Kandi Burruss is the definition of a go-getter. The television personality and business maven is someone who refuses to settle for anything less than stellar. From taking over the music industry as a member of legendary girl group Xscape to landing a standout role on “Real Housewives of Atlanta” and producing her own show “The Kandi Factory,” Kandi proves that dedication and resilience will always triumph when it comes to making your dreams come true.
Beyond her endeavors in entertainment, Kandi is widely recognized and respected for her entrepreneurship. She has founded multiple businesses, including the award-winning intimacy line Bedroom Kandi, her own cosmetics brand Kandi Koated, her clothing boutique TAGS and two restaurants. The clothing store stands strong ’til this day, providing affordable, high quality clothing for women of all shapes and sizes.
The famed businesswoman has also officially launched her own reality TV show called “Kandi & the Gang.” The new series airs on Bravo and takes place at her southern eatery Old Lady Gang, showcasing the dynamic within the family as Kandi’s mom (Mama Joyce) and aunts (Nora and Bertha) show fans what it’s like to run a business. The series also gives viewers a sneak peak into Kandi’s ability to juggle her career and personal life, which of course includes her relationship with husband Todd Tucker.
In light of Women’s History Month, REVOLT spoke with Kandi (via Zoom) to discuss the women who have inspired her, working with Jermaine Dupri, entrepreneurship, her show “Kandi & the Gang,” working with Mariah Carey, celebrating Da Brat’s wedding and much more! Get into our chat below.
What does Women’s History Month mean to you?
It’s the time that we need to recognize the great accomplishments of all the queens that have done their thing in history. It’s our moment in time just to get that love.
Who are the women who have inspired you over the years?
I definitely would say my mom — of course she inspired me to do everything that I’m doing. She’s been my main cheerleader throughout life. Also, I always have to give props to Queen Latifah. She’s someone who I look up to. I’ve watched her career since I was younger, and it just inspired me to want to do more. She’s the main reason why I started doing so many different things. I tried managing artists because I saw her managing people back in the 90s. She was acting and producing and doing all those things, so that was an inspiration for me.
How did managing go?
Well, the day after I saw Queen Latifah win the Sammy Davis Jr. Award back in the 90s — I was 19, I believe — I literally thought, ‘Oh, I’m gonna win that award.’ I left, went back home the next day, called up Wingo — who’s in the group Jagged Edge — and told him, ‘I want to manage your group.’ They didn’t have a deal at the time. He and I went to high school together. I got them their deal on So So Def, and they went on to sell millions of records. So, I think the managing thing went pretty good (laughs).
What was the best piece of advice Jermaine Dupri gave you?
Oh wow, that’s a good one. The best thing about being around Jermaine is picking up his work ethic and how he just doesn’t stop. Being in the studio and watching him and how he writes his songs — obviously I was inspired by that. Seeing how he would take everyday slang or different things that we’d say and turn them into a song — that was the way I started thinking when I started writing songs.
How does it feel to be a woman in entrepreneurship?
It feels good. I don’t look at it any type of way, except for I’m just going after my goals. I will not sit down and wait for things to happen for me. I’m trying to kick the door in … be the first to do it in certain situations. And if I can, I can open the door for other people and help other people up.
What was your first successful business that you launched? How difficult was getting it off the ground?
I have my music production company that’s been going for a long time. That has been successful. Outside of the music, my clothing store TAGS was the first brick-and-mortar business that I tried my hand at. It did really well. We’re still open, and that was over 10 years ago (laughs).
That’s incredible. I feel like the goal is to make money in your sleep (laughs).
Yeah, that is the goal!
You also have two restaurants, Old Lady Gang and Blaze Steak & Seafood. Did you always want to be in the restaurant business?
I always had a lot of people that cooked in my family. I always thought, ‘We need to have our own restaurants. It’d be dope if we could have a restaurant.’ I used to say that, but I never actually went and tried to open one. My husband, he was really the one and the force behind getting that put together. He decided, ‘Yo, we need to go ahead and do it!’ We found a location, he got it built out, and he found people to consult us to get it going. We’ve been popping ever since.
What’s your favorite meal at Old Lady Gang?
My favorite meal would be fried chicken, green beans, and mac and cheese with the candy yams on the side. Then a little peach cobbler bread pudding as the dessert, but you got to start it off with the fried deviled eggs for the appetizer.
Tell us about your new show “Kandi & the Gang.”
‘Kandi & the Gang’ is our new show [on] Bravo — put that shameless plug in there (laughs). I’m super excited about it because it’s not really just about me. It’s a lot about my family and the people that work within the restaurant — I got a lot of family that work in the restaurant. It’s super cool that I get to put a shine on them, but when I tell you they’re just a walking TV. They deserve to be on television because they are so funny. When the drama start, it starts.
In any restaurant, it’s already crazy. If you’ve got a restaurant or you’ve been around a restaurant or have friends that work in one, they could tell you the restaurant industry is crazy. But the people that work within our restaurant, they have so much going on in their personal lives and they showed all of that. Of course, some of them are dating inside of the restaurant, so you’re going to see that, too — as well as the Old Lady Gang, my mom and my aunts. They are so funny. All of their commentary and their interviews, it’s crazy.
Is there a certain episode or scene you’re most excited for people to see?
Oh, my goodness. There’s so much that’s happening in the show. In the commercial, a lot of people are laughing because you see when my aunt and one of my cousins start getting into it. It’s a whole mess. That’s really going to be hilarious for people to see. There are a lot of good moments in this show that I feel like, ‘Oh okay, I can’t wait to play this back.’ The finale! I can’t tell what happened, but we did have this 70s party so everybody’s walking around with afros and bell bottoms. It looks crazy, but it’s funny. To see people arguing with those stupid outfits on is funny (laughs).
Talk about when you were first getting your foot in the door. Did you work any part-time jobs?
I never had a regular job. I know that sounds crazy, but I was in the group Xscape when I was in high school. We got our record deal when I was in 11th grade. From there, we dropped our single. ‘Just Kickin’ It’ came out before I was even a senior. We had a No. 1 record and it’s been on ever since.
Were you ready for that at that age?
I think so! I was always a little mature for my age. But for me, that’s all I wanted. From the time me and my group met when I was a freshman — I was in ninth grade — I just wanted us to make it. That’s all I wanted. I wanted us to make it and have some hits, so I was ready when it came.
Can you touch on how your spiritual journey started?
I don’t know if everybody knows but my grandfather was a bishop, so I grew up with a church family from the time I was born. My great-grandfather was the bishop. Then, my granddad was the bishop. My dad is the pastor. So, I’ve always had a strong belief in God. Spiritually, everybody may not necessarily believe in God, but I do. That’s something I take with me everywhere I go.
You’ve been vocal about your mental health. Any advice for young women who struggle with depression and want to overcome it?
I personally feel like people need to remember that whatever you’re going through, this is just a moment in time. I think it’s good to journal because when I was younger, I always journaled a lot. Now, when I go back and I look at some of the things that I felt were the end of the world, you realize once you get through that moment and great things start happening in your life. You’re like, ‘Wow!’ Let’s say if I would have taken my life at that time, when those types of thoughts were going through my head — all the great things I would have missed out on. I always tell people: You may think it’s the end of the world right then, or you might be having a moment where nothing’s going your way or everybody’s against you, but it does turn around. You just gotta hang in there until it does.
What do you do for self-care?
I’m simple. I just like to chill, watch my favorite shows and get my nails done.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mariah Carey for REVOLT. Talk about your friendship. You were there when she recorded the remix to “Always Be My Baby,” right?
Yes! Our group, we sing background on the remix to ‘Always Be My Baby.’ That was a highlight for us. To work with her was everything. Then, I also got to work with her again when I was writing songs for other people. She wanted to collaborate, so that was a dope moment — because, you know, Mariah Carey is everything. She’s so talented, she does it all. Her vocals are crazy.
To be able to sit down and collaborate with her — we had to collaborate over the telephone because she was out of the country, but she wanted to do a song together. I’ll call her, then we’ll write a verse. She’s like, ‘Okay, I gotta go back in the session.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, I’ll go in mine. We’ll talk later.’ We’ll come back… I’ll tell her, ‘Okay, this is what I was thinking for this part.’ She’s like, ‘Yeah, I like that. Let’s change this word, let’s change that word.’ So it was a full collaboration to make the song ‘X-Girlfriend.’ It was on the Rainbow album I believe. It was a moment that I’ll never forget. You know how you have moments with people that are like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I did that.’
How was it celebrating Da Brat’s wedding?
Oh, it was everything! That’s my girl. I was so excited for her. I had talked to her about what she should do because, you know, I did my wedding in a month, too. So I was trying to support her to say, ‘Hey, it can be done. Y’all gonna be alright. Don’t stress.’ I’m glad it all came together.
What goals are you focusing on now?
(laughs) I got lots of goals. It’s my dream — one day, I’d love to be able to say that I’m an EGOT winner. It’s my goal to get them all. Right now I got a Grammy, but my dream is to get that Oscar, that Tony, and that Emmy.
We’re going to manifest it right now!
Yes, I’m going at it. Let’s manifest. I’m putting it out in the air, and I’m claiming it.