Fly Female Entrepreneur
Tionna Smalls: Lovey’s Boutique & Relationship Advisor, VH1’s “What Chilli Wants”
For all of my reality TV junkies out there, Tionna Smalls may be known as the super sassy relationship expert on VH1’s hit reality show, “What Chilli Wants.” Anyone who really keeps up with this Brooklyn-bred go-getter realizes that she’s much more than that. As a true Fly Female Entrepreneur, Tionna is the author of “Girl, Get Your Mind Right,” owner of Bed-Stuy’s hottest jewelry boutique, Lovey’s, and all around boss. With the business savvy of an entrepreneurial vet coupled with an “around the way girl” sensibility, Tionna is winning hearts and taking names. As indicated by her Twitter following of over 26,000, women across the country are captivated by Tionna’s straight-no-chaser approach to life and relationships.
Tionna Smalls & Renae of In Her Shoes | Photo Credit: Kamari Guthrie
I had a great time catching up with Tionna to get the scoop on her burgeoning career, “What Chilli Wants,” and what’s next for her brand. Here’s what she had to say:
In Her Shoes: For readers who aren’t familiar, tell us who Tionna Smalls is and what she represents:
Tionna: I’m an author, entrepreneur, a role model, mentor and just a real chic from Brooklyn! I don’t get too caught up in the hype of who I am. I just do me…that’s all I do!
In Her Shoes: How did you arrive from writing for Gawker.com to starring on the VH1 reality show, What Chili Wants?
Tionna: My relationship column on Gawker opened up the doors for many opportunities. One day VH-1 called and said that they’d been following it for years and that they wanted me for their reality show “What Chilli Wants.” My initial response was “I don’t want to do this…” but then I thought to myself, “what else am I doing?” so that’s how it all got started.
Photo Credit: Kamari Guthrie
In Her Shoes: Congrats on the opening of your Brooklyn boutique, Lovey’s. What’s the biggest lesson you learned during the process of getting into the retail industry?
Tionna: Don’t open up your store in a location you have to build from scratch. It costs a lot of money! I knew this already, but retail has reminded of the fact that you have to truly love what you’re doing. In a retail environment, your customers can see it and feel it. I love what I do here at Lovey’s and I’m dedicated to the brand. It’s an extension of me and who I am.
In Her Shoes: The Twitter buzz surrounding the re-release of your book, “Girl, Get Your Mind Right” has been quite impressive. Give us the top three reasons why In Her Shoes readers should purchase your book today:
Tionna: In Her Shoes readers need to purchase this book because it’s real. It gives real advice that people won’t normally give you. We talk about a lot of life’s situations in this book. If you’re looking to find yourself or what you should do about a situation, this is the perfect book to pick up!
In Her Shoes: The last couple months have been super busy for you with the boutique opening, book release, season premiere of “What Chilli Wants 2,” and your recent appearance on the Today Show. How do you unwind when the daily demands of being a Fly Female Entrepreneur consume you?
Tionna: I go home to my baby (my fiancé). He helps me out a lot. I go home and I pray because I feel that’s the only way to make it. Life gets hard sometimes so we need some type of religion or prayer to lean on. I also go to my parent’s house. No matter who you are, your parents are going to keep it real with you no matter what. I also like to spend time with my “real” people, my friends who knew me before reality TV. They really help me out when I need to unwind.
In Her Shoes: What is a day is like in Tionna Smalls’ shoes:
Tionna: My days are very busy! I get up around 9 a.m. and make sure my fiancé is out the door and everything’s okay with him. I spend the next couple of hours sending emails and responding to my people Twitter and Facebook. I also use that time to check in on friends and family because you can’t just reach out to people when you need them. I get to my boutique by noon, get back on email again, deal with store business and work with my customers. In the evening around 7:00 I finally have a moment to catch my breath so I might go to the barbershop next door and chat with the fellas. Later in the evening I check in with my followers on Twitter and Facebook again to make sure I haven’t missed anything.
In Her Shoes: Tell us something about yourself we’d be really surprised to hear:
Tionna: Although I’m all for the women, I know my place. When I’m with my man I know how to get girly and how to calm it down. Another thing you’d be surprised to know is that I’m very sensitive (depending on how I feel about you). I’m a thinker so if something between us is “off” for me I think about it for a while.
In Her Shoes: If you could share relationship advice with any celebrity (male or female) who would it be and what would you say?
Tionna: The main celeb I’d like to give relationship advice to is Brandy. She just doesn’t understand that she’s “Brandy.” She’s that b*tch! She’s been getting money for years, long before anyone else was really getting it. She’s got to remember who she is. You can lose yourself if you don’t know yourself. If you know yourself you’re not going to be beasting for a man to love you!
In Her Shoes: Which romantic relationship (past or present) inspires you the most?
Tionna: My parents. They’ve been married over 26 years. They still love each other. They still have sex with each other. They’re the perfect match. If they ever got divorced I’d be shocked! They taught us about working things out no matter what goes down. I’ve watched them get closer and closer over the years to the point where I don’t see them as two people. I see them as one unit! If any of us get that kind of relationship, we’re blessed in life. This type of bond doesn’t happen with every man you date. If you’re not one with your man, it’s not going to work!
In Her Shoes: Will there be a What Chilli Wants 3?
Tionna: No, not for me. That just wouldn’t be a good look. I’ve done it twice and I don’t want to do it again so I’m putting that out there now!
In Her Shoes: What’s next for Tionna Smalls?
Tionna: More stores, more businesses, more books! I’m really into entrepreneurship. TV is great but being on television for the rest of my life is not my goal. My goal is to really explore my options and be that chic getting money!
I also want to start a mentorship program. Since I’m from the hood I can really inspire others from the hood. I don’t want kids to think “oh, I’m from Brooklyn or I’m from East New York so I can’t follow my dreams.” All of this was a dream! I didn’t have money four years ago. I’ve worked hard to get what I want. Kids, especially young girls, are my number one inspiration. A lot of little girls are having babies or don’t love themselves like they should. This is where it all goes wrong.
I want to take the publicity I’ve received and make good on it. A lot people are popular but they’re not making good on their ability to influence.
What you do for a living doesn’t mean a thing if you’re not inspiring others!
For daily love tips, inspiration and updates on everything Tionna Smalls follow her on Twitter. Need a little tell-it-like-it-is advice on relationships? Pick up a copy of Tionna’s book “Girl, Get Your Mind Right” at Barnes and Noble today by clicking here. For additional information on Tionna Smalls www.tionasmallsonline.com.
*Special thanks to Miss Kamari Guthrie for braving a cold February afternoon to serve as camera woman and interview recorder on this one!