Prepare to meet Angie Stone. The real Angie Stone. Not the Angie Stone you thought you knew—the one who sang love songs so sweet and painful you had to run out and get some of whatever it was she was crooning about. (Good or bad.) No ma’am. This Angie Stone has evolved.

She says the world kicked her when they found out she and super sex symbol D’Angelo had fallen in love in the mid-1990s. What would make a man with abs like that—all greased-up and sexy in his music videos and sounding like a new millennium Marvin Gaye—fall for a chocolate-coated woman who topped the scales at 200 pounds?

It nearly crushed her. But starting tonight, Stone costars in the second season of TV One’s R&B Divas, and she’s ready to show the world who she is, in her best light ever.

EBONY: You’ve done reality TV beforeVH1’s Celebrity Fit Club. But this is a different show altogether. Was it therapeutic?

Angie Stone: What I bring to the show is experience. I’ve been in this business since 1979. A lot of these girls were teenagers or even younger than that, and they don’t have a clue of some of the things that they’re dealing with. Because when you’re going through it, there’s no way you can know what you know—what I know—30 years later.

What I bring to the dynamic is, I know what you don’t know. I see it because I’ve been where you are already and I’m still surviving. The reason I’m still relevant and a survivor is because I learned from the people before me. There is a message to the madness. And one of the things is learning how to get out of your own way, knowing when to keep the car on the road and always remain a first-class act, if to no one but yourself.

EBONY: What’s your A-storyline going to be on this show? There’s so much to tell.

AS: I’ve got a bunch of people telling me, “Why are you doing this show? You’re still relevant. These are has beens. Why you doing this?” I’m taking all that luggage on my back and walking through the door saying, “Hey, why are you here? Do you belong here? Have you accepted that you’re yesterday’s news?” All of that’s running through my head. When I walk through the door and I see a bunch of women cursing and screaming and crying at each other… I’m not that. I’m not even a part of that. But I’m here to set an example.

EBONY: Does that make you the life coach of the second season?

AS: I would want to say that I’m a life coach or somewhat of a promise in tomorrow’s future for these young ladies, but it gets quirky for me too, because I get challenged sometimes. I have women that go to my defense because they feel like, “How can you disrespect Angie Stone?! She’s older than all of us and blah, blah, blah!” And I’m looking like, “OK, I ain’t that much older than you!”

EBONY: You’ve used the phrase “getting out of your own way” a couple of times in this conversation. Tell me about the time you felt like Angie Stone got in the way of Angie Stone.

AS: There have been several situations. Falling back down to the bottom and struggling now to survive is a painful life lesson. I remember when Mary J. Blige did Carol’s Daughter—she took a leap of faith. She was like, “you know what? I’ll do it, I’m Mary J. Blige, let me put my name on this.” Boom. Next thing you know Carol’s Daughter is the biggest thing.

I had the same opportunity for Brown Skin. I had a doctor call me and say, “You are beautiful, your spirit, your energy, your smile, your struggle and you still have flawless skin. We want you as the face of our Brown Skin. And we don’t have any money right now, but we’re willing to cut you out and make you a partner for a percentage of our company. How do you feel about that?”

At the time, I needed money, and I could not see past my needs for what God was aligning me for. So of course—in my selfish, thievish mentality of, “I think they’re pulling my leg, they gotta have money,” blah, blah, blah—I passed. Lo and behold, I’m laying in my bed one day and bam, a big commercial come on for Brown Skin. They got it launched and it’s all over the TV, everywhere, all the time, boom boom boom boom. And I’m looking everywhere like, OMG!

That was a time that I needed to get out of my own way. ’Cause now I still need money, the vehicle for people to see me as the face of a product that says “you are beautiful in the skin you’re in,” that was God’s way of saying, “I got you,” and I turned it down. When I look at my fight and my tears and my pain all the years behind me, where my big lips and my dark skin and my hair and everything was an omen… now God has glorified it and made it for the beautification of the world to see, you say no. How stupid could you be?

EBONY: You’ve never really clammed up when talking about your struggles over the years. Has that been easy to be honest in this industry? Or has it gotten you in trouble?

AS: It’s very difficult, because nobody wants to air their dirty laundry. In my case, I came from a hip-hop success story to a songwriter that ended up getting a second chance with another group, ended up falling in love with a superstar sex symbol. And within that pivotal moment of my career, it’s almost like I lost myself because the relationship overshadowed Angie Stone, the singer, the songwriter, the producer. It reduced me to just being a woman with a baby from a superstar.

People wanted to know—because now, as a solo star, I’m a huge, overweight woman, I’m over 200 pounds—how I was in love and having the love of a sex symbol and no one understood why. I wanted to write a book entitled Life in the Shadows of a Sex Symbol, and before I could get it going, I was attacked by the media, going, “Oh she shouldn’t talk about him.” The book was not about him. The sex symbol was the industry. And they wouldn’t allow that. I think now would be an appropriate time to create a book, but I was literally cut down on every corner, and that was my way to tell my story. I still think the world needs to hear that story because it’s an incredible story, one that I would never want to relive again.

EBONY: You sound very confident now. How did you get to that place?

AS: I think what got me back here, when I look at my children and I look at my life and I look at God continuously showing me favor, who am I and why am I complaining? Because not one time did He let me go and let me fall so far that I could not redeem myself. I haven’t seen any sign of sarcoidosis in over eight, nine years. I’m off that medication, lost weight, gone back to almost high school size.

And as evident as I am talking to you, God is one day at a time giving me my life back. That is the result of who you’re seeing. You’re meeting Angie without all of that garbage in the dumpster. It has long been disintegrated. You’re meeting an Angie who has moved on in her love life, Angie who has moved on as a mother, as a grandmother, as a friend, as a teacher, as a role model, as someone who just absolutely loves the Lord.

And at the end of the day, it does not make me perfect. Far from it. But we will not walk in perfection unless we practice how to get rid of a lot of the old habits. Part of who I’ve become is a result of what I came through, and coming through all of the fire with my whole armor of God on is what has saved my life. It’s almost as if the world saw me at my worst and God said, “now, let’s show them you at your best.”

EBONY: Any new Angie Stone music on the way?

AS: Absolutely! I’m getting ready to go in the studio with Calvin Richardson and do a duets album. I also want to release something impromptu that I’m doing on my own called Me and the Men in My Life, because I’ve done quite a few duets with young men that the world needs to hear.