Atlanta-based BET’s “Tiny & Toya” has been an immediate hit for the network, drawing more than 3 million viewers each for the “sneak preview” after the BET Awards June 28 and the repeat two days later.
On Wednesday, I spoke with the lead characters, former Xscape star Tameka “Tiny” Cottle (right, in photo), T.I.’s fiance and Antonia “Toya” Carter, Lil Wayne’s ex.
They both came across as grounded women. And the first episode was not salacious, ostentatious or ridiculous. (Think “Real Housewives of Atlanta.”) Rather, it showed two women struggling with issues such as how to deal with a man going to jail (Tiny), how to handle a mom who has drug problems (Toya) and how to break out from the shadows of two famous stars (both).
As co-executive producers, both women had veto power over footage they felt they didn’t want on the air.
“People were expecting a different show,” said Tiny, a College Park native. Something, she noted, “raunchy. But our show is geared to be more positive. We’re both women getting our careers on track, doing things we want to do and being mothers.”
Toya, who moved to Atlanta six years ago, said Tiny had an idea to do a sitcom called “Hot Mamas.” Then she wanted to do a talk show. But James DuBose, the executive producer, told them to start with a reality show so people get to know them before they attempt a talk show. (DuBose also produces “The Keyshia Cole Show” and its spinoff “Frankie & Neffe.”)
Neither rap stars T.I. nor Lil Wayne were too happy with the women doing a show, they both confirmed.
T.I. (or “Tip,” as many call him) is now in prison for weapons charges for a year. He and Tiny have been together for years but are not married. T.I., she said, didn’t want Tiny to work and protested the reality show. In the end, she said, “he kind of gave in.”
What was T.I.’s reaction when he saw it last week while in prison? “For the most part,” Tiny said, “he thought it was done tastefully. He might say something here and there to show he didn’t want me to do it. But overall, he thought it was a great show.”
Tiny is not singing anymore but is managing a couple of girl groups, including OMG Girls featuring her daughter Zonnique Pullins, Toya’s daughter (Reginae) and two nieces. “An album demands too much attention and time,” she said.
Tiny is also happy that her parents were so well received. “They say my mom [Diane] seems so warm, so sweet,” she said. “She’s a celebrity already. She’s going to need security in a minute!” And she is grappling with her dad Charles Pope, a former member of the Tams, suffering from Alzheimer’s. The good thing for now, she said, is he’s still singing.
Toya said the one thing she didn’t like watching the show was how strong her New Orleans accent came across. “People think it’s cute but I don’t,” she said. Still, she has no plans to get rid of it.
The pair met a few years back through mutual friends and bonded immediately. “We both love to shop,” said Toya, who hits Lenox and Phipps regularly. “I have a problem with it. I’m a shopaholic. I buy stuff I never even wear.”
Tiny is still close to a fellow Xscape member Kandi Burruss, who just joined the second season of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” out July 30 on Bravo. “I’m very excited to see her do her thing,” Tiny said. “She’s been very supportive of me and Toya. I’m going to return the favor… I gotta go and see what my girl’s going to do.”
In future episodes, taped just in the past few weeks, Tiny said she’ll be working on her nail shop (still not opened) and her pain as T.I. goes to prison. Will he show up on the program? She won’t say, which means he probably will. Toya, who has plans for a book and a clothing line for little girls, said future episodes will show her continuing to grapple with life without Lil Wayne.
The show’s second episode was pre-empted for Michael Jackson memorial service coverage this past Tuesday. There are seven more to air this month and next.