetop.com.  I'd barely scratched the surface of who the real Tamar was.  I had to call her back—off camera this time.

Fortunately, she was happy to go deeper with me the second time around, so I started with the realest issue I could think of: the physically abusive relationships that haunt her past. During an episode of Tamar and Vince, she very briefly confessed that she’d been in two abusive relationships, back-to-back, and that one of her ex-boyfriends had dragged her out of her apartment by her hair, a stunning admission with no on-screen follow-up.  When I ask her about it, she admits, “I almost had to tell my story to each individual and then I decided that’s not what I’m going to do. I can’t make anybody believe, I can’t change anybody’s mind about anything. (The abuse,) it happened. I’m not all the way comfortable with sharing a lot of what happened to me (yet), but what I said was true. When I’m ready to talk about my abusive past I will, I’m sorry that I’m not. But if it wasn’t for (God), I wouldn’t be here.”

Those difficult memories no doubt resurfaced when Tamar’s brother-in-law, Gabe Solis, allegedly told a woman he was having an affair with that Vince was physically abusive to Tamar. Though on Braxton Family Values, we see Gabe apologizing to the family for “lies,” he told,