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What Chilli Wants, Tionna Smalls

by Danielle Young

A chit chat with the relationship expert that’s been getting girls’ minds right since 2005.

Tionna Smalls has a no-nonsense/common sense perception of love and relationships and because of that, she’s acquired an enviable career complete with relationship advice columns galore, a book and a TV show; but Tionna’s not done. She’s well on her way to following in Oprah’s footsteps, but with an urban twist.

When I spotted Tionna Smalls at an industry party, I just knew I had to chat with her. I made my way across the room, digi recorder in hand and shook Tionna’s with the other. Even though she was out for the night, enjoying the premiere of another show on the same channel her show, What Chili Wants is on, Tionna obliged my request for an impromptu interview.

We chatted like homegirls catching up on old times because Tionna just has this incredibly relatable warm personality that she wraps all the way around you during conversation. Tionna talked love, her career and why it doesn’t matter that she’s not a size two.

Danielle: What’s your career like before you were involved with Chili’s show?

Tionna: I quit my job and decided to be a writer. I wanted to be a writer and be on TV, all of those things. I started out writing on Gawker and I wrote an independent book called, Girl Get Your Mind Right, which is the same title as the updated version that’s out now. As I was doing the gawker column, a lot of people from Vh1 knew me and my column.

They called me one day and said they had a show they thought I’d be great for. What I do is help women with love, self-esteem, relationships and dating. I’m not a matchmaker, but I could turn into one for the right pay. [laughs]

Danielle: What do you feel like it is that makes you a relationship expert?

Tionna: People call me a relationship expert. I know what I’m talking about when it comes to love and relationships. I’m coming from another kind of place. Most people are phony when they give advice or they use their book smarts. It’s basic common sense. I am an expert on common sense, but common sense ain’t so common!

Danielle: It’s not, especially when it comes down to love and women…You have to learn how to cut those emotions off. When you get emotional, you make bad decisions. What’s the biggest problem women have when it comes to love and dating?

Tionna: They lose themselves to love. As soon as they get a guy, they stop doing everything they’re supposed to do. They play themselves and it’s all about them and their man. They diss their friends. They don’t go out like they used to and not doing shit right. When you lose yourself for a man, you’re not going to be successful.

Danielle: Were you ever that girl?

Tionna: At a point, I was that girl, especially when I was young. As a grown ass woman, I couldn’t be that woman now.

Danielle: What are three basic pieces of advice for women that are losers in relationships and just can’t get it right?

Tionna: Get into themselves. Take time for themselves. Those are two different things. Take your time. A lot of times, they meet a guy they like and they just rush. You can’t do that. You’ve got to take your time, it will work out.

Danielle: Why do we rush like that?

Tionna: We live in Lala land. We believe in fairy tales. Are moms read us fairy tales when we were little.

Danielle: Do you feel you’ve been successful in love?

Tionna: I’m successful as a person. In relationships, I am  [successful] because I’m successful as a person.

I love me. I’m one whole. I don’t need another half. Cass, my fiancé, is a good whole, but he’s not my other half. We’re just two individuals that turn to one person. I’m successful in anything I do because I’m real with what I bring to the table. When a woman knows what she brings to the table, she’s good money. A lot of people don’t know what they bring to the table.

Danielle: How have you been able to see yourself grow in your career?

Tionna: Everyday I learn more and more. I’ll be 27 in September. I’m young. Everyone thinks I’m older. I see the growth everyday in my love life and in my career and in me as a person. I see how I handle things differently. It’s wonderful. I embrace it. I didn’t really enjoy my teenage years as well as I should have, but now to see myself grow to this level, I really appreciate it. I’ve got God, love, a good family and good people around me. I’m good money right now.

Danielle: Is Chili getting another season? Will you get a spin-off?

Tionna: That’s what the plan is. It’s got to be worth it. I don’t do projects just to do them. We had a talk about it, but you have to ask the powers that be. That’s the direction I’m trying to move in. We’ll see. Whatever I do has to help my career get to the next level.

Danielle: What do you want to do?

Tionna: It has to be about me helping women find love and in general with their self-esteem. I want girls to be fly, fabulous and fierce. Just show my real life. It’s crazy.

Danielle: Being a plus size woman in Hollywood, what obstacles do you feel you’ve had to overcome?

Tionna: I never really got discriminated against for not being a size two. I think it’s like this–either you’re fly or you’re not. It’s not a size thing.

Danielle: Where do you feel like you are right now?

Tionna: I feel good. I’m content. It’s the best place to be and I was never like this before.

Danielle: I’m visualizing you doing more books, shows…

Tionna: Oh yeah, I will continue to do that. I’m trying to be the young, urban Oprah. It’s not going to end. I can do talk shows or anything I want to do. I’m multi-faceted.

Danielle: What kind of advice can you give someone that wants to be where you are?

Tionna: Cut everyone that’s negative off. That’s it. Go in every outlet you can take. The internet is your friend. Go in and don’t stop.

Danielle: What’ coming up next?

Tionna: I have a store in Brooklyn called Lovey’s. I’ve been working hard on that. We do accessories. I do a lot of books. I have another one coming out soon. Girl Get Your Mind Right dropped in January and it’s doing well. I’m just getting myself out there to bring real reality to you. I think everybody is ready.

Check Tionna out on Twitter @TionnaSmalls