Towanda Braxton, the younger sister of 90s songstress Toni Braxton, is fearless in every sense of the word.
The Braxton Family Values star, who is also a singer, entrepreneur, political activist and executive television producer, is certainly not afraid of putting herself out there. From dealing with a fresh divorce as a single parent to navigating the intricacies of a famous family on a reality television show, Towanda has used her celebrity to catapult business and philanthropic ventures that are as varied as they are directional.
“I love singing and always loved music," says Towanda. “Music always came easy to me but I always wanted to act. Instead, I went along the path of what my family wanted to do. Music was a family business but I didn't want to do it. I never really broke rules when it came to family."
Towanda, who began her career as a singer in the short-lived girl group The Braxtons with sisters Toni,Traci, Trina and Tamar Braxton, with Arista Records, is now focused on building an empire all herself, defined only by what is important to her.
“I got a theater scholarship at Howard University and I passed on it," says Towanda. “I am thankful for the path I took but i can't help but wonder what my life would be like if I followed my passion for acting."
“When I turned 40 I told myself 'self, you went all these years pleasing other people. You have more years behind you than in front' and I thought I have to create a legacy."
These days Towanda is very focused on following her own passions. From her show to her businesses, she says she is taking each day as it comes, letting her instincts guide her.
“Braxton Family Values is a blessing," says Towanda, who has filmed over 100 episodes to date. “The show is about healing and family and knowing you aren't alone. It was important for me for this season to be open about my marriage and how I'm feeling. I've always been private and never really worn these things on my sleeve. But I want women to know they aren't the only women out there in relationships they shouldn't be in and not putting themselves first."
Of course there are downsides to putting your life on the airways. For Braxton, this comes in the form of internet trolls.
“There are some negative people who watch the show and think they have you pegged," she says. “They tend to sit on the negative things and not the positive. For a while, people thought I was jealous of Tamar. But why would I be jealous of her and not Toni, who has acquired so much more in life? I just don't give them energy."
And what about that jealous for the platinum-selling r&b artist sister of hers? Although it has been widely reported that she felt left behind by her own sister, Towanda says it's not the case.
“I never look at it like I was left in the dust because when Toni first came onto the scene she made sure she did everything with all of us first; Jay Leno, Letterman, the Grammys, the AMAs, we were there. We looked at it like her success was our success and it opened opportunities for us."
Regarding her very public divorce, Towanda is not afraid to tell it like it is.
“I'm going through a divorce but I'm happy and thankful," says Towanda, who was married for 13 years to author, Andre Carter. “I know that he's hurting but it's not about him though. It's about me growing and being happy and working on me. Even before I got married I was broken because of what was going on with my family.
“It's wonderful for my kids to understand the Braxton family legacy but they need to understand their mom's."
Towanda also got involved in politics as of late, publicly promoting Hillary Clinton and getting involved in her election campaign.“I'm a politics nerd and I was a Hillary supporter," says Towanda. “I was very disappointed at the turnout at the election and even more now. The silver lining is that [Donald Trump's presidency] is making people aware about politics. Because they are unhappy they are getting more educated."
When asked about her most memorable moment in her life, Towanda says it was when she got to meet President Obama.
“I had the opportunity to meet him four times," says Towanda about our former commander in chief. “His skin is impeccable. He smells so amazing. He's got that swag. I can't even put it into words how good he smells. If only we can put that in a bottle and sell it. I didn't wash my hands for a couple of days and had to tell myself 'Towanda get it together.' He's so cool."
Towanda says that she believes her outspoken nature and affinity for drama, and for entrepreneurship, is related to the fact that she grew up in a home with so many big personalities.
“I love my sisters but there are moments where i don't feel like being bothered," says Towanda, who has just launched Braxton Beauty, a line of gel nail polishes and hair care. “There's no ill intent but sometimes I just need my own space because the personalities are so overpowering. It has gotten more challenging because we are adults who are creating boundaries and it doesn't always mesh."
Here, Towanda dishes on each of her sisters:
“Tamar's personality has always been hers. She's always been spoiled rotten and and now we have to create boundaries because we've allowed her to get away with it for so long."
“Trina has always been the sensitive sister. She believes in love and it's ok to believe in love. She is all about giving people a chance.'"
“Tracy is fun and crazy. You never know what's going to come out of her mouth. Sometimes things makes sense and sometimes they don't."
“Toni has always been the controlling older sister who's right about everything. She's a Libra so she knows everything. She's an attorney, a pediatrician, a pharmacist, a hairstylist, a pro at everything."
Part of the legacy Towanda wants to create is one of giving back. To wit, she works closely with Saving Our Daughters - a non-profit organization that focuses on creating the tools to get teen girls discussing key issues in their lives. In addition, Towanda has been named St. Jude Children's Hospitals "Partner In Hope, and continues to give back to the community through grassroots initiatives.
“There are single moms and dads who can't afford to buy diapers and baby clothes, so we give out diaper bags to the less fortunate," says Towanda, who plans to build out an organization that helps moms in need have the proper supplies to care for their babies. "It's a cause that is very important to me."
Towanda, who is currently co-executive producing a new reality show, has also launched The Secret Squirrels, to provide training, certification and placement for those looking to work as professional personal assistants, Looking to the future, Towanda said she will continue to grow her business and charity initiatives and support her children's (Braxton, 11, and Brooke, 10) careers, which seems like they may follow in their famous mom's footsteps. “They walked in Nike's Fashion Week show," says Towanda. “Watching them grow is the most important thing, and I will continue working to inspire them."
The Quick 10
1. What app do you most use?
2. What's the first thing you do in the morning?
Grab my phone.
3. Name a business mogul you admire.
4. What product do you wish you had invented?
5. What is your spirit animal?
6. What is your life motto?
I always tell people live the life your soul intended. You will never will be unhappy if you follow that.
7. Name your favorite work day snack.
Green olives with pimento in the middle.
8. Every entrepreneur must be what to be successful?
9. What's the most inspiring place you've traveled to?
Baden-Baden. It's the most beautiful place and most never even know it exists.
10. Desert Island. Three things, go.
Water, my bible, my iPad, and my nails would have to be done
Gender divisions in sports have primarily served to keep women out of what has always been believed to be a male domain. The idea of women participating alongside men has been regarded with contempt under the belief that women were made physically inferior.