Excerpt: Fantasia Barrino's "Life Is Not a Fairy Tale"

In the band, my dad played bass and directed us kids, and my mom wrote the songs and gave us the key to sing in. I was the one who wanted to sing all the time. I never complained. I was too young to understand all of the details of being on the road and needing money to sustain us. All I knew was that I was a singer and that meant everything to me – even when I was five. Singing was the only place I ever wanted to be. Rico also loved singing, but Tiny had another idea about being on stage. Tiny always wanted to be "cool," and he felt that he couldn't go to school and be cool the next day with a reputation of being in his family's gospel group.

My father was a perfectionist and struggled with creating a band with three kids as the key members. His perfectionism was hard for us to deal with, and he was equally frustrated by our childish imperfection. We would practice the songs every day until they were just right. He would make us stay up until one and two in the morning, until the song was just how he wanted it to be. He was equally hard on all of us if we weren't perfectly clean and neat or if one hair was out of place. And when he came home, if the house wasn't spotless, I would get into big trouble. My father needed everything to be perfect: the music, the house, and his appearance. It used to take my father three hours to get dressed. I remember him being so clean-cut and well dressed. I still love to see a well-dressed man. All of my father's unfulfilled childhood dreams seemed to have been haunting him and making him mean. When we would perform, Rico and I did everything we could to do our best – if for no other reason than just so we didn't disappoint Daddy. I always remember that look on his face when he was happy. His face shined with pride and ownership.

Whenever we would have a bad performance, I remember my father fussin'. He would say angrily, "You need to do better. Remember your notes!" Tiny was always in trouble. But Tiny never cared about my father's reaction, so he would come to the stage with a hairbrush and start brushing his hair on stage in the middle of a song. Rico and I were always too scared to do anything like that. I will never forget when Tiny took that brush out and started brushin' one time and my father went to the stage and smacked him on his head.

Only once do I remember him being mad at something that I did. I poked my lips out and acted mad in front of other people. My father popped me. I was so upset because I never did anything wrong. I was so ashamed of getting a beating in public. It never happened again.

We continued performing and were becoming known as the family that could sing. We traveled whenever we could, just for the exposure. We went to Alabama, Mississippi, throughout the Carolinas. We appeared in churches, in revivals, at fairgrounds, and anywhere else that wanted us. Sometimes we didn't have enough money to pay for food and we would eat Vienna sausages and chips and call it a night. Sometimes, if we were lucky, we would sleep at someone's house from the church that we were visiting. Other times we would just sleep in the van. I never complained because I was doin' what I wanted to do – sing. I can still see myself in the mirror with my pretty church dresses, white stockings, and Shirley Temple curls all over my head.

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