It’s one thing to deal with a difficult, personal matter privately. It’s another when you have to do it with cameras rolling, millions of strangers adding their 2 cents and the perception that you’re supposed to be perfect.For the past couple of years, Tina Campbell, one-half of the multi-Grammy Award-winning gospel sister duo, Mary Mary, has dealt with mourning her late father, the near-dissolution of her marriage, tense disagreements with her sister and singing partner Erica Campbell and a host of other trials while filming her WE tv reality series, “Mary Mary.”
“Every other day you’re questioning yourself. Sometimes I would shut the cameras down and wouldn’t go back for a week. And then I would say, ‘Tina, you signed up to do this, to show what it’s like to be a fighter.’ So this show almost gave me a reason to fight even when life didn’t,” the 39-year-old reveals.
Millions of viewers are glad the married mother of five held on as “Mary Mary,” which also stars Erica Campbell, is a very popular, with its third season currently airing.
Campbell talks to XFINITY about false news reports about her marriage, forgiving her husband and whether she plans to launch a solo career.
“Mary Mary” airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. EST on WE tv. Watch it here.
“Mary Mary” really put on your personal life on blast. Do you have any regrets about/ Are you getting used to having your personal affairs broadcast on TV?
No, I’m used to it now. When I signed up to do reality TV it was to basically show what it looked like to be a Christian outside of being in church and reading the Bible and singing gospel music. People didn’t think my sister and I were “normal” artists. People think the Christian lifestyle is hard and isn’t fun and we wanted to dispel a lot of those misconceptions and show that we are people who put God first. Do we get everything right? No we don’t. We wanted to show them what normal, regular Christians looked like and that our faith is something that people can do. All these things they think—you can’t be cute, you can’t do anything wrong, you have to be perfect, everything in your life is right—that’s not the truth. The show shows that. I didn’t think that my life and the show was going to be this bad. I probably wouldn’t have signed up for reality TV if I’d known that this was going to happen. But it did happen.
Initially, I didn’t think I was going to come back. I didn’t want people to see me busted up, crying and broke down. You go through the same hell as everyone else but if you’re a person of faith how you go through it should be different than someone who doesn’t serve or seek or praise God. If you are a person of faith, you are never without hope, you are never without help and everything isn’t about you. It is about the God that you serve; it is about his great plan for your life. You may be imperfect but He’s perfect.
Tell me more about your decision to keep the cameras rolling.
It was hard. I kind of regretted initially and on the hard days. Then I had to tell myself, “You made this decision and when God works this thing out you’re going to be able to show somebody else your plight when you’re feeling like you’re being burned up in hell and actually survive and come out better than you were before.” I kept telling myself it was going to work out. And some days, you’re not going to feel like forgiving every day.
You say that you forgave your husband. Why was that important?
Unforgiveness is the most horrible thing that a person can do to themselves. Whatever it is that has happened to you and has been done to you, if you allow yourself to be unforgiving, it’s like you replay and reenact that experience daily. And I have gone through that personally. I did unforgiveness, crazy, spazzing out, attacking—I did all of that kind of stuff. It never made me feel happy. It never made me feel fulfilled. And the bottom line is that it never took away what happened to me. So I had to learn how to accept it and forgive. It’s not easy and I’m still in that process and will remain there until it’s perfected. I’m letting it go and I’m moving on.
A couple of media outlets reported that forgiving your husband also included taking responsibility for his adulterous behavior.
I never ever said that. I do not assume responsibility for my husband’s choices. I assume responsibility for Tina. Did we have a good relationship that I thought was filled with love and was really true but not perfect? Yes. We had problems trying to get together and spend time together and prioritize but I thought there was nothing realer than what we had. When I found out it wasn’t, I was absolutely devastated. I could not believe that my husband had cheated on me. But after I found about it, I said now if you make him become this whole perfect individual and he’s got to do all of this to get you back but you’re going to stay the way you were? I had a lot of bad practices and I was not as good to him as I thought I was. If I could adjust the thing that was wrong with me while he was working to become better we would more than likely have a better relationship coming out of this. So I’m not the kind of chick where you’ve got to do everything and I’m going to sit back and reap the benefits. That’s a lopsided relationship. I had to examine myself and the truth was I was a contributor to the distance in our relationship. I was unreasonable. I could’ve been fairer and less controlling. And there were a lot of things that he should not have done and there were a lot of things that he could’ve done. There are a lot of ways that he could’ve made the relationship better. But it’s not my job to try to fix him. I had to fix myself. I asked myself how could I be a better wife, how could I be a better woman? Do I blame myself for him cheating on me? I sure don’t. I’m a cold-blooded chick, that’s why he fought to get me back.
Why is it important to take ownership of one’s acts in a relationship?
In a relationship or with anything in life, you can’t change anybody but yourself. Anytime a person blames other people for the things going wrong in their life, they’ll never fix them. I didn’t give my husband responsibility for every single thing going wrong in our relationship. I gave him responsibility for cheating on me, breaking the vows and putting us in a position to literally say, “I’m going to divorce you.” This situation helped me to realize that I could be much better than I was. Nobody is responsible for fixing me or helping me or correcting me or helping me to become my best self other than me. And I’m going to be a better wife to my marriage, a better mother to my kids, a better business partner to my sister and a better woman to the world because I assume responsibility for me.
You and your sister Erica Campbell are executive producers of “Mary Mary.” Why was it important for you to assume that role?
Because we are giving them our personal life. We’re giving them our business negotiations, our children, our careers—all of that kind of stuff. We were never going to give this to someone and put it in their hands and let them do how they choose to. So if we’re executive producers, we’re the ones looking over our edits and helping to produce our story making sure that it is a true depiction of our lives. It was a smart decision. If you’re going to let somebody depict what your life is, you need to be very involved in that process and not just talent in front of the camera.
Do you watch any reality shows other than your own show?
No, I don’t. I don’t really watch TV and I don’t really even see my own show much. I’ll see all of the seasons after they’re off. I’m not big on TV for different reasons. I think back in the day when they had all of those talk shows on with all of that crazy stuff that people were doing that’s very common now just turned me off. “Jerry Springer” and “Ricki Lake” where people were cursing and screaming. I think I got turned off from TV and I never started watching it again. And that’s been a decade or more.
If you had to share one lesson from working on this show, what would it be?
I would say make sure you represent yourself the way you want to be seen. If you don’t, the cameras are going to get what you don’t want seen. Make sure you’re true to who you are and make sure what you say is true to what you want to express. If it’s not, it’s going to be hard to retract and undo it once you put it out there.
Any plans to go solo like Erica?
I have written a book that was actually my prayers and confessions that I used to get me through and talk me into a better space when I was really feeling crazy and acting crazy. I had to remind myself that the God that I believe in and who He created me to be and not the fool that I was acting like. This was like a journal that I was creating every day and would keep adding to it. I kept continuing to encourage myself more. I told my lawyer about it and he told me it should be a book. So I’m going to do a book. It wasn’t initially intended for the masses but it is now. Music just kind of came to me one day over a seven-day period. I kind of realized that I’m supposed to do music to accompany this book. And music really parallels what I’m saying in this conversation with God. For that reason, I guess I’m going to do some solo stuff. I probably won’t pursue it like Erica’s doing it. I think I’ll just make it available for whomever wants it. I’m just sharing how I found hope. And this music is what helped me to get from where I was to where I am.
Be sure to read our interview with Tina Campbell’s sister and “Mary Mary” co-star, Erica Campbell, here.