Singer and songwriter Tweet sat down with BET for an exclusive interview, Finding Tweet, where we were able to learn a lot that we didn't know about her unconventional journey to success. Though we know her as a mysteriously beautiful star that shot up the charts with singles like "Oops (Oh My)" and "Call Me," her road to that point was far from easy. Tweet, born Charlene Keys, grew up in Rochester, New York as a shy teen who found her voice in the church choir, later to have it hushed by the reality of becoming an 18-year-old mother. She told BET:
"Becoming a mother so young in the church, I got sat down. If I was in the choir, I couldn't sing in the choir anymore. And I was ashamed because back then that was something you don't do. You don't talk about sex. You don't do anything. You just don't wear makeup. You just wear skirts and you just sing for the Lord and that's your life."
Tweet shared that although she had to endure the initial shock and overcome her fair share of obstacles after becoming an unwed mother from a religious family at such a young age, she wouldn't change the experience for the world:
"I know I disappointed my mom and my dad but I don't regret it, you know? Because I have a beautiful, young lady now. But it was hard at first because back then you didn't do that. A lot of the girls that did it was called fast. I wasn't fast. But that's what it was back then."
Her journey as a musician was sent into overdrive after meeting Devante from the then-top music group Jodeci, who introduced her to upcoming artists at the time, such as Timbaland, Missy Elliott, Ginuwine, and the group Sugah.
Over time, she and Missy started to bond over their similarities and creativity, however, the contract she was in seemed to be souring due to mismanagement. Tweet recounted the ordeal of having her dreams seemingly served to her on a silver platter and then stripped away:
"We kept getting deals and not delivering the product. Everybody had left from Missy, Tim[baland], Ginuwine and Playa so we were the last group left and we didn't feel like nothing was going to come of it, so we decided to disband. I was devastated."
Things got very dark for the young singer, who admittedly contemplated suicide. She shared:
"I used to ride out here to the beach and go to the water and think about what am I going to do. Because I had a daughter. I had no job, no money. I had nothing. So I'm thinking I'm going to jump in the water. But I'm so scared of the water, I can't even swim."
Not being able to take care of her responsibilities as a mother compounded the feelings of helplessness and hopelessness she was experiencing as a woman seemed too much to bear. However, just when she was about to give up, she was reminded by her faith and friendship that she had a higher purpose.
Though some of us are not fortunate enough to experience our friends in the form of a hit-making superstar producer who happens to be Missy Elliott, whom Tweet now calls her "Guardian Angel", I think we can all attest to the power of knowing someone has your back and seeing the best in you.
"One day, out of the blue, Missy called me and was like, 'I need you out in LA.' I was like, 'Whatever. Alright, girl. I'll talk to you later.' At that time, I was contemplating doing something to myself. And she came at the time—I always call her my guardian angel because she came at the time when I didn't want to be here anymore. You know, being a mother you want to be able to support and take care of your child and I couldn't do it and it hurt my heart."
"She said, 'Okay, you better have your bags packed.' The next day, she had a limo at my house. And I was on my way to LA to do her background vocals. She came at the right time. Always though."
Although her chart-topping hit "Oops, Oh My" seemed to promise a bright future, a shift in management would ultimately prove to be devastating to Tweet's music career. This transition led to a 10-year hiatus where the singer would eventually hit rock bottom. The dissemination of her music career led to an all-time low fueled by disappointment and unhealthy coping mechanisms:
"I was smoking three packs [of cigarettes] a day, I was drinking Bombay wine all day. I had isolated myself so much, I didn't even want people to see me. I had found this apartment in Atlanta and was in there just smoking and drinking [by] myself. I hadn't even allowed my daughter to come over."
She explained that she suffered a severe depressive episode where she was reminded of both her faith and her power. She explained:
"And in one of my drunken episodes, I watched Tonex sing "Lord Make Me Over" and I fell to my knees and started crying. I never called it depression. I used to always say God hated me. I used to call myself a lab rat for God. Then I would get mad and just shut down. But I didn't know that that was depression. And it still creeps up sometimes because the industry is cruel."
Like many of us, whose symptoms of depression and anxiety are easier seen in hindsight, Tweet may have not have had a definition for what she was feeling, but she was wise enough to say when she needed a break from it all.
Tweet went back to her spiritual roots for solace, which helped ground her in a reality that was less about keeping up with the happening of pop culture, and more about constructing a life where she could live out her talent all while serving her higher self:
"When I was on that hiatus, I woke up praying and on my knees. I was reading the Word all day like I was one of those militant Christians. But today, I have a relationship with Him. It's not religious, it's spiritual. I'm not the deep Christian. I'm a woman of God and we have a relationship. I talk to Him like I'm talking to you. And I don't have to be on my knees to communicate. He's still working with me. I'm still a work in progress, like everybody else. As long as I'm in that progress and process, then I'll be alright. Just a little girl from Rochester, trying to make it still."
It is so important to remember during the times that you don't feel good enough, and you feel like everything is going wrong, that there is a whole support system out there in the form of friends, family, mentors, and the universe that is waiting to catch you when you fall.
Isolation, and keeping quiet about your struggles robs you of experiencing the miracle that is love and support. If you give yourself a fair chance, you can have it all; success and happiness and with the support of your faith and support system you will see you don't have to sacrifice one for the other.
If you are feeling lost in your journey, then perhaps that is a sign that you are doing something right. I am looking forward to new music by Tweet!
How Tweet's Bumpy Road Led To Missy Elliott Being Her “Guardian Angel" | #FindingTweet www.youtube.com
Feature image by Jim Spellman/WireImage
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