Many know her as Cora from Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns but Tamela Mann has been taking us to church with her heavenly pipes long before taking the stage with Madea. The vocal powerhouse with the big personality and even bigger voice stomped onto the gospel scene with the legendary Kirk Franklin and the Family back in the 90’s and hasn’t missed a note yet.
Now, in 2013, the 46 year-old still has a lot to sing about! Her hit single “Take Me to the King” from her number one album “Best Days” earned her a Grammy and NAACP award nod. Plus, she and her husband David, who many of us know best as the hilarious “Mr.Brown” are celebrating their 25th anniversary while preparing to launch a new TV show. Somewhere in between all that, JETMag.com had the chance to catch up with Mrs.Mann to chat about how she became one of the greats in the gospel game, what it was like for her growing up Pentecostal and how spiritual music is becoming more mainstream. Tamela also speaks on religion-themed reality TV shows like The Sisterhood, what it was like working on the set of Meet the Browns with her partner-in-life, David, and never getting to have a real wedding–at least not yet. Do we hear wedding bells? Check out the interview to find out.
How does it feel to be nominated for a Grammy?
Like “Oh my God!” That’s how it feels. Like “Wow!” Not really “a long time coming” but more like “I’m happy that it’s here.” I think things happen for a reason and it sometimes takes some of us a little longer than others. Things just don’t happen overnight. I’ve been in the industry a long time. So really I’m grateful to be in this place and… I’m happy for the nomination.
You were very emotional when you found out your song was nominated. Were you surprised that “Take Me to the King” did so well?
You just never know. You never know what people are gonna like and not like. You just don’t know if it’s gonna take off. I’m just so happy about it. It almost makes me speechless. You really don’t have the words to say because you want things to happen, but you don’t know if it’s gonna happen or not.
It feels like gospel music is becoming more well-received. Do you agree?
I do feel like it is being received more. But I think, too, that it’s happening more because of the times we’re going through right now. People are needing encouragement. Sometimes we need an uplifting…some hope. And I believe that’s where gospel music is coming in. It gives hope that, we may be going through right now, but change can happen. Change is gonna happen.
How did you start singing?
It started in church. I was 8 years old when I actually found out or noticed that I had a voice. And it just kind of kept growing. By the time I was 12, it was like “This is something that I really like…this is something that I think I may be able to do!” But it’s always been church related because my mom had me in church a lot. I started out with Sunshine Band (that’s what we called the kids choir)…and by the time I was 12, I was singing with the senior choir. My voice was growing and it had gotten so big that I was able to kind of hang with the older people. My whole journey has been a blessing.
What did the church teach you about yourself as a woman?
It taught me how to love myself and that I was important regardless of what other people said about me. It gave me stability. It gave me a great foundation to say that I don’t have to go and run to a man to fulfill my needs or to alcohol or drugs. My faith has kept me sane really, in all honesty. I’ve been around people who decided to do drugs and alcohol and I chose a different path. I just felt like there was something better for me. I could’ve tried to do the club thing. But in church, I felt more secure. I felt safe.
Who inspired you musically when you were growing up?
Stacy Lattisaw. A lot of people said we looked alike. It was more the gospel industry because I was raised up Pentecostal. So my mom was very strict where I couldn’t listen to R&B and Blues in my house. So it was all church music. It was Andraé Crouch, The Hawkins Family, The Caravan. Those are the things I grew up on. When I went and hung out with my brothers and sisters, I got to jam a little bit! I got to kind of hear what R&B and other music sounded like…like Marvin Gaye. It was different to me but I liked it. I just couldn’t listen to it in my mom’s house!
Nearly everyone has a reality TV show these days. What do you think about gospel artists like Mary Mary, for example, doing reality TV?
I feel it’s good. I think it’s good to see a different side and know we’re all human. Even though we’re serving God, we can get upset too. And we have to go through things as well even though we have God on our side… you have your ups and downs and things that you have to face as well. So it just gives another side to it. I actually like the show.
What do you think about the reality TV show The Sisterhood?
I’ve heard about it but I have not seen it. One thing I don’t want to happen is, I don’t want the church to be made a mockery of. That’s the only thing that concerns me. I just don’t want it to be where people look down on my Savior Jesus Christ.
We saw you in Sparkle. Can we expect to see you on the big screen again anytime soon?
Yeah. I’m working on a couple things now. And hopefully by the end of the year, you’ll be seeing some other things from us. We’re working on a cooking show. It’s called Hanging with the Mann’s. We’re shopping it right now. We’ve finished taping it. Also, a couple other things in the making. So just stay tuned to DavidandTamelaMann.com
How are things with you and the hubby?
We’re about to celebrate 25 years of being married. We didn’t get to have a wedding when we first got married. So we’re about to have an actual wedding in April. So we’re about to do it real big for our silver anniversary.
What was it like working alongside your husband in Meet the Browns and other Tyler Perry productions?
David is such a clown. And he does things because he knows I laugh really easy. So he actually does things to make me break character. A lot of times he’ll say one thing and we’ll do another take and he’ll say something different and I’ll just bust out laughing. But it’s so spontaneous and we do have a lot of fun. He’s my best friend. He is my lover…my baby daddy. All that. We have such a great time together and I really enjoy his company.
This may be kind of hard, but between acting and singing, which is your favorite?
It’s not hard. Singing is my favorite. Singing is my first love. I’m passionate about both, but it’s more towards singing. Singing to me is like an easy piece of a puzzle. I know where its going. I can just make it flow better. I have to study a little bit harder when it comes to the acting. But singing…it just comes easier. This is the one gift that God gave me that I know I can do. This is my one niche that he’s given me. Like…”Hey, this is me!” When you see me sing, its like a heavenly place. I feel like I’m in the clouds. Like he’s not watching nobody else then. He’s looking at me and I just want to make my heavenly father proud.
Watch Tamela perform”Take Me to the King” at the Stellar Awards below and stay up-to-date on she and her husband’s latest projects on DavidandTamelaMann.com and on their Twitter: @davidandtamela.