Tionna Smalls: Women Don’t Like to Admit They’re Settling

A bad breakup can be good a catalyst for new beginnings. Such is the case for Tionna Tee Smalls, co-star of VH1’s reality series ‘What Chilli Wants.’ Smalls, who quit her job and ended a six-year relationship in 2007, wrote an independent book in jest that led her to landing a gig as relationship advice columnist online. Little did Smalls know that a VH1 producer read her column faithfully, and decided that Smalls would be the perfect person to work on the show in development with TLC member Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas .

The rest, as they say, is history, and now in its second season, Smalls is back on television helping Chilli really find and lock down a man. While the first season proved to be no easy feat, Smalls has now written another book that she hopes will not only help Chilli, but also other women searching for love.

Smalls recently chatted with Black Voices about her new book, the new season of the show, and her own new love.

You wrote a book years ago that now has the same title as the book you recently released. Is this part 2, or an entirely different book?

Girl, ‘Get Your Mind Right’ is a completely different book. The first was written three years ago, and now that I’m older I realized the stuff I wrote in the first book was more of a rant than anything else. I didn’t want to promote fuckery, so what I had to do was tone it down and see everything from a different aspect, but still keep it real.

What is the message in the book?

Making sure before you even think about a relationship, you get yourself together. Too many people try to find a perfect person when they haven’t worked on their own imperfections. Women like to think ‘Oh we got nice hair, we pretty, etc.’ but still nobody wants to wife us up. No one wants to wife us up because our shit isn’t right, and nobody is going to tell you that. Not your friends, not your mom, but Tionna Smalls’ in ‘Get Your Mind Right,’ is going to tell you that.

How do you suggest a woman begins focusing on herself?

First thing is to get your ass a hobby. When women get a man, they focus on nothing but that man. “I love him, I have to be around him all day.” No boo, get your ass a hobby – you can’t have nothing to do but him. He’s going to get bored with you and you’ll be kicked to the curb. The second thing is, don’t forget your friends. Women get a man and you don’t hear anything from them. I understand your life does change, but you don’t have to let it change so drastically that you’re like, “I’m just about my man,” — that’s lame.

On ‘What Chilli Wants,’ you and Chilli butted heads the first season. What can we expect this season?

I never knew this girl before I did this show, and she didn’t know who I was. A lot of celebrities are always around “yes” people so much they aren’t used to “real” people . I’m aggressively real at times. This season we both realized our differences and are able to get it poppin’!

The biggest point you tried to make on the show was that Chilli’s standards were too high, but isn’t that relative to the person and who they are and what they do?

Don’t get me wrong – anyone can have standards, but when your standards make you pass on a good guy, then that’s a problem. No matter what, there will be something about a man that doesn’t meet your qualifications. You can’t live your life believing the “he has to have” myth. Sometimes you have to give a man a chance; otherwise you’ll be alone.

How is that not settling? If a guy doesn’t have things you look for then doesn’t that make him a “good guy” for someone else?

When I say ‘good guy,’ I’m talking about someone who’s a cool dude and actually wants to date you and make you happy. Last season there were guys that I still speak with that are super cool, and I still feel Chilli could have given them the chance to get to know them a little more.

Let’s say women give a chance to that ‘good guy’ that doesn’t have all the things she’s looking for, but the man seems promising. Is it dangerous liking someone for their potential?

In the book I call it “WWAM”: work with a man. Sometimes you have to work with people. Maybe you find a man with a job you don’t like but you see he has potential. Understand he has to show you he has potential; you just can’t make potential up. I used to be that type of girl. However, if someone shows, proves, and communicates with you their potential and what his plan is: work with a man.

What’s the difference between lowering your standards and settling?

I don’t believe in either; what I believe in is compromising. No one is perfect. You’re going to meet people with stuff you don’t like and some things you do. You have to work within those lines. Many women don’t know what settling is. Settling to me is when you think you have your little boo, he screws you, lives with you, but doesn’t do anything for you. You go along with it asking yourself what else you are going to do. Settling is straight-up accepting anything because you’d rather not be alone.

Then what is lowering your standards?

Most chicks out here saying they don’t want to lower their standards are the same ones out here settling. In relationships with guys they know are screwing someone else, or living together and he’s not contributing anything… guess what? Your standards are already lowered, and you’re settling.

What’s the biggest mistake women make in love and relationships?

Giving everything up for love.

Taking your own advice, how has your love life changed over the years since that first rant?

Back then I was single, sick of men, “f*** ya’ll dudes,” middle finger and everything. Reality set in that you can’t live with hurt from your past. My fiance stopped speaking to me when we first met because I was so mad at the world and at men. I felt like I messed up something with a good guy because of my attitude. So I let go of the attitude, and now I’m in love and getting married. Obviously I did the right thing.