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[This story contains spoilers from the season three finale of Fox’s The Masked Singer.]
The Masked Singer crowned its third champion on Wednesday, with its first woman to win the competition. Robin Thicke and Nicole Scherzinger correctly guessed the identity of Night Angel: Real Housewives of Atlanta star Kandi Burruss.
Before her reality TV fame, Burruss was a Grammy-winning songwriter (TLC’s “No Scrubs”), a solo artist and a member of the group Xscape. (She also penned some of the early 2000s most iconic songs, including Destiny’s Child’s “Bills Bills Bills” and Pink’s “There You Go.”) So it felt natural for her to return to her first love: music.
Burruss was unmasked as the winner — finishing ahead of Frog (rapper/actor Bow Wow) and runner-up Turtle (singer/actor Jesse McCartney) — in an episode shot shortly before the novel coronavirus pandemic shut down TV production.
“Could you imagine if we had never gotten to finish the season and everybody would have been sitting there waiting for a winner? But luckily, right before all the world went into chaos, we finished up the show,” Burruss tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I would have never imagined that the whole world would be stuck in the house and they had to watch it anyway.”
Like seasons one and two winners T-Pain and Wayne Brady, respectively, Burruss is using her newly elevated platform to release new music. First up: a dance single, “Used to Love Me.” While she can’t tour in support of her new music, she’s hoping to maybe play some virtual shows while everyone is stuck at home. Below, she discusses why she was scared every time she performed, why she cut off communication with some of her friends and which of her competitors surprised her the most.
The Masked Singer seems like the perfect quarantine show: It’s really fun and kind of weird and entertaining to watch.
It is a very fun show. It’s so cool. I love how they keep everything so secretive. Like, even from us! I still don’t really know who Turtle is. I won’t know until I watch [the finale]. We did not get to see any of the reveals while we were there. We had to watch it on television with all the fans. So I am watching just like everybody else so that I could see who gets revealed and see everybody’s performances. The way that it works while we’re there is we perform, and then they take us straight to our trailer. They’ll bring us out for the judging, but once they say, “Okay, the Taco is no longer on the show,” they get all of us offstage and take us straight to our trailer. So we don’t see who’s revealed. We don’t know anything until we watch it like everybody else who’s watching television right now.
Have you been surprised by anyone while watching it yourself?
I’ve been super surprised the entire time. From episode one when they revealed Lil Wayne, I was so shocked. But you know who else? I was totally shocked with Sarah Palin because I was there with her. She was a part of my group. I would never guess in a million trillion years that that was her in that costume. To me, that made me look at her totally different. She seemed so fun and had so much energy and honestly very youthful.
You’ve done reality TV for years, but The Masked Singer is different from they type of shows you’ve been on before.
This is totally night-and-day different. For the reality that I’m used to? This show is positive and makes you feel good and all those great things, whereas the other shows have drama and you leave there stressed. (Laughs.) On Housewives I’m stressed out, but coming to this show has just been like a breath of fresh air for me. It feels good. The judges make you feel good. They give you all of the positive energy. You know, it’s already hard getting out there and performing. Mind you, I haven’t been performing by myself solo in a very long time. So I was scared out of my mind to get up there and perform when we first started the season. But when I tell you, some of the words from the judges just made me feel so much better and so much more confident every week as an artist. It gave me a whole new feeling about doing music again.
Obviously music is your first love, so what is it like to reconnect with that side of yourself?
For whatever reason, I went behind the scenes for a long time. I just started writing songs for other people and that became my thing, and then I started getting into reality TV. So I stopped going to the studio as much and not putting as much energy in my music, which is, like you said, my first love. I’ll write songs and sing songs even if I’m not getting paid to do it. That’s what I love to do. So I don’t know why I allowed myself to get away from it for so long. But, you know, being a part of this show, it just makes you want to do it again and do it in a major way.
Here’s the thing — I was able to do every genre of music and not be judged. If you think about it, if I, as Kandi, said, “Okay, I’m gonna throw out a country song,” people would be, like, “Huh?” People, they want to put you in a box and they want to make you be one way. Whereas I love all genres of music and that’s what I tried to show while on the show. I said, “You know what, every week I want to do a different genre.” So that’s why I did rock music, I did country, I did disco, I did hip-hop. I did every genre that I could think of and it was okay on this show to do that, which is so cool.
Do you feel like winning is a reminder to yourself that you’re good at this?
Definitely. Winning the show definitely gave me a boost of confidence. I’m not going to lie to you — for a while I started having self-doubt in my own voice. You know, hearing so many people be like, “Oh, she can’t sing, she can’t do this.” I get a lot of crazy comments and negative conversations just because of the reality show I’m on. So I have to remember to filter through any negativity and not worry about that and just be happy and do what I love, you know? Winning this show just showed me, like, okay, when people can’t judge you based off your face or who they think you are, if they’re just judging me just based off of my voice, just based off of my performance that night or whatever, I won! (Laughs.) So it’s just like, “Wow, okay, I won!” The thing that I love the most about it is that I was the first woman to win. I brought it home for all the women. That was a big deal for me. Going into it I wasn’t really thinking about all that, but when it got closer and closer to the end I was like, “Oh, wait a minute, there hasn’t been a woman to win before. I have to pull through to the end and I need to follow through with a win.”
Not only had a woman not won before, but so many legendary women hadn’t won, like Gladys Knight or Patti LaBelle.
It’s intimidating, I’m not going to lie to you. Of course, I made sure I caught up on all the shows before I came, and I’m like, “Okay, Gladys Knight. Patti LaBelle.” This season we had Chaka Khan, Dionne Warwick. I mean, come on, people. How did I make it to the end and those women [didn’t]? I felt like, wow. I was in shock. Adrienne [Bailon, who came in third on season two], she killed it last season. She did an excellent job. And so I was just, like, “Okay, what can I do to get to the end if they couldn’t make it to the end?” But either way, I had to represent for my girls.
After after this, obviously it’s not the same world that the other winners have gone into. You can’t go out and tour, but you do have a new single. What do you want to do now?
Yes, I’m dropping a new single, it came out today. It’s called “Used to Love Me” and it’s a more uptempo club record, which, dang, people can’t go to the club right now! (Laughs.) But when you’re at home and you need that song, when you’re cleaning up the house and you want to have something that keeps you going, this record is definitely one of those records that just brings you upbeat, have fun, makes you want to dance. And I wanted to do one of those. I’ve always wanted to have a song like that, and so that’s why I did it. I wanted something that is different than anything that I had done before and it’s something that was, like, more worldwide that everybody could be into and everybody could like. You’re right — right now we can’t tour. I can’t do things like that, but I don’t know. I’m still going to put together something. Who knows? I might do, like, a viral concert or anything — just have fun with doing music again.
New music alert! I dropped a new single! Check it out now Used To Love Me (feat. Todrick Hall & Precious) – Single by Kandi https://t.co/V8yNvjEQXr RT!
— Kandi Burruss (@Kandi) May 20, 2020
What went through your head the first time Robin Thicke correctly guessed it was you? What did you say to people in your life who recognized your voice?
I try to ignore people when they send me texts and they’re, like, “I know that’s you!” or send me a tweet — I just don’t even reply. I tried not to like any of the videos my fan pages post. I don’t even like those posts, because I don’t want it to be a confirmation! Like, “Yeah, that’s me.” I just tried to avoid everyone. Honestly, for a while, I was really just trying not to talk to a lot of my friends because I knew that they would ask me about it, so I was trying to just avoid everybody. It was so crazy. And then I got to the point where I was like, “Okay, I’m still not going to confirm to any of my friends. But clearly, everybody knows that me.” What I took away from it was like, “Okay, even if you think it’s me, you don’t know if I won or not. So that’s the thing that you’re going to have to keep watching for.” Even when I posted my song last night, it was so funny. I was like, “Oh, you can pre-order the song or whatever.” And they were like, “Oh, she must be getting unmasked tonight. Kudos to you. That’s a great idea to put it up before you get unmasked.” That was funny.
What has been the best part of the whole experience for you?
The best part of the whole experience? Winning! (Laughs.) Just because I had so much self-doubt going into it. And not only that, I think even a lot of the people around me — not a lot, but like, say for instance my close family — I feel like they wanted me to win and they would say, “You can do it,” but you know how you feel like somebody wants you to win, but they don’t really believe you’re gonna win? (Laughs.) So to be able to pull it through to the end and actually do that is just a joy. My son, he was so excited. He said, “Mommy, did you win?” And I was like, “Yeah, I won.” He was like, “Where’s your trophy, mommy?” But they won’t give you your trophy until after the season ends, so I was just, like, “Well, I’ll get it one day.”
Where is it going to go when you finally get it?
I’m going to put it right next to the Grammy. (Laughs.)
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