Tamela Mann talks about God, marriage, family and Madea

David and Tamela Mann
David and Tamela Mann

The Dallas Examiner

Known for his ashy-kneed, mixed-matched-clothes-wearing, country-with-a-K character, Leroy S. Brown, who everyone calls Mr. Brown, and his daughter, Cora Jean Simmons, the sweet, honest character with a golden voice, are a well-known gospel singing and Christian comedy duo.

David and Tamela Mann, who play their characters, made their acting debut when Tyler Perry discovered them in 1999. That year, they became part of the cast in Perry’s second stage play, I Can Do Bad All By Myself.

The comedy/drama stage play featured the first appearance of Perry’s character, Madea, who carries a gun in her purse, demands respect – sometimes by force – and considers the law to be basic suggestions. It was the first of a series of plays that touched on critical issues, such as domestic abuse, molestation, drug abuse and other family secrets that are brought to light.

Brown and Cora immediately became fan favorites and began appearing as main characters in Perry’s plays and movies. They’ve both received NAACP Image Awards for their rolls.

Now, 20 years later – after a series of 10 stage plays and 10 filmed performances – Perry fans have to bid farewell to Madea as Madea’s Farewell tours the country. The tour kicked off January in Oakland, California, and recently stopped at The Theatre at Grand Prairie, April 4 through April 7.

During an interview with Tamela, she mentioned that she and the cast were considering trying to convince Perry to keep Madea alive and kicking.

“We’re going to start a petition to tell Tyler that he can’t kill Medea. … He can’t put her down,” she said with a laugh.

However, she acknowledged that Perry might be tired of the time that it takes to be dressed up in the thick layers of costume that transform him into Madea, and then have to perform in it. Yet, the tour experience brought up mixed emotions.

“It’s bittersweet of course, because it’s actually been over two years since all of us have been on stage together,” Tamela explained. “And we’ve been having such a ball with Cassi Davis – Patton now, she got married – and David and I. It’s been so much fun every night. And of course, with them being comedians, it’s like something new every night spontaneous with Tyler and David and Cassi. So I’m just bringing it home, singing.”

Best known for her leading role as Ella Payne in House of Payne, she has played a small variety of characters, but often appears as Aunt Bam – or Betty Ann Murphy – in Perry’s plays.

The tour also introduced new young voices to Perry’s wide mix of devoted fans, according to Tamela.

“Our audience has been so diverse. I’m just in amazement how it’s crossed over from the beginning when we first started in 1999. It’s just amazing. I mean how the characters have grown and we’ve just been getting so much love from the audiences. It’s just a blessing,” she said, as she conveyed her enthusiasm about bringing the tour home to Dallas.

The tour will conclude in Georgia at the end of May. However, the Manns will continue to stay busy with several ongoing ventures, which include Tamela’s activewear clothing line that she said can be found on their website, https://www.tillymannmusic.com. She has also shared her weight loss story as the new ambassador of Weight Watchers.

Us Against the World

Tamela has had four No. 1 hits on the Gospel Billboard, seven Top 10 hits and six No. 1 Gospel Airplay since 2012.

Her single, Take me to the King, was No. 1 Gospel Airplay for 25 weeks. My World Needs You and Change Me were her most recent top Gospel Airplay and made her the first gospel artist to have back-to-back No. 1 Gospel Airplay hits.

Now, she stated that she hopes her new project would touch her fans just as much as her top-selling albums.

Last year, after releasing their first man-and-wife duet album, Us Against the World: The Love Project, with love songs that mapped their journey of love, marriage and family, the Mann family toured the country to introduce their new songs.

“It’s a love project. It’s up now. It’s in stores. You can get it at any of your retail outlets that sell music. You can download it from Walmart, iTunes, Google Play, all your musical outlets,” Tamela said.

The album is designed to compliment the couple’s first book, Us Against The World: Our Secrets to Love, Marriage and Family, to be released Nov. 13.

“We were just talking about our 30-year journey of being together, and all the ups and downs that we’ve had,” Tamela explained. “You know being in the industry, but not just working in the industry, but thriving – even with our relationship, because of the divorce rate, especially in entertainment, it’s really high. But we’ve really been blessed, and we were just talking about our family and love and all of that. We’re really excited about the book and encourage you to read it. We also offer an audio version too.”

The couple has always been transparent about their relationship and family with their fans. In their book, they revealed their whole story and shared their secrets for a successful marriage, according to a prepared statement from David.

But transparency wasn’t always easy. Tamela admitted being nervous about some things that were revealed in the book.

“We kind of told some stories that we haven’t – I kinda got in detail – that we have never talked about before,” she said.

“Also, it just brought up a lot of memories, because we had to go back from the beginning. And even for us as a couple, there were some things that I thought we had resolved. So we had some nights that we was crying and talking late in the midnight hours. Then the great part of it is making up, you know?”

She laughed with the memory of previous discussions in which David mentioned the importance of the intimate part of their relationship.

“It was like a roller coaster there for a second,” she continued.

With all of the reminiscing and working back through past issues, she said she was surprised to learn that she needed to work on her communication skills.

“Sometimes, I wasn’t a good listener,” she confessed. “That’s one thing I did learn that I have to really learn, is communicate even more. I noticed that I’m not – I haven’t been – as much of a talker in communicating some things.”

At the same time, she also learned more about her husband.

“He is very patient,” she laughed. “He is very patient with me and he is very helpful. I mean, I realized it, but it just made me see it even more how much he helps me and he caters to me, as a woman and his wife, his best friend. And I also realized, too, that our friendship has really been the savior of our relationship.

“It’s kind of like having the person that loves you the most having your best interest at heart with you at all times. It’s just really been great. It’s a great thing to have, you know? I want other people to have what we have, but it’s really kind of crazy and hard to explain how we work through so many ups and downs. It’s just amazing to me.”

The Manns stated that throughout their relationship, faith was the foundation of their marriage – faith and friendship.

“I believe that if it wasn’t for our faith in God, we couldn’t have made it this far,” Tamela declared. “Everything, from start to finish. Our whole walk has been built on our faith in God.”

She explained that believing in their vows, mentioning the “until death do you part” portion, gives them no other option but to work through their disagreements and other struggles. They also had to trust and believe in each other.

“First of all, our love for Christ and our not wanting to let our Heavenly Father down, and not wanting to let each other down. It’s just kind of been our rock,” she further explained.

Through their many years together, they also stated that they’ve mastered the “art of arguing.” But, it didn’t come easy.

For the first six years in their marriage, David would slide in a humorous comment during an argument that would hit a personal chord with Tamela. While he was trying to use humor to make his point, he didn’t realize how much his words would sting. She learned to let him know how his words would hurt her. They realized they had to be more careful about what was said during an argument, according to Tamela.

She also explained that sometimes people bring up stuff from the past and the couple has to learn to stick to the issue at hand during the argument in order to resolve it.

With 30 years of marital advice, Tamela recommended the book for dating, engaged and married couples, but also single adults who want to be prepared for marriage in their future. She said it would help give insight to issues that might come up that they may want to deal with now.

Tamela said that wasn’t it for her. She plans on making an additional announcement this month and suggested that her fans visit her website for updates.

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