You never really see the tough times in your life coming, they just happen. At that very moment, you can’t stop it or hide from it—you can only hope you overcome it without becoming more broken than you were.
But imagine going through your tough time on television for millions to see.
For sisters Erica and Tina Campbell—better known as the Grammy-award winning gospel duo Mary Mary—this was the case last year as they filmed the third season of their self-titled WE tv reality show.
As Tina struggled to deal with her husband’s infidelity, Erica attempted to be there for her sister while also dealing with the demands of a budding solo career. In the midst of the turmoil, the sisters also faced the tragic, untimely death of their father, who was diagnosed with stage four cancer. Tina (who admits that at one point she was sure she was “going crazy”) considered retreating to a place where no one would know who she was, but decided to instead rely on prayer and therapy.
With Mary Mary season three, their hope is that people will see their faith and fight through it all and ultimately understand that God was faithful to them too.
EBONY: What was it like to film some of the toughest, most tragic moments of your lives?
Erica: It wasn’t fun. [laughs] I think people probably thought we were superwomen. But we’re not. We’re just carried by God’s grace through the whole process.
Tina: Even when we lost all of our fight, there was still some down in there. How do you have cameras in your face when your life is actually falling apart?
EBONY: When you signed up to do this, did you all stop to consider that the bad stuff would be captured on TV?
Tina: GIRL, NO! You don’t really know what the reality game is like until you get in it. You don’t realize that these cameras are really here at all times. I was just like, “aw nah, what did I get myself into? I’m not built for this!”
EBONY: So what was your objective with the show?
Tina: People are always referring to Christians as “not normal”—and I was like, we need to let people see what a normal Christian life looks like. I didn’t ever expect my pretty good life to all of a sudden become hell in front of the cameras. I never saw that coming…ever!
EBONY: What was one of the biggest learning lessons you experienced during this time?
Erica: We said for many years that God could handle it—nothing’s too hard for Him. We sing all these songs… We almost had to sing those songs for survival even when we weren’t on stage. I think had God forewarned that 2013 was going to be a crazy year, we would have avoided it like a plague.
EBONY: Tina, I know you mentioned that at one point, your mental state was in complete disarray as you struggled to make sense of your life—even to the point where you considered medication or escaping.
Tina: I considered a whole lot—way more than I would have liked. The pressure gets that hard. I’ve been in therapy since March of last year. Real talk. When you feel like your life is falling part, and you’re so broken, hurt and overwhelmed by life’s issue, let’s keep it 100%: you start considering some things to help you get through it. I thank God that prayer and a commitment to our faith got me through it. Therapy has been helpful, but nothing is as helpful as our prayers and the Bible.
EBONY: You decided to forgive your husband and attempt to rebuild your marriage. Is couple’s therapy something you two have explored?
Tina: My husband and I opted to do counseling together. We’ve been in it consistently and it has been extremely helpful.
EBONY: What has the journey been like to forgive him?
Tina: When you decide to forgive, it’s a process. You have to decide: am I going to let what happened to me define who I am? Anger, bitter, sad, hateful? If I become that, I [am] literally doing worse to me than [what] somebody did to me. I was fighting for my life. I was fighting to be happy. I was fighting to move on. I would fail miserably, regularly, but I kept on fighting.
EBONY: Erica, you were struggling to be there for your sister and launch your solo career as well. How did that make you feel?
Erica: I felt so incredibly torn. I don’t really know how to say no, so I’ll yes to a fault. [I’d say] yes [to a show] and be at the concert crying because my body is aching and I’m so tired. I overachieve. I had to learn balance. Balancing meant telling Tina, “Hey, I gotta chill on Mary Mary.” I didn’t always do it right. I should have only been excited, but everything went so fast.
EBONY: What did this experience ultimately teach you about your sisterhood?
Tina: What I realized is that my sister really, really, really loves me—she rides and dies for me. When I tell you she was trying to feel my pain and remove all of my sorrow to the point of annoying me almost to death? I was like, “You can’t live this for me, and you cannot put yourself in my place.” That love ain’t fake, and that love ain’t conditional.
Erica: I was willing to forfeit the things I was trying to do in my life because I knew I had to be there for her. She was still being my cheerleader even though she was walking through hell with gasoline drawers on. She was right there with me. We literally went through this together. I’m proud of how we went through.
Tune into the all-new season of Mary Mary every Thursday at 9PM ET/PT!