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Real Talk: Did Toni Braxton’s ‘Behind the Music’ Surprise You?

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Toni Braxton
Toni Braxton

I lu-uvvv Toni Braxton. Have since I was a sophomore in high school in 1993 and her first single hit the airwaves. I can’t remember the first time I heard “Love Shoulda Brought You Home.” Maybe it was while watching Boomerang. Maybe it was on the radio back home in Washington, D.C., when I discovered Braxton was a “hometown” girl. I latched on to her the way many people do to local success stories. It helped that Braxton was pretty, with an impeccable haircut—I mortified my mother when I chopped my shoulder-length hair to mimic it the following year, just in time for class pictures, no less—and Braxton’s ballads, always about being on the wrong side of a love song, were the perfect soundtrack to my melodramatic teenage love “affairs.”

So now you might understand why I ran outside in the rain from my friend’s without-cable house to my own as Hurricane Sandy waned over Brooklyn—admittedly, not my best idea—to catch Vh1’s Behind the Music featuring Toni Braxton.

Unsurprisingly, most of the ado about the episode has revolved around Braxton’s bold comments about Oprah Winfrey, whom Braxton accuses of turning fans against her when she initially filed for bankruptcy in 1998. “She was so frickin’ mean to me, I was in shock,” said Braxton of Winfrey. “She said, ‘I hear you have Gucci flatware; I’m Oprah Winfrey and I don’t have Gucci flatware…’” Braxton squeezed her thumb and forefinger together, then added, “She made me feel this big.”

Braxton explained her first bankruptcy as a result of signing a bad contract and mismanagement of funds by her team—not to overspending, as was speculated in the media and by Oprah. Braxton said she was devastated by the experience and cried constantly. She eventually sued her record company and was awarded $20 million. It’s unclear to me why she didn’t just set the record straight when she was on Oprah, instead of letting the idea stand that she was extravagant with her purchases and careless with her bills. And did she actually have Gucci flatware? It’s never made clear.

And about that second bankruptcy in 2010: I was one of those people who thought “C’mon, Toni!” the second time around, mostly because I hadn’t heard Braxton’s side of what happened with the first one. Braxton explained that she was working in Vegas—a stint that was supposed to last six weeks but turned into a nearly two-year run. She was diagnosed with lupus during that time and was unable to perform. The insurance for the show didn’t cover her cancellations, and she was put in the position of having to pick up the tab for, she says, "the lighting company, flooring company and everyone else." She added, "I felt like everyone was saying ‘I told you so. See, she spent her money the first time, now she's spending it a second time.’ Oh God, I was disappointed, angry at myself.”

If you believe her version of events—which sounds plausible to me—it’s good to know that Braxton’s not as bad with money as suspected, but perhaps a little unlucky in that category.

Braxton’s Behind the Music definitely didn’t disappoint. From the glamorous (and revealing) outfits, the songs of hers that it resurrected that I’d—gulp—forgotten to love, the family obligations she divulged (she’s always felt guilty about leaving a group with her sisters and going solo), and of course, the revelations about her two bouts of bankruptcy, Braxton came across as candid, likable, and... can I be honest? Sweeter than I expected. I thought she would have more diva to her, given her sales history (60 million) and accomplishments (six Grammys, five Billboard awards). That was a nice surprise.

What did you think of Toni Braxton’s Behind the Music?

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