Fantasia Barrino: The Lessons We Can Learn From Her Crisis


Note: This post is not an attack on Fantasia.  I admire her in many ways because as a woman I understand her struggle.  In all honesty, I have lived some of her struggles and have no room for judgment. This post is designed to educate those in crisis on how to best manage their crisis before it blows up.

Former American Idol winner Fantasia Barrino has been the subject of many conversations these days.  From television news reporters to blogger stories to conversations in beauty salons, barber shops and girl nights, Barrino has sparked quite an interest with the people. The reason? Her relationship with Antwan Cook. 

I am not going to attempt to tell the story about the relationship with Cook; there are several versions of the story floating around and you can Google her name (or his) and get your share of the story.  I want to analyze how Fantasia has handled this PR crisis.

If you have read any of my blogs then you will know I value honesty, transparency and authenticity.  I believe that these are the keys to any good relationship.  Fantasia has given us that - for the most part.

Issue 1| Lies: Lying hurts your credibility.

I say for the most part because while the mess has just hit the proverbial fan for everyone, the story of her relationship with Cook has been floating around for more than a year...and for more than a year she has been lying about the relationship. During an interview with Honeymag.com dated November 2009 Barrino is asked about the relationship:

[Laughs] Okay, let’s talk rumors. There’s been a lot of blog talk that you’re dealing with a married boo and even got his name tattooed…

Yes, [the rumors] were all really cute to me. I guess it was something about a guy from T-Mobile? Inaccurate. He was hot, but I think I’m looking for my own man. There’s no boo in my life, I’m married to my career. Right now I’m not really focused on a boyfriend; we all know what happens when you get them… I have no tattoo on my shoulder, [that rumor] was very well put together! I wear my body out more purposefully now and when I’m walking I see people checking, “Like does she have a tattoo there?” As a matter of fact, I’ve never even [met him] before. I think I’d want to be with a guy who’s in the same tax bracket as I am … or higher!

She has lied about it as recently as August 11 during an interview with TT Torrez when she says she didn't date Cook.

So, she hasn't been completely honest until two weeks ago when she admitted - through a statement released by her manager - that she had been having an on-again-off-again relationship with Cook. That brings me to issue number 2.

Issue 2| Silence: Silence can kill your reputation.

The first rule in crisis management is tell it all and tell it fast.  Fantasia didn't do that early on.  When the rumors first started she lied and didn't speak about them for months, but that didn't keep the bloggers from talking about her and this relationship.  Pictures surfaced with the two on trips and the blogs kept jumping with rumors about their relationship.  'Tasia was quiet, leaving the masses to form conclusions for themselves. Even after the news broke about her attempted suicide, we heard from her manager and not her. We heard from Toure' on Good Morning America on how he thought she felt, but not her.

Issue 3 | Timing: If your timing if off, you could jeopardize it all.

It has been said that Fantasia's suicide attempt and her recent willingness to speak about the relationship was all a strategic publicity stunt to help boost album sales and to get people to watch the second season of her VH1 special, Fantasia For Real. Regardless of your position on the matter, you have to admit her timing is awful. To wait to speak about this two weeks before your album drops is not a good look.  It makes it look as if this was a calculated publicity stut. Perception is reality.

Issue 4| Messaging: You have to have the right messages in crisis situations.

Since breaking her silence on the issue, Fantasia has been honest about having a relationship with Cook. She has also been quick to deflect blame in the situation.  While she isn't pointing fingers at him directly or making him out to be the bad guy by defaming his character, she isn't outright taking responsibility for her part in the situation.  She hasn't come out in any interview and stated that she was wrong in any way or issued an apology (from her mouth, not through a statement issued by her manager) for the role she played in this.  This is key for anyone in a crisis situation.

The lesson. There are several lessons we can learn from Fantasia:

  • Be honest from the start.  If you aren't honest from the start you could jeopardize your credibility once you start being honest.
  • Own your mistakes. Playing the victim turns your power over to other people.  You must own your mistakes and take control of how you will work to overcome them.  Share that and show it in your actions.  As my Twitter friend @strategicgal suggests: Complete redemption comes when you own your part in any situation. It increases your credibility and strips others of their power over you.
  • Don't allow others to control your message or when you issue it.


on 2011-08-01 12:17 by Brandi N. Williams, APR

A few weeks ago it was reported that Fantasia was preggers.  She came out with a statement saying that she wasn't pregnant.  She said the weight she'd gained was the result of preparation for her getting ready to play Mahalia Jackson in an upcoming movie.  In true Fantasia fashion she later comes back and lets us know she's pregnant.

The lesson (again). Don't lie. The truth is ALWAYS better than a lie.

And a bit of advice ... get a new team.  They keep you looking crazy!


on 2010-08-24 15:10 by Brandi N. Williams, APR

I missed Fantasia's live interview with Robin Roberts of GMA this morning, but I was interested in hearing what she had to say in her first live television interview since the attempted suicide. It looks like she has gotten it together.  She has learned the crisis PR lessons.  In the interview, Fantasia is real and honest (two things that she has always been until this relationship incident).  She speaks about the challenges she faces and helps to humanize herself (all she has to do next is accept ownership for the repeated issues ...). Great job 'Tasia.


on 2010-08-26 16:13 by Brandi N. Williams, APR

I didn't catch Fantasia live on "Lopez Tonight" last night. It wasn't because I missed it (that was why I didn't see her on GMA). I made a conscious decision NOT to watch. I didn't want to hear the same story over again. Well, somehow I found the video online (and I wasn't looking) and I enjoyed hearing her talk to George. I enjoyed hearing the old Fantasia.  I am rooting for you ... for women all around the world who know the struggle you are experiencing.  I hold fast to the fact that it starts with you freeing yourself. It requires you to stop frontin' and get real.

Fantasia on "Lopez Tonight"


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How Do You Say, "I'm Sorry?"

Note: This post was started on August 18; however, it was not completed until after the Chris Brown interview with Larry King on CNN.


Last night Chris Brown did an interview with Larry King.  The goal, I thought, was to speak publicly for the first time since his sentencing about the incident between him and former girlfriend Rhianna.

A few Sundays ago Michael Vick talked for the first time about his sentence.

Clifford Harris, better known to most as TI or TIP, is currently serving time on federal weapons charges.

People across the world have watched each story unfold and each man take responsibility for their actions.  As I watched Michael Vick's 60-Minute interview a few weeks ago and Chris' interview with Larry King last night I couldn't help but to compare their stories from a PR perspective. I thought about how their stories played out in the media and couldn't help but think about who did the best job of apologizing for their transgressions.

So, let's talk about it ...

I won't recount each individual's trials, you can do a quick Google search to get acquainted or re-acquainted with their situations.  I will say, before I start dissecting their public apologies, that I recognize that each situation is different:

  • TI's fan base is mostly urban.  He hasn't crossed over into the pop realm, which keeps him from having to address the situation like Chris Brown and Michael Vick.  One could argue (and I am) that his audience had the potential to understand his situation and the circumstances surrounding it because they are more likely to have personally experienced it or know someone that has experienced it.  For that reason, they are more willing to accept his apology and allow him to move on with his life.
  • Chris Brown and Michael Vick, on the other hand, have crossed over.  As a result, they have a wider fan base and their actions actually caused hurt, and in Michael's case death, to people or animals.  These two things complicate the way they have to respond to the situation.

With that said, Michael and Chris failed miserably at saying "I'm Sorry." There are several things I find problematic with their public apologies:

They showed no remorse for their actions. Both Chris and Mike seemed to to be motivated by something other than remorse during the interviews.  To me, both seemed to be more concerned about their careers than really talking about the situation. In one instance in Michael's interview, he even seemed aggrevated that he had to explain his actions. And Chris didn't want to detail his actions or what caused him to do the things he did to Rhianna. This leads me to the next problem I have with the interviews.

They weren't open or honest. I've talked about the benefit of being transparent. It has worked for many a people (see 2006 post titled "Stop Frontin' and Get Real"), including TI.  Take a look at the video below.  TI talks openly about the circumstances that lead him to the illegal gun purchase that October night.  He explains that he is not trying to excuse his actions, just trying to help people undersatnd why he felt he had to purchase illegal weapons.  His approach was honest, sincere and he wasn't afraid to talk about what happened.  He didn't claim that he didn't know or remember what happened that night (Chris Brown).  He owned up to what happened and accepted responsibility. The most important thing here is that when presented with an opportunity to talk about the situation, TI talked.  He was open, honest and no question was off limits.

The lesson. If you agree to do an interview, do the interview.  If you aren't willing to be open, honest and transparent, decline and accept that people view you as [insert popular opinion here].  Doing an interview and not answering all the questions is worse than keeping a low-key and waiting until the storm blows over.

Below you will find the Mike's 60-Minute interview;Chris Brown's original apology interview and his Larry King interview; and one of the videos from TI's Road to Redemption series.  Take a look for yourself and tell me what you think. Who do you think gave the best apology? Who was really sorry for what they did?

Watch CBS Videos Online

Michael Vick's 60-Minute Interview


Chris Brown's Apology Video




Chris Brown on Larry King Live



TI Road to Redemption