Why Fantasia Barrino Scares Me

4 Aug

She was the winner of the 3rd season of American Idol in 2004, and today she’s famously known as just ‘Fantasia’, the R&B and soul singer, and one of the most successful former contestants from the show. Since her debut album Free Yourself (which made history with Fantasia’s first single, I Believe, being the first new recording artist single ever to debut in the number 1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 list) Fantasia has been nominated for 7 Grammy Awards and won 1, had two albums certified platinum and gold, and starred in the Broadway musical version of The Color Purple produced by Oprah Winfrey and Quincy Jones.

And with all of that success under her belt, her life is arguably a royal mess.

Fairy Tale Beginning

I remember watching the 3rd season of American Idol, being Fantasia’s biggest fan, and how ecstatic I was when she won. Then I watched the made-for-TV movie Life is Not a Fairytale which she starred in, based on her life before her win. She had something of a ‘Partridge Family’ beginning, performing and touring as a young girl with her parents and two brothers in churches across the country. She led the youth choir at her family church. But when Fantasia entered high school in her hometown of High Point, North Carolina, she was cornered in an empty gym by a classmate and raped, and from then on it wasn’t hard to notice the nose-dive in her self-esteem. She endured so much harrassment and humiliation from her peers that she felt her only option was to drop out of school, without even knowing how to read. Her family didn’t offer much in the way of support besides “life comes with the good and the bad, dust your shoulders off and move on”. Fantasia got into a relationship which resulted in her first child at the age of 16, and physical abuse at the hands of the father. A few years later she tried out for American Idol, and that was where the movie ended and her rise to stardom began.

Depressing Reality

Fantasia’s personal story never seemed to find a happy ending, though. After the memoir version of Life is Not a Fairytale was released in 2006, her father Joseph sued her for $10 million claiming that the descriptions she gave of him in the book were untrue. One of her two homes in Charlotte, North Carolina went into foreclosure and was almost auctioned off. Oprah interviewed Fantasia before she was set to appear on Broadway, offering her support, but Fantasia was absent for nearly 50 performances of The Color Purple without any notice or excuse until almost a year after the show had closed – still, Oprah selected her for the starring role in the film adaptation of the Broadway musical. In 2010 Fantasia got her own reality TV show on VH1 titled Fantasia For Real – the show basically chronicled her efforts in taking care of her family members financially. Finally, Fantasia began a relationship with Antwaun Cook, a married man whose wife named Fantasia as a cause of distress in her file for divorce in August 2010. The stress of the public accusation brought Fantasia to overdose on aspirin in a suicide attempt that had her hospitalized, and in divorce court Fantasia had to testify that she had been pregnant with Cook’s child and aborted it before trying to commit suicide. Cook’s marriage ended, but his affair with Fantasia continued, and just a few days ago on August 1, 2011, Fantasia announced to the crowd at a charity concert that she was pregnant again – this child was a “gift from God”. Oh, and allegedly there’s a Fantasia-Antwaun sex tape out there further damaging her image.

The Edge

I used to be inspired by Fantasia, but now I’m terrified: terrified for what’s happening to her life, and terrified of ending up like her. Our stories are similar in some ways. I’m definitely not a star and I can’t sing, but I can relate to having big dreams – I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I don’t know exactly what her experiences were like, but I’ve been raped. I’ve had people shun me, put me down, laugh (sometimes right in my face), spread rumors to paint me as a slut after I opened my mouth and told on my rapist. I’ve had family members not care. I’ve been abused in so many ways, and left to fend for myself with nowhere to go or any hope for my future. And I guess I’m scared that someday, potential and opportunity might show up and I won’t be able to see clear enough through the cloud of disappointments to recognize that I can keep it from following me to my success. That somehow I can keep my past from dictating my self-worth and the decisions I make, and from going over the edge.

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