Toni Braxton may have had her share of life challenges including bankruptcies, illnesses and a separation from her husband, but she’s powered through them with grace. Whether she’s the supportive older sister on “The Braxton Family Values,” whose new season begins on WEtvon Thursday, March 14 at 9 p.m. or finding love in an unexpected place in the Lifetime movie “Twist of Faith” debuting on Saturday, February 9 at 8 p.m., Braxton is staying busy. In the movie, she plays Nia, a single mother who finds love with a Jewish man who is dealing with his own set of challenges. Although Braxton was hospitalized late last year for blood clots (a common problem for those living with lupus), she’s doing fine now and sounded great when we caught up with her recently. Read on for Toni’s take on life, family and working through it all.
BAW: You already have a lot on your plate. What made you want to do “Twist of Faith,” and how did you get involved in it?
Toni Braxton: This character is Toni Braxton if she wasn’t a recording artist. She’s a teacher with a college degree, she goes to church, she sings in the choir, but a little bit unlucky in love with her marital situation. She’s a single parent and she’s decided to focus just on her kid. Sometimes you have to open yourself up to find love. Love has no color. This guy is Jewish and they find each other. It’s a really beautiful love story. My manager brought it to me. It was a project that I felt so attached to immediately.
BAW: You do have a lot going on, recording, doing a reality show and still healing from your health issues so this must have really spoken to you.
I did this last year. You know movies take some time to come out. I knew who this person was, so I had to do it. And then I had great people around me who helped me feel comfortable in front of a camera. Plays [are one thing] but acting in front of a camera is completely different. It’s more technical and more visual but everyone was completely supportive.
BAW: But you’ve done tons of music videos. That must make it easier?
No way. No comparison. Nothing about that is similar. Nothing. No way. In a video, you’re looking at the camera. [In a movie] you’ve got to make sure you’re not looking straight into the camera, you’ve got to look to the left or the right depending on where the person’s eye is – so many technical things. Anyone who wants to act should probably take a lighting class. It’s not about the acting; it’s about the technical part. How do you stand? How do you know where [to look?] The best person who does this is Denzel. He’s editing while he’s shooting. No wonder Denzel’s Denzel. He’s making it easy for them to edit. He’s brilliant at that. I’m learning. But I had a great time. It’s always great when you’re learning something new and challenging yourself. I like educating myself on anything that can make me a better person and a better performer.
BAW: So videos are different from shooting a movie, but what about a reality show? Is that kind of a point and shoot thing – they just kind of stick the cameras in your face and you go about your business?
They just put the cameras in your face so you can be who you are, exactly, at least on our show, and they film you. They may have you walk out and come back into the house and they film you, things like that. But they kind of follow us around and see how the stories develop and then that’s how the stories are written. But it’s our own lives and things that happen to us. Our things aren’t superficial. The hair and makeup people in our crew – we call them the B crew – say “It’s really about you and your family. It’s your life. And you just decide to let people film it.” It can be tough. I don’t like telling my business. My younger sisters are much more comfortable with that. I’m not. I’m working on it.
BAW: Now that you’ve done all those various mediums, where do you now want to focus your career given that some of your health challenges that have made a recording career much harder for you?
That’s true. I cannot deny that. My doctors tell me I can’t really tour but I have a tour Valentine’s Day and I’m really excited! I’m really excited about that. But baby steps for me, only because it’s a physical thing. I have lupus but I’m not going to let that get me down. If you tell me I can’t do something, I’m going to try to make it happen. Maybe I can’t do it the way I used to, but I love singing. I may not be able to jump and dance but I’m too old for that anyway (laughs.) I’m out of the hospital now and I’m able to work and it will get better as I get stronger and take my meds and do what I’m supposed to do. I don’t like to feel like a victim. It’s just what I have and I’ll dust myself off and try it again. I’ll try it a different way, but I’ll try it again. Sometimes life gives you lemons and you have to make lemonade. I made lemon meringue pie about 5 minutes ago. (laughs).
(Photo: Courtesy of tonibraxton.com)