You can’t keep Bobby Brown down.
The Grammy Award-winning, often argued King of R&B, has been through the unthinkable throughout his life. That includes facing incredible loss, like the deaths of his daughter Bobbi Kristina and son Bobby Brown Jr. But the star has managed to arise from each situation ready to push through. And he has his faith and the people around him to thank for his ability to do so, including his children, his New Edition “brothers,” and most of all, his wife, Alicia Etheredge-Brown. She is both wife and manager to Bobby, helping him do everything from start businesses, like Bobby Brown Foods and the couple’s newest launch, the CBD-based wellness line Regenerate Wellness, to supporting his sobriety journey and allowing him to, as he says, love hard and be loved hard.
We will get an inside look into how they do it all through their new A&E reality series, Bobby Brown: Every Little Step. The 12-episode docuseries follows the family (including their kids Cassius, Hendrix and Bodhi and Brown’s eldest kids La’Princia and Landon) as they embark on a new chapter. It’s an at times, joyful, sometimes sad, but always eye-opening look at the man, the myth, the legend.
ESSENCE spoke with Bobby and Alicia ahead of the premiere of the series (and the documentary Biography: Bobby Brown, that precedes it), to talk about how they balance business and marriage, what’s helped them make it through great tragedy, and the love they hope people will see and feel when they watch Every Little Step.
ESSENCE: You guys have had the chance to tell your story in different ways over the years, and Bobby, this isn’t your first foray into reality TV. What drew you both to this opportunity?
Bobby Brown: We have been asked so many times to do a reality show — another reality show — but this was just the right time in my life because of where I am personally. And what better way to show my kids and my wife and just my family, how we move as a unit? It was just the right time.
Alicia Etheridge-Brown: I feel that we are asked often, Bobby, obviously, people are always so interested in his life and what’s going on. Even with our ups and downs and tragedies that we’ve had, our family is very much an entertainment family. We are always together, always doing things, not shy of cameras. And timing, it felt right. We had considered this before we lost Bobby Jr. He would’ve been a very big part of it. You think about it now in retrospect, and you think, how is he doing that? But it’s like, we were already doing it. It just would feel not authentic for us to not be in the space that we were living already. It’s different for me, for sure, because I like being behind the camera of everything. I don’t mind that at all. And so being in front is definitely different, but there were some rules and regulations I had to lay down.
ESSENCE: Like what?
Alicia: Make sure we weren’t going to be exposing-
Bobby: Too much.
Alicia: You just be yourself. We didn’t want it to be super produced. We didn’t want it to be like, tell us what to say. We were like, listen, you’re going to get us however you get us. But we were very interested in seeing our lives with our businesses, how we handle it together, how we are as a family, how we manage being parents together, so seeing the real raw. And so we told them, this is what we’re doing anyway, so you can film it rather than “Let’s create this space, you’re having dinner, and let’s see what you guys talk about.” You know what I mean? Because we’re not actors.
ESSENCE: Something that fans will see in the show obviously is the dynamic between the both of you both in regards to business, family, love. Alicia, you are his manager. So how have you guys been able to balance that in your 10 years together?
Alicia: Well, like all marriages, you have your challenging times, and we’ve definitely gone through that, but we’ve stuck with each other as partners in all ways of life. When Bobby and I first started working with each other, it was kind of getting him back out there and reviving him from being a stay-at-home dad and kind of off the grid for a little bit. For me, he was an amazing talent, as long as he was passionate and wanted to get back into it, and that was what he brought to me and asked for me to help manage him with himself. And that journey seemed to come just organically, and how it’s maintained is-
Bobby: A lot of hard work.
Alicia: A lot of focus, a lot of dedication, a lot of patience on my part. Really. And Bobby being very open. But also Bobby is, you know, yeah, his passion about it, his drive, his trust. We developed that in a real true working relationship. We had to build that. That had to be real for us. It wasn’t like I became his wife and then I became his manager. It was like he met me and I was managing, and he watched me, and he observed me, and he asked me to do certain things. He was checking it out and seeing how I handled things. When he finally got to the point to realize he needed somebody like me in his corner, we clicked.
ESSENCE: Nice. So you know at the end of the day, you’ll be like, ‘okay, so how was your day otherwise?’
Like that. You definitely have to work on always respecting the time when you have to turn it off, and balance. Balance is really important.
ESSENCE: Bobby, you’re very honest in the series about the grief that you are dealing with, because grief is an ongoing thing, and the role that it has in your sobriety. How do you work to manage it? And, Alicia, how do you as his partner support him in that?
Bobby: I work day-to-day, every day on my sobriety. I work hard, hard, hard, hard every day to not take that first drink. And I try to keep myself as busy as possible. My kids do it for me. My wife does it for me, meaning they keep my attention. Other than that, it’s just lots of prayer, lots of knowing where I’m trying to go in my life, what direction I’m trying to go, what direction I’m trying to keep myself in. The path that I chose to walk these days is a righteous path, so I try to stick to it.
ESSENCE: And how does that work for you with being on the road all the time and at these events? How do you temper yourself in those kind of spaces?
Bobby: I have a great support team. My brothers New Edition; of course, we just finished a tour with Charlie Wilson. He was a great support system for me also. So I have a lot of friends who are looking out for me because they know that at a drop of a hat, I can go crazy. But like I said, I take pride in working hard every day at it.
How do you support him in that, Alicia?
Alicia: I just try to keep those supportive people around him and absolutely cut the negative ones out. I’m pretty good at that.
Bobby: Yeah, she’s good about that.
Alicia: Also, just staying in tune with him and knowing when the stress is getting to be too much, or he’s having a bad day or an off day. Or if he happens to just have a bad day, just help him get back up, and just not beat yourself up, because it’s about moving forward and having a better today than you did yesterday or before. And just always remembering to count your blessings and congratulate yourself on how hard, how far you’ve come. We don’t do that enough for ourselves.
ESSENCE: Bobby, it was so interesting to watch the documentary to see the bad boy reputation days, and then watch the show and see you in this completely different space. You’re very in touch with your emotions, you have all these quality times and moments with your kids and everything. So what has been the journey to get to this point and have this peace, if you would call it that?
Bobby: The journey has been beautiful in a lot of different ways. I wake up. Instead of rolling over and crawling out of bed, I wake up and get out of bed and get on with my day. I don’t pass out anymore. I go to sleep. There’s so many different, different things that I took for granted before, just being present in a space where it’s a crowded, crowded room, and I got to be present with myself and present for my wife, and present for my kids, just being there, knowing that they depend on me.
What do you both hope that people take from this series, Every Little Step, and getting to see the life of your family through this particular lens?
Alicia: I hope they get to understand that we, like African-American families, are loving and kind and funny and honest and just have a joy watching our kids grow. I just think we don’t see a lot of that love. And we only have a couple of families that you get to experience like that on TV. And there needs to be more, because people are so close-minded. But I also hope they see this strong man who’s been through so much, rise and keep moving forward. We know that other people go through the same things we go through in life. You’re not alone. Sometimes when you see an example or you can relate to someone, it just makes you feel less alone — and to give them hope.
ESSENCE: In the documentary, people were calling you the king of R&B. Usher talks about the influence that you had on him. What’s it like to have those people and those titles coming at your way, but also have this very important title of being husband and father that you cherish?
That’s all beautiful. To be respected by your peers is a great compliment. And to be able to love as hard as I want to be loved is a blessing. I found somebody that cares about me the way I should care about myself. I’m learning, I’m still learning. God is still working with me. He had to get new tools, but He’s still working with me. He’s still rebuilding me to be a better person, better human being. So I’m grateful for that.
Biography: Bobby Brown airs Monday, May 30 and Tuesday, May 31 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. Bobby Brown: Every Little Step premieres Tuesday, May 31 at 10 p.m. ET/PT with new episodes airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT beginning June 7.