Fantasia Overcomes Negative ‘Side Effects’ of Her Past to Emerge a Winner [Exclusive Interview]
After enduring overwhelming public ridicule that drove her to attempt suicide in 2010, Fantasia has made a dramatic comeback with her No. 1 R&B album, 'Side Effects of You', featuring her uplifting single 'Lose to Win.'
She says 'Lose to Win,' which she wrote with composer Andrea Martin, was inspired by their combined experiences. “We sat down and put our feelings into the song," the singer tells TheDrop.fm. "It was the last song we recorded, so it was so special. It was special to her. We both have been through some things.”
Fantasia has been through a gauntlet of “things,” but as the song says, she turned her negative experiences into a positive outlook on life.
“I’ve lost a lot, but I’m winning now. When I say winning, I am not talking about money, cars or material things. I am finally at peace,” she says. “‘Lose to Win’ had to be my first single because it is my testimony. I want to acknowledge the small things in life that we forget. I am not just talking about relationships. We lose jobs, homes, look at the people in Boston [who experienced recent terrorist bombings]."
She views the message of 'Lose to Win' as an example of fulfilling her destiny. “I want to inspire people,” she explains. “I’ve taken a lot of hits. It has been hard. If I can tell my story and help 20 people, then it doesn’t matter about the 10 people to my right who judge me. That’s my job. God wants me to inspire people. They can see what I’ve been through.”
The former 'American Idol' winner says a promotion for the song produced some very emotional responses that truly touched her.
“We had a contest for people to call in and talk about ‘Lose to Win,’" she states. “I personally called many of them back. There were a lot of stories. There was one young lady who is 18 years old now. At the age of 12, she went through a lot. She blew me away. When I heard about her it made me think, ‘I’ve got to keep going. I got to keep moving, keep inspiring people.’ She was in the hospital when we spoke. She was molested by her brothers and their friends.”
'Lose to Win' is autobiographical and exemplifies how she's a winner now after losing so much in her life. She’s endured some suffering since she won the 'Idol' title in 2004, including a public scandal of being accused of breaking up the marriage of Antwuan Cook, and later she admitted she terminated her pregnancy when she found out she was having his baby. Financial problems caused her to lose one of her homes, and the mounting negative publicity eventually drove her to a suicide attempt.
However, now Tasia is finally at peace and has returned with the album she says she always wanted to record. At a CD release party for 'Side Effects of You' at the XL nightclub in New York City last month, Fantasia was serenaded by several admiring artists including Joe, Kenny Lattimore, Meli’sa Morgan and Monifah. She was joined at her table by her close friend Missy Elliott, who is featured with Kelly Rowland on her second single, 'Without Me.'
Fantasia closed out the show by bringing the house down with an impassioned performance of 'Lose to Win,' and as she strutted across the stage, she talked about her comeback.
"I haven’t had all this love since my first album," she told the invitation-only crowd. "On this album I was able to tell my story. I didn’t let nobody speak for me, I said it the way I wanted to say it. And, I said before I go back into the studio, I won’t go back until they let me do what I want to. Sometimes you gotta stand up for yourself. What happened was, since I was so quiet all the time, and I was this country, gullible, fun, kool-aid smile..."
"Everyone thought they could take licks and throw stones at me, but that Fantasia is gone. Now, I’m speaking for myself, they told their story, now let me tell mine. 'Side Effects of You' is not just about a man -- trust me, he’s in the story -- 'Side Effects of You' is about the industry, family, friends, those who said they love you and you turn around and they’re gone. My grandmother said, ‘You don’t cry over spilled milk, you pick up and move on.’"
The songstress has moved on, and she provided a powerful example of the fiery stage performances which have become her trademark as she received rave reviews for her April 18 performance of 'Lose to Win' on 'American Idol.'
“I zone out when I sing,” Fantasia explains. “I go to a whole another place. The music took me to another place. Performing ‘Lose to Win’ on ‘American Idol’ felt good. Before I performed the song I was told that the father of my musical director and drummer had passed away. He was like my dad. It was hard so I dedicated it to their family, the Hill family.”
After her triumphant performance, Fantasia was showered with praise by the judges, especially Mariah Carey and Nicki Minaj. "Mariah and I talked about working together," says Fantasia. "Nicki also told me she wanted to work with me. It felt good. It has been a long time coming. Change has finally come."
As far as the music on this LP, she describes it as "rock soul." "This is the kind of album I've wanted to record for years," she states. “This is the rock soul movement. I was born into music. K-Ci and JoJo are my cousins. I have a very musical family. I love all kinds of music. Aretha Franklin, Queen, Elton John, Cab Calloway, Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner... Now I am doing the music I want to do.”
'Without Me,' another one of her tracks, is another example of Fantasia doing what she wants to do and turning a negative situation into a positive experience.
“I got a phone call that made me mad, so I told the producer I wanted to make kind of a ratchet song, because that was my mood. I had to involve Missy because when I’m going through something or have a crazy idea, I call her," she says." "Kelly was also perfect for the song because we relate to each other. We both have been through things and we are both coming back strong with our music."
Fantasia's resurgence also includes a new look after losing 50 pounds. After giving birth to her second child, Dallas Xavier Barrino in December 2011, she focused on getting back in shape, traveling with a trainer, working out every day, avoiding fattening foods and combining a yoga regimen with her exercise program.
With her musical success, her new positive frame of mind and her slimmed-down appearance, it's evident she has overcome her depression. She says her personal problems were compounded by the fact that the media focused on the negativity in her life. "There was so much talk about me in the press, not about the positive things I was doing,” she comments. “It was all negative. No matter what I did no one talked about the positive things. I’m glad to see it changing.”
Looking at the past few years, she says, "That was the hardest thing for me at that time. Now I really don't care. I had to just find peace. I almost lost my life in getting caught up in all of this. On television I would hear so many negative things about me. It was hard for me and my family to hear these things. I went into this business with my emotions. I can’t do that now. I sing with my emotions but when I come off the stage it’s about business. I was in a very dark place. It was too much for me.”
She's found the light at the end of that dark tunnel. The songbird has a real life "rags to riches" story, from dropping out of high school in North Carolina to winning season three of 'American Idol.' In 2004, her debut album, 'Free Yourself,' was certified platinum and she became the first artist in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 chart to debut at No. 1 with her first single, 'I Believe.' Her next single, 'Truth Is' spent 14 weeks at the top of the chart, making her the first singer to simultaneously have two of the top three songs on the Billboard chart. In 2011, she received her first Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for 'Bittersweet' and a NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Song.
In 2006, she also starred in the Lifetime television film based on her autobiography, 'Life Is Not a Fairy Tale.' The next year, she starred on Broadway in 'The Color Purple.' But in 2010, the pressures of her career became unbearable, and she was hospitalized after her suicide attempt. She remembers while being in the hospital, her life turned around.
"When I went into the hospital, I looked up artists who've been through things,” she remembers. “I researched other singers who have faced struggles. Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Patti LaBelle, they all have stories to tell. I took my cues from them, and I just put my mind and everything into music."
After being released from the hospital, Fantasia rededicated herself to resurrecting her life and her career. “This industry almost cost me my life," she admits. "I was trying to do too much, trying to please everyone. It caused me a lot of pain. The people who said they would take care of me walked off and left me with a lot of debt. I had to hold down my entire family. I almost lost it all.”
“Music saved me," she continues. "I found peace. I did it by taking time away. I would sit in my own house, no press, just a few shows. I love music and I didn’t want to lose my passion for music. Hearing Toni Braxton wanting to leave music, that broke my heart. I never want to lose my passion for music. I had to check myself. I had to get the wrong people out of my life. My life had to change. I didn’t come back until I was ready.”
Fantasia admits she has been involved in a series of bad relationships, and when asked how do women know if a man is right for them, she replies, "We could talk about that forever. Sometimes it goes back to your family. Women, we want love so much that we did not get from our father. We have to take our time. You can’t get to know someone in a year or two years. We want everything too quickly, microwave, everything quick. Before you can have love you have to heal. You can’t have a relationship until you love yourself.”
She learned to love herself again, and her children, 11-year-old daughter Zion and 1-year-old Dallas, inspire her to succeed.
“I love children. My kids push me,” she says. “They are my lifesaver. It was hard for me to be on the road when my daughter was growing up. My kids are the reason why I can’t stop. Because of them I have to live healthy so I can see my children’s children. They push me to be a better person.”