One of the feel-good stories in Gospel is the slow but steady rise of the uber-talented Tamela Mann. It’s a telltale story of the unimaginable possibilities that materialize when God is in control. Over 20 years ago, Kirk Franklin & The Family first introduced this Fort Worth, Texas, C.O.G.I.C. singing sensation to the world.
Her creative gifts and spiritual calling would eventually send her on a long and winding journey connecting with music legends like Al Green, Celine Dion and Whitney Houston, entertainment moguls like David E Talbert and Tyler Perry. Tamela’s life has evolved into a rich and rewarding career made possible through her Christ-centered faith and charismatic qualities. As amazing as Tamela’s journey has been, the best is yet to come. A sign of the wonders still to unfold is her latest release, carefully crafted under the Tillymann Music moniker. It’s called One Way, a nod to the unwavering path Mrs Mann is on to fulfill God’s perfect plan.
BlackGospel.com enjoyed an exclusive with the always turn’t up Tamela Mann. The colorful conversation touched on her signature song that catapulted her fame, her favorite artists she’s currently feelin’ and her transformation into a plus-size model, many women are drawing inspiration from.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: Tamela, your fame really soared with the single release composed by Kirk Franklin – Take Me To The King. I was wondering what your relationship has always been with Kirk Franklin because Kirk doesn’t write for everybody but he wrote that gem for you.
TAMELA MANN: Up until that point, I’d done several albums, and I had mentioned to Kirk about writing something. He said to me, “I want to be a part of the record. I don’t have anything yet. I’m going out of the country and I’m taking my piano and I’m going to work on some stuff.’’ When he came back with Take Me to The King, no one knew that the song would do what it did. The song was saying so many things that a lot of us experience, that is the strength of God. The song resonated and touched so many people’s lives that I’m just in amazement even to this day. That’s what it’s all about for me, and I know that’s what it’s all about for Kirk. When we do something together, we’re trying to reach the masses, we’re trying to bless and encourage them in the direction of God. That is what this is about. It’s about getting the word out that Jesus still saves, and He can deliver and heal you, he can bring you out of whatever situations that you’re in, he can help you through whatever it is you’re facing.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: You’ve been singing for over 20 years, yet it seems like you’re in the midst of a special season of favor. What do you attribute to this special season?
TAMELA MANN: I will agree with you that it’s a season. I believe we all have seasons. While I’m in this season I’m trying to do as much as I can, reach as much people as I can, I want to do all that I can for the Lord. I’m that aunt or sister that so many people are familiar with. I think the familiarity is what’s connecting me to people with the Lord.
When I meet people, I really don’t meet strangers. For the most part, I’m trying to show love and kindness which I believe the Lord did when He was among the people. I want to be among the people. I’m not trying to hide away, shy and duck or dodge. I’m really trying to reach people and let them know that I get tired, and have problems and situations just like them, that I have stuff I have to deal with, I’m not trying to paint a perfect picture here. I have to go to the Lord too and ask Him to help me, help my husband, help my actions, so that I can do better. I want people to know that we all can make it through whatever it is with God, that all things are possible through Him.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: You’ve had a lot of success as an artist and actor and I’m wondering how much of your success is tied to the strong support you receive from your husband, David Mann?
TAMELA MANN: Oh Chris, you’re going to make me cry. I don’t think I would have made it if it wasn’t for him because David has been my push and my priest. Besides God, I’m not trying to sound deep, but he’s been my drive. When I want to quit, he pushes me. I think we’re the support system for each other. I don’t want to let him down and vice versa. I tell him what I want to do or an idea I have and he makes it happen. I was lying on the bed the other night, telling him how much I appreciate him and thank him.
We do have disagreements but it’s not like I’m trying to cut you down and belittle you. I want people to know that in my marriage I have to say, ‘’Hey, I’m sorry, too.’’ He’s a major part of my drive. I’ll never put him before God because I don’t want the Lord to take him from me. I do let the Lord know that Jesus is my number one but I need my right-hand man, though. I’m really grateful to God for David and that the Lord allowed me to make the right decision is choosing him.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: There’s actually been three important men in your life. Describe them for us. First, Kirk Franklin.
TAMELA MANN: He’s my energizer bunny. I’ll keep it right there.
CHRISTOPHER HERON:Tyler Perry.
TAMELA MANN: He’s a visionary. He saw in me what I didn’t see in myself. He saw beyond what I could see.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: Your husband, David Mann.
TAMELA MANN: David is my everything, he is my foundation. You can’t stand without great foundation. Of course, he’s the love of my life, and I can keep going, but he’s really my foundation.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: You work on two different levels. You have your artistry expressed through music, and your artistry expressed through acting. Do they both hold the same value to you?
TAMELA MANN: No. Singing is my life. Singing is the cake. Acting would be the icing [laughter] because icing tops things off, and it brings the lasting flavor, but there’s something about the substance which makes the cake because it does the rising and it holds it all together. The icing would fall if it wasn’t for the cake. Wooo! Work with me Lord, Holy Ghost! The singing for me is one thing that I’m so sure of. Not that I’m the best, Christopher, I don’t feel like I’m the best, but I feel that when I do it, I give it my best. It’s my love, it’s my passion. You know how sometimes I hold and cuff the mic? It’s because I’m enjoying every minute of it. I’m a nervous wreck when I first perform because I’m like, ‘’Lord, I need you. Can’t do without you.’’ I usually talk a little bit to break that ice. I got this tip from Kirk, I always sing as if the Lord is in the front row.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: You minister to so many people because of your amazing talent. Is there any artist today that ministers to you through their gift and calling?
TAMELA MANN:Donnie McClurkin would be one. Marvin Winans would be another one. It’s a like-mindedness with those two. The other night Donnie went straight into worship, where we just wept and cried. Sometimes I believe the Lord wants to come and do what He wants to do. We can’t follow the same program. He’s not ordinary, He’s extra. He comes in different ways and different times, and you can’t calm the Holy Ghost down [laughter]. So when I look at these two guys and when I talk to them onstage or offstage I get that we are like-minded. and not that nobody else is after the same thing that we’re after but that’s it we’re like-minded. I could keep going on.
Like right now, I’m really into Travis Greene because of how such a worshiper he is. It’s like I’m really into worship. Chris, we’ve got to reach as many people as we can. It’s not a lot of time. I feel like we’ve wasted a lot of time, but the Lord will soon come, and we’ve got to get the word out. That’s just how my heart is with this new album. I was like, ‘’Lord, I know how people like singles, but I want you to bless people to receive every song on this record that it can do something for everybody.’’ And when you listen to the album, it reaches different parts of your life.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: Let’s talk about the new album, One Way. Tell me why you’re so proud of this project.
TAMELA MANN: It’s such a stretch for me this time. I picked the songs. It’s different than what I’ve done before. I feel like it’s some of my best work and I’m hoping what I get out of it everybody else will also get the same from it. This time I used Eric Dawkins as my producer. He’s a different producer with a different style than me. Timbaland produced one. Myron Butler too, I love him. He’s worked on all of my recordings; he’s my main producer, he really stretches me vocally. He keeps me in the lane of what we’re doing. This album is lyric-driven for me because it’s just saying so many things that I wanted to say.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: I have to acknowledge one last thing because this wouldn’t be right if I didn’t say something. Your glam squad got you lit for this season, wherever you perform, in all your promotional shots, you’re turnt up.
TAMELA MANN: Honestly, I collaborate with everybody that does something for me. I have two or three different stylists and myself. So really a lot of it is hands on. I give all glory to the team because I can’t do it alone. A lot of times I go pick my own fabric; I’m in it all the way. Like I had this idea about hair, and I told my hair stylist, “I want to go blonde” and they’d be like, ‘’Yeah, let’s do it.’’ So once we pull it together like I have my hair, my makeup, I have Miss Maria that does design for me, I have Cassidy, a young lady that’s here from Texas that sews for me, I have another young lady named Melisa that does things for me, it’s different people and different age groups. It’s all of us are working together. Risco does my makeup, Fred does makeup with me, I use all of them. In case somebody can’t be there, all of us gel together. So I thank God for all of them. I wouldn’t be able to do it without them. I just appreciate the time and effort that everybody offers, the willingness and heart to grow together.
CHRISTOPHER HERON: The results are for everyone to see. You look marvelous, Tamela.
TAMELA MANN: Thank you so much. I’m working it!
To explore the music and videos, movies and television series, tours and more of Tamela Mann, visit the official page for Mrs Mann and her husband, David Mann @ www.tillymannmusic.com.