Fantasia Barrino is not who the media and critics make her out to be. Painted by some as a downtrodden, clueless victim, the American Idol and Grammy-winning singer who calls Charlotte home is quite the opposite. Despite recent troubles (like allegations of an affair with a married man and being hospitalized after an apparent suicide attempt), she's spirited, witty, laser-focused and committed to giving her all to her fans. I recently caught up with Barrino (who's also the star of her own reality TV show, Fantasia For Real) and discussed her current "Back to Me" tour (which hits the Queen City Nov. 17 and marks her first time out on the road in three years), how she's moving forward from the past and more.
Creative Loafing: Tell me a little bit about the "Back to Me" tour. How are you feeling about it?
Fantasia: I feel great. We've had three great shows. We started off in Norfolk [Va.], Philly, and Baltimore, which was a sold-out show. We had great energy from the people, and this tour is giving them something different from me this time. I put my heart into this tour. I didn't have any help from anybody else. It was all my vision. I always have something to say and my message comes through this tour. We take you through different eras of time with music, just trying to give something for everybody.
Has the reality show and some of the things you've gone through this year influenced or changed the way that you perform?
Oh, no, no, no. I've always been a performer who gives my all. I'm a soul singer so I sing whatever I'm going through, so it hasn't changed at all. I'm growing as a young woman, being able to have a voice, so you have to put your work in. I've been in this game for six years. It took me a while to get people to say, "let's see who you are, let's see what you want to do" — and finally that opportunity has come to me.
Not too long ago, I wrote an article about how I thought the press was beating up on you when you were going through your high-profile situations. I thought they were being mean to you because you're from the South, an impoverished background and because you had an untraditional introduction to the music business. Do you think the press is harder on you?
I don't know what to say about the press, but in my life right now, I'm really not focused on that, and I really don't care what people have to say about me. I've spent my entire life trying to please people. When I reach a point and am aggravated and frustrated, all of those people who have something to say have never been there for me. They haven't paid a bill for me. I have realized that it is my life, and I have to live it. I don't really know and I don't really care anymore, but I do know that it won't stop me from doing what I want to do anymore. It doesn't stop me from sharing my gift. It doesn't stop the anointing put on my life, and it doesn't stop the destiny that God has planned for me. At the end of the day, whether it comes out of the radio, television or newspapers, they all have skeletons in their closets too because they are human. Because we are human; we are good and bad, but we try our best to do good. So, I really don't focus on what they have to say anymore.
What’s next for you? What’s coming down the pipeline?
Whatever God has for me. There are some things that are in the works that I can’t share right now, but they are good things and movie pieces. I always say that God is in the blessing business especially when it comes down to me because, like you said, I was always one of the ones that they always said couldn’t do this or do that because of certain things that I’ve done. They said I would never do it. Everything I’m doing has come to me. I haven’t tried out for any parts. I haven’t been reading any scripts. They always call me and say that “we feel you are our such and such.” I think that’s a blessing and goes to show the favor on someone’s life, especially the fact that you come in the way of someone being talented and gifted. There are certain people who see that — big time people — who call me and say: “Hey, we want you to be a part of this, and we won’t go any further until we get you.” Right now, I’m just really, really, focused on this tour because it is something totally different from me. I did Broadway. I kind of mixed a lot of that with this tour. We get a lot of people walking out of the building going, “Wow, she has grown. She’s taking it to another level.” I’ve been focusing on this album and this tour. I haven’t been on tour in three years and being on stage is so good for me. I can do it all day long if someone gives me the mic. God is allowing me to do some things that I never thought I’d do. Never.
What’s your advice to young black girls who want to be singers, particularly those who are not located in music centers like New York, Atlanta or Los Angeles?
It’s really, really hard to get into the music business. Music has always been a part of my life. K-Ci and JoJo are my first cousins. My uncles were really big in Japan and I used to hear them talk about how people would come and scout for talent. Now they don’t really scout for talent in smaller cities like Charlotte or High Point, N.C. So you have to do things like try out for the Idol [American Idol] and try to get involved in different competitions because again, they’re not coming to clubs anymore and trying to hear people sing. You just have to remember that to much is given, much is required, so you’ve gotta keep fighting, especially if you know that this is something you’re supposed to be doing. If it’s your calling, you can’t give up; you have to keep going. You have to stay on the Internet and figure out whose doing what and where you need to be. I remember when people used to tell me to just keep going, and I would be so tired of hearing that. I would wonder when it would happen for me. It did. It just takes time. I give talks to young people and not everyone wants to be a singer. I tell them if you know that God has put a gift into you, whether it be a singer, a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher, you can do it. As far as singing, it has to be something you want to do because this business can make you or break you. So, keep good people around you — people who can pray for you and lift you up when you’re down; people who will tell you that you’re wrong when you think you’re right. This business attracts people who want to take. I’ve been through so much in my life in the last six years, I have. I’ve been through a whole lot of things … I reached a point not too long ago that scared the hell out of me, and I don’t want to be there anymore. So now I have to live life for 'Tasia, and that’s exactly what I’m doing.
Fantasia and special guests Eric Benet and Kandi play Ovens Auditorium on Nov. 17. For more info and to purchase tickets, call 800-745-3000 or 704-335-3100 — or visit Ticketmaster.com.