Tracey Edmonds never wanted to be on TV. She never dreamed of having cameras beside her face, reflecting wide and tight angles, flashing perfect teeth across the screen. A whiz kid brainiac by birth, she attended Stanford University at 16 majoring in psycho-biology. Upon graduating at 20, Edmonds opened her own real estate and mortgage firm. But Tracey’s mother had other plans.
“I was never doing the acting and the video chick [thing]. It was really a fluke. It’s just God putting all those things together,” says the 45-year old, in an exclusive interview with The Shadow League. “I’m shopping at the Beverly Center on my birthday, and the artist Pebbles comes to me. I’m trying on some shoes, and Pebbles is like, ‘Hey, have you done any acting or modeling?’ And my mom, who always wanted me to be in front of the camera, was like, ‘Yes. What do you need?’ And she’s like, 'We’re auditioning for Babyface’s video.’ And my mom is like, ‘Where does she need to be?’ So I auditioned for “Whip Appeal,” and I got it.”
But the day before the shoot, Tracey broke out in blisters. Little spots of itchy pimples that turned out to be adult chicken pox. “My grandparents were keeping two little foster kids at their house. I’d gone over to visit and no one told me one of them had chickenpox,” she says laughing, “And I’m playing with this little boy and a day or two later, I’m getting those little things all over my body. It was so bad. I thought my face was going to be damaged. I looked like a monster. I had dark spots all over my face for months.”
When the wounds heeled, later that year, fate (and her mother) hit again. Driving down Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Blvd, Tracey’s mother spotted Babyface coming out of a studio. Ignoring her daughter’s pleas to leave him be, the gutsy momager pulled over, hopped out, and gave Babyface Tracey’s card. A day later, he called. A few years after, they were married.
During their 13 year marriage, Tracey grew to esteem in the entertainment business, from beginning in music publishing, to opening her own label, and eventually elevating to music supervising.
“They sent the script for Soulfood for being the music supervisor,” she says of the 1997 hit film. “And I was like, ‘Nah. No, I’m ready to start producing now. So that was my first production. And the rest is kind of…”
Retired from the music biz, Edmonds has gone on to manage talent like Rosario Dawson and Mekhi Phifer; along with producing an assorted list of TV and film projects including Showtime’s Soulfood series, Light it Up with Usher, numerous reality projects for DMX, Lil Kim, BET’s College Hill franchise, and Paula Patton and Angela Bassett’s Jumping the Broom. Today she doubles as the COO and President of Our Stories Films – created by BET founder Robert L. Johnson – along with being the CEO of her own production company Edmonds Entertainment. In both positions she works to produce projects for urban audiences. And keeping up with the changing times, Edmonds' latest foray is into the digital world with ALRIGHT TV, a family-friendly YouTube channel launched through Our Stories Films.
But even after recently getting the greenlight for her next movie, The Vow, a romantic comedy for the Lifetime Network, Edmonds is still having to prove herself.
“Like to this day, you can still see on the blogs, ‘Oh, the only reason she has this is cause of Babyface,’” says Edmonds, who votes for the Oscars yearly as a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, along with sitting on boards for the American Film Institute, and the Producers Guild of America. “And it’s like, 'Really?' I’ve ran how many TV shows? And how many movies, stage plays, management companies and record labels? Really? I don’t get any credit? You just have to kind of laugh at it at a certain point. And I honestly don’t do what I do for accolades. I do it because I love it and I do want to make a difference.”
Now, on Saturday nights, you can see her face occasionally on the Oprah Network’s newest reality show Deion’s Family Playbook. As Executive Producer, Edmonds appears on episodes in her real-life role as the long-distance girlfriend of NFL Hall of Famer Deion Sanders. “I’ve always said, ‘No, no, no, not for me. I’m behind the scenes.’ With his particular situation, I’ve finally said, ‘Ok, I’ll make an exception.’ Because it was Deion’s life we were documenting. And because I am the woman in Deion’s life, it’s very hard for us to tell the story in true form, without showing me. Otherwise it’s not going to be a real reality show,” says Edmonds, who describes it as a Cosby-like, “positive, uplifting family" show featuring single dad Deion raising 10 kids.
“And the fact that I’m coming in and out of town. And when I’m in town, I’m rolling my sleeves up and taking the kids places and doing what I can to help out. So I didn’t want to do a fake reality show. I wanted to tell the real story, and the only way to do that was to involve me on camera. And I think the only reason I finally felt comfortable being on camera, is because it was going to be on OWN. And they were going to allow us to do what we wanted to do. But nothing is scripted and I don’t think any of us act out of character. We’re not acting a fool and fighting people and getting physical. So I got a chance to really be who I really am. I’m just being me handling things the way I handle things. So far, so good.”
The way Tracey “handles” things is flipping her hat back and forth from producer to talent and back again, along with maintaining longevity in the game. “And I’ve always worn quite a few different hats, so if you come into my office, you’ll see me developing TV shows and films. I’ve gotten into the YouTube channel. I’m constantly working on quite a few things at the same time,” she says. “And I tell everybody, you cannot put all of your eggs in one basket. The development process takes forever. There’s so many ways people can tell you, ‘No.’ So you’ve got to have multiple projects going at one time in order to get one thing to stick.”
“It takes so long. And then sometimes when you just kind of think it’s not going to happen, you’ll get that phone call like, ‘Hey Trac, I was thinkin’ about that project that we have over here. Are you still interested?’ And then you get a break. So I’ve done that in order to keep my bills paid. You have to be pretty fearless. When you follow your passion and follow your gut and put everything into it and give it your best, those are the ones that you’re going to see results from. You just gotta stick with it.”
Catch Deion’s Family Playbook at 10pm, Saturdays on OWN.