In the midst of television’s “reality series” craze, Tameka “Tiny” Cottle and Antonia “Toya” Carter have garnered a loyal fanbase on BET. Last season, the duo was followed by three million viewers, who laughed, cried, and learned some serious lessons from their day-to-day experiences.
As Tiny and Toya prepared for the launch of season two, the ladies managed to squeeze some time out of their busy schedules and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry—reflecting on highlights from season one, as well as the struggles and triumphs within their personal lives.
Before our conversation, I scanned your official website on BET.com and one lady “Mz. Mucci” noted that it “is nice to see real black women doing real things.” What additional feedback have you received from other women that served as inspiration throughout the filming of season two?
Tiny: Well, for one, it’s great to hear those kinds of things. It makes me feel good that I did this show, because of the positive feedback we’ve been receiving and because it’s been very inspiring to others. A lot of people tell me that it makes them feel like they could do the same kind of things. And to me, that’s the best thing I could get out of doing this show. It’s cool to know that the money’s great, but it’s not like I’m in need for money. It’s not like I’m in need for exposure. You know, I’ve had exposure and I’ve been sitting back, in the cut, for a long time. So, it’s great that people can find inspiration in us.
Toya: It’s great to hear people share their stories and then they tell you how you inspired them by telling yours. By putting my life out there, people have gotten to see how strong I am. I’m there for moms and my daughter; and there are so many people I lost. I was just trying to get through different things, but I guess my life in the show has helped others get through similar things.
Tiny: Yeah, we go through a lot behind the scenes, and when so many people come up to us and say how inspired they are and how positive they found the show to be, it just made us anxious to get into season two, because it is going to show where we left off on season one.
Well, I’m definitely excited. Even though the show revolves around two black women, as a male, I found inspiration in your basic pursuit of your personal dreams. My grandmother is suffering from dementia, so it is great that you have given Alzheimer's disease a face and allowed people to see the real side.
Tiny: I think that was the part of the experience that I liked the most. Alzheimer’s is real, you know, and more and more people are being diagnosed with it. When I was growing up, I didn’t know anything about Alzheimer’s. And now that I’m dealing with it, I get a lot of people that write me and Twitter me, that tell me that their loved ones are suffering with it. And they thank me for putting it out there and bringing more awareness. So that, to me, is the best thing that I could have done on this show, is giving more awareness to Alzheimer’s. T.I.P. and I started a foundation called “For the Love of our Fathers,” which is trying to do more research on finding a cure.
Wow, that’s a really good thing that you’re doing!
Tiny: Yeah, because his father passed from Alzheimer’s, too.
Oh, I didn’t know that.
Tiny: A lot of people didn’t know that, yes. So it’s very near and dear to us. So for us to do it together, I thought that would be a great idea, because he suffered from it, too.
I know it must be hard to have the cameras following you everywhere that you go. What has been the most awkward filming situation?
Toya: Different conversations between me and my daughter. There are some things that I do not really want to put that out there, especially when it comes to her. But, other than that, I pretty much opened up. What you see is what you get, you know, from what was going on with my mom and me being heartbroken and all that. The show was really like therapy for me.
As you mentioned “therapy,” I noticed that you spent a lot of time writing in a journal or diary. How long have you been storing your thoughts, and have you thought about putting them into book format?
Toya: Just a few years. Maybe three years ago. I’m actually working on a book right now. It started off as a memoir of my life, and now I changed it up. It’s kind of like Hill Harper’s book – a female version, a diary from my younger self. I always used to write down different things; but, when I started thinking about writing a book, I got really serious.
When you mentioned your desire to use Hill Harper as a blueprint, I had a couple of passing thoughts. Since you and Tiny both have teenage daughters, I have two burning questions. First and foremost, I am curious to know what key issue you feel is facing young women today. And on the flipside, what advice do you have for mothers who might have children going through similar situations?
Toya: My daughter, you know, has taken on a lot, since her father’s in the public eye, especially right now. So, kids always come to her with negative stories and different things like that. But I just talk to her, all the time, and try to be the first to tell her things. So it’s important for parents to communicate with their children, because you never know what they might hear from kids outside the house. Everyone’s not brought up the same way, you know. So, being a mother, I just want to stress that you really talk to your kids about everything. Spend time with them. Let them know you love them. And you really have to be there, especially with kids, because they really need it.
Nowadays, they get stuff coming at them from all angles – people, magazines, the Internet. There is always negative stuff to be found. And sometimes you never know how they really feel, because some kids keep things bottled in and try to make sense of it on their own. That’s why I try to talk to mine a lot, you know, just to see how she’s feeling about certain situations. Coming up, my mom wasn’t really there for me, coming up. And that just helped make me a better mother. Because I know what I was missing, growing up, and I try to give my daughter that and more.
Tiny: I just think our daughters, and kids in general, we just need to keep them as young as possible. My daughter’s going to be 14 years old this month, and she’s growing up. When she’s offstage, she’s a regular kid. She’s been in a Christian school all her life. This is her first year out of Christian school, her eighth grade year. So, I think that helped with her upbringing. She’s not being exposed to all kinds of craziness. She’s not like all crazy, boy crazy or nothing. She’s 14 years old. But she’s not like, “Oh, my God. I’ve got to get…” You know what I’m saying? And I love that about her, because she’s real balanced.
You know, in school now, these days, it’s all kinds of things going on. In her school, there are young, little girls in there with tattoos and piercings, and she’s in the eighth grade. And like, it’s too much, to me. That’s too much. And she’s working now. So home schooling to me, for her, is the best thing, right now. Because I just want to keep her safe from all of that. And I know you can’t keep her away from the world, and shelter her, and I’m not trying to do that. I just want to keep our relationship where we can talk, where she feels comfortable, and we can get through anything. If me and her can’t get through it, then who can? That’s my thing. If me and her can’t work it out, who can?
That is a good way to look at it. During one episode, you and several other ladies were gathered together and discussing relationships. One line that really hit me from the conversation: “You can’t be complete to someone if you’re not complete to yourself.” This past season, in what area of your life do you think you have grown the most?
Tiny: What have I grown the most in? Just getting moving and doing things for myself, you know. I have taken the backseat and just enjoyed the fruit and everything that comes with just being someone’s lady, that doesn’t have to do anything. And then when he left, I had to keep myself busy; because me and him, we spent a lot of time together. And our relationship is built on being together. That’s what makes us work. So, when we were apart, I had to find something to keep me busy and keep my mind going. So the show really helped me with finding my own kind of independence. And I found out that I was able to do anything I really wanted to do, if I put my mind to it. So I don’t plan on stopping! [laughing] I plan on doing more things, maybe even behind-the-scenes. But just more things to help others to do the same thing.
Toya: I’ve always been the type that was afraid to try, because I was afraid of failure. And with every episode, I just tried to go about life different that I had in the past and I think people can really see that I’m growing. Like doing the Outward Bound thing. Learning to swim. Just taking these different chances that I always was afraid to do, like moving on. Fear keeps people from chasing their dreams, and I overcame several of mine. So that helped me out a whole lot.
When you went to Outward Bound, you dragged Tiny with you! [laughing] So when you look at your relationship with Tiny, what do you think is the best word to describe your relationship? Big “sister”? Or best “friend”?
Toya: Tiny is definitely a big sister. You know, she is reliable. She’s loyal. She’s honest. She’s a good person to have around. So I get the best of both worlds, because she’s a great friend.
Tiny: Me and Toya are definitely like sisters! She’s like my younger sister. When something’s wrong, she’ll call me. And she might be like, “Well, nothing’s wrong. Nothing’s wrong.” And I’ll be like, “Girl, please. I hear it in your voice.” And finally, she’ll come back, “Well, you know. This, this and that.” And you know, vice versa. So we help each other, and I love her to pieces. We talk about everything, and we have disagreements, but we never really fall out.
Many people can not say that… [laughing] … so that’s really good! Is there a particular moment from season one that you really felt sealed your relationship?
Toya: Yeah. The night T.I.P. left, we talked for a long, long time. In that moment, I guess, I showed her that I was going to be there for her – no matter what! So that was one of the good friendship moments we shared.
Looking at your most recent press release, your show garnered three million viewers last season. Are you shocked that so many people are interested in tuning into your life?
Toya: No, I’m not shocked, because I figured people would. Like, all the people that said they weren’t going to watch, because all we were going to be doing is talk about Wayne and T.I.P. and shopping, were the main ones in front of the screen – watching! [laughing] But after watching the show, I know it gave them a different view on us, because it was something totally different from what they expected it to be.
Well, I am definitely looking forward to seeing how season two turns out. When you prepared for this new season, did you have different expectations or elements from last season that you wanted to change?
Toya: Not really. I like everything just the way it is, period. Everything—the good and the bad—because I’m still growing, just like every other human being.
Tiny: I can say that there will be a lot of surprises in season two: some things that I think people are waiting on, that people have been asking about, and hoping to see. You’re just going to have to watch it, to see all the great things that’s going to happen on Tiny and Toya. I think people will be surprised. If you enjoyed the first season, then you’ll definitely enjoy this season!
Last season, you mentioned an interesting factoid: your mom and your dad were the second interracial couple to get married in the state of Georgia.
That is really deep, when you think about race relations in America. As you know, there used to be a day and age when interracial marriages were illegal.
So, when you were growing up, did you find it hard to come to terms with your bi-racial identity, or did you think you had the best of both worlds?
Tiny: You know, for me, it wasn’t like really hard; but my sister and my brother said they had to do a lot of fighting. And I guess because of the biracial family; you know, their mom being white, you know. People thought they were soft, and they had to fight a lot. But for me, I enjoyed every minute of it. I don’t really recall having any problems during school, or any time while I was in school, or out of school. I really don’t remember having any problems. But I’ve always been pretty mild-mannered. I traveled a lot with my mom and my dad on the road, when I was young. So, I enjoyed my life and had a great time during my childhood.
And how are Zonnique and Reginae doing? They are close in age, and from what I can tell, they are starting to have the same kind of bond that you and Toya are having.
Tiny: Yes, they really are. We just finished talking about that. They are really close and they have a good relationship. They’re sort of like best friends.
So, when you look at this show, and think about the impact that you and your daughters are having on women of all ages, what do you think this show is doing that a lot of other shows are not doing?
Toya: It just has a positive vibe. It’s not like there are a bunch of shows that show you can be good friends, support each other, be there for your family. Even though I’m a single mother, I’m doing a lot of things on my own. And there’s not too many shows that are positive like that.
Tiny: Our show definitely shows that family can get along, in the good times and the bad times, and friends don’t have to argue and fuss.
For more information on Tiny & Toya, visit the duo’s official website.Powered by Sidelines