For the most part, Faith Evans lets her singing voice do the talking for her.
We’ve felt pain and glory in her sultry, honey-coated soprano vocals, and that’s a comfortable place for Evans.
We get it. She’s been through a lot. And she’s had to endure much of it in a very public forum – and much of it came with our introduction to Evans in the first place. There was a high profile marriage to Notorious B.I.G., infidelity on his part in the marriage, fighting, fussing, an East coast-West coast hip-hop beef that plucked her plumb in the middle, and the murder of her husband. And all of this was wrapped around her burgeoning music career.
But Evans is finally giving us a glimpse into what her life is like off the stage. Later this month, she’ll co-star in a TV One reality series, R&B Divas, where she’s shooting alongside Nicci Gilbert, Syleena Johnson, Monifah Carter, and Keke Wyatt. (The show premieres August 20th at 10 p.m. and will air on Mondays.) But there won’t be any wine bottle throwing on this show.
Instead, it’ll capture the real-life friends and music makers coming together to produce a charity album inspired by Whitney Houston, a close friend of Evans. Yes, they’ll delve into their personal lives – rather hard not to. It’ll show them becoming businesswomen beyond the music business, challenges with sexuality, issues with domestic violence, career-busting decisions and financial woes.
EBONY.com talks with Evans about Houston, her new album and why she dropped out of starring as original Supreme, Florence Ballard.
EBONY: You’ve always been very private. Why’d you sign up to do this?
Faith Evans: I actually had a few different opportunities and shot a few pilots for reality projects, and I definitely was reluctant to do them, but this ended up being a great vehicle for me. I don’t have to shoulder it because I’m very private and very guarded, but this show actually chronicles me getting ready to put together a charity album with all female R&B singers. Nicci Gilbert, who’s my best friend and co-EP on the project, she had already kind of assembled these ladies with the thought of coming to me and seeing if I was interested in going on tour and filming it and making it a documentary. And I said, ‘Maybe this would be a good way to do this whole TV thing that people want me to do ….’ I really wasn’t willing to open up my home and things of that nature and my kids.. And also, I get to give back, because the album is going to benefit the Whitney Houston Academy in New Jersey, and to also encourage the other ladies to really … share their stories, because they have very interesting stories of survival that will inspire people through their career ups and downs, through their life challenges.
EBONY: Was it scary having the cameras turned on you?
FE: No, not at all. I’m used to being in front of a camera. I’m the same me all the time, whether the camera’s there or not. I’m still the same guarded person. I’m very engaging and funny when you get to know me. I’m very laid back, I don’t always react to everything, and I think about stuff and I try… to be a little more conscientious. I think I’m sort of the voice of reason in my group of ladies.
EBONY: I know that Whitney Houston was a friend and collaborator of yours. Tell me why you wanted to put this album together and what we’re going to hear on it.
FE: I had been toying with the idea of doing a project with all female singers for a few years. And I had actually even mentioned it to Whitney, and asked her whenever I’m able to do it, would you be a part of it? And she said, ‘Of course!’ I happened to be co-hosting the Grammy event that last night Whitney got on stage. It was my last chance to see her and talk to her and I loved her so much. And after the night … I mean … all of us ladies having been there that night was just very coincidental because they all performed, I hosted and…we didn’t know that we weren’t going to see Whitney again. So I had a revelation like, ‘Go ahead and do this album.’ And I really wanted to do something to honor her, but at the same time, it’s not a Whitney Houston album. It’s not a tribute record, there’s no Whitney Houston song, it’s just giving back in her honor, and giving back to the arts.
EBONY: All the ladies that were on the reality show happened to be there that last night she performed? There’s something kind of ethereal about that, isn’t there?
FE: Definitely. Which is why I felt like, ‘OK, they’re still coming to me about doing this tour with these girls. I want to do this album, I’ve got people that want to be in business with me to do TV, so let’s put it all together and make it happen.’ So it was kind of a way for us to accomplish, you know, all of those things.
EBONY: Whitney was an inspiration to you, but she also was your friend. Can you share a Whitney moment with me?
FE: What I do value about our relationship is we met by way of me being in the industry, but we very — very seldom — had any conversations about anything industry related. She was able to be herself, to be Whitney from Jersey, Nippy around me. I loved the fact that she felt that comfort with me. I had a 30th birthday back when I was living in Atlanta and Whitney came. She was calling me all the days to find out what time I was going, and if I wanted to ride with her and Bobby. So she gets to the party and everybody’s like, ‘Whitney’s at the party! Whitney’s at the party!’ And she comes riding around the corner on Bobby Brown’s back! A lot of my friends that were there that night, they often talk about that. They’re like, ‘I’ll never forget she was riding around your party on Bobby Brown’s back!’ She was a really special person.
EBONY: My condolences on losing your friend, and in that way …
FE: Oh, thank you. My prayers and my heart certainly goes out to her family and especially Kristi. She left us a wonderful legacy, despite whatever people want to focus on that is negative. I know the true genuine person that she was. She was never hesitant to just to step back and shine her light on somebody that was up and coming or just let you know, ‘You bad, girl. You bad.’
EBONY: You were signed to star in the Florence Ballard project, but you backed out of it. Why’s that?
FE: I came on board because I was very excited to be asked by her family to be in that role, but what happened was the production company — I never got a contract and I don’t think that they were really in the place where they were ready to do the project. But it is something that I would love to be able to do, even if I had to find the resources and do it myself. I still talk to her daughters and I really wanted to see that happen for them. Her story really needs to be told. But my thing is, I don’t really want to step in someone else’s pile of mess.
EBONY: This charity album aside, are we going to get some new Faith Evans music soon?
FE: I’m definitely going back to the studio very soon to finish up my next — my seventh — studio album. I don’t have a release date, but I will definitely be back working on that now that we’re done with production of the show.