Five Singing Sisters Find Grit With The Glitter

Price Of Stardom Includes Aches, Setbacks

December 28, 1990|By Angela Gambill | Angela Gambill,SUN STAFF

The singing Braxton sisters poise right on the brink of success, all worn out.

In the last year, the five minister's daughters from Severn have recorded their first single and begun promotional tours, singing in clubs and schools in major cities to gain recognition.

They've made new friends and lost a few.

They've hobnobbed with celebrities and been interviewed by national magazines.

And they have learned, in the endless long hours of trying on costumes, catching trains, learning lines and performing, that stardom takes a lot of work.

"We practice every day, four hours, five hours," says one sister.

"Until you're sore and hoarse," adds a second.

"Achy."

"Sweaty!"

"You have to really want it," explains Toni, 23. "You can't just look at the glitter of it."

The glitter's been there, of course, from the glossy record cover of "Good Life," the girls' first recorded single, to meeting stars of television sitcoms at benefits.

The Braxtons -- Toni, 23; Traci, 19; Towanda, 17; Trina, 15; and Tamar, 13 -- have sung their throaty harmonies in New York City, in Philadelphia, in Boston.

The sisters have been nominated as best new Rhythm and Blues artists for the Soul Train Music Award.

They've gone to parties and signed autographs at Howard University.

But under the glitter lay the hard realities of trying to make it big.

"At first signing your name is fun, then you hate it. I hate writing my name two and three hours at a time," complains Tamar.

"You can't just say, 'I'll rehearse today before the show.' You have to prepare," says Toni.

"There are a lot of inside scenes. You have to have the right people working for you. We didn't get the air play we expected."

Washington stations played the song, which helped some, the sisters say.

"But we had just expected stations would play it," Toni says.

The song, produced by Arista Records of New York, was released in September. The entire family take turns singing "Good Life," from the sisters to their parents, their mother Evelyn and father, the Rev. Michael Braxton, pastor of Cecil Memorial United Methodist Church in Annapolis.

The lyrics emerge clearly through the smooth, silky harmonies.

There's no humanity, there's no morality/Look in the mirror/Start a change with you.

Time for a peaceful world/Together we can build/Pride and dignity for you and me.

I still keep on dreamin'/That tomorrow's gonna be better than today/I keep on believin'/That we'll someday finally find the one and only way/ To a good life, to a good world/To a good life. . ."

But not everyone rejoiced at the Braxtons' good life.

Two of the sisters found that school friends became catty and cruel, so much so that Towanda has requested a transfer in the middle of her senior year.

Says Trina, a junior, "They say things like, 'Just cause you have a record out doesn't mean you can do so and so.' They walk right up to you and say things, for no reason."

Nor were the audiences always charming, when the sisters performed at benefits during the last year. "When it's free, they sometimes sit there like, 'What are you gonna do for us?' " explains one sister.

As the year closes, Evelyn Braxton gives thanks for a good year watching the girls mature, she says.

"I tell them just to be the best they can be. We always pray before going on stage. We're believers in putting God first, and everything else will follow."

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