Tamela Mann thinks her best is yet to come, and with good reason.

The gospel singer-turned-actress is releasing her latest gospel album Best Days (out August 14) the same week she makes her big-screen debut playing Whitney Houston’s best friend in the movie Sparkle (out August 17). Mann is also sporting a trimmer figure thanks to her and her husband’s — Brown’s co-star David Mann — decision to live a healthier lifestyle. Together they’re working on a cooking/adventure show called “Hanging With the Mann’s.”

Moments after wrapping up a performance on Bobby Jones Gospel, Mann spoke with Essence.com about her latest album, working on Sparkle, and her memories of Whitney.

ESSENCE.com: You’re having some good days alright. What inspired Best Days?
TAMELA MANN: What inspired me first was time. I was kinda behind on getting a project out. The lyrics of the song “Best Days” is what made me want to encourage God’s people that our best days are ahead of us and to hold on. Change is coming. We have to trust and believe that our God is still in control, regardless to what’s going on in the world.

ESSENCE.com: The album has some pop elements.
MANN: It’s the music of pop, but how I deliver it is still me. You don’t have to worry about me going too far out of the box. It’s just a different sound.

ESSENCE.com: How did you land the part in Sparkle?
MANN: I actually got a phone call for the part. I was shocked, but happy at the same time. I made myself look a little older on my audition tape, like I was from the 1950s, and David sent it in. I was so happy when I got it.

ESSENCE.com: What was it like working with Whitney?
MANN: It was a wonderful experience. I had such a good time. We talked about the Lord; we talked about family and about singing. She actually got to hear the first two songs that I recorded, “All To Thee” and “I’ll Hold On.” She was like, ‘I can’t wait to hear the rest of it. You’re gonna get ’em with this, baby.’ I was very hurt when I got the call about her passing.
ESSENCE.com: Did you spend any time with her off the set?
MANN: Every scene I had in the movie was with her. I don’t have a very big part, but it was a great part.  We’d sit and have lunch while we were filming, but I wasn’t trying to be pushy like that. I took pictures with her the last night.

ESSENCE.com: People who knew her talk about how sincere she was. Did you get to know her a little bit better personally?
MANN: She was very sincere. We were jumping to the music of Fred Hammond and John P. Kee every morning at like five, six o’clock. That was her wake up.

ESSENCE.CON: You’ve slimmed down lately. What’s the secret to your new body?
MANN: I’m trying to keep this weight off. I’m working out. I have a trainer. I’m trying to eat right, not a whole lot of desserts. No sodas. Every now and then I’ll take a swig of somebody’s.