Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George is on a mission. As one-third of the popular 90's multi-platinum R&B trio SWV ("Right Here/Human Nature," "Weak," "Can We," etc.) and the co-star of last season's TV One reality series, I Married a Baller (with her husband and former NFL star-tuned commentator Eddie George), she's no stranger to fame or the spotlight, but in recent years, her focus has switched from entertainment to empowerment. In addition to running their non-profit organization, Visions with Infinite Possibilities (VIP), Ms. George has co-authored her first book entitled Player HateHER: How to Avoid the Drama and Live in a Drama-Free World (Amistad/HarperCollins). While running errands in her home base of Tennessee, the 37-year-old mother of two opens up about her tumultuous past, the creation of Player HateHER and the future of Sisters With Voices.
What made you decide to sit down and write Player HateHER?
"The reason the book came about is because Katrina (Chambers) and I were sitting at the pool one day and just dogging this girl out for no apparent reason; we didn't know her from a hole in the wall. All we knew is that she looked better than us and that pissed us off! (laughs) So the only way to make us feel better was to find things wrong with her, and after we sat there laughing at each other, we were like, 'we gotta write a book about this!' It took us 10 years altogether; we would start and stop, and what would get us going again is something new would happen and we'd say, 'see, this needs to go in the book.' It was easy to write because after you sit there and think about situations and the different things you've done, you can laugh about it because you're making a change. I still see women that I just think are gorgeous that I get pissed off at, but I can control it and know and I'm not making somebody else feel bad just because I feel bad. With age, I can see past the incident and see what caused it, I don't feel as attacked or bothered by it."
How did you find the testimonials and subject matter for the chapters? What did LeLe and Coko think of the book?
"We had a couple of focus groups, inviting people over in a casual setting to talk about what they've been through. People even went to the website from different countries , and let me just say this; all the little excerpts that made their way into the book, we had to clean them all up (laughs)! The HarperCollins blog has been just filled with entries since the book came out last month, because it's a powerful subject that people have to deal with that's been going on since the days of Cain and Abel; you have your brother hating on you because he feels that your father cared about you more, so you've gotta find something wrong with him and make him feel bad just because you feel so disrespected. Some people will seriously hate another woman just because she looked at them funny, but they don't even know them.
LeLe and Coko read the book and Coko really loved it; at the end, she actually apologized to me because she didn't realize how mean she was being in the early days that we would sing together. I was always considered 'the nice one', and the girls felt resentful toward me because they felt like 'no one ever complains about Taj and the things she does, she's not perfect!' I never claimed to be, but I was well-behaved and nice to people---that's just my personality--- but they felt like they were being attacked and they took out that frustration on me. I thought it was strange because I wasn't the one calling them mean, you know! Coko apologizing was just a feather in the cap because if it can reach her, it can reach anybody!"
Will SWV be releasing a new CD anytime soon?
"We're still doing shows, but we're not gonna record again. Coko's doing gospel now, so she feels a conflict doing both (secular and sanctified music). There's still a demand, so we're doing the spot dates across the country all throughout the year, but we won't technically record any new songs together."
Tell me about more about VIP.
"Through our organization, we host fundraisers and speaking to women and children affected by domestic violence. That subject is very dear to me because I was a victim of domestic violence in my childhood and with a couple of past boyfriends. I tell the women and the children about everything I've been through, that even Taj from SWV, who's sold millions of records and been all over the world, got whupped---my ex boyfriend used to beat me like it was for batting practice, it wasn't nice. My stepfather was a drug addict to the tenth power who used to beat my mother in front of us. There's just so much more out there for these women who think that there's nowhere else to go but into those situations, so I show them that they can succeed."
What do you say about choosing a mate?
"I tell that I did find my prince, but he was a frog in the beginning (laughs). I can't testify that I've met a perfect man because I don't believe one exists, but what you need to do is find someone that you believe is the closest to what you expect in a man,and clean him up, because he's probably doing the same thing with you. Believe me, I had to kiss my frog several time to get him to change! (laughs) But he's a man of God and a stand-up individual. I'm not perfect and stumble everyday, but he appreciates me and my flaws. Before we were married, there used to be a website dedicated to just hating on me, talking about 'why you you like her? She's this and she's that.' But he loves the goodness in me as well as the outside . There's a stereotype to these athletes, like they're supposed to be with these super-glamorous women. I guess I'm not considered that to his fans, but he wanted a real woman, someone he could grow with and lean on, instead of what's quick and flashy on the arm."
As the mother of two sons (ages 11 and 3), do you notice any hateration going on between boys?
"The hating isn't as flamboyant with boys as it is little girls, but it's still there. My son stutters and he gets picked on a lot about that, but I just explain that he shouldn't let their ignorance decide how he's going to be. My niece is 13 and she has a disease that made her hair fall out, and the girls just teased her to death---she even got her wig ripped off of her. She's going through counseling now, and my sister took her out of that school."
How do you hope Player HateHER impacts others?
"For every action, there's a reaction, so you've got to investigate where that's coming from. Maybe that woman's had a horrible day and when you said something, you triggered a bad memory, so the spiral continues. We're not telling people to change, we're just saying that you need to look at yourself and what you're doing to cause it. It may not even be you, but how can you judge someone else when you're wrong? It's just a fun, light-hearted book and we hope that it helps people to see things in a better way and look within themselves as well."
By Melody Charles
CLICK HERE to read our review of Player HateHer