Tamar Braxton wore diamonds while giving birth to her son after bingeing on TLC’s A Baby Story, a show that scarred her for life. “The women on that show looked horrible! I didn’t understand that. Why wouldn’t you just put on a bun and some mascara and some lip gloss?” she says, intently stirring honey into a cup of hot water at the New York Mandarin Oriental. “I wanted my baby to meet me and be like, ‘Oh, this is my mama!’”
Braxton’s acid washed denim button down and black jeans are casual, but her stilettos, lashes, and very red lips give away her more glamorous leanings. She laughs easily, smells like Tom Ford, and looks me dead in the eye. “I’m not a liar,” she says. “I’m always myself.” Her brand of candid sass has spurred a reality television chain reaction that has turned Braxton into a celebrity, though she hates the word. Starting off as the self-described “bratty” youngest Braxton on the show Braxton Family Values, Tamar’s distinct breed of tell-it-like-it-is-ness led to a spinoff show about her marriage to manager Vincent Herbert, aptly titled Tamar and Vince, and then to a test run on The Real as a talk show co-host.
Following a 13-year hiatus from music, Braxton has also reemerged as a musical force, writing the album Love and War about her experience nursing her husband back to health after he suffered a pulmonary embolism. Love and War has since peaked at no. 1 on Billboard R&B charts, and Braxton has taken on yet another project: motherhood. She gave birth to her son Logan Vincent Herbert in front of TV cameras in June. Not surprisingly, Braxton says she was not intimidated by the presence of cameras in the delivery room but admits she gave birth very drugged up. “Natural? What does that mean?” she asks, throwing back her head and letting loose a long, raspy laugh.
What would you want your son, or any children you have in the future, to understand about reality television?
Well, I’m not having any kids in the future.
God no. I hated being pregnant. I felt like Invasion of the Body Snatchers. It’s beautiful and it’s great just like everyone says, but there’s another side to it. My back. My feet. My skin went absolutely nuts. I had the itchies the whole day. Imagine scratching all day and you can never get to the itch.
So, you think there is a side to pregnancy that isn’t openly discussed?
Yes. People lie to you. I was one hundred percent open and honest on Tamar and Vince because I was upset. I didn’t instantly connect with my baby, and no one told me this was common. I was jealous because Vince and the baby connected instantly. It’s not that I didn’t love him; it’s not that I didn’t want to connect with him. I was upset because I didn’t instantly connect with him. I didn’t cry when I first saw him. I was confused. I was like, “What do I do now?”
You say you’re very honest on your show. Does being filmed change the way you approach your life?
Sometimes I wish it did. I’m a lot better because I am working on my filter, but before I had absolutely none. I was just one hundred percent raw and I found that wasn’t the best thing for me because I really do love my family, and I would say things thinking I was helping, and I was hurting their feelings. I can watch myself and learn from my mistakes. Then I’m on the phone with my sisters all day trying to apologize and they don’t want to hear it.
Is it difficult sometimes to be a woman with a very strong personality?
The upside is that people can always go to you for the truth, right? The downside to that is that sometimes it can come off as offensive, like I said. Or people can take things the wrong way, or people just get plain old tired of me being honest. It can get irritating sometimes because of the way it comes off.
A lot of people love you, though. What do you want your fans to know about you?
I don’t like to call them fans; I like to call them my Tamartian friends because I’ve never really had friends before.
Why do you think that is?
I was guarded. I didn’t want to be made fun of. So I had to accept myself. It becomes attractive to other people once you accept yourself. I have vitiligo, right? I used to sit on my hands all of the time. Now, “Hot Sugar” is the first video that I haven’t color-corrected. It’s the first time I’ve accepted myself for who I really am, flaws and all.
What inspired the “Hot Sugar” video? There are a lot of men in leather kilts.
I thought it was brilliant. A lot of people are close-minded. It’s okay for men to dance in kilts! So what? It’s fashion, kids. There is life outside of your living room. It’s up to us—us being people who have seen the world and been around the world—to show you. How else are you going to see it?
Why did you get back into music after 13 years?
I really wanted to make my first album to be as transparent as I am, and it wasn’t something that was accepted. Stars back then were very laidback and you didn’t know about their personal lives. I felt like my first album was like a karaoke album. I couldn’t sing the songs I wanted to sing. So, I think that was what drove my hunger to have a record that I can finally be myself and write the songs that I want to write. It was a big step for who I am.
What inspired you to write “Love and War”?
The first season of Tamar and Vince [Vince and I] went through a lot in our relationship. We call ourselves Velcro because from the moment we decided we were going to be together, we’ve been together every single day. When Vince got sick, our relationship changed. We started going through a lot of relationship problems and communication problems. When I was writing “Love and War,” it wasn’t a negative space, but it was an honest space. This was the first time I had experienced not just love but passion. There’s a difference between love and passion, and I didn’t know that.
What is the difference between love and passion for you?
Passion is a lot like lust, except it’s real. Passion is real because the other person feels the same way about you. It’s not one-sided. When you argue, it’s passionate, because you want to get your point across but you also want the other person to understand you, so you can get back to the love. Nobody told me about that either. I had to learn that for myself.
What do you think changed the social climate so that you could be more open in your songs?
Social media, number one. People get on Twitter and go HAM nation. Even still now, it’s HAM nation under God with liberty and justice for all. But now I’ve started something with my Tamartian fans where we are really trying to be shade-free because cyberbullying has become something that is out of control. I was bullied as a kid, and so for me to get on social media and still have that is a problem for me.
Why do you think you were bullied?
Are you kidding me? I walked different, I had a different attitude, and I was picked on because I wasn’t like everybody else. You have to accept that about yourself. I think especially for women it’s important because it’s so hard for us. If we just accept ourselves for who we are, it’s so much more attractive and then other people notice. Like, “Her skin is so bad but she doesn’t give a hot fuck!” Then they stop looking at you!
What’s next for you?
We just got picked up for The Braxtons season four. I’m really excited about that. Hopefully The Real gets picked up. I go on tour tomorrow with John Legend. I’m obsessed with him, and he didn’t know it until I started giving interviews. He asked for me even before I had my album out, and that was really special to me, because I respect him so much.
Would you say your faith is what keeps you balanced in life?
Yes. Both of my parents at one time were pastors of their own churches and I learned a lot from that but not until I was an adult did I understand it and know for myself. That’s what changed things for me. That’s where accepting myself comes in. There’s no way I can fake the funk. If you do it, how long can you do it for? And when you go home, how miserable are you at night? I sleep at night. I’m tired.
Stylist: Robert Behar
Hair: Rod Ortega
Makeup: Terrell Mullin
Manicure: Emi Kudo
Photographed at Aesthesia Studios
Beauty Notes: Gold Camellia beauty oil by Tatcha, Mineralize Concealer in NW35 by M.A.C Cosmetics, and be legendary lipstick in peachy nude by Smashbox Cosmetics. Dry Texturizing Spray by ORIBE.