Photo credit: Chris Ragazzo/WE tv
The new reality series Braxton Family Values is the quintessential reality TV family affair. The show follows superstar singer Toni Braxton and her sisters — Trina, Traci, Towanda and Tamar. In a recent conference call interview three of the siblings talked about working with family and how the show has changed them.
Toni has been famous for over three decades, but according to her sisters she never let her success get between her and her family. Tamar recounted, “I’ve only known Toni to be a superstar in my life. When I was 12 years old she was on stage getting Grammys.”
But Trina recalled, “Even when Toni reached her superstar status she always made sure that we were with her sharing in her stardom along with her. So we’re very thankful for that.”
And Tamar acknowledged that this might not have been right for Toni’s personal interests. “It might not have been the best thing for her at the time, because she had to grow up. And some people go off to college and get to know themselves. But we appreciate her for that and for that we’ll always love her and have the greatest respect for her.”
But don’t let the sisterly lovefest fool you. The ladies admitted that the road has sometimes been rocky. Trina caught herself as she started to paint a picture of perfection, saying, “We’ve worked together our whole lives and we never get tired of being… wait, wait, wait don’t make me lie.”
Tamar chimed in, “Lie, lie, lie.” Which forced Trina to ultimately fess up, “We do get tired of being around each other sometimes, but it’s comforting to know that you’re around people that you can trust and that you can still have fun with.”
Toni grounded the conversation in a bit of reality, adding, “It can be challenging because you have differences of opinions and sometimes it can get a little heated everyone’s not agreeing with you. But that’s all in the family, but I do love the security of having my sisters with me always.”
The dynamic is also affected by the other family in the mix. Toni’s longtime manager, Vincent Herbert, married Tamar. As a result the successful singer sometimes feels caught up in their drama, she discussed the situation saying, “It can be challenging for me. I cannot deny it.” Tamar interjected, “I have to say, she brought it on herself because Ben and Toni were really, really, really, good friends and then she introduced us.”
Toni went on to explain that she sometimes feel trapped between her sister and her brother-in-law. “What happens is I get caught in the middle. That’s the only thing. I get caught in the middle because my sister Tamar’s pursuing her singing career and her husband is… affiliated with Gaga and he has a record label and he has all these great acts.”
She continued, “I feel put in the middle because she’ll say, ‘Well why didn’t you put my record out?’ And he’ll say, ‘It’s not the right time.’ And so I often have to be a referee and I’m tired of wearing that black and white striped shirt.”
The Braxton’s ultimate peacemaker, mom Evelyn, will also make her mark on Family Values. Tamar gushed, “My mother is an amazing, amazing woman and she is the example of who we are. We all have different bits and pieces of her that make up this wonderful woman that we have that’s our mom. And she is the matriarch of our family and although we are grown, she will pull us down and be like look I am your mother.”
Trina expressed her affection for her mother, too. “A lot of our strength in our personalities definitely came from her and it’s really an attribute to have because she keeps us grounded and she keeps us together… She definitely keeps us honest. And she is the glue that kind of keeps the whole family together if you really want to know the truth.”
Toni concurred,”That’s true. She’s Elmer’s.” The Braxtons could use a little glue these days. After over 40 years of marriage, Evelyn and her husband split.
Toni talked about the difficulties of the situation, “It’s just challenging for us because our dad was such a focal point for our family when our parents were married and now they’re divorced. And my dad got remarried and now his second family I guess is his wife. And my dad, unfortunately, when he divorced my mom he kind of divorced us, too.”
And even though the girls are grown, watching their parents new lives take shape has been hard according to Toni. “As an adult I understand he had to do it that way because he didn’t know how to break away. And he’s trying to mend it and make it better but it has good days and it’s bad days. I guess you must have caught us on a not so good day. But we love our dad dearly and we want people to see that every family goes through changes. And we’re just one of many families. And we hope that we can heal ourselves.”
The fact that the women are going through all of these usually private transitions in the reality TV spotlight adds another layer of complexity. Toni divulged, “That rumor you hear when you shoot reality TV, that everyone fuss and fight and bicker and it changes the relationship, that is true.”
Her sisters agreed. But, says Tamar, “For us it worked out in the end.” She had a reason she believed this to be the case. “We’re not just friends. We don’t have to go home and not speak to each other until next season or whatever. We have to deal with each other because we’re siblings and we became very, very close and now I feel like we can tell each other anything.”
That road to ultimate communication wasn’t easy according to Toni. She conceded, “I have to be honest it was a rough... the first couple months actually, it was pretty rough.” But Trina was happy to report, “We were able to actually get past a lot of our issues unlike other people.”
By publicly working through their own family issues, the Braxton’s dream about helping others. Tamar remarked, “I hope that families, friendships, mother-daughter, father-daughter, father-son can get healing, can move on, can communicate.”
Toni revealed that the sisters have their own reasons for being able to relate to that need for true connection. “Our parents were married for 35 years and got a divorce and you never think it impacts you or bothers you when you’re older. And we found that we were really affected by it. But every family gathering is always a challenge because our head of the households are no longer together and they don’t like each other.”
She seemed to have confidence that other people will connect to the Braxton’s tale. “We’re hoping that our story tells [people], ‘Wow they’re like that? My family’s like that. They’re going through the same thing we’re going through. Wow.’”
See if you can relate to the Braxtons when Family Values airs every Tuesday at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. Central on WE tv.