Do you intend to show the film to your daughter Shayla?
My daughter actually has seen it, and she loved it. My daughter’s five years old but she’s very mature. She’s very in tune with what’s happening. My daughter was born into a different reality. My life and lifestyle right now for her is normal. She doesn’t know about starting from the bottom. If she did a remix of that Drake record she’d be like. “Starting from the top, I’m still here!” And that’s the way it’s supposed to be. But she’s also still a kid so I have to remind her that this is not normal to live this type of life, and you should always say please and thank you, and just stay humble and don’t ever be mean to anybody. [I tell her] I wasn’t born into this, you were, but it doesn’t mean that you can take any of this for granted. And at the same time, you gotta allow her to be five and not overwhelm her with too much stuff, because she’s not supposed to feel bad about how blessed she is, she’s just supposed to understand that she is blessed. She’s supposed to have all of this because daddy worked his ass off so [she] can have it, so it’s all good, enjoy and celebrate it.
Do you ever reconnect with the woman you credit in the documentary with discovering you, Gayle Atkins, and what do those moments feel like?
Oh absolutely, she’s coming to my house tomorrow! Our daughters play with each other. She doesn’t manage me anymore, she went and had a child and was like, I’m raising a child on my own, I gotta get some more time in, I can’t be managing Tyrese’s crazy-ass career, so she kind of gracefully bowed out, which is beautiful, and I’m now managed by Isabella—I went from a woman to a woman. When I was homeless for that one period I ended up moving in with Gayle around age 16, so I just think about all of those precious moments that Gayle and myself had. Gayle introduced me to new concepts of love. She became like a big sister, my mom, a foster mother – it went to a lot of different levels because she just loved and cared for me so much. Our history and our energy is just so beautiful.
She was very young when she first started taking me around to meet people and trying to get me a deal, and I was the little engine that could. She saw the value of me beyond my circumstances and all of the childhood drama and dysfunction never strayed her from caring and loving for me, because she saw the potential in me. And so here I am now, 17 years later, with number one movies and number one albums, and it’s just like man, this is all by faith and how God works. When I started making all my phone calls to every freakin’ record label, all the people who answered the phone were like, “I’m so sorry sir. We don’t take any solicitations over the phone. You can send us a demo, but we don’t do this over the phone,” and I was like OK, little ass kid, “I’m a singer, I’m very talented, is there anybody I can talk to about getting a record deal?” I was just the most green and inexperienced little kid ever, but I was broke and hungry and I was like f&*k it. I ain’t got nothing to lose, I’ve already heard no my whole life, so let’s do it. Gayle was doing stand-in work for her friend who normally answers the phones, who was out sick that day. She worked at Priority Records in the promotions department, so the fact that she was answering the phones at the front desk while her friend was out sick is the reason why she didn’t give me the normal schpeel that everybody else gave me. I was like, “Hi my name is Tyrese, I’m 15, and I want to be a singer.” And she’s like,”AWWWWW!!!!! So what is your name and where are you from? And I was like damn! Somebody’s actually talking to me and they’re not telling me to send in a demo and we don’t do this over the phone. And so she gave me her address and I started writing her letters andsinging in the bathroom and sending her recordings of me, and it was crazy. Her heart went out to me and my life just changed forever. It was God’s engineering.