Before Beyoncé, there was Destiny’s Child. And before Destiny’s Child was a trio, it was quartet: Beyoncé Knowles, Kelly Rowland, LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson. But by 2000, management had another plan for the band in the form of a lineup change. Roberson was dismissed from the teen R&B group, along with Luckett, and the two were replaced with Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin.
Since then, Roberson has paved her own path, battling personal demons along the way: She’s struggled with addiction, sexual abuse and her own depression. But 17 years since her time in Destiny’s Child, the now 35-year-old is ready to share her journey with the world. Later this year, she’ll release a memoir titled I Am LaTavia, and she exclusively told Billboard that she’s making a docuseries to go along with it.
Earlier this summer, she even released a song in honor of Pride Month, “Best Time of Your Life,” which was just a first look at what’s to come for Roberson in 2017. Ahead of her memoir release, Roberson filled us in on her dismissal from Destiny’s Child (and how she’s not bitter), her new docuseries and the Jagged Edge song that was made for her.
What have you been doing since you left Destiny’s Child?
Well, since I was dismissed from Destiny’s Child, I went into a place of depression from childhood — being molested by my stepfather, dealing with substance abuse and stuff like that. There was a point in time where I couldn’t be vocal about things because I had no voice.
When I did resurface, what I heard even in my darkest moments was to “give back.” When I came back into the light, I’ve been doing just that. I ended up on R&B Divas, I’ve been doing a lot of speaking, philanthropy work and things for the LGBT community. I’m in the studio working with some artists behind the scenes — to be the mogul behind putting out projects for other artists.
When do you feel like you resurfaced?
I believe that everyone has a chance. Someone saw something in me visiting Atlanta, and they believed in me. They said, “I feel like the universe owes you something.” I started making myself visible again.
You have a memoir coming out. What will it cover?
My life, and being transparent about the times nobody saw me after Destiny’s Child. A lot of people were wondering what was going on with me, and I thought that it was fair to let them know exactly what I was going through, and speak about my life in the group. It was something I always wanted to do. To piggyback that, I had been in talks with a production company to start a docuseries based on my book, which I’m very excited to be the Executive Producer of.
It isn’t out yet, so is there a sneak peek you can give?
After Destiny’s Child, I’ve gone through so much life. Things I never thought I’d deal with. I heard rumors about me, but I’d rather you hear the good, bad or ugly out of the horse’s mouth. I had a great career in Destiny’s Child, but outside of that I’ve dealt with substance abuse, molestation and a lot of sticky situations that I would never wish on any of the girls I had my career with. I’m proud to say those things, because my adversity has made me who I am.
After the group ended, I had a lot of time to myself, and I took the wrong direction, but I learned from my mistakes. At the end of the day, are they really mistakes? I’ve had my daughter and, unfortunately, I’ve lost a daughter. I just like to do things that make me feel good, and I like to give back to the community.
What would the docuseries mainly cover from the book?
I do a lot of public speaking and philanthropy work around Atlanta, and I speak to a lot of single mothers and people that want to be business owners. There aren’t a lot of things that I’ve not gone through that some people would never think I’ve gone through. I only speak through my experiences. I love to give back. I hope to be able to help people at the end of the day and see whatever the sky will bring me from there.
Who will you be bringing into the series?
It has to be based on people that were a part of my life from the time of when my book started to where I end it. Of course my family. I would definitely reach out to LaToya, Meelah [Williams] from 702, Leanne Lyons and Coko [Gamble] and Taj [Johnson] from SWV. I just ran into Wyclef Jean maybe three or four months ago. You never know. You have to reach out to people and see. A lot of these people weren’t around during the downtime of my life, so I really need people to talk about the grit and ugly part of my life. It has to be authentic: I’m not trying to hide anything from anyone. I have nothing to lose right now.
Something people don’t really know is that Jagged Edge’s “Promise” was written about you. Can you tell me about that time and the creation of this song?
During that time, people were talking about this infamous bus situation that happened between Jagged Edge and Destiny’s Child. During that time, I was in a relationship with Brandon [Casey] from Jagged Edge. We were together for nine years. Of course the song made me feel special. A lot of people didn’t know that we were together.
How long did you have to keep your relationship a secret?
We weren’t keeping it a secret. At first we were, but when I was dismissed from the group, I moved to Atlanta, and we were together then. I don’t know how many people knew that, but we were definitely together.
With the success of Destiny’s Child over time, how did that make you feel with regards to your career? Were you happy for them?
It affected me in the most wonderful way. I promise you I’ve been on the treadmill listening to “Irreplaceable” jogging. Not just Beyoncé — I’ve supported every single project the girls put out. For some strange reason, I get labeled as “the bitter one,” I don’t know why, and I haven’t really said anything to people. I’ve been more than supportive.
When Beyonce was doing The Fighting Temptations, we saw each other, we hugged each other for a very long time. There was nothing but love, and there were people surrounding us that saw us interacting. I spoke with Kelly briefly some few years ago. LaToya was at the hospital when I gave birth to my daughter. I actually just spoke with her about her engagement. I speak with LaToya a lot more because she’s here in Atlanta a lot.
I have so much love for all of the girls and I support everything. We were family, they were my sisters. I don’t understand why I’d be bitter; it’s amazing the things they’ve accomplished.
What was your relationship like with the girls back when Destiny’s Child started? What got to that breaking point in the band?
Our relationship was wonderful. I was 8 years old when I auditioned for Destiny’s Child. I was waiting in line next to Beyoncé, and that’s when I met her. We made the group that became Girls Time, then we had several other names. Then I met Kelly in elementary school, and Beyoncé met LaToya in middle school two years later. We started working together and built a friendship.
Beyoncé and I had a very close relationship, we were best friends for two years. I loved every moment that I spent with the girls. There’s nothing about growing a career with your friends — we played together, we laughed together and we cried together. I’m grateful to be a part of the legacy.
As far as what went down, it was like a horrible breakup of a marriage or serious relationship. There was nothing fun about that, because we were kids. But things happen, and it had nothing to do with the girls. What happened was due to management, and there are certain things that you can’t control. So, being dismissed from Destiny’s Child was one of the most heartbreaking things that ever happened to me, but one of the best things that ever happened to me. You have a gift and a curse.
Is there an interesting story that people don’t know about the time you guys were in Destiny’s Child?
It was about 20 years ago. I was 18 and I’m about 36. I remember our fans were amazing. There were people who would have Destiny’s Child tattooed on them, we would be chased out of record stores. Us being so young and not realizing the height of our success was overwhelming at the time. We were on a train from Paris and the train derailed — Uma Thurman and her daughter were on the train. There have been quite a few things I could say, but the best part of it all is that we all had our childhood and had success together. That’s the most beautiful thing about the situation.