The last six years of Fantasia Barrino’s life have been a fitful voyage we’ve all had front row seats to see but unlike a train careening off the rails, her spiral has been a methodical series of personal and professional disappointments.
Today, amid personal strife, her third studio album, Back To Me, hits stores to positive reviews from outlets like the New York Daily News, who gave it four stars. Her VH1 Behind The Music documentary also airs at 9 p.m. EST. But some commentators are wondering aloud if her recent headlines are part of an elaborate publicity push or we’re genuinely witnessing very tenuous moments in her life.
Even following her career from afar, you’d be inclined to believe that her recent drama is real and serious, the timing is just coincidence. See, for everything the past six years has gifted Barrino, there’s been a consistent element there to pull her down to Earth.
It seems like a lifetime ago when she was just a fresh faced newcomer, singing her way into hearts and psyches on the American Idol stage, week-by-week raising the bar for her success with performances that were raw, emotional and oft times inspiring, en route to becoming the third American Idol winner.
The immediate success of her debut album, Free Yourself, only validated the career of a woman who’d seen a nearly mercurial rise to fame in 2004 but since the glow of her Idol success, Grammy nominations and subsequent albums has worn off, we’ve seen a young woman have to endure the trappings of fame right before our very eyes, many times unsuccessfully.When her dictated memoir, Life Is Not A Fairy Tale, became a New York Times bestseller in 2006, it was followed by a 10 million dollar lawsuit from her father, who claimed he was portrayed falsely in the book but it was the other tidbits she told us that naïvely broadcasted her vulnerabilities. She was a rape victim, functionally illiterate, and uneducated.
It took a certain level of strength to tell the world the truth although it was instantly overshadowed by the gravity of what we’d learned. Kind of the same way her talent has been overshadowed by more recent events in her life.
She received rave reviews playing Celie in the Broadway production of The Color Purple in 2007 only to miss 50 shows because of a cyst on her vocal cords. Then there was the reported foreclosure and auction of one of her Charlotte-area homes in 2008, which uncovered her strained finances from supporting six different family members.
Her reality show, Fantasia For Real, premiered in January and was recently renewed for a second season. More so than anything, it was a vehicle to grab the reins of her public image, which was being largely shaped by blogs and media reports.
She also sat down theGrio in January to discuss her climb back and said, “I was very talented young lady coming into this business, very green, very naïve and taken advantage of…I wish that I would’ve had management, better people behind me who just didn’t see an easy way to make a dollar.”
She urged people who may end up in similar situations to take control over every aspect of their life and not to let people “prostitute” their talents.
What’s always been glaring is that Barrino’s inner circle may have been just as supportive as it was conniving. Where was she supposed to turn when things went rough and family just had a hand out? Her support system has been shaky at best.
Only recently though has irrational behavior been a recurrent theme to her headlines. Her much publicized relationship with a married man, Antwuan Cook, who’s estranged wife is seeking alimony, child custody and other financial support in their divorce.
The estranged wife also filed in court documents that Barrino told her over the phone, “He don’t want you. Maybe the next time that you get a husband you’ll know how to keep him. That’s why he is here with me.”
Cook and Barrino’s relationship apparently began at a local T-Mobile store in August 2009 and has since seen the two not only travel together but also get matching tattoos of his name.
Adding insult to injury was Barrino’s failed suicide attempt this month. The songstress divulged that her overdose on aspirin and sleep aids was no accident, telling People magazine, “I didn’t have any fight in me. I didn’t care about anything. I just wanted out.” She continued, “I wanted to go to sleep and just be at peace. I knew exactly what I was doing. You can’t accidentally take a whole bottle of pills.”
What’s apparent is she needs help. What’s not is where she’ll go from here or who will be there to help her.
How many 26-year-old’s have lived lives that warranted a TV movie, Behind The Music documentary and reality show, that all still leave the public with more questions than they had to begin with.
Unlike other stars whose fall from grace have kept blogs in business and seem like what they deserve, there’s no underlying humor to Barrino’s story. No one’s laughing, it’s just sad. Hopefully, Back To Me, will lift her out of her current funk but what was she before? Does she really want to go back to that?
Hopefully the knowledge that she does need better people around her will spark someone in her inner circle to step up and help out before it’s too late.