By: Donna Freydkin
Fantasia Barrino greets you with a hug, the kind of embrace that envelopes you in her effusive personality. She's the former "American Idol" winner who's had her ups and downs: heralded Broadway performances, fame, fortune plus hit songs and albums, coupled with financial turmoil and a suicide attempt. Today, she's happily married to Kendall Taylor; they're raising three kids together.
Learning to love herself was a process. "It took a lot of time. Thank god for my husband too. I knew that whatever man came into my life would build me up," says Barrino. "Growing up in North Carolina, I was this skinny girl with big lips. I could always sing. I felt like I needed to look a certain way, like the girls I saw in magazines."
All that has changed. Barrino is confident, outspoken, and immensely proud of her new album, "The Definition Of...".
"I look in the mirror and tell myself I am beautiful. I try to pass it on to my kids. I see it," she says.
She played lead role of Celie from April 10, 2007, to January 6, 2008 in "The Color Purple," and returned to Broadway in 2013 in the musical "After Midnight," which was a turning point.
"I did a seven-month fast. For me that was long. I went without drinking, partying, talking to any guys. That was a bit much for me. I needed something different. I began to let go of the bad relationships, the hurt. I had to let it all go. As soon as I got off the fast, I met my husband," she says.
The two share an obvious connection. "Every morning he tells me I am beautiful. It took a while to get here. But I share that with young girls," she says.