Angie Stone is the resident wise woman on TVOne’s R&B Divas, constantly mediating blowups between her equally famous co-stars, Syleena Johnson, Monifah, Nicci Gilbert, Keke Wyatt and LaTocha Scott. Stone says she’s on a mission to not only stop the R&B “train wreck” but also prove that women singers can work together. She spoke with ESSENCE.com about the state of R&B, feeling judged by her age (she’s “over 40 and fabulous”), and how she feels about her 15-year-old son Michael’s father, D’Angelo, making a comeback album.
ESSENCE: You’ve been a very private person so what made you decide to now put your life out there?
ANGIE STONE: I’m not putting my life out there like that. I got on the show because I saw the first season and because R&B is what I do. I saw the whole thing headed for a train wreck and rather than be a part of demolishing a great music genre, I wanted to get on there and offer some of my experience and what I’ve gone through to survive in the business for so long so I wanted to come on to help out and try to save the day with the show. Whether I did it or not it’s still yet to be seen.
ESSENCE: You felt like R&B was a train wreck from the show, or in general?
STONE: I felt that way about where neo-soul music was at the time I picked the show; when R&B music was not in the best light because we were just struggling to get airplay. We’re just starting to get recognized as people who genuinely love great music. It’s already been thrown into the category of adult music even though soul music or R&B is sung by anyone 25 years or older. When I got involved it was from a standpoint of this music is here to stay and we have to take every opportunity to make sure this happens.
ESSENCE: What did you learn on the show?
STONE: I’ve learned that my experience exceeds these women far and beyond. When I started out I was 16 in 1979. It’s now 2013 and the youngest member on the show is over 30 but in their minds they think that’s really young. But that’s not in the industry. I’ve been very privy to even that rejection, even at 26 having a person saying you’re 26 and we’re not signing anybody over 18. Having walked that walk and experiencing that rejection and hurt and being able to share that with someone who’s beyond 30 and really thinking that because they have the talent it’s going to outlast them. I’m concerned about that because unless we grab the bull by the horn at this point everybody who doesn’t make it super big by 30 is idling right where they are.
ESSENCE: Did you feel judged about your age on the show?
STONE: Of course, I always feel judged by it. I’m judged by a lot of things in life. I’m judged by my age, my relationships, my opinions, a lot of things and I’m okay with that. I think a lot of people judge me because they can’t understand why God continuously blesses me. With that said I think I’m blessed because God is trying to tell me something and at the end of the day I am that student that is to be judged.
ESSENCE: Did you know any of the other ladies before you joined the show?
STONE: Not personally. I knew of them, I got to meet them and work together briefly throughout our careers. I didn’t know their personalities, their path; I didn’t know anything about them. We are all Black, we are all sisters, we’re all in the same genre of music and we should be able to get along because we are the people that God has chosen to take this to the next level.
ESSENCE: If you could describe what the show is what would you say?
STONE: There’s some highs and lows, tears and laughter and some bull crap, but it’s who we are. It makes up the R&B divas. It’s real. Some things I think are extreme but I think it’s all necessary to get to where it needed to get.
ESSENCE: We’re waiting for D’Angelo’s comeback. Have you heard anything about that?
STONE: I don’t have a comment because I’ve never stepped out of line unless I’ve felt pressured or pushed to, but the one thing that I always have to remember is that I’m a parent to his son and if nothing else, I have to be the guardian to my son. I know that there will always be a genius that lies in him as a young man and father and along with you guys; I’m anticipating his comeback.
ESSENCE: Would you two ever collaborate on music again?
STONE: I don’t think so. It’s something I used to dream of and I’m realizing it’ll never happen and I’m okay with it.