If you’ve been craving your Love and Hip Hop fix, you’re not alone. When the pandemic hit, the franchises were filming and abruptly had to come to an end due to growing concerns about the fast spread of the coronavirus and lockdown measures to quell it. In the beginning, it was especially scary in New York City, where the first cases were reported. The city quickly became the epicenter for the virus in the U.S., and the New York Love and Hip Hop franchise had to call it a day before any resolutions were made between feuding cast members, and before the possibility of a reunion.
“I miss everybody too,” said New York franchise star Cyn Santana during a phone call when remarking on fans missing the series. “But 2021 Love and Hip Hop is definitely back.”
What she and her cast mates initially thought was going to be a short and much-needed break turned into a long-term pause on filming.
“It’s a lot of work. “It’s a lot of filming, cameras, talking, energy. It’s just a lot of everything. So the first couple of days, for me at least, I felt like, okay, this is what peace and nothing feels like for a little bit. I’ll take it,” she said. “But then afterward you’re just like, okay, what we doing? What’s happening?”
Santana managed to keep very busy though during the pandemic. The 28-year-old, who is also a singer, put out her first EP, Redirected Energy, in October. She also focused on her health, getting a breast reduction and losing plenty of weight by changing her eating habits. She’s managed to peacefully co-parent son Lexington, 3, with her former fiancé and LHHNY co-star, Joe Budden. And in addition to all that, she filmed two new specials with cast members from the different Love and Hip Hop franchises: Love and Hip Hop Secrets Unlocked. The specials, where cast members comment on never-before-seen footage, behind the scenes secrets and unresolved drama, is set to air on January 4 on VH1.
We talked with Santana about all that and more, including her hopes for love again, what people get wrong about her BFF Jonathan Fernandez, mental health, and why more women need to be selfish in relationships. Check out what she had to say.
MadameNoire: You ask people on Twitter how they’re really feeling and how their energy is during these troubling times. So how are you feeling? How’s your own energy right now?
Cyn Santana: I’m feeling grateful, always grateful. I was feeling sad a couple days ago. I just feel sad for the state of the world sometimes. But you know, nothing we can’t get through.
Why would you say it’s important to ask people that and truly give them the space to be honest about how they’re feeling? Why is that connection important with your fans?
I just feel like the way we’re going to get through life and this human experience is with other humans. I feel like when you take a moment to ask people how they’re really feeling and how their mental health is — you don’t have to dive into it and make it a therapy session. But if you’re honest about how you feel, you don’t know if the person that you’re talking to has something to offer that can bring you lighter energy. Then maybe you can pass it on to somebody. It’s literally just all connecting the dots. A little bit of inspiration can really change your mindset, which can change your life. It’s that deep for me. Everything’s deep with me. I feel a simple question like “How are you feeling today? Do you need help with something? Are you okay?” That can be life changing.
You’re part of the upcoming Love and Hip Hop: Secrets Unlocked specials. That will be nice for fans because the seasons, New York and Atlanta, ended up abruptly due to COVID. There was no reunion or real ending to everything. What was that like at the time? Season 10 came to a halt before things got really serious in the pandemic.
Yeah, definitely ended abruptly. The reunion made me sad because you know everybody looks forward to that and I feel like that’s really where you can close a chapter and just lay things out. It was a mix of emotions because we didn’t know what was happening. We had our schedule so getting out of that was weird. Some people probably felt relieved to because it was like a tiny break at first. I think now a lot of the networks have figured it out a little bit how to move around it. So we filmed virtually. We did a whole show, 13 hours of filming virtually with four different cities and a whole bunch of different cast members, and it was a success. I guess we’re just getting through it by going through it.
One thing you have had done during this pandemic is a breast reduction that you mentioned in one of the specials. I know this is your second. What brought you to the decision to do it and do you ever worry that if you want to have another child in the future you might have to do it a third time?
Yeah, I definitely do worry about that. What led to that was after giving birth to Lex, I gained like 42 pounds and a lot of that was in my breast area. That was literally heavy on my back. When I went to sleep at night I was uncomfortable. Getting dressed was very uncomfortable. Carrying my child with my big breasts was uncomfortable. There was just too many uncomfortable moments for me. So I looked into my breast reduction and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. Now here’s what I’m doing differently. Because I don’t want to keep doing the surgeries, I’ve changed my diet. I have to make sure I watch what I eat because you eat, fat is fat, you gain weight. It’s possible I could be right back where I started. So I’m just really careful about what I eat. I do my detoxes. All I drink is water and a little bit of D’usse every now and then. No sugars, no juices, no sodas, none of that.
I was gonna say that on Instagram it looked like you really leaned out and lost weight. Others have been commenting about that. So that’s been what’s helped?
Yeah it was that and I feel like mental health is always in the middle of everything. If you’re at peace mentally, which is very hard to do because life is always on and nonstop, but if you feel like, okay, I’m doing the right thing, everything else falls in place after.
You also put out the EP Redirected Energy. Congratulations on that!
Thank you so much!
Were you worried about people taking it seriously being someone who got their start on reality TV? Sometimes people can think it’s just something TV people want to try.
Yeah I was very, very scared. But I mean, scared money don’t make no money. You gotta get out of that. That’s why people are like, “Oh my God, you do music?” It’s because I’ve been so afraid all of these years. I’ve been doing music since I was five. I’ve been singing at shows, talent shows, in school, at church, at family parties — I’ve been performing for my close family and friends since I was five years old. It’s always been a dream and a passion of mine. But when I started doing the show and I was exposed to the world and I saw what was out there, I was terrified. I thought people weren’t gonna think I was good enough. Or it was, I’m now a reality TV personality. People aren’t going to take me serious. So I started working on this EP a couple years ago and the pandemic just made me say, F it! Do what you want! Do what you love and what makes you happy. I need to fulfill myself. That’s the only way I’m going to live the best quality of my life and be the best mom I can be and the best sister and the best daughter and the best best friend. Music is what makes me happy. Making music makes me happy. I got out of that zone. I got out of the afraid zone. I just dropped my EP maybe two months ago and it’s been going good. People have been receiving it well and this is not my first or last project. I’m not stopping. So people are going to have to get used to Cyn Santana the artist. We here! I’m here.
Something you also did during this time was address some audio that was leaked involving you and your son’s father [Joe Budden]. Why was it important for you to speak out to protect your family as you said?
I mean it was important because my son was in the middle of all of it. He just turned three now. He’s not going to understand now but it’s something he could potentially find later on and search later on. I just feel that’s a conversation his parents should have with him if and when it’s time and he’s ready. But for things to get leaked on social media and have opinions not knowing anything, my special baby boy being in the middle of that, as a mom, I can’t. I need to at least speak my side so that that can be in the light as well so that my son knows, mommy don’t play over here. I don’t play with Lex. At all. So that was a tough, tough, tough time for me. I’m just so grateful I got through that. Oooh.
Where do things stand if you don’t mind me asking, in terms of your co-parenting relationship? I know during the show you struggled with communication.
I feel like everybody says at first it’s not the easiest. You’re not in the most comfortable space. It was a new language for both of us. Right now we’re fine. We co-parent well and our focus is just Lex and nothing else. When you eliminate things and you just focus solely on the child, as that’s really what it should be about when you co-parent, it makes it easier.
And I know you said you left that relationship to protect your mental heath and peace. So for other women who might be in unhealthy situations but not sure if they should go or not, what advice would you offer based on your own experience to get them to put their mental health and peace first, too?
You do know when you have to go. You always know. Women have this intuition that never lies. So when we feel something or we see a red flag or something that doesn’t align with us, and you know it triggers or bothers you, these are things you can’t change. You have to leave. I think women are afraid to leave, especially women that have invested so much emotion and time and devoted everything in them to the relationship, it’s hard to leave. You’re like, I gotta start all over again with somebody. Or you’ve created a comfort or safe space you think. And women aren’t as selfish as we should be. We always want to stay and make everything nice and make people feel comfortable and just give, give, give, give, give. Your life does not begin until you pick you first. Period. My life began for me at like 25, girl. A whole adult. My whole life I’ve just been giving to other people. I couldn’t do that no more. I’ve got a son. So I just feel like women know exactly when to leave. Whatever the reason may be, the minute you feel that, you’ve got to put your big girl pants on and you’ve got to go. It’s okay to be alone for a little bit. It’s not the end of the world.
Where do you stand on dating in this hectic time? And if interested, what are you looking for in the next partner?
I’m team love. I’m a Libra so I’m Venus. I’m obsessed with love. I love love so much. I want it all. I want the whole shabang. Right now it’s hard dating because of the ‘Rona. You can’t just be out getting to know people. What if you feel like kissing someone on the first date? You can’t really do that because you don’t know if they got the ‘Ronies or not. That’s a little complicated. But as far as dating in general goes, I’ll be honest with you: I’m not into dating. I really like getting to know people on an intimate and personal level. I can’t do that with multiple people. But I would love me a great partner. I’m always into love. I’m never going to say no to love.
Love & Hip Hop: Secrets Unlocked, a four-part special, will premiere Monday, January 4 at 8:00pm ET/PT on VH1.