Consider Antonia “Toya” Carter as exhibit A in this brief discussion. You fawn over her flawless, caramel-coated skin (looking like it was pre-ordered brand new at a department store), admire the hypnotic, moon-shaped eyes that sit perfectly underneath curly black locks, then peer at (OK, some folks stare) her athletic, voluptuous frame. You might even peep her out dining on some pasta and shrimp at celebrity-favorite Crestations in the tiny Beverly Hills section of Los Angeles. Most would immediately deduce that she has always coasted on some type of room-service oriented, Rodeo Drive life.
You would never guess that her family imploded from the onset, and that she never knew what a real family actually was because she never experienced it before. Toya is spending the balance of her reality show, BET’s “Toya: A Family Affair” that began April 12, working to pick up the shards of her own shattered family life.
“Growing up for me, it was pretty tough. I bounced around [to] different relatives,” she said in that dreamy New Orleans accent that is as thick as gumbo. “I was really, really young and going through a lot of different things. On top of that, I had a baby at 14. Where [were] we going to go?” she says. “I was put out of school. My mind was on my problems — trying to be in a relationship and me wanting my mom to get off drugs — and where I’m going to lay my head at night.”
Toya is not naïve. She knows what people thought of her — and, perhaps, still do.
“In the beginning, when we decided to do the show, ‘Tiny & Toya,’ all [that] people knew was that I was married to Lil Wayne. So, when they heard [about] the show, they said, ‘Oh, that’s a baby’s momma show.’ So, after that, it was always ‘Lil Wayne’s baby’s momma,’ ‘T.I.’s baby’s momma’ type of thing. As we did season two, things changed, but they still held on to that title. I think my life has changed with reality TV. I’m more in the public eye. I was in someone’s shadow. But now, I’m putting more of my personal life out there,” says Toya.
Actually, Toya doesn’t begrudge the haters. She knows it’s divinely offset by those who are able to derive inspiration from her unfortunate childhood.
With her spin-off television show “Toya: A Family Affair,” she is finally able to tell her story as it happened, not leaving it to assumptions and innuendos.
“It goes deeper than ‘Tiny & Toya.’ You get deeper into my family life. This time, it involves my siblings, my mom and my dad. It’s a family show. It’s emotional,” she reveals. “A lot of people are going to be able to relate to it. … There [are] a lot of things that are going on. We’re struggling to keep our family together because we’ve been separated for so many years. I have a brother who’s been in jail for 10 years. My mother is still battling addictions. My father has been absent for so many years.”
Actually, the reality show will mirror her debut book, Priceless Inspirations, that comes out the same week as her show (April 16). The duo will enable her to get closer to her fans — not that some don’t feel like they aren’t close already. Sometimes, too close.
“It’s a gift and a curse, but a blessing. People feel like they really, really know you. So you get the weirdos who come up to you, ‘Oh, you looking for love? I can help you with that,’ and ‘Lil Wayne’s crazy’ and this and that. The plus side is you get to meet people who genuinely give you this love and open up to you … so it helps people.”
Overall, the marriage between Toya and reality TV is a union that has paid handsome dividends thus far.
“I’m loving reality TV. Past all the haters and the people that are going to judge you, there is a positive message,” she says.
Reality TV is akin to a rose. There are a lot of thorns and insects around it. But, if you are able to pick through it, you have a priceless gift to give someone. For Toya, “Toya: A Family Affair” will enable her to erect a mobile platform from which to educate and inspire the throngs of young girls across urban America who identify with something in her life or want to develop strength like she was forced to.
TOYA’S THOUGHTS ON MOTHERHOOD:
“When you have kids at a young age, your kids tend to grow up with you. So, as I was learning, she was learning, which is why she is wise beyond her years. People see my daughter and say, ‘She is so grown.’ We were learning together. I couldn’t just put her off on everybody. That didn’t stop me from being a mother. I told her when she was born, ‘I’m going to give you all I didn’t have and more.’ … Love your kids … listen to them, hear them out. People say, ‘If you didn’t have it, you can’t give it,’ but that’s not true. I didn’t have [anybody], but I’m trying to be there for my daughter. [I tell her to] talk to me because I didn’t have [anyone] to talk to.”
WHAT WOMEN ARE DOING WRONG IN RELATIONSHIPS:
“I just feel like women just go so hard. They give their all so fast. They give 100 [percent] and don’t get that in return. Relationships [are] supposed to be equal. A lot of women didn’t grow up with the affection from their dad. So, when they find a man, they expect that man to give that to them. … They look for love in all the wrong places. They never had their fathers around to say, ‘I love you, and you’re beautiful.’ So, the first man to tell them, ‘I love you, and you’re beautiful,’ they fall for it. That’s the biggest problem. They throw themselves on a man all the time and say, ‘I got him.’ That [doesn’t] work.”
HOW MEN NEED TO CHANGE UP THEIR GAME:
“Men have to be more respectful. This generation is just so disrespectful. They think it’s corny to open a door for a woman and just be polite. … What goes around comes around. What you put out, you will get back.”
“I’ve always loved fashion and accessories. One day when I was home, I said, ‘I love this spot.’ And I said I want to open a store. A month later, it was open, and it’s all I wanted and more. I got the whole retail [thing] down pat. And I love it. … I like to take charge. I pick out our own clothes. I designed it. I’m ready to open different locations in different cities.”
“I used to keep a journal all the time. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, [so] I would always write [everything] down. … One day, I decided to turn the journal into a book. … I can help young girls [based on] what I’ve been through.”
ON HANDLING HERS:
“You have to [handle] your business yourself and not put it in other people’s hands if you want it to work.”