IN THEIR FIRST FAMILY FEATURE, VIRAL SENSATION TABITHA BROWN AND THE BROWN FAMILY OPEN UP ABOUT BLACK EXCELLENCE, FAMILY DYNAMICS, AND A (SORT OF) NEW WAY TO DO BUSINESS
By Ayana Bryant-Weekes
If 2020 has done nothing else, it has granted us two things - time and opportunity. It seems with every interruption to our daily lives and the way we conduct business, we have become more open to slowing down, trying new things, spending more time with family, and getting more creative. 2020 has also cast an eerie shadow of uncertainty that has thankfully been somewhat eased by the soulful, soothing words of actress and vegan enthusiast, Tabitha Brown. Feeding us in body and soul with her vegan recipes, warm spirit, and a gentle “Hello there…”, “America’s Mom” welcomed us into her kitchen and into her heart at just the right time. As we’ve gotten to know Tabitha Brown, we’ve gotten to know the entire Brown family-Chance, her husband of 17 years, Ty-Leah, her bonus daughter (25), Choyce, her daughter (19), and her son, Queston (8). In what feels like a modern Huxtable moment, we’ve been reintroduced to a refreshing display of Black excellence, complex yet healthy family dynamics, and a real-time model of legacy building.
From her exhausting, but God-led journey to veganism to her (multiple and also God-led) viral moments, Brown has kept her family at her side, proving that with God, all things are possible - which is how we managed to get the entire family on a Zoom call because...you know...COVID.
Amid the global chaos, the Browns have been busy navigating family, business, and being Black in this climate, and as I asked about any improvements made to family or business operations in the Brown household during this shift in normalcy, Tabitha laughs and Chance shakes his head as she describes pretty minor daily improvements to balancing it all. While family comes first, this mom of 3 is still working on managing the momentum of her success and fulfilling her own needs in order to remain full and present for her family. Chance admits his improvement has come from actually not being in the driver’s seat, “This pandemic has personally put me in a position where the improvement comes from letting go of control...” Chance praises his wife for being such an excellent driver of the machine that is ”The Brown Family”, making it a point to note that she still does a lot of driving to which she playfully replies, “That’s my business!”
Chance goes on to explain that prior to the pandemic, like many others, he was used to micromanaging, “...but when the world is shut down...there are certain things that are [simply] out of your control.” Even without the security of “control”, Chance has fallen in love with this moment of being recognized, as a Black family, during such a tumultuous time and is inspired by the recognition his family is receiving, “When [we] leave this Earth, people will remember Corona, the Black Lives Matter Movement, and so many other historical moments, and right in the middle of all of that is a little glimpse of The Brown Family as a light and a moment of happiness.”
As a husband, father, leader and Black man raised by a single woman, his biggest flex is the hard-fought success of his own family and when he looks at where they are now, despite fears for his wife’s health, doubts and insecurities that come along with parenting and leading a blended family, he is constantly blown away by God’s grace. With no real blueprint, he stays true to the simple lessons and is proud that his family continues to thrive and exceed his expectations. Much to our surprise, Chance was even moved to tears during the cover shoot. “I grew up with [just] my mom and because of the circumstances she couldn't be at everything. I want to be there. I want them to know that I care..” Despite the digital divide, his energy was felt during the interview as he expressed his love and pride for his family, but don’t let the sweet disposition fool you, he’ll definitely pull up at his children’s school Debo-style if need be.
The love is absolutely mutual when it comes to how Choyce Brown feels about the viral success of her family. Choyce, in true Gen-X, influencer form, was the one who encouraged her mom to share her outgoing personality and catchy phrases with TikTok viewers worldwide, “I feel like a proud mother/daughter!” With natural business savvy and insight into the type of content an anxious generation needs to consume, Choyce’s managerial intuition gave the people exactly that.
As a business woman, Choyce is a mixture of Tabitha’s warm charm and Chance's straight-to-it approach- during the cover shoot (I imagine at the wise recommendation of Tabitha) Choyce (and Ty-Leah) actually arrived first, her sweet and gentle greeting gave major Tabitha vibes, while her patient and calm demeanor during hair and makeup mirrored Chance’s cool guy vibe, who kept his cool up until Anthony Hamilton played over the speaker. Choyce, however, is undeniably her mother’s daughter, laughing as she shyly admits to not only recognizing several Tabitha-like characteristics in herself but also admits to having a few Tabitha-like items in her closet..what daughter doesn’t?! In addition to an inviting disposition and a few iconic outfits, Choyce hopes to pass down the same honest and close-knit nature of her family, and their sense of individuality coupled with that conquer-the-world together mentality.
It’s that very mentality that inspires Ty-Leah, ”I've learned a lot of things from [my parents]. One thing in particular is how well they work together as parents/business owners.” Although it isn't a surprise to her, their compatibility is just one thing that stands out, “...it emphasizes the importance of sticking together, having each other's back, and what we can conquer together.” When life changed for the Brown family, understandably, Ty-Leah was uncertain about what life would bring. Her initial happiness was met with nervousness for herself, “I just remember thinking, ‘Wow, I have no clue what is about to happen, but Lord, allow us to be ready for whatever it is." That was her dad’s motivational energy that she recognized in herself, “My dad is very motivational when he talks to me. I find myself doing the same with others [sharing] the wisdom he gives to me”. For instance, although Ty-Leah used to pick on Chance about being tight with his money, she now admits, “I [think] I understand a little bit better...I'm very tight when it comes to money (LOL)”
From having his school year interrupted by a global pandemic and worldwide shutdown, to then finding out that his mom actually spends her day going viral on TikTok instead of waiting for him to get home from school, Queston Brown (who is a quiet force to be encountered) has had a “wild and crazy experience” thus far. Thankfully, his sense of home and family are proven to be unshaken. Parent duties were taken off pause as Queston quietly announced to his parents after his portion of the interview, “I’m gonna go play my video game now.”
As far as Auntie Tab (I had adopted myself as her niece by this point) is concerned, she feels that her children are gifts. Whether it’s doing stand-up comedy, acting, motherhood, being a wife, or simply being herself, it is her entire family that inspires Tabitha to be at her best. “We have to take time and let them encourage us and let them guide us; that’s a gift from God!” Trust is a key component in their family that allows Tabitha to respect her children as individuals, “I trust my daughter. I look at her as a human. I've been blessed to have God choose me to bring her through to the world. She’s very much-so wise; she’s the reason I watched What The Health and became vegan. Years later she said [to me], ‘You should try TikTok.’ Now in the beginning I was like, ’Girl, I ain't got no business on there!’ but she kept on and I said Alright, I’ll see what this is about.”
As history goes, the youth of a generation carry new and innovative information as they integrate into society, connecting closely to the technologies and social climates of the times. Auntie Tab says, “If you don't listen to young people and your elders, honey, you’re a fool!” Tabitha explains that early on, Choyce expressed her decision to forgo college and Tabitha made it a priority to put her in a position to flourish nonetheless, “The goal is always to have your children do better than you. It feels amazing to be able to do your best to set them up right..” Tabitha intentionally included Choyce in the content she was already sharing with a Facebook audience of hundreds of thousands after Choyce graduated high school, “We will create the brand. Eventually the people will come. I did this for 22 years so that she wouldn’t have to.” When it comes to creating a brand, both Tabitha and Chance are careful to position themselves to present those opportunities to their family, and the couple feel blessed to be able to provide that.
In the spirit of (Black) excellence, with provisions made by their parents, Choyce and Ty-Leah continue in the vein of entrepreneurship heading both a skincare and athleisure brand respectively, and both challenging themselves to continue building on the foundation laid before them using the tools they’ve gained from their parents to represent them well. Choyce explains, “When I first started my skincare line, I was just going to start it with something small but once we started growing I decided to hold off on it because I didn’t want anyone to say that I didn’t put my best forward. This is like an empire and we all strive for greatness.”
These young, Black business women, also dare to combat the stigmas surrounding “Black businesses” by providing intentional, service, quality products, and a little something special on a consistent basis- and they got it from their mama! “I don’t usually say it but 99 percent of the businesses I promote on #VeryGoodMondays with Choyce are black owned and I tell them ‘Now, it is your job to keep your customer- I believe in you and I believe in your product so you have to do the same thing.’.
As a family, the Browns have weathered many storms, from blending families to navigating life-changes but even during those subsequent victories, Tabitha gracefully dealt with her own deferred dreams by staying true to her encouraging nature, “I actually cheered the hardest when I was down. I encouraged people more because when you encourage others, you encourage yourself.” At a point when she wasn’t sure whether she would live or die, Tabitha watched her friends and family experience some of their happiest times. A year and a half of being sick and being mentally and physically unwell took a toll on her, and despite growing up in the Church, she began to lose faith, “My mama was a pastor and I like to consider myself a woman of faith but I started to lose it...I started to think that God wasn't even hearing me.”
Not only was God listening, but He was setting her and her family up to publicly live out a dream that He gave to her in the hardest part of her struggle. About two weeks after her “Come To Jesus mirror moment” and a year of being on disability, she awoke from a dream of her co-hosting a TV show with Donna (Tabitha’s iconic Afro-ego), accent and all, just free as can be! As Tabitha surrendered to the will of God for her life (after first refusing His instructions to start recording videos), day by day, she started to feel closer to Him; she began to live her life obediently, believing that she would get better, that things would change, and trusting that God would bring her through anything and her faith was restored. It is clear that the way Tabitha cares for her family (internet family included) has made room for God to take care of her.
As Tabitha leaned into Chance, hugging his arm and telling her story I thought to myself, what a full circle moment to have your own dream seemingly deferred, only to become a mother and wife to what became the catalyst to not only your healing but also your family’s collective success! The Brown Family is quintessential Black excellence, a model of the modern family unit, and we are watching them build a legacy right in front of our eyes.
Creative Direction & Wardrobe Stylist: Ambrea Curry
Photographer: Jacob Webster
Hair Stylist: Raven Walton
Makeup Artist: Ashley Green
Interview: Ayana Bryant - Weekes
Production Assistant: Jessica Brooks
PR: Brandi Evans
Art Director: Alice Morgan