Syleena Johnson has made a successful career of telling her truth. The singer/songwriter has poured her heart into six albums, five of which are aptly titled as “chapters” to an ongoing story of love and life. Elsewhere, you can find her telling it like it is as a cast member of TV One’s hit reality show R&B Divas. The show reveals many sides of Johnson: artist, businesswoman, wife, mother and daughter.
Nothing has garnered more attention for R&B Divas, however, than the ongoing conflict between Johnson and her sister in song Nicci Gilbert. In last week’s season two finale, the feud with Gilbert reached a boiling point in an argument where Johnson explained to Gilbert that, “There’s a special place in hell for a b***h like you.”
The R&B Divas reunion airs tonight at 10 p.m. EST/9 p.m, CST. But to get a peek into what Johnson might say, Madame Noire caught up with her recently to discuss what she thinks are the real issues behind her feud with Gilbert, her remorse over how she handled herself on television and, get this, what she’s learned about conflict resolution from the experience.
Madame Noire: This season of R&B Divas has focused a lot on you building and repairing your relationships. You shared a lot about your relationship with your mother with the public. It’s clear on the show that it’s pretty complex. Was the decision to work out some of y’all’s issues on TV a hard one to make?
SJ: Yea. It wasn’t like “Let’s go put all our business on TV.” It was more like we wanted to see our issues from a different point of view, having tried everything and not understanding how to overcome our differences. One thing for sure is that when you see yourself on TV, you see who you are and either you’re happy with it or sad. We have to hold ourselves accountable because it’s right there for the world to see. It’s made it easier to address things. We’re also going to be on an upcoming episode of Iyanla Vanzant’s Fix My Life to take it even further because we really care about the health of our family and we’re trying become closer as a family.
MN: Speaking of family, you have two older sisters and one, Syleecia, manages you. What is that like and what have you learned about sisterhood from working with Syleecia?
SJ: Working with my sister has its pros and cons. One pro is that I know my sister is looking out for my best interest. That’s something I know for a fact. I’m not saying because a person is family they won’t stab you in the back, but my sisters and I are very close. If she were to do something like that, we’d all just beat her up (laughs.) But that’s not something that would even cross her mind. We’re so busy trying to fight other people and stop other people from stabbing us in the back that we don’t’ have the time to do it to each other. The con is, because I’m the youngest, sometimes my sister can be condescending. I sometimes have to remind her that, at the end, she works for me and what I think and want matters most. But because we have such a great relationship as sisters, before any of the music came into the picture, there’s an understanding that we can just disagree and keep it moving.
MN: Now, much of R&B Divas has dealt with the difficult relationship between you and Nicci Gilbert. Where does that stand?
SJ: It is what it is. I don’t think it can be resolved. I don’t have the issue. My only problem is that she has an issue. Until she can figure out what her issue is and holds herself accountable for the things she’s done and said, I doubt there can be any real resolution – and that’s okay. We don’t always resolve things. This isn’t third grade where we have to shake hands and play together outside. We’re two totally different people on two totally different paths.