In today's day and age when women are not shown in all of our beauty and glory, Smalls continued to impress her audience with new hair styles, fashion looks, and confident swag. It's safe to say, many men and women have not been exposed to a self-assured woman of her stature. She recognizes that just by being who she is - without apology, she's motivated women of all walks of life to be who they are, without exception. She prided herself on being real at all times. Clearly, it shows.
Here's our sit down with the author of "Girl Get Your Mind Right," and get her take on the show, her book, her future plans and why she's a SSNY woman!
Who is She: Tionna Smalls, age 25
Where is She From: Brooklyn, New York
What does she do: Author of "Girl, Get Your Mind Right," Producer, Entrepreneur, TV star
She's So New York: How did the opportunity come about to do the show? What made you agree to do the show?
Tionna Smalls: I already had a book and website ( http://www.talkdatish.com/) with a huge following. I wrote for Gawker (http://www.gawker.com/) who offered me a position as a column writer after becoming fans of mine as well. The same thing with the producers of the show. They thought I was perfect for working with Chilli, and I was asked to join the show as her matchmaker.
SSNY: Have you watched any of the episodes? How do you feel you're being on portrayed on tv? How do you feel about it? Do you feel that the show captures who you are?
TS: I was me the entire time. So yeah, I feel that the show showed who I really am. I pull no punches, I kept it real with Chilli and that's why I was chosen to do the show because they knew that I will be the realest. If you're phony, people will know. They can see through it, so that's why I never compromised myself. A lot of people think that in this business, you have to be a D-I-C-K rider in order to get put on. I had my own little buzz going before all of this. I came to the table already established in what I do. So when I showed up, I was me 100%. The one thing though that people don't understand is that I am not a matchmaker. I wrote a book about dating and relationships and VH1 thought that I would be a great asset to the show.
SSNY: Do you feel Chilli's friends undermined your work? How did you work around being in that environment and staying true to your mission with Chilli?
TS: I don't know how they showed it on TV sometimes, but Chilli's friends were really cool. They helped me out with the dates and stuff like that. I knew what I was there for, and that was going to get done regardless. But yeah, they were really nice people and they never interfered with me and my work.
SSNY: From our perspective, during the argument with Chili outside the restaurant, you came off as a woman defending her career and her actions. Do you regret how you approached Chili at all, and, do you regret how Chili approached you?
TS: Chilli and I never got the chance to get to know each other before the show. That's what a lot of people don't understand. Had we got to know each other, it would've been a completely different show. On top of that, all the viewers see is a half hour show, but we were there filming all day every day. It got tiring and exhausting at times. But as we went along, we learned about each other. Chilli and I are cool. She knows what time it is. We had plenty of discussions after the show where we talked, really talked. We know we got on each other nerves, etc. But we know now about each other.
SSNY: What's the greatest sacrifice you've had to make in order to get your career going?
TS: Money (laughs).. Wait let me think. (says to self) "What's the greatest sacrifice?" No, it's not money, it's my ego. You know a lot of times when you're a co-star or something, people want to make you feel like you're not "there" yet. Like you're not really that "person" yet, (saying things like,) "You don't have to do this," or "Let Chilli Do That." And it's like that wasn't really me. Me since day one, I always did my thing. I worked in group homes, a lot of things. You don't even know. I accomplished a lot. I mean, I did my damn business. But now its like you're just starting out again, but now the game is over. I mean, millions of people know me now, see me, they know how I am so that won't go on anymore.
SSNY: What were some of the thing you were apart of before "What Chilli Wants?
TS: Writing, a lot of non-profit work. Transitional centers for pregnant women - That's what I'm in to and when I get a lot of money, I am going to be opening my own non-profit. I'm very much into things like therapeutic interventions, stuff like that. That's what I do.
SSNY: Where did the idea for your book come from? What motivated to you to write a book on that subject?
TS: Me and my first boyfriend, we broke up after 6 years together, and I thought that I knew the game, and the next thing you know, I start dating and I said, Oh my God, these men are off the chain! I'm gonna write a book cause it's not the men, it's got to be the woman and what we accept. So that's what made me write the book. I wrote the book as a rant at first, when I was ranting off about stuff. But then when I looked back on how big this was, that's when I stepped back and took it seriously.
SSNY: Now that you're a TV personality - well, I wouldn't say you're a TV Personality -
TS: I'm AM a TV personality, but I'd like to stick to the entrepreneur/author thing. You know "TV Personality" is so Flavor of Love-ish. I like a title. I'm an author really. I'm a motivator. I'm an entrepreneur. This is what I do.
SSNY: So with this scene, is it going to take a backseat to your writing career? Or do you plan to write more? What are you gonna do?
TS: I am bringing my manuscript to my mother's house so I can sit down and read through it because it does take a lot on you, especially when you're playing all these roles. I'm still Tionna Smalls, entrepreneur. I still have to get things get done, I have to make sure my bills get paid. This is not a hobby, this is not a joke. This is how I pay my bills. I have a lot of pending things going right now as well as a book deal. So now I have to really get on my grind with my writing. So, it does take a lot, promoting yourself, basically, reading what people are saying, reading whatever VH1 saying - I'm also producing another show, doing my producer work. So say between my producer work, and my regular work.
SSNY: So any plans to hit the West Coast anytime soon?
TS: To visit. (laughs) I can always go visit but I'm not interested in moving to no Cali. But I'm definitely going to making more moves out there, cause that's where the money is at.
SSNY: Do you have any upcoming projects that us She's So New York girls should know about?
TS: You know, I'm producing a new show, I'm opening a store in a few weeks, I'm trying to deal with this book again - you know this book is going to be so major, you don't even understand. Because this is gonna be the realest "ish" you ever read, but its going to be professional this time around. You know it's going to be around and I'll be traveling to promote the book. I have a lot of pending endorsements going on.
The one thing about endorsements, is that I only endorse things I really believe in. I'm always repping for the big girl - no doubt; and its sexy. Everything I do is going be sexy. It aint gonna be no, "You're a size 12, or you're a size 20 and you're just busted." - that shit is finished. It's all about the fly, the fab. You know, I've been glaming myself up, got my new weave too, poppin. You know, I'm all about just taking it to the next level. So, I'm really just gonna be a beast for the next few months, I need all the cash. And I'm writing two more shows. I'm just getting it poppin girl. I believe you can do anything you put your mind to, and being on the show, that's little. That's nothing.
And if I'm never on another show again, it's never going to make me feel in any type of way. You're always gonna hear about me. I don't care if you heard my store, or whether I'm producing another show, whether it's about my books because I'm writing another book after this one because this one is finished but I just want to read through it and make sure I said everything that I wanted to say. So I need a couple of "read-thru" days, to make sure I really said everything I need to say.
SSNY: What advice would you give the average single woman advice on how to get a good man?
TS: Well, first of all you can't beast. Beast meaning, you know, you can't - go so hard to get the guy. Sometimes you have to relax, and be enjoyed, you know what I mean? And once you do get the guy, keep a goddamn hobby! See, a lot of women, when we do find a guy, we're so up under his ass that he gets annoyed and he wants to be out cause its like "Oh God, she's sweating me, starving." and that's why you can't do that. Keep a hobby, keep your friends around because you know what happens when a woman get a man, you know the first thing that happens: they lose their friends, and they lose their sense of self. And when they do that, they fuck up. You have to keep being into yourself, keep being into your life because I have a man, you have a husband and we still do us. We still work, we still establish ourselves, and that is what's going to take you to that next level.
Also, knowing the difference between what "fuckable" and what's "keepable." If you don't know the difference, you're gonna lose.
SSNY: What are the do's and don'ts of dating? What are some dating trends you've been noticing lately?
TS: Yeah, I got a problem with one dating trend and I think my ladies better get up on it and stop this B.S.: "dates" at a dude's house? That aint no damn date. Cause all that is, is a man trying to get in your panties before the credits of the movie comes on. No, that is a trend that must stop immediately. It's not right, it's not correct. Another thing is even when you do invite a man to your house, he shows up empty handed!
Back in our mama's days, if you drink, if you smoke, if you ate, - THEY had to bring with the eats, had to bring the smoke. These dudes come empty handed as hell, and want you to cook for them, but didn't buy the groceries! The thing is you think that women would know this stuff, but that's the problem. They continue to play themselves. Back in the day, dudes used to go hard for girls. These days, it's so easy to get somebody now, that it's like "Oh, I don't have to do nothing. She's gonna come regardless." There is no effort and then they wonder why they get the same results with different men. Like I say: "Sometimes you have to do things different, to get the things you never had."
We NEED to get back to dating, we have to get back to dating because now it's getting ridiculous. People are on TV bragging about being engaged for years and years, and things like that. If you give these dudes a rope, they would hang themselves like that. I aint giving no man no ten years of my life with nothing to show for it! You're crazy, that's out. And I'm not saying that we're perfect when we are in a relationship - just because you're in a relationship doesn't mean that you don't have problems. There's some times I have my own problems with my man, but there's one thing that my man knows: I don't settle for no bull crap. He don't play no games either. We don't play no games with each other, and we work out just fine.
SSNY: What's your take on interracial dating?
TS: Me personally - I never tried the white meat, but I'm not a racist, you know? I don't have a problem with it, and the way the statistics are going, women will HAVE to start dating outside of their race.
SSNY: Regina King just recently wrote an open letter(http://www.vibe.com/posts/regina-king-more-black-women-should-date-outside-their-race) to black women on dating outside of their race, and how while black women are normally apprehensive, black men date freely. What do you think we're so up in arms about it?
TS: Well, you know, that's what we were raised on. We were raised on black men, doing their thing but based on the statistics, we'll have to date outside our race - that's just the reality. And I'm not saying everybody, but it's true. Look at "What Chilli Wants."
I brought all those black guys for her and she aint pick not one. I mean, I'M shocked. People keep telling me that they're shocked but listen, I'M SHOCKED with them. I said it before, all these black men and its down to two white boys. WOW. You didn't expect it? I didn't expect it, and I was THERE. But Chilli is mixed herself, so it didn't shock me all that much, you know what I'm saying? Somebody like her that's been around the world, they know about other races. This isn't the first time she liked a guy of another race, but now I'm glad she did it though. She is letting these women know. She is saying "it's ok to date outside your race," "it's ok to like Rob - instead of Rah." Even Filipino guys are getting in on the action. Black women have a lot going on for themselves, but the one thing we don't have like the other races is our self esteem on point. Cause everything else we got together, but not self esteem like the other races.
I mean, I'm gonna keep it real. I keep it real all the time. I read what people say about me. But listen, I know I'm a big girl, but really..I just got big titties. And I read what people say about me, and I say to myself "THIS is why girls are getting nose jobs, and stuff like that." It's the comments. These dumb ass comments are making women feel really bad about themselves. But that's not going work for me. You're gonna have to talk about me forever. You're gonna have to come harder than talking about my titties. Cause I'm not getting no breast reduction, no lipo. You can forget it!
You can say what you want about me cause the bottom line is this: I'm on TV and you're not. The reality of it is, don't be worried about my fat ass. My fat ass is happy. Worry about YOUR fat ass, and why YOU'RE not happy. If you worried about the important things in life, you'd be better off. This is why people like me - they know that they're getting the real from me. THEY KNOW. I keep it real all day, every day, This is no gimmick.
Now don't get me wrong - if they have a season two of "What Chilli Wants," make no mistake, I'm getting in the gym - I'm working out more. Because now I know better, and I know how I look. But this is a personal decision.
SSNY: How can you tell a good date from a bad date?
TS: It's all about how you feel. You know you have one of those dates when you're thinking "Why the hell am I here?" "I need to go home." "What am I doing?" If you have that feeling, then obviously its not a good situation. But if on the date, you're feeling easy breezy and you're feeling good about it and you're thinking about the next date, and the next date, and the next date - and you feel like you really want to get to know this guy. That is an absolutely fabulous date! Any date where you are second guessing, is bad. Or where you're compromising - you didn't really want to eat KFC, but you settled and ate there because you didn't know how much money the guy had. Those dates where you have to think too much, is not good at all.
SSNY: What are some of the things you can't live without?
TS: Internet! You know I can't live without my internet. I am going on vacation, and I told my man that I was leaving my computer home and he said "Yeah, right!" I am an internet fanatic! I love to reach out to my peoples, I love to shop on the internet - I goes in on the computer. You know, this is how I get paid, if I'm not seeing what's going on, it's a wrap. At the end of the day, this TV shit dries up and I'm still the Internet Queen. I got to make sure that my game is on tight. I can't live without my lip gloss (she loves MAC gloss, like we do!) I've been weaing the lipsticks lately but you know, I can't live without my phone, and I really can't live without my love for real people. I love when I wake up, and I'm with people who really love me for me. Just like my man, or anybody else. Like, I've been with my man before alot of this started for me so I KNOW he loves me for me. (laughs) Just to be around people who love you for you.
No matter how much I'm on tv, I still had to go to the store for my mother the other day and I was cracking up! That's real and you always need that realness in your life because you can get so caught up in this entertainment industry and get caught up in feeling yourself too much. That's why I'm just me. She is I and I is she.
My family definetely keeps me grounded. My mother-in-law is like a mother to me too. She goes hard for me. Whenever people come to the house, she shows them the show. It's real love, from real people. I'm mean, I might be a little cocky - I'm confident on this love ish, but never to the point where I'm cocky about TV, but I'm always confident in writing about this love ish in terms of what I bring to the table. I take it seriously. People are sometimes intimidated, but I go hard for it. That's it, nobody gonna stop me.
SSNY: Besides Brooklyn, what's your favorite borough and why?
TS: Long Island - I'm trying to move to Long Island now actually. I've been in Brooklyn my whole life. I'm still in Brooklyn. I have to wear hats to go outside now sometimes. All the boroughs are the same really, but actually, I really like Queens. A lot of my peoples are from Queens. But in terms of what I like, Brooklyn and Long Island, that's all I rep. Out of state, I love Atlanta. That's the most beautifullest place I've ever been to for black people. Atlanta is just the city, I'm not even gonna lie - that shit is hot. You just see people doing big things there and things you think that are impossible. You'll see chicks out there, making it happen, women with non-profits, they got this, and that. And I'm always very happy for them and feel very supportive of them.
SSNY: That's what She's So New York is all about. It's not even just about one borough or place, we're about promoting ALL women, embracing each other, supporting one another and highlighting the real of what NYC women are all about - because we have so much going on.
TS: She's So New York, is just about the everday girl. She's New York, but that really means she's a hustler, she's doing what she needs to do to make it. She recognizes New York as one of her entities. I love New York, but Atlanta is where I want to be, where I get my money from. It's not LA money, but I can make it. If you can make it here in New York, YOU can make it anywhere else.
SSNY: To be only 25, and having accomplished all that you have, YOU'RE the shit! We are so happy for you. The best part is that you are just getting started. Congratulations.
TS: I feel like I accomplished a couple of things, but then I don't feel like I've accomplished alot (laughs). They're not even ready for me. I'm good. I'm getting married next year as well. I'm just really excited about my life. People wanna talk about me being on this show, but really the show is nothing to me. It's a couple of dollars, but it's not the big picture. I am doing big things man. Seriously.
SSNY: We always like to ask our SSNY ladies to tell us and the world why they're so New York. Start off the sentence with "I am so New York because..."