Brax­ton’s back

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

YOU (South Africa) - - CHILL OUT - COMPILED BY NICI DE WET SOURCE: BILL­BOARD.COM

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.”

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