A lot has happened in the lives of sisters Erica Campbell and Tina Campbell (also known as the Grammy-winning gospel duo Mary Mary) since their “Mary Mary” reality show debuted on WE tv in 2012. Mary Mary fired the duo's longtime manager Mitchell Solarek; the sisters' father, Eddie Atkins Jr., died from cancer; Erica Campbell launched a solo career (Mary Mary is on hiatus and has not broken up); and Tina Campbell went through some serious marital problems when she found out her husband cheated on her.
All of these major life changes are chronicled in the "Mary Mary" reality show, whose third season premieres on Feb. 27, 2014. At the show's Season 3 premiere party in New York City on Feb. 25, 2014, Mary Mary did a Q&A and a brief performance (the song "I Worship You") after a screening of the Season 3 premiere episode. Here is what Mary Mary said at the Q&A.
You went though a lot of hard times filming this season of “Mary Mary.” How did you feel about allowing all of these personal problems to be filmed for TV?
Tina Campbell: By far, this was the most challenging season of my life. I don’t think the world will ever get me in a vulnerable place like this. I pretty much wasn’t thinking. That’s why I let the cameras follow me. All of us at some point in time are going to have to endure some kind of hardship. Everyone doesn’t have to do it in front of the camera.
Fortunately for me, I had a choice in the matter. I’m the one who decided to talk [about my marital problems] to Ebony [magazine]. I’m the one who allowed the cameras in, because I could’ve said, “I’m not doing this. You guys sue me. I’m going to run away and hide, with my miserable life, and cry for the rest of my life.”
I could’ve done something crazy like that. But I knew I wanted to forgive. I didn’t know what forgiveness consisted of. I didn’t know what the process looked like. So I had no clue what my lay ahead of me. If I had known, I probably would have opted out.
So, you know, thank God for my knight in that matter, because y’all wouldn’t have gotten this season if I had known that I’d have known all that I would have to go through when those cameras were rolling. Now that it’s over, I’m totally OK with it, because our existence is about our faith. When life hit me hard, I threw my faith under the bus.
I was mad at everybody — God, the devil, Erica, the air, the lights, the sound system — just everything. I was mad at the world, mad at the walls, mad at everything, because I was so hurt and so broken. It’s a struggle to try to get past something, but if nobody is an example of a broken life turning into someone who is smiling again and OK with what I had to go through, if nobody sees anybody get through anything, how will you know you can get some times when you feel like, “I’m about to die”?
Not only did I feel like it, I was. As you see this season, you’ll get to experience a whole lot of what “The Walking Dead” looks like with me, because I was a zombie. But I’m smiling again. Is everything perfect in my life? No. Can I erase one of the most horrific things that happened in my life? No.
So really, I had no choice but to accept it. I could have spent the rest of my life fighting against it, but I’m not going to be able to go back and change history. So I’ve had to accept it.
It doesn’t matter how the rest of everything turns out, I have to be with Tina. I’ve got to be able to sleep at night. I’ve got to be able to look in the mirror and be honest with myself. And faking it and doing the ego thing and trying to act like I’m tough and all this silly stuff is nothing but a lie, because everybody’s hurt when something like this happens.
But you have to decide, “I want to be happy. I want to smile again, and so I’m going to do whatever it takes to take care of me." I don’t have to worry about us and Mary Mary and marriage and none of that. Tina wants to smile again, Tina wants to be happy, because if I focus on what has happened to me, I’ll be miserable for the rest of my existence. And this is miserable enough, so let’s not perpetuate this thing and let’s try to heal. Now, what healing looks will be special. So watch it.
Erica Campbell: I have to put my seat belt and helmet on when I watch it, because it is something. We filmed it over a year, and sometimes you find yourself getting really mad over what happened, even though it’s passed, because it is just so devastating. I really hope that people who watch our real lives can see themselves.
Tina Campbell: Oh, you don’t have to hope for it. They’re going to get it!
Erica Campbell: I’m saying that because I hope they all watch and stick around the whole time. Some people will watch a little bit and make a judgment: “Oh, I’ve seen the three-minute clips.” [Those people] will never understand what will happen over all these episodes. You’ve got to stick around and you’ll see really what it was and how it turned out.
Tina Campbell: I will tell you this. To date, I have no knowledge of any celebrity, any person on TV that had any kind of established celebrity outside of doing just a reality show choosing to let cameras be a part of it. This is the kind of thing that you find out and there’s a scandal. I exposed it. I don’t think anybody [who was a celebrity before being on a reality show] would do this. It is a lot.
Erica Campbell: It affects everything: the work and what we do. It affects a lot.
Tina Campbell: And it’s the most vulnerable me that the world is going to get. I hope you don’t have to get me vulnerable like this ever again.
A lot of people don’t like the idea of having cameras follow them around for a TV show. But does that exposure allow you to be more self-reflective and see how you could have done things differently?
Erica Campbell: I think you should always think about what you went through and figure out how you got there, so you can make sure that you never go back again. Some people don’t pay attention, like, “How did I get here?” They get mad. We have to ask ourselves, “How the heck did we get here, so that we can never come back?” It [the reality show] gives you a chance to do that.
Me and Tina had a chance in our personal relationship to reassess and really be OK with certain things. It’s on TV, and people are making comments on Twitter and Facebook, and if you fall into that, it can almost make your relationship crumble. I understand why people, in reality, their relationships fall apart and all this kind of stuff. We’ve got to make sure that we’re OK before it gets to anybody else.
This is my sister. It was before all this started, and when it’s all over, she will still be my sister. And I don’t want to come to the family reunions [with a tense relationship] because we never apologized. So I have to find out where I’m wrong, say sorry, and then move forward. I am so grateful to WE tv and eOne being committed to resolve and allowing us to say things like, “I’m sorry” and “God help me.”
Tina Campbell: I think people say that. We just don’t see it. Thank God for faith!
Tina, what was your husband’s reaction to you sharing your marital problems in an Ebony magazine interview and knowing you would talk about these problems on the TV show?
Tina Campbell: Let me tell you how committed I was to my marriage. I’m not trying to blow my own horn, but this was a good move, because at that point I was like, “Don’t you say nothing to me. I’m going to do whatever I want. You shut up and you take it.” That’s how I felt.
But that’s mean, angry and bitter. And if you stay there, you’re going to be unhappy for the rest of your life. I definitely was there, and I did that hard. And it didn’t work. That’s why I stopped. But I asked him, “What do you think?”
To tell you the honest-to-God truth? I don’t know if I would’ve considered it if he vetoed it, but I did ask him. And at that point in time, everything I asked, I got a “yes.” He was in agreement with everything I wanted to do, say, think, whatever. He wasn’t going to give to many “nos,” but I did ask him what he thought about it. And I was like, “Are you sure?”
I feel like, “If I expose this, and somebody is being helped while I’m being helped, it will probably help me out. It will take my eyes off of me to know that somebody else is encourage me or probably helped me out.”
So that’s actually why I did it. I didn’t want to be a hostage to my own secrets, like, “What if somebody finds out?” I was like, “I want to make sure that everybody finds out because I’m getting over this whole secret ‘what if.’”
I didn’t want to do that. And then I thought, “What if somebody else could be helped by me going public? I’m just going to do it. Hopefully, they’ll be helped, I’ll be helped, and we’ll all be better after a while.” And he was OK with it.
Most gospel music artists don’t want to put so much of their personal lives on TV, because they’re afraid it would make them look too flawed. How do you manage to keep it real while staying true to your faith?
Tina Campbell: After 9/11, how many of you noticed all those billboards popping up all over: “God Bless America”? As soon as that tragedy hit, everybody wanted to talk about prayer and God and the Lord and this kind of stuff, right?
So if we’re people talking about our faith, but we never show you how our faith helps, if we talk about possible scenarios, but we never show you what it looks like to be in the fire and come out, then how do you know this is real? Most people look at us like, “Y’all rich, you have a perfect life, you grew up in church, you’re happy.” That’s what everybody thinks.
So when you show them, “No, I’m really like you. I deal with some real old regular stuff, just like you. This is not something I do on stage to impress you or inspire you. This is for me too.”
And when people see that, it makes what we do much more real. So it was important for us to just be honest with who we are, or just say, “I’m done with this, and I’m just walking away.”
Erica Campbell: And I think it gives validity to the songs that we sing … Hopefully somebody will see that and be encouraged by it.
Your reality show is more than just about music. What do you want people to get from watching your reality show?
Erica Campbell: It is because we are cognizant of that. This is not about fame or greater awareness or Mary Mary or selling more records. It’s about showing people the God that’s in us so that your attention can be directed to him. And if we do not do that, we have failed.
We call ourselves “gospel artists.” Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ.” If nothing that I do, nothing about my life connects you to the God of my music, then I’m doing something terribly wrong. Not that we’re perfect, and not that everyone in the world is a huge fan of our music, but our faith is real, whether we’re on stage or off stage, on good days and on bad days.
On bad days, we’re challenged in our faith just like everybody else, but we push past those challenges and we make ourselves believe in what you say and what you wrote, that’s who you are. You’re not this bad day Throw that out, kick it out, and keep on pushing. Is it easy? No, but with God, all things are possible.
What is the future of music with Mary Mary?
Erica Campbell: You’ve got to watch the show to find out.
Tina Campbell: In the meantime, while you’re waiting on Mary Mary, you can go to stores on March 25, and get “Help” by Erica Campbell. I just want to be honest and say this: Mary Mary is taking a break, not breaking up. When will we be back together? Who knows? But as long as Erica has a voice and I have a voice, it’s very likely that we’ll be singing together.
For more info: "Mary Mary" website