Vixen Chat: Thicker Than Water's Ben and Jewel Tankard Talk Family Business and Show Backlash
What do Rev Run, Kimora and Russell and Brangelina have in common? Blended families, of course. It seems Hollywood's latest trend hits close to home as new couples come together and bring their respective kids along for the ride. Bravo—no stranger to successful reality TV—took notice quickly and enlisted The Tankards for a new show all about family and the good life.
Thicker Than Water has ruffled more than a few feathers since its November debut. Ben and Jewel, the twosome that helm Bravo's "Black Brady Brunch" are both pastors and entrepreneurs whose possessions and blinged out lifestyle garner more attention than their actual work. Today, the two are out to prove that there's more to their show than model airplanes and expensive jewelry.
Flip the page to see what they have to say about the meaning of "millionaire," watching other reality shows, and of course, the finer things in life.
Photo Credits: NBCU Bank via Getty Images
What's the reaction been to the show so far?
Jewel: It’s been controversial. People either really love it or it makes them mad.
Ben: But, they don’t want to turn it off [laughs].
What brought you to reality TV?
Ben: I’ve been working as a recording artist in the gospel jazz field. I’ve got 15 gold albums, so my name has been floating around Hollywood for some time. I’m also a motivational speaker for the NBA, being a former player. My music is published through NBC Universal. One thing led to another; my daughter hooked us up with a production company that had already done some things for Bravo and they saw some clips of us goofing off on Youtube and they said, “that’s a family we’d like to profile,” because we’ve been looking for a black family to be the next kind of Cosby thing anyway. So, they gave us a trial and screen test and here we are.
Jewel: I really feel like I’ve always been called to do something on TV. When I was younger, I went to theater school and did plays, so I’ve always been attracted to media. Then when we got married and tried blending families together, I felt like we had such a story to tell. There are so many different dynamics and things we went through as parents; things that we got right, things that we got wrong; but, at the end of the day, we have a very close and loving family and I think that can speak volumes. We do a lot of family meetings because we knew if we did reality TV, our family was going to stay a family.
Did you have any reservations going into it?
Ben: I did because as a recording artist and motivational speaker, that’s what’s paid for our lifestyle. But, on weekends, I volunteer as a pastor. We don’t get paid to be pastors. We started the church in our living room. I was afraid that people would see this big mansion and they’d get clips of us from the church and put two and two together wrong and say, “oh, here’s another preacher living off the backs of other people.”
Who's most comfortable in front of the camera?
Ben: Brooklyn is most comfortable. Our oldest son that doesn’t live in the home—I think he’s the one that would have to get used to it.
Are you fans of reality TV?
Ben: Oh, yes. Million Dollar Listing for me.
Jewel: I actually like Duck Dynasty. I like the wholesomeness of the family. I like the fact that they’re a family in business together and love Jesus.
Ben: We used to watch Run’s House and say, “We could do that, couldn’t we?” [laughs].
Jewel: You know what I love about Run is his wife. She was so comfortable in her skin. She wasn’t trying to be nothing but who she was.
Will we get to see the ins and outs of how you make your money?
Jewel: I’m a fourth generation entrepreneur. Before I met Ben, I experienced a tremendous amount of success on my own in my hometown Detroit. My parents were in the record business and were some of the first African Americans to own record stores back then. Now I have a financial service business where I help people make sure their business portfolios are in tact. And I have a millionaire’s book club and that helps African American woman become empowered. African American women statistically are on the bottom of the totem pole financially- they hurt the most during retirement specifically.
Ben: You get that word quite a lot in our show: millionaire. The reason we say that is because it’s almost like telling your kids, “I want you to get straight A’s.” You know he’s not going to get straight A’s, but the B’s and C’s they achieve going after the A is fine with you. If you say a C is alright, they’ll fall on an F. So, we look at it like shoot for the sky.
What is your response to naysayers who don't like the show?
Jewel: I’m an entrepreneur. Before we started the church, we lived very well and anyone that knows us knows that we grind up. And Ben has 25 years of music, so don’t just look at the ministry. Look at the fact that we’re entrepreneurs and some of the biggest givers in our church. And we’re not talking about a mega church. There’s no way we could live off the church. I think we need to go back to judging people based on who they are and not what they have. To me, it’s the same thing as racial prejudice. Judge the man on their heart.
Ben: If Magic Johnson opened a church in his home, no one would expect him to give his houses and cars away just because he’s a pastor.
Jewel: And it’s TV, so don’t take it too literal. We gotta cut, edit and have some fun with it. This is not a Christian show. You have Christians on a show.
You're obviously experts on living an extravagant lifestyle. What is one thing every man and woman should invest in?
Ben: Every man needs a man cave, especially if you have a wife and daughters [laughs]. Every man needs a place to escape where there’s no words; just chicken wings and some sports.
Jewel: For girls, I think it’s important just to get your nails and feet done. I think that keeping yourself well groomed is important because it makes us feel feminine, pretty and confident. It really connects to our self esteem. We may not be able to go buy this and buy that, but at least I can keep my physical image in tact.
Why should we watch Thicker Than Water?
Ben: I believe that I have the world’s most exciting family. There’s bound to be some Christian calamities, but we will have some heavenly conclusions.
Jewel: We want people to dream again. African Americans particularly- we have had so much struggle in our lives. Sometimes when they happens, you’re not dreaming like you used to. And we also want people to fight for the family again. You’re going to see some conflicts, but you don’t have to respond by actin’ a fool.
Thicker Than Water airs Sundays at 9pm EST on Bravo.