by Nona N. Allen
Special to The New Tri-State Defender
As a child, Tamela Mann sang into pencils and hair combs to the sounds of the Clark Sisters.
"I always had hope (that I could be a gospel star), but I never dreamed that I would be on the same stage as Karen Clark Sheard. God has shown me favor!" exclaimed Mann. "I just want to be faithful to Him so He can continue to be faithful to me."
Last Sunday (July 29) Mann found herself in the spot she described as beyond her childhood dreams – sharing stage billing with Sheard. The setting was Bountiful Blessings Church of God In Christ.
I spoke Mann after the show. We talked like old friends about everything from movies to music. In everything, said Mann, she has focused on demonstrating her commitment to God and the advancement of the Kingdom.
Here is a bit of our conversation:
On 'Best Days'
The first single of Mann's new CD – "Best Days" – was written and produced by her old friend, Kirk Franklin. As a former member of Kirk Franklin and the Family, Mann and Franklin have history. I asked her about working with Franklin again. (The two had not worked together since the song Franklin made with Bishop T.D. Jakes about 9/11.)
"It was like we were never apart. The chemistry was still there," Mann bubbled. "He even put (my husband) David out of the studio."
It was exciting, Mann said, for two people of God to come together and see the growth in each other.
The CD, which is a mix of traditional COGIC, urban, hymns and pop, was produced mainly by artist Myron Butler. The variety was admittedly a new vein for Mann, who is eager to hear the response of listeners. Her personal favorites from the CD project are two worship songs: "All to Thee" and Lord We're Waiting."
"Those songs can really get you in the presence of God," said Mann.
'Sparkle' & Whitney Houston
Mann is at home on the stage and screen. She has been featured in a slew of Tyler Perry plays, movies and television shows as the loveable Cora, daughter of Holy Roller Deacon Brown and pistol packing Madea. Recently, she was featured in the remake of the movie "Sparkle" (release date Aug. 17) with Jordan Sparks and Whitney Houston. Mann plays Sarah Waters, mother of Sparkle's best friend.
I asked her how it felt to play a part in a movie without a gospel message.
"It was different, but being in "Sparkle" did not compromise me," said Mann. "It's just a testament to the fact that we can be in this world, but not of this world."
And how was it to work with the now late Whitney Houston? Houston, Mann said, was a Christian who was friendly and a true professional.
"It was wonderful to work with Whitney! I was in awe that she knew me! Who am I that Whitney Houston knows me?"
Mann said she was hurt when Houston died because the person that the media portrayed is not the person she knew.
Life outside music & movies
Mann is a wife, mother and a grandmother. She is married to the hilarious "Deacon Leroy Brown" played by her husband David Mann. As a couple, they are spokespersons for the American Diabetes Association. After her husband was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, the couple began to eat right and exercise. With this lifestyle change, David's diabetes has been regulated.
Tamela and David have not only worked together in movies, plays and in Kirk Franklin's family, they also work together in the kitchen. The couple has developed a cooking show called "Hanging with the Manns" and it is coming to a channel near you soon.
I asked Mann about her relationship with her husband.
"We need to keep our men lifted up. Our life is hard, but theirs is harder," she said. "David is in my corner and I thank God for that every day."
Tamela Mann was a joy to talk to, and I came away from the exchange stimulated by her conviction to experience ever-better days.
AT A GLANCE
• Tamela Mann
• NAACP Image Award nominated actress, singer, songwriter, producer, and businesswoman.
• Stars as "Cora Simmons" on the TBS comedy 'Tyler Perry's Meet The Browns'
• New CD: "Best Days"
• Available: Aug. 14
• Where: iTunes, Amazon.com, Bestbuy.com, Walmart.com, and www.tillymannmusic.com
• Preorders: www.tillymannmusic.com
• CD: $11.99; Digital download: $9.99
• Single: "Take Me to the King" available now on iTunes