Interview: Syleena Johnson is Well-Versed in Reality

Marriage Bootcamp

Syleena Johnson is the original reality star, metaphorically speaking. Since her debut over a decade ago, she took the concept of “putting it all out there” and applied it to her music. Most of her albums have been about pain, heartbreak and the ups and downs of love as they related to actual events in her life, but broken up into chapters.

“I write from where I’m at currently in my life. It actually started off on purpose because I used to write these journals and I was going through a bad relationship with chapter one,” says the Chicago native.

Her true to life lyrics, and soulful raspy voice, passed down from her father, blues great Syl Johnson, resonated with fans anticipating each new release. Johnson’s latest album, Chapter 6: Couples Therapy, which chronicles the journey of the ups and downs of a relationship, once again, draws from Johnson’s personal life.

“It was my idea to create chapters of my life, but then it’s just evolved and I would do it naturally and not on purpose because I realized that that’s just the type of person that I am. I’m an introvert.”

Johnson didn’t reveal much about her marriage to Kiwane Garris on the hit TV show, R&B Divas, and she also doesn’t seem to be much of an introvert. Viewers most likely remember Syleena for butting heads with former co-star Nicci Gilbert as well as her forward demeanor and crafty witticisms.

“People think that I’m an extrovert because I say what I need to say. I’m curt, but no, really if you pay attention to R&B Divas, most of the time, I’m chillin’ it and people are going berserk and I’m quiet most of the time. In my testimonials I go in real funny. You’ll see the funny stuff, but while I’m sitting in the actual area, I’m not really shy, but I’m a little reserved unless you try to comfort me. That’s really different. That’s anybody. That’s almost every black woman in America, we going to turn up. For me it has to be a long, I’m a Virgo. I don’t have a middle.”

Before reality TV, her blunt yet quirky sense of humor played out in songs like “Maury Povich,” “Another Relationship Song” and more. In terms of Chapter 6: Couples Therapy, and her soon to be appearance on WETV’s Marriage Bootcamp, where she said she learned that she needs to better manage her anxiety, she’s ready to move on to the next phase in her life as a mother, singer/songwriter, businesswoman, and wife, while pursuing contentment and growth through the process.

“My music has evolved into my story. You’re not just listening to a record you’re listening to a book. You’re reading the chapters of my life. I don’t even know if I can have an autobiography because you’re hearing it as you listen to the record,” she tells the Hollywood Shuffle. “Whatever I’m doing on television, if I’m singing, if I’m dancing—whatever the case may be—I like to emote through my gifts and if I can do that I’m happy.”

Chapter 6: Couples Therapy is in stores now.

Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars premieres on Friday, January 9 at 9/8c.

Visit SyleenaMusic.com for more information.

About the author

Starrene Rhett Rocque is co-founder of The Hollywood Shuffle. She's an experienced entertainment journalist based in Brooklyn, New York.