“Love Under New Management.” “Come Share My Joy.” “Baby Be Mine”. You can’t forget the voice behind these anthems that made us lift the veil and believe in love again. R&B singer Miki Howard ‘sangs’ about love. Her sprouting career as a young girl began in church and continued under the star-lit influences of Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Billie Holiday. Consistently topping the music charts in the mid-80s to 90s, the singer commanded the attention of giant record labels and sold out venues…but not without a cost. Miki’s life spiraled downward early on.
She takes us behind the scenes in her biopic Love Under New Management: The Miki Howard Story and reveals the turbulent times experienced with her mother, lovers, personal addiction and the industry. Watch the premier on Sunday, June 12, 2016 at 7pm ET on TV One. The star-studded cast includes Teyonah Parris, Darius McCrary and LisaRaye McCoy and delivers griping non-stop moments that shaped the singer’s life.
Why do you feel it was important to share this story with the world?
I feel like especially now it’s important. So many people are dying of drug overdose and it’s difficult to understand when people are in a lucrative business like show business that there is substance. The abusive situations are plentiful and so many women are still in these struggles. So this movie is a way to show that these things can happen to anyone. People need to know that we all experience the same things and that you can get help. I’m so excited about the project.
In the age of social media, which can be cruel, did you have hesitations about sharing so many intimate and challenging moments of your life?
No not at all. Anyone that’s taking the time to be cruel has a problem of their own. I’m an honest person and I am open. There is nothing that I’m ashamed of.
Why did you choose to begin the story with your mother throwing you out of the house at 15?
Because that’s what she did.
Were there any good moments with your mother?
Of course. Absolutely.
Do you think some of the choices you made early in your career and with men stemmed from the relationship you had or did not have with your father?
No I don’t. I think the choices I made with men came directly from my upbringing because I didn’t really see anything and so I didn’t know what that looked like.
There was nothing in the movie regarding your father? Did you know your father?
Yes I know my father. My father has three other daughters and I love and respect him. He was not in my life however and during that time. I met my father when I was 12 years old.
As you started singing, you began to meet different people in the business and very noted celebrities including Chaka Khan. Did Chaka Khan introduce you to drugs?
I’ve known Chaka and her family since I was a young teenager. I went to high school in Los Angeles with her brother Mark. Yes I started using the drugs with Chaka, but drugs were all around and everyone did it. You’re talking the late 70’s. Yes we did it together. It was like friends going out to have cocktails. It was the same thing. It was nothing more than saying, ‘hey I’d like a Tequila sunrise shot, do you want one.’ You never even know you’re strung out. It’s a very gradual thing.
Speaking of being strung out, you knew enough that the drug use was bad because you decided to get help. What was your most compelling moment?
I started out doing what I thought was partying. I did not know that I was self-medicating. I had so much more time on my hands. I actually went to the library (and this is not in the movie by the way), but I went to the library and I looked up addiction and it said that I needed medical help and that drugs adhered to your cells.
Were there difficult times with making this movie because you had to relive some of your past?
I’ll tell you. These things happened a real long time ago. You always live with the consequence of that. The difficult thing was the passing of my mom and the passing of Gerald Levert. I lost so many friends from Phyllis Hyman to George Howard. Those things I did not show in the film, but they were very devastating to me.
Do you feel Gerald Levert was your soulmate?
No. I loved Gerald so much.
Are you married now?
No I am not. I feel like Gerald was a huge part of making me who I am. That’s different to me than a soulmate because I was not complete. He put the pieces to the puzzle to who I am today.
Do you feel you’ve reached your absolute best with what God has given you?
Absolutely. Yes I do. This entire thing is because of God. His work speaks for itself.
In addition to God, who are some key people that helped you overcome?
There are a lot of people that spent time talking with me. Once you get off the drugs, it’s a very long road. So many people think you’ve messed up or that you can’t sing. And then you have these bottom feeders that try to take advantage of you. And you have to go through that. The people who helped me were Aretha Franklin, to Betty Carter before she passed away to Nancy Wilson. If you knew what some of these ladies have gone through, it helped me. Even Etta James. I did not make it up this staircase alone. I walked on the backs of those women and they took time with me. They really did.
In an age when our artists are leaving here due to substance, why do you think drug use is the commonality among so many of them who are the best in the world?
You have to realize what people you are surrounded by. Some people’s families are their downfall and the people that work for and with them. The pain that they live in. You never trust people. I moved to Jersey City and no one knew me. I had to step back into Miki Howard. They didn’t know Michelle. When they met Prince, they didn’t meet Roger. They do not even see that person any more. People are not supposed to worship people. These people were never the type to go out and use drugs. Drug use is ugly okay. It’s not cute. It’s not sitting in a mansion with the pusher coming out to you. It may start out like that, but eventually you’re going to get the dope. And you’re going wherever IT is. And it is not at the White House okay.
You’re going into the dark places to get it. But they’d go to the doctor and the doctor would say oh here’s something that will help you sleep or here’s something for your ankle pain. And then one thing leads to another and you feel like wow, I could not get up yesterday and now I’m feeling pretty good. I took one of those pills that the doctor gave me and I stayed in the studio until 3am. And that is what happens.
What do you attribute to you being drug free today?
I am happy. I am mentally healthy and I love my children. I worked very hard and for almost 15 years to overcome. I worked five meetings per week hard. I walked to the pain management clinic to read material. There is a lot of material that you’re given to read. I had a prescription to take a walk for 20 minutes per day. It was therapy and it worked. Hard work.
Do you have new music out?
That’s the thing. I never stopped making music. I am always singing. My last album was Miki Howard Live In Concert. I Choose To Be Happy. And I do. And I am.