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"