You've probably seen a lot of soul singer Toni Braxton in the last 11 months.
There was the video for "You're Makin' Me High" that found the Severn native dressed in a skin-tight white cat suit, and another clip for "I Don't Want To" where she made old jeans look more appealing than any Calvin Klein ad. Plus there were all those awards show appearances in which she demonstrated a gift for making a little bit of fabric go a looo-o-ong way.
But if you haven't seen the current issue of the black pop culture magazine, Vibe, you haven't seen anything yet.
On the cover, she's covered only by an arm and a strategically placed sheet. Inside, she's wearing a clingy, cream-colored slip in one shot, black panties and a sheer black top in others. As the headline puts it, Braxton "let's it all hang out."
Even though the issue isn't on the newsstands yet, the arrival of subscriber copies already has local R&B fans in a lather. Although some clearly like the cover, others wonder what a nice preacher's kid like her is doing all but naked in a national magazine.
(In case that wasn't enough, Braxton poses in similar fashion in the May 12 issue of People magazine, which named her one of its "50 Most Beautiful People.")
"People are kind of disappointed that she would do that, because they hold her in such high regard," says WERQ-FM morning host Frank Ski.
But as Braxton's sisters point out, those people are forgetting something.
"Our father's a preacher," says Towanda Braxton, from the family home. "We aren't."
"A lot of people have a lot of different things to say about it," says Tamar Braxton. "But I think it was a wonderful decision that she made. They're not totally nude pictures, and they're not anything that she should be ashamed of."
"I think Toni looked fab-u-lous," says Towanda. "She has a wonderful body."
"We just see that Toni is a wonderful superstar, and she takes chances just like any other superstar," adds Trina Braxton. "And we support her 100 percent, no matter what she does."
"110 percent!" says Tamar.
Posing nude, by the way, was Braxton's idea. As Vibe editor Alan Light explains, the magazine's original cover concept was somewhat more modest. "We had talked about a lingerie-type, Victoria's Secret shoot," he says, from the magazine's New York offices. "Then it was a question of how far she wanted to go with that.
"Our decision was to go as sexy as she would go for. That's how she has been presenting herself since the record ["Secrets," Braxton's latest CD] came out, since the 'You're Makin' Me High' video. And clearly, she must have been feeling comfortable with the circumstances, because she went beyond what we had talked about. Which is obviously a very exciting thing to put out there."
Light adds that the cover is likely to work to both the singer and the magazine's benefit.
"She's obviously tremendously popular," he says. "The record continues to sell an awful lot of copies and, again, she's been capitalizing on her sexuality. So I think a cover that takes that to its extreme is going to get a lot of notice and a lot of response. I certainly anticipate that it'll be a big cover for us."
In the Vibe interview, Braxton says she wears provocative clothes "because they make me feel sexy." But she also says she has no interest in casual sex. "In fact, I've recently decided that I wouldn't be having sex again until I'm married," she says.
In the meantime, Braxton will be heading out on tour in June, with her sisters -- the Braxtons -- opening. No dates have been set as yet, but as Trina says, "We're keeping our fingers crossed that the Baltimore metropolitan area is going to be on there."
Pub Date: 5/08/97