Beauty and the Muse

Interview: Tionna Smalls from MTV’s “Girl Get Your Mind Right”

Posted on: September 13, 2013

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Tionna Smalls is an author, relationship advisor, television personality, youth advocate, diva, outspoken glam queen who doesn’t take crap from anyone. She tells it like it is, but she is a very sweet woman, who has the business sense of a top CEO. We’ve seen her on Vh1 before with Chilli from the all girl R&B group, TLC. Now she hosts a show on MTV “Girl Get Your Mind Right” where she helps young women build self-esteem and confidence, and hopefully find love in the meantime.

LV: How was it growing up for you?

TS: I grew up in a two parent household. It was three girls, and it was crazy. My parents taught us early on not take “no stuff” from guys.


LV: Were you always confident?

TS: When I was 8 years old, I was very skinny. One day, I started to gain weight and got breast and stuff. I was like, “I love it”.


LV: When did you know that you were meant to become a writer and publish books?

TS: I’ve been writing since I was in the third grade. As I got older, it was mad crazy, every girl I knew was going through drama and the first book I independently published in 2007 (Girl Get Your Mind Right) it was like a rant. People kept coming up to me, asking for advice about their relationships and from them on I told myself that I was going to take this (writing) serious.


LV: How did you become a relationship guru?

TS: I always used to give relationship advice even before I started publishing. But I officially became a relationship guru when I started a career at Gawker. Seriously, people come up to me on the street, asking this and that and helping them became an obsession for me. So now I am trying to make everything legit and become a therapist.

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LV: What types of setbacks or obstacles have you faced as a curvy woman, a black woman, just being a woman in the entertainment industry?

TS: Everything is a setback. Everyday there is a setback. If you don’t tolerate crap then you’re labeled as a bitch. Women who are successful are considered bitches, and it is really hard to keep your head together sometimes. Women have to face setbacks of feeling the need to have to sleep with someone just to get ahead. So every day I go through some stuff. I am from the hood. Being from the hood is a setback. But fortunately, I know how to play the game very well.


Most people don’t have a problem with me being curvy. It’s usually cornball fans who make comments about my weight. I mean look at Jenifer Hudson. She doesn’t get anything more than what she did before she lost the weight. I grew up underweight and now I love the body I have.


LV: What are some big projects you are working on?

TS: I am producing a stage show. It’s coming together slowly but surely. I have a TV show coming out about rappers. And I have a string of boutiques that I want to open across the U.S. (Also Tionna is working on the launch of her own magazine called “Bossy” and also her audio book “Men Love Abuse just dropped last month.)

Men Love Abuse Audiobook

LV: How would you describe your individual style?

TS: I am very glamorous. I love to look girly. I love old school glam, Audrey Hepburn and Phyllis Hyman. I love the half hat and gowns. I plan on bringing that glam style to my boutiques.


LV: What advice would you give other women who are in your position or want to get to your position?

TS: I would tell them to be yourself. People don’t have their own identity anymore. Be yourself. Work very hard. Work harder than everybody. I work like I have nothing. I’m 29 years old and I got to be more stable.


LV: What are your goals for the future?

TS: I always have like a five and ten year goals. I want to be stable, own properties, own businesses, get into public politics. I want to be everywhere, all of the time, helping the community, building self esteem.  I want to be happy. And I want kids and a husband… one day.

Tionna Promo

LV: How do you give back to the community?

TS: I am going to have my own organization soon, but I have worked in nonprofits and transition homes all my life. I just did a huge back to school event. I help out all of the time. I am hosting an event September 21 for the kids. I will be painting fingernails. I give back in so many different ways. But we don’t display what we do. The Tionna Smalls foundation is going to be for the youth, and it’ll have a Scholarship fund.


LV: Leave us with an awesome quote.

TS: “Whether you’re skinny or fat a bad bitch is a bad bitch and that is that.”


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Over pizza, a friend and I talked openly about hijab and sexism we’d experienced around it. 
Many people assumed that because I wear hijab it means I’m married. Hence, the idea of a woman wears hijab for a man and not herself or for God. 
She shared a story about going to a club with her hijab and being told that she shouldn’t be there by random Muslim men because she was hijabi. She bluntly replied, “Neither you or I should be in the club as Muslims.” Her story triggered me because I too had been through the same scenario. In addition to that I remember when my ex used to constantly tell me that I didn’t love God enough or I wasn’t Muslim because I doubted wearing hijab. But the chick he ended up going out with, during our marriage, was a non-hijabi 🤔 
My friend said something that resonated with me. “If it’s so easy to wear hijab, then why don’t men do it? They won’t. Because it makes them visible.” Being visibly Muslim, for some of us, isn’t easy. To wear or continue to wear hijab isn’t always easy. So, why are we so harsh on non-hijabis? 
When I went to California this summer, I decided that I was going to wear a bathing suit and ditch my hijab. For so long, I always wondered what it’d be like. Although, I felt guilty for showing my body as a Muslim I also felt empowered because I had the choice. And that I was very much so still Muslim whether I was covered or not. 
As a Muslim woman, I applaud you for wearing hijab, but I also understand if you aren’t there yet. Not all Muslims come in one size fits all. 
What are some common misconceptions about Muslim women that you’ve heard? What’s your take on hijabi vs non-hijabi? And anyone can chime in on this discussion ☕️
Photo: @funlens 
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