When Eric Benet checked himself into an Arizona sex rehabilitation clinic for cheating on beloved Hollywood goddess Halle Berry in the summer of 2002, the gold-selling singer/songwriter became a tabloid whipping boy of epic proportions. The shocking revelation not only stalled Benet’s once respectable career, it burdened the barefoot-performing Grammy nominated sex symbol with a new title: the dumb ass who cheated on one of the most beautiful women in the world. With 2010’s string of recent alleged bombshell infidelities (Tiger Woods, Ashton Kutcher, Jesse James, Brett Favre), Benet offers advice on side-stepping a salacious sex scandal and surviving the fall. As Benet continues to revamp his public image, the talented vocalist is gaining positive notice for his soulful throwback release Lost In Time, due out Nov. 23. Listen to the man, players. He has some experience.
Every situation is completely different. But I think one of the biggest lessons I learned during my own situation was just learning to be honest. You have to be honest with yourself. I was a person that if something made me angry, I would often sweep it under the proverbial rug somewhere. I think when you do that, that’s a recipe for you not being in the right headspace. Becoming known as the guy that cheated [on Halle Berry] in the media sucked. But I realize that I put myself in that position. I made those mistakes. It’s just kind of unfortunate that when you make a mistake in a fishbowl like that, the mistakes get really blown up on steroids. You pick up a magazine or hear something on the radio—at that point it’s all about ratings and selling magazines. That is a painful thing to go through, but it comes with the territory.
The more frustrating aspect was that a lot of people [outside my fans] weren’t familiar with my music. They became familiar with me from my mistake. But by the grace of God and by me keeping my heart, mind and heart open and trying to really learn from the mistakes that I made, I really feel I’ve become a better person. That is reflected in the kind of music I’m making now and how I feel about myself. I think as a songwriter, if you are being true you will inject as much venerability as possible. Otherwise, you are not really an artist. I feel like when I write a song and I’m being very honest about how it feels to fall in love or how it feels to mess up in love, I have a really good shot at making something classic because I’ve had real pain. I have to give it up to God and my family because coming out of that situation [with Halle] was hard. As much as the press was beating me up and it was a very polarizing story, that was just one side. [I had sisters asking me] how could you do that to [Halle]? Actually, they were a lot bolder than that [laughs]. But it took some time for me to just get with my family and figure out, You know what? I’m supposed to learn something from this…I’m supposed to learn how not to make those mistakes again.
I think [with] people, when they go through [struggle], whether they cause the problem or whether the problem seems like it happened to them, there is a reaction to that problem. And it’s pain. Now, it’s important to sit in that pain. I felt myself at that time saying, ‘God, I want to sit in this remorse, regret, or whatever you want to call it for as long as you need me to so I can soak up all the lessons I need to learn.’ A lot of people like to go around the pain. They like to use something else to distract themselves…to numb the pain. But, again, you have to sit in that pain. After a while I really felt like I grew as a person…I grew as a man and I definitely grew as a father.
I have this great, amazing relationship with my daughter, who is an incredible person. She’s 18-years-old and it’s her first year in college. I’m just so proud of her. She’s got the smarts that I never had [laughs]. She’s also a very talented singer and songwriter and she’s doing some singing on my new record Lost In Time. I guess I passed on the gene.
But I’m encouraging her to focus on school because I dropped out after two years. She has a lot more to offer. I’m excited for my record [Lost In Time] immensely. I was signed to Warner Bros. 16-years-ago. It’s been a process to be able to make this kind of record and ask for this kind of budget to bring in expensive production styles, live strings and live musicians. In this very challenging economic climate, multiply that by 10 for the music industry. To go in and get approval to make this record and then just sit back and listen to it and get chills on every song, I am extremely proud.
I can’t worry about if some of my [female fans] still don’t trust me. The best way I deal with that is just to continue to be the best person and the best father and the best man that I can be. I’m not just trying to say, ‘Hey, look at me…You can love me again!’ By being someone that I can love and respect now, that’s going to translate into every aspect of my life. I’ve been blessed to be in a relationship with someone for a few years now. It’s been beautiful. And she’s been very beautiful, nurturing person. It’s been great.” —As told to Keith Murphy