How Tabitha Brown Overcame Obstacles to Live Out Her Dream Life (Exclusive)
By Desiree Murphy and Deidre Behar
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Tabitha Brown is opening up about life before fame! ET recently spoke with the 41-year-old vegan foodie turned social media superstar via Zoom, where she gave us all the details on what it was like growing up in North Carolina, to the financial, educational and personal hurdles she overcame to get to where she is today. On top of all her professional success, Brown's greatest joy is being mom to the two kids -- Choyce and Queston -- she shares with her husband, Chance.
"I was raised in the town of Stoneville, but Eden is the city where I grew up and did all my schooling. Lil' country girl at heart, and I have always wanted to perform ever since I was a little girl," Brown told ET's Deidre Behar. "I used to watch The Cosby Show when I was a kid and I used to tell my mom, 'I want to be Rudy's friend that rings the doorbell next and come inside and play and then come home.' I didn't know I was trying to say, 'I want to be an actor.' I knew that's what I wanted to do."
"So I got into theatre really early on in school. I loved music class, I loved to dance, sing and have fun," she continued. "My dad bought me joke books because I love to make people laugh. I always love to see people smile. I would always be the kid at the cookout entertaining everybody. It just was always my passion."
Brown said that by the time she reached high school, she started describing herself as a "hippie," something she believes is still true to this day.
"I used to make my own clothes. I would thrift all the time and design stuff. It was just a thing that I enjoyed," she recalled. "When it was time for me to go to college, I remember my mom said, 'I know you want to be an actor, but it's so hard. But you're also really good at making clothes. Why don't you study fashion design so you have something to fall back on?'"
Brown took her mom's advice and went on to study fashion design at the International Fine Arts College in Miami, but she said it wasn't long before she realized she wasn't living her true purpose.
"I was there for a couple months and I remember thinking, like, 'I don't know, I still think I should be acting.' I had that bug inside of me," she remembered. "I woke up in the middle of the night -- a Wednesday night, I remember like it was yesterday -- and it was like 1 in the morning. I called my dad and I said, 'Daddy, you need to come get me. I'm wasting your money.' I said, 'I'm supposed to be an actress. I can't do this right now.'"
"My daddy did not hesitate," she added. "He said, 'Well you know what, I get off work at the mill on Friday, I'll get on the road and I'll be there by Saturday morning.'"
Months later, Brown moved to California at the age of 19, with "no plan" other than a dream of "making it" in Hollywood. With just $1,200 in her pocket, the aspiring actress actually landed in Orange County's Laguna Niguel, far from where any important auditions were being held.
"Too far, and now I'm working two jobs just to be able to afford [rent]," she recalled. "I didn't want to tell my family, or my husband, who was my boyfriend at the time. I didn't want to tell him how bad it was because we had planned that I'd be out here for a couple months and then he'd come out and we'd get our own place in Los Angeles."
Long story short, the two ended up moving back to North Carolina, this time settling in Greensboro. "The one-year plan turned into five years, a baby, marriage, house, cars, jobs and all these new responsibilities. Most important, a forgotten dream," she shared.
"I really tried to forget about it. I just convinced myself that I missed out on an opportunity," she added. "I thought, 'I have a baby now, got all these new responsibilities. I'm just going to have to settle working a regular job and being a traditional person.' Not that anything is wrong with that, I had just became content."
Then one day, out of the blue, Brown heard from a local radio station that a DJ named Busta Brown was looking for a female co-host for his new show on the WB Network. She applied immediately, auditioned and ended up booking the gig. "That is what got me dreaming again," she recalled.
The rest, they say, is history.
Flash forward to present day, Brown is still crushing it professionally, especially on social media. Ever since her review of a Whole Foods "TLTA" sandwich (tempeh, lettuce, tomato and avocado) went viral in 2017, Brown has acquired over 2.6 million followers on Instagram and over 4 million on TikTok. She recently got her own web show on Ellen DeGeneres' network and has a biweekly segment on Vogue's Instagram. Talk about #goals!
"You know what's so crazy? I had never wanted to do videos anyway," Brown revealed. "I never wanted to do anything with food. I had this dream because I was sick. I was sick for a year and a half. And I wasn't able to audition anymore. I wasn't able to do my acting. I was depressed, I had anxiety. I had a dream while being sick. I saw myself on a show. I had my hair in a little Afro and I was very happy and free. And I thought, 'OK God reveal that to me, what is that?' And in my prayer, I heard him say, 'Start doing videos.' I didn't want to do it. But I had also made a promise to God that if he had healed me, I would do whatever he asked. I said 'OK, I'll start doing videos.'"
"At first I started doing videos about the same mom and wife stories I would tell onstage as a comic," she continued. "But then when I went vegan, the voice that I heard that said start doing videos whispered in my ear and said, 'Now tell people what you're eating.' And I was like, 'Oh my God, I have to tell people what I'm eating.' I went vegan, oh my goodness."
After making hundreds of videos about a myriad of vegan recipes, Brown now boasts nearly 10 million followers across her social media platforms. Her newfound superstardom garnered the attention of revered Hollywood talent agency CAA, who signed Tabitha as a client in April -- which she says was a true full circle moment.
“When I first came to LA, I worked at Macy’s in Century City for years. I was the office manager… and I would go on my lunch break sometimes and walk the block and I’d always see CAA and say, ‘Oh God, one day Lord.’ I’d just kind of point to it with my hands like, ‘One day I'm going to be there,’” Brown recalled. “I remember I would touch the walls or I would get in the elevator and being in the elevator, I'd be like, ‘This feels like home. This is going to be my home one day.’”
Signing with the powerhouse agency has opened many doors for Brown to live out her truest passion of entertaining the masses, and she confirmed exclusively to ET that she has not one, but two exciting projects in the works!
“I've told people that I’ve always wanted to be America’s mom, right? I have always said that if Ii had a TV show, it would be, I'm Clair Huxtable meets Roseanne, right in the middle,” Brown explained, before revealing, “I'm actually in development for that show right now, and I signed on with Max Mutchnick, who's the creator of Will and Grace. He’s my showrunner, nobody knows that yet!”
Not only does Brown have a scripted sitcom in the works, she also shared that her family is eyeing a reality series -- but she has a very specific vision for how their family dynamic will play out in front of the cameras.
“There will be no drama, nothing crazy. I want to show the world a positive, strong, Black family. It is important in our community, right? It's important for everyone to see Black people, as we are, who we are and be relatable to everyone in the world. That is my mission with sharing my family,” she explained.
In the wake of global protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd, Brown opened up about the conversations she and husband Chance have at home with their kids. Brown says their daughter, 18-year-old Choyce, was bullied in high school “because of her skin being dark.” And despite his young age, their 8-year-old son, Queston, is already starting to learn about racism as well.
“We've already had to start having uncomfortable conversations with him. We give him just enough not to scare him, but to inform and educate him, so that he's never caught off guard,” Brown shared. "We just tell him, ‘Unfortunately, because you are a little Black boy with beautiful brown skin, some people just may not like you and that's not your problem, that's their problem.' I always tell him everyday, ‘You are amazing, you are enough and don't ever let the world tell you anything different.’”