With a musical climate dominated by hip-hop, dance and pop, it’s hard for the R&B artist to stand out amongst her musical peers while still remaining true to her voice. This is just one of the many subjects tackled on R&B Divas, TVOne’s record-breaking reality show that stars Faith Evans, Nicci Gilbert, Syleena Johnson, Monifah and Keke Wyatt. Audiences have watched the five singers try to create a positive balance between work and a personal life, including their friendships with each other.
Hip-hop’s most famous widow, Faith Evans, has been at the helm of this reality success, serving as co-creator and executive producer of the show’s companion album. Divas not only shows Vixens in control of their own destinies, but also serves as a reminder that reality television doesn’t have to be “ratchet” to reach a wide audience.
Vixen caught up with Evans to talk about the show’s overnight success, the current state of R&B as well as the portrayal of black women on reality television.–Nicole Brown
VIBE VIXEN: What do you think has been the key to the success of R&B Divas?
FAITH EVANS: Number one, you’re seeing the resolve, the resolution. Nicci and I were adamant that we weren’t trying to make that kind of show where it’s about beating each other down because that’s not what we do. I think the positive things about it are what people are embracing. It hasn’t been officially announced to us, but I’m really hopeful that there will be a second season.
Did the idea for an R&B Divas album grow out of the show or was it planned beforehand?
Initially we didn’t know what we wanted the premise of the show to be. When Nicci came to me with the idea for the show and the ladies she had assembled, she was saying, ‘It would be dope if we could do it about us being on tour,’ and I’m like, ‘But, we’re not on tour’ [Laughs]. When I decided to come on board as a co-executive producer and help her pitch the show, we were trying to figure out what would be a really good hook to make the premise of the first season. After losing Whitney [Houston], I sort of had a revelation. Divine intervention certainly played a big part.
Were you a fan of reality television before having your own show?
Oh yeah. I definitely watch all the shows you love to hate [Laughs].
What are your thoughts on the portrayal of Black women on reality television?
Firstly, everyone on those shows aren’t doing them for the same reasons. Everyone isn’t exposing the same things as the next, so I think it’s a personal decision of how you choose to portray yourself on camera or off camera. Everything ain’t for everybody, but that’s a personal decision if you choose to portray yourself in a certain light be it for money, for fame or whatever. That’s something that you’re eventually going to have to deal with the repercussions of.
Singers like Miguel and Ne-Yo have given their opinions on the diminished state of R&B in the industry. What are your thoughts? Do you think R&B is in a bad place?
The R&B music I do hasn’t changed. I just think times change. The way music is received is changed, but there’s still an audience for what I do. There’s a lot of different types of R&B music, so at awards shows you have a Chris Brown in a category with an Anita Baker because that’s all R&B. I’m not mad at the new batch of talent. I don’t think it’s in a bad state. I always use the Frankie Beverly and Maze example. They haven’t had an album out in 20 years, but they make a living and are on the road half of the year. Their shows are packed and people love them because they make quality timeless music, and that’s really what I’m trying to do. I mean, I like to hear my songs on the radio, but I’m not picky about what station it is. I’m happy that someone’s playing my music.
What do you think has been the key to your longevity?
I don’t have a formula at all, but I don’t try to necessarily keep up with what is current.
When we will get another solo Faith Evans album?
I’m actually back in the studio, so I already have a lot of material that I’ve been working on for two years. This’ll probably be the shortest period between albums for me because I definitely anticipate having my album out by next year sometime.