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.

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Aaliyah during TNT Presents - A Gift of Song - New York - January 1, 1997 in New York City, New York, United States.
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Fans Rally For Aaliyah's Discography To Be Released On Streaming Platforms

As another day passes without Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms, fans are looking for answers.

Over the weekend, the hashtag #FreeAaliyahMusic appeared on Twitter in light of song battles between Swizz Beats vs. Timbaland and Ne-Yo vs. Johnta Austin. The latter opponents played their collaborations with the late singer, proving Baby Girl's dynamic relevancy in the age of modern R&B. As songs like "I Don't Wanna" and "Come Over" picked up plays on YouTube, the hashtag pointed out the tragedy of her songs not existing on platforms like Spotify, Tidal and Apple Music.

Aaliyah's only album on multiple platforms is her 1994 debut, Age Ain't Nothing But A Number. Other albums like the platinum-selling One in A Million and Aaliyah are being held in a vault of sorts along with other unmixed vocals by her uncle and founder of Blackground Records, Barry Hankerson.

Hankerson has built up a mysterious yet haunting aura over the years due to his refusal to release Aaliyah's music on streaming platforms. Reasons are unknown but Stephen Witt's 2016 investigation revealed business deals like the shift in distribution from  Jive Records to Atlantic helped Hankerson take ownership of the singer's masters. The deal was made in 1996 when Blackground featured artists like Aaliyah, Toni Braxton, R. Kelly, then-production duo Timbaland and Magoo as well as Missy Elliott.

Sadly, Aaliyah's music isn't the only recordings lost in the shuffle. Recordings from Timbaland and Toni Braxton have been hidden from the world with both taking legal action against the label over the years. There's also JoJo, who had to break from the label after they refused to release her third album. The singer recently re-recorded her first two albums.

With Aaliyah's music getting the attention it deserves, Johnta Austin discussed the singer's impact on R&B today. "It was amazing, she was incredible from top to bottom," he told OkayPlayer of working with the singer on "Come Over" and "I Don't Wanna." "I don't think Aaliyah gets the vocal credit that she deserves. When she was on it, she had the riffs, she had everything."

Earlier this year, an account impersonating Hankerson claimed her music would arrive on streaming platforms January 16, on what would've been her 41st birthday. A docuseries called the Aaliyah Diaries was also promoted for a release on Netflix.

Of course, it was far from the truth. Fans can enjoy selected videos and songs on YouTube, but it's clear they want more.

 

Aaliyah’s music is the landmark for a lot of your favs not only was she ahead of her time with her futuristic sounds she also was a fashion Icon dancer and phenomenal actress . The future generations need be exposed to her artistry and pay homage .#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/LxZfxcqRgF

— Black Clover (@la_alchemist) March 29, 2020

Her first #1 solely based on AirPlay! She was the first ! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/BHlANZjCGZ

— (@hodeciii) March 29, 2020

Makes no sense for someone still so influential to be hidden. Many try to emulate her. On Spotifys This is Aaliyah playlist, theres some great tracks not on her main Spotify #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/vLqLTVxqO9

— Blackity Black⁷ (@ClaudBuzzzz) March 29, 2020

Aaliyah is trending once again. She deserves endless flowers. This is true impact y’all. Her voice, her sound, her music...She’s been gone for 2 decades and y’all see the love for her is even stronger! We miss you baby girl! #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/ALDcT0ZQxR

— A A L I Y A H (@forbbygrlaali) March 30, 2020

Aaliyah said she wanted to be remembered for her music and yet most of it is not on streaming services #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/zwk0AWMCoE

— RJR (@MyNewEssence96) March 29, 2020

aaliyah’s gems like more than a woman deserve to be in streaming sites #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/mM2GWEg1pe

— k (@grandexrocky) March 30, 2020

I saw #FreeAaliyahMusic and IMMEDIATELY jumped into action! I can’t express how betrayed I felt when we were supposed to have all her music on Spotify by her birthday. Her discography is deeply underestimated and we need to make it right for our babygirl!pic.twitter.com/GfxBeJxUY1

— jerrica✨ (@jerricaofficial) March 29, 2020

Before Megan The Stallion drove the boat...

Aaliyah rocked the boat...

#FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/iXNwssD3sY

— Al’Bei (@_albei) March 29, 2020

i think we should have that conversation #FreeAaliyahMusic pic.twitter.com/cGl269tuTr

— AALIYAH LEGION (@AaliyahLegion) April 1, 2020

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Singers Adrienne Bailon (L) and Kiely Williams of the 'Cheetah Girls' pose for photos around Mercedes Benz Fashion Week held at Smashbox Studios on October 18, 2007 in Culver City, California.
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Kiely Williams Explains Fallout With Adrienne Bailon Houghton And Alleged Fight With Raven-Symonè

Our current isolated way of life has given some plenty of time for reflection like Kiely Williams of the former girl group 3LW and The Cheetah Girls (ask your kids). The tales of both successful groups have been told time after time by fans in YouTube documentaries and members of each collective but Williams has decided to share her side of the story.

Williams hopped on Live Monday (March 30) where she discussed her former friendship with The Real co-host Adrienne Bailon Houghton and the infamous chicken throwing fight with actress/singer Naturi Naughton. The mother of one didn't pinpoint exactly why she fell out with Houghton but did point out how she wouldn't be interested in appearing on her talk show.

"I don't think Adrienne wants to have live TV with me," Williams said. "'Cause she's gon' have to say, 'Yes Kiely, I did pretend to be your best friend. Now, I am not.' You were either lying then or you're lying now. You either were my best friend and now you're just not claiming me or you were pretending [to be my best friend."

The two remained friends after Naughton was kicked out of 3LW, the platinum-selling group known for 2000s pop hits like "No More (Baby I'ma Do Right)" and "Playas Gon' Play." Williams and Houghton were eventually picked to be apart of The Cheetah Girls with then-Disney darling Raven-Symonè and dancer Sabrina Bryan.

Williams went on to discuss her fight with Naughton, which she denies had anything to do with her skin color. With her mother near, Williams claimed Naughton called her a b***h, leading to the fight. While she didn't clear up the chicken throwing, she stated how she was "going for her neck" and was holding food and her baby sister in the process.

Apologies aren't on the horizon either. “I don’t feel like I have anything to make amends for, especially as it relates to Adrienne,” Kiely said. “As far as Naturi goes, if there was ever a reason to apologize, all of that has kind of been overshadowed by the literal lies and really ugly stuff that she said about my mom and my sister. So, no. Not interested in that. I’m sorry.”

Moving onto The Cheetah Girls, Williams also denied claims she got into fights with Raven-Symonè on the set of The Cheetah Girls films and never outed her as a teen. The rumor about Symonè and Williams was reportedly started by Symonè's former co-star Orlando Brown.

Symonè has often shared positive memories about The Cheetah Girls and their reign but did imply during an episode of The View how co-star Lynn Whitfield kept her from losing her cool on set.

On a lighter note, Symonè, Houghton and Naughton have kept in contact with Naughton and Houghton putting their differences aside during an appearance on The Real. 

Symonè and Houghton also reunited at the Women's March in Los Angeles in January. During Bailon's performance at the event, the two briefly performed the Cheetah Girls' classic, "Together We Can."

Willaims also shared some stories about the making of the group's hits. Check out her Live below.

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Kelis Announces ‘Cooked With Cannabis’ Show Will Premiere On Netflix

Kelis is taking her chef talents to Netflix. The musician will host a food competition show titled Cooked With Cannabis that’ll premiere on the very-fitting April 20 (4/20). According to NME, the show will span six episodes and be co-hosted by chef Leather Storrs.

Describing the opportunity as a “dream come true” since she’s a major supporter of the streaming service, Kelis took to Instagram to share how cannabis and cooking is one of her many creative passions. “As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today’s society,” the mother-of-two writes. “In this country, many things have been used systemically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together.”

Each episode will place three chefs against each other as they craft three-course meals with cannabis as the central ingredient. Each episode’s winner takes home $10,000. Guests will play an integral role in who takes home the cash prize. Too $hort, and El-P are just a few of this season's guests.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

I'm really excited to announce my new show, Cooked with Cannabis on @Netflix!! Anyone that knows me, knows how much I love my Netflix, so this is a dream come true. Interestingly, this was one of those things that I didn't go looking for, it kind of came to me. As a chef, I was intrigued by the food and as an everyday person, I was interested in how powerful this topic is in today's society. In this country, many things have been used systematically to oppress groups of people, but this is so culturally important for us to learn and grow together. I hope you all will tune in, it's definitely going to be a good time! We launch on 4/20! XO, Kelis

A post shared by Kelis (@kelis) on Mar 18, 2020 at 7:57am PDT

In a previous Lenny Letter profile, Kelis shared she comes from a line of culinary influences beginning with her mother who owned a catering service. In 2008, the “Milkshake” singer sought to refine her cooking skills by enrolling in the Le Cordon Bleu school. Receiving a certificate as a trained saucier, the New York native put her expertise to the test during pop-up restaurants in her native city, created a hot sauce line, and co-owns a sustainable farm in Quindio, Colombia.

“Food is revolutionary because it is the one and only international language. It’s the most human thing you can partake in,” she said in an interview with Bon Appetit. “We are the only species that cooks.”

This isn’t Kelis’ first foray into the reality-cooking television world. In 2014, she partnered with the Cooking Channel for Saucy and Sweet and published the "My Life on a Plate" cookbook a year later.

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