Tamela Mann was just another starving artist touring with Kirk Franklin and the Family, waiting for her big break. Although her voice was made famous through 90′s melodies like Kirk Franklin’s “Now Behold the Lamb“, and “Silver and Gold“; behind those pitch-perfect Soprano notes was a terribly timid singer battling a chronic case of stage fright.
“Kirk [Franklin] would always say, okay y’all we gone go out there and sing like Jesus is on the front row,” recalls Tamela. But still, her nerves would get the best of her, making her feel painfully nervous and unsure of herself.
So then, one might be led to wonder how the naturally timid Tamela Mann burst onto the acting landscape, most recently starring as “Cora Jean Simmons,” a central character in Tyler Perry’s big screen adaptation of the hugely successful stage play, “Meet the Browns“–grossing more than $30 million at the Box Office since its March 21st release.
According to Tamela Mann, it took plenty of coaching, cojoling, and convincing. As a matter of fact, when media mogul Tyler Perry first approached her about transitioning into acting, she wasn’t too keen on the idea.
“At first I was like, I’ll sing for you, and I’ll pray, but I don’t know about all of that acting!” Tamela laughs. But the fear she felt was no laughing matter. She recalls, “I used to quote the scripture, God has not given us the spirit of fear over and over again because I would be sooo nervous every night.”
So, how did Tamela Mann finally overcome her fears and take a leap of faith? How did she manage to go from relative anonymity to mainstream celebrity? And what has it been like working with three of Christian entertainment’s most talked about stars: Kirk Franklin, Tyler Perry, and David Mann A.K.A. Mr. Brown?
Well, she opened up about all that and then some exclusively with EEW Magazine’s Editor-In-Chief, Dianna Hobbs.
EEW: You’re going to mainstream America with this movie role. Are you excited, nervous, or all of it rolled together?
Tamela: All of the above! (Laughing) I just thank God because I couldn’t have done it without Him. I know a lot of people in our society believe so many different things, but my hope and faith is in Christ. Without the favor of God I couldn’t have done it. It feels good, but I just want to be kept. I want the Lord to keep me so I won’t start thinking it’s about me. So, as He elevates me, I just pray that He prepares me for each elevation, so I appreciate it, and don’t take anything for granted.
EEW: Your voice is so powerful. When did you first know you wanted to sing and travel?
Tamela: The singing came, I would say, it really fell on me at like 12, beecause this other lady at my church who was a good role model for me, had four girls, and one of her daughters and I who are very close, Cassandra Kelly– I went with her and her mom to different musicals and workshops and sang– and by me seeing Sister Robinson go to all of these different churches and towns singing, I really tapped into my desire to sing being with her. They would come and pick me up and just take me over the week-end and feed me because my mom didn’t have it. The social security check for my other two brothers that are next to me was basically what we were living on besides food stamps, because I didn’t get any income. I didn’t have any income coming in to help contribute.
EEW: You grew up in a single parent home with 14 children. What was that like?
Tamela: Actually, it was kind of easy because I came in during the shifting. My older brothers and sisters had married off and moved away, so when I was coming up, it was probably maybe five [of them at home]… I guess I was so small… there may have been like six or seven people left. But during that process it was kind of fun, because I was spoiled (Laughing).
EEW: Exactly where did you fit into the equation?
Tamela: I’m the baby.
EEW: Oh, no wonder you were so spoiled. (Laughing)
Tamela: But sometimes as I got older and seeing friends and family members that had both parents, I kind of wondered about [what it would be like] having [a] mom and dad being present, you know, but mom, she just took on the role, and the Lord just blessed me with a lot of people around me, so I didn’t miss a beat really; I didn’t really feel like any love was lost because one of my uncles, my mom’s youngest brother kind of took me in. They had two boys, so I kind of stepped in like a daughter to them, so it was good. It was really good for me. Even though my dad wasn’t giving my mom anything, and I had a different dad from everybody else. Of all the 13 [of my brothers and sisters], all of them had the same dad. And my dad, he didn’t do anything, he didn’t do anything really to help my mom.