Being Fantasia Barrino was not the easiest thing in 2010. From racist hate mail to cruel comments about her intelligence to the Antwaun Cook saga, times have been hard for the singer. But now it’s 2011 and Fantasia, who will be performing at the 2011 ESSENCE Music Festival — got tickets? — says she’s not “doing things for folk” anymore — she’s doing her.
The North Carolina native spoke to ESSENCE.com about her new attitude, playing Mahalia Jackson, and whether she’s still seeing Mr. Cook.
ESSENCE: We’re so excited to see you perform at the 2011 ESSENCE Music Festival, but we also miss VH1’s “Fantasia For Real.” Will there be a season 3?
FANTASIA: I don’t think so. I put a lot of myself out there, it was like therapy because I could shed the untruths that people had said about me. I’m every woman and I wanted people to see that. Now, I’m focused on the music so if the show focuses on the growth of Fantasia, then maybe.
ESSENCE: Tell us about your next album.
FANTASIA: I want to put out a crazy album that touches not just the Black community, but many different types of people. As a kid, I wanted to share my voice with everybody, and on ‘Idol’ I got to share my gift. I wanted to get back to that place where I can do all types of music and that [broad audience] can say, ‘Hey, that’s the young lady that sang ‘Summertime’ and we voted for her.’ This time around, I’m doing me.
ESSENCE: That said, are you still dating Antwaun Cook, the gentleman you dated last year, which began the infidelity scandal? Rumor also says you’re pregnant …
FANTASIA: If we believed rumors, I’d have 12 children by now. They’ve had that rumor about me about 10 times and I always show up with just [my daughter] Zion. When I say I’m focused on me, my personal life is now my life and that’s not what sells records. It’s not about who I’m sleeping with. Folks should sweep around their own front door before they sweep around somebody else’s. When I’m on stage, I tell people ‘I no longer do things for folk, when I struggled, I struggled by myself. When I needed things, the people talking weren’t there so now my attitude is I’m doing me.’ And when it’s comes down to the stage, I’m like MC Hammer: You can’t touch this.
ESSENCE: Congratulations on playing Mahalia Jackson in the upcoming film. What are you doing to prepare?
FANTASIA: They’ve sent me a lot of Mahalia Jackson DVDs, so I’ve been watching those. I was raised in gospel so I’ve heard her music, my grandmother listened to her. I just didn’t get to see her [in person, but] I know she was an anointed woman and she was received overseas better than in her home country. Like with Celie [which I played on Broadway in ‘The Color Purple’] I can relate and it’ll make it easier for me to step into her shoes. We haven’t begun filming yet, there’s a certain weight that I want to be before we start, because I want to really live her life.
ESSENCE: What can fans expect from your ESSENCE Music Festival performance, outside of bare feet?
FANTASIA: Just because y’all think you know me now, I just might come out with some heels and keep ’em on the whole show! I’m just messing with you, they won’t stay on. I’ve even made bets with my background singers for $100 to keep my shoes on. I haven’t gotten any money yet …
ESSENCE: Well, barefooted or heeled, we can’t wait to see you perform, and before we go, to be clear; you’re not dating Antwaun Cook?
FANTASIA: I’m not going to answer that question for you, but again, I’m doing me. If I want to date whomever, that’s my business and it ain’t nobody else’s. That’s the bold ‘Tasia now, sorry!