Tamela Mann Does It All... One Day at a Time
When it comes to multi-tasking, Tamela Mann is the ultimate pro. Few women juggle as many responsibilities as the Texas-born singer/songwriter/actress/wife/mother, and yet she manages to do it all with seemingly boundless energy and an ever-present smile. How does she do it all?
“One day at a time,” she replies with a laugh.
Tamela's Best Days
A veteran television and stage actress, Mann has earned a legion of fans as she's starred alongside her husband David in the successful TBS comedy “Meet the Browns.” She and David also have a new cooking show, “Hanging with the Manns.” She has a role in the upcoming film “Sparkle” starring Jordin Sparks and the late Whitney Houston. Mann has also been putting the finishing touches on her new album, Best Days, the follow up to her Dove Award-winning collection The Master Plan.
When asked if the success of her previous album caused her to feel any pressure when recording her new set, Mann replies, “I didn’t look at it as pressure. [I wasn’t] trying to do the same thing. I want to present music that people can be blessed by and that can be healing. That’s how I look at it so I don’t think of it as pressure. We just have to put music out to keep people encouraged and keep lifting the body of Christ.”
Working with producer Myron Butler, Mann has crafted an album she’s excited about. She feels the title track will encourage listeners. “It’s a very encouraging song. It gives a lot of hope. People realize that you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and that things will be better.”
Another of her favorites on the new album is “All to Thee.” “That is a worship song that says, ‘Less of me, more of thee, all the glory and all the honor belongs to you.’ The lyrics make me cry because they remind me that it’s not about me,” she says. “It’s all about Him and I just want to be able to give everything that I have to Him.”
“Back in the Day Praise” is a nostalgic song that reminds her of the tent revivals she attended during her youth in Fort Worth, Texas. The youngest of 14 children, Mann grew up in a loving Christian family, anchored by her mother’s unyielding faith.
“In June it will be four years since we lost my mom,” she says. “She was 83 when the Lord took her home. I remember the memories of her and the things she said. She was a wonderful woman. My mom had Alzheimer’s and it really hit her hard so what hurts me the most in my career was I couldn’t share it with her. I would go and visit her and talk to her and tell her things that I was doing, but for her not to communicate with me back like she would have, it hurt me. It still does. It hurts to this day to think that all the things that I’ve accomplished – the things that she prayed for – she didn’t get to see, but I’m really grateful for the things she instilled in me, the love and the passion. I just try to pass it on.”
A Higher Calling
Mann knew at an early age that she wanted to serve God through music. She began singing in church at eight years old and by the time she was 12, she was singing regularly at the Holy Tabernacle Church. Not long after her high school graduation, she met her husband David and his friend Kirk Franklin. Franklin helped launch her singing career when he recruited her to be part of his pioneering group, The Family.
After five albums with Franklin, she tried her hand at acting, landing a role in the play “He Say... She Say... But What Does God Say?” Acclaimed actor/writer/producer Tyler Perry recruited Mann to appear in his play “I Can Do Bad All By Myself.” Mann’s acting career continued to accelerate as she took on the role of Cora Simmons in Perry’s plays and films such as “Diary of a Mad Black Woman,” Madea Goes to Jail” and 2011’s “Madea’s Big Happy Family.” Her portrayal of Cora extended to television in the “Meet the Browns” series.
One of the most gratifying things for Tamela has been how her career has intertwined with her husband of 24 years.
“He’s a go-getter and he pushes me when I don’t want to be pushed,” the NAACP Award nominee says. “I appreciate him so much and I love him most of all. I appreciate everything he does for us as a family. He’s a wonderful father. He’s a wonderful husband and boyfriend. He’s my best friend. We have such a good time. Even to this day, he makes me laugh just like he did when we were kids.”
A sense of humor and an open line of communication are two of the keys to their strong union. “We’re friends. We started out best friends and we tell each other everything,” she says. “We don’t keep secrets. We don’t have different accounts. Everything we do and everything that we have accomplished has been together and it’s just really a blessing. I wrote down everything I wanted and God gave me that in my husband. I really thank God for him. “We get along because we both want the same things,” Mann continues. “Even though acting is more of his line and singing is my line, we help to lift each other up so I think that is why it works so well. He’s able to encourage me when it comes to the acting and when it comes to him singing, I encourage him. We get to live in each other’s worlds. When you are friends, you tell your best friend everything. Your best friend knows everything, all the ins and the outs, and I think that’s what's kept us secure. We’ll wake up at like 2 or 3 o’clock in the morning and we’ll just start talking.”
Cookin' Up Some Fun
Tamela and David are excited about “Hanging with the Manns.” “It’s a cooking adventure show,” she says. “We don’t just do everything in the kitchen. We’ll go out and do wacky adventures and then we’ll come home and cook food according to whatever activity we did. We’re shopping it [to TV networks] right now. We had a couple of offers, but we just want to get the right deal. We’ve already taped 10 episodes.”
Away from the cameras, the couple has raised four children and has seven grandchildren. They continue to make their home in Texas and are active in their local church.
“When I’m working, I’m working, but when I come home, I concentrate on them,” she says. “We value our time together. This past Sunday I cooked a big dinner. I started Saturday night so we could go to church and come home and then I could concentrate on the grandbabies and sit and talk to my kids.”
Church is also an important part of the Mann’s life. “When I’m at home, I try to be at church,” she says. “I like going to my Bible study. I like going to my church services on Sundays. I really like being involved and I think it’s important because the pastors need laborers. They don’t just need members. They need laborers, so I think it’s very important to come and be a part of actual fellowship and be a part of activities. It’s hard for me to sit down. I want to serve. I don’t mind going back there and getting my hands dirty, serving a plate or picking up the trash. I don’t mind at all. I love it. I’m a servant at heart.”
About the Writer
Deborah Evans Price has covered Christian/Gospel music for Billboard magazine since 1994. She also contributes regularly to CountryWeekly, CMA Close Up, Devo’Zine, Christian Single, HomeLife, BMI Music World, and other publications. A Nashville resident since 1983, Deborah has held editorial posts at Radio & Records, Country News, American Songwriter and Billboard. Amy Grant, Trace Adkins, Brad Paisley, Charlie Daniels, 3 Doors Down, Third Day, Don Henley, Bon Jovi, Chris Rice, Sandra Bullock, Mercy Me, Alan Jackson, Smokey Robinson, Carrie Underwood and Steven Curtis Chapman are among her many interviews. Additionally, she's a sought-after music industry analyst who has been interviewed on CNN, MSNBC, TNN, The Today Show, and ABC PrimeTime Live, among other outlets.Deborah is a member of the Gospel Music Association's board of directors and a graduate of Leadership Music. She resides south of Nashville with her husband, Gary, and son Trey.