It takes a strong woman to stand behind her man during the toughest of times. For Tameka "Tiny" Cottle, the fiancée of Atlanta rapper Clifford "T.I." Harris, Jr., supporting her hubby-to-be as he prepares to serve a one-year prison sentence (for possession of illegal fire arms) has not been as difficult as most would believe. The mother of six and former member of the disbanded female R&B quartet Xscape sat down with ESSENCE.com to discuss how she's coping with T.I.'s pending departure and why she'll never leave her man.
ESSENCE.COM: We so miss you and the days of Xscape! Are you back to stay?
TAMEKA "TINY" COTTLE: (Laughs.) Not that I ever left, but I think I'm back to stay. I've just been busy being at home with my kids and just being a mother. I'm also opening a nail salon, working on a reality show and just putting myself back out there without compromising too much of my time with the family.
ESSENCE.COM: Juggling a career and motherhood is no joke. When can we expect to hear your heavenly voice again and will it be with all of the ladies of Xscape?
TINY: It's funny because I know people love the music because they tell me all the time. It would be great if we reunited, but I don't think there's a big chance of that happening because we can't ever agree on details like who should represent us or how we're going to present ourselves, but we still have love for each other. I don't talk to the sisters [LaTocha Scott and Tamika Scott] as much, but I talk to Kandi [Burruss] a lot.
ESSENCE.COM: That's great to hear because life is too short. As T.I.'s fiancée, you've endured a lot of scrutiny and hearsay regarding his upcoming sentence. Has it been difficult?
TINY: It hasn't really hit me. His sentence is a year and day and begins either toward the middle or end of March. I'm praying he gets out sooner. I'm pretty sure when the day comes for him to leave I'm going to be very sad and lonely. Although I know our family is going to be straight [financially], I'm still going to miss him like crazy because I got used to spending time with him when he had to be home. I'm going to go with him and stay with him until he gets ready to walk out that door.
ESSENCE.COM: At any point during T.I.'s trouble with the law did you ever feel like throwing the towel in on your relationship?
TINY: No, not at all. It never crossed my mind, especially not for what we have as a family. We are way stronger than that. Now, there are times we broke up, but it was because of personal things we were going through, but not for anything like this present situation. Yes, I was upset that this happened and disappointed by the way it happened, but I didn't keep arguing with him about what happened. At the end of the day, I'm not leaving; I got him. The great thing about all that has happened is that it has made our family closer and we got to spend more quality time.
ESSENCE.COM: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about you and T.I.'s relationship?
TINY: That we're not a real couple. They think because we're not married yet and have been engaged for two years that something must be wrong. I know it's a long time, but there are so many restrictions placed upon him now before we can think about planning a wedding. There is so much love between us it's ridiculous, and we like [spending] time together. So the things that people say and write about us doesn't bother me. I know what we have and what he shows me every day and that's all that matters.