At 50, Toni has been in the business for a quarter of a century. Lupus briefly took her from the public eye but she’s hitting the headlines again
The husky-voiced pop icon returns with her longawaited ninth album, Sex & Cigarettes.
It’s the Unbreak My Heart hitmaker’s first since 2014’s Love, Marriage & Divorce, her Grammywinning collaboration with Babyface, and her first solo release in almost a decade.
The 50-year-old is also celebrating her silver anniversary in the music biz.
“I can’t believe I’ve sustained 25 years,” Toni says. “I never imagined all the things I’ve accomplished through the ups and downs. But for whatever reason, music has always given me the strength to get up and the b***s to try again.”
She almost gave up music after being diagnosed with the autoimmune disease lupus in 2010.
“With any illness, you have to figure out your body and how it affects you,” says Toni, who retired briefly in 2013 because of the disease. “Doctors said – and I thought – that I couldn’t work anymore. But Babyface, Anita Baker and other artists reached out and said, ‘You can’t retire. This is your gift’.”
She’s a spokesperson for Lupus LA, a foundation dedicated to finding a cure for the condition.
In February she got engaged to rapper and Cash Money Records co-founder Bryan “Birdman” Williams (49), whom she calls “such a sweetheart”. The two, who team up on the new track Heart Away, started dating in 2016 after her bitter divorce from Keri Lewis, with whom she has two sons.
Toni is a huge fan of Rihanna and says she loves performing Breathe Again by Riri. “It’s my go-to song that I can sing anytime. If I need to warm up, if I need to impress you with my vocal skills, if I want to feel good as I help heal people with broken hearts, that’s the song I’m going to sing.”