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Days before her hospitalization, Fantasia Barrino vowed to get 'back to herself'

August 11, 2010 |  3:15 pm

Fantasia_Bittersweet Last week, while performing a handful of songs for AOL Sessions in Beverly Hills, singer Fantasia Barrino stood in a form-fitting black mini dress and dangerously high spiked heels.

The 2004 "American Idol" winner was reserved both vocally and onstage. She tilted her head back and closed her eyes before launching into the chorus of "Even Angels,” a track from her forthcoming new album, “Back to Me.”

“First step take a deep breath you don’t need a reason why, you can take time, you can walk, run, dive,” she sang -- her church-bred vocals echoing in the control booth close by. “Close call you think you might fall but all you have to do is try, even angels learn to fly."

Less than a week after delivering those pitch-perfect notes, Barrino was in a North Carolina hospital in what police are reporting as a suicide attempt.

The singer has been hospitalized since Monday night following an overdose of aspirin and a sleeping aid, according to her manager, Brian Dickens.

It had been a difficult few days for the 26-year-old. Hours before the incident, Barrino's name made the tabloid news when, after months of speculation and denial, a North Carolina woman filed for divorce from her husband and accused him of having an affair with the singer; the filing also included allegations of the two recording sex tapes.

According to the statement Dickens released Tuesday, Barrino had an off and on relationship with the man for more than 11 months; she believed he had been separated from his wife since the summer of 2009.

"Fantasia read the [the complaint] for the first time" Monday, the statement said. "She knows some of the allegations ... are totally false. There are others she strongly doubts. There is plenty she does not know."

After she read the complaint, Barrino was "overwhelmed by the lawsuit and the allegations," the statement said.

Dickens said Barrino took the overdose because she was "dehydrated and exhausted" and "felt heartbroken and is sorry for any pain she may have caused."

The incidents came at a time when Barrino seemed poised for a comeback. She is prepping for the release of her third album, "Back to Me," set for Aug. 24. The making of the album, her first in nearly four years after touring with “The Color Purple,” was chronicled on her hit VH1 reality show, “Fantasia for Real.”

Barrino has never held her tongue, and a sit-down interview last week after the taping was no different.

“For awhile I thought it was almost over,” she bluntly said of her recording career. Her second album had lackluster sales, compared to her post-“Idol” debut. “I thought maybe people didn’t want to hear what I’ve had to say or hear my music. To have an album out now … I know how long we fought for it. This album I went through a lot of things. I’m happy that it took so long,  because I feel like I can’t do anything without a testimony. Without it being real.”

FANTASIA The “testimony” she attributes to her constant growth has never been easy. Since claiming the “Idol” crown, Barrino has never hid her past from the public: she was raped at age 14; never graduated high school (she recently received an honorary degree after reportedly earning her GED – the process was documented in Season 1 of the
VH1 show); struggled as a young teenage mother; and battled with functional illiteracy. She is also the breadwinner for her family of six.

Through it all, Barrino maintained that she was back to herself, hence the album title, which was coined by comedian Steve Harvey when he told her she reminded him of the Fantasia he fell in love with when she won “Idol.”

“He said, 'You’re back to where you should have stayed,' ” she recalled. “I don’t think it’s that I changed. I think it’s that I went through so much stuff. Sometimes as artists we lose ourselves because we want to go with whatever [people] think is hot. That’s why I love the Erykah Badus, the Jill Scotts and the Angie Stones, because they are who they are and they stick to it. I said, 'You know what, I’m a flat-footed soul singer. This is who I am. I’m not going to pop, lock and drop it.' ”

Barrino hopes the album shows a more confident side of herself -- and she fought for her vision, something her fans saw in tear-jerking detail on the docu-series.

“On those two albums, I really let the record company do what they had to … of course you have to put in work and you have to put in your time. But for this album, I felt I had put in enough time,” she said. “I wanted them to know what I had to say, so I fought for all the songs on this record. I fought for the sound and how I wanted everything. Thank God they let me do me.”

While speculation continues as to what happened in Barrino's home Monday night, VH1 executives and producers of her show are wrangling to figure out how it will affect production.

The second season is currently in production -- cameras were accompanying the singer everywhere, although it has not been confirmed whether they were in her house Monday night. The show's premiere was scheduled for Sept. 19, although it’s uncertain whether the events of Monday night will delay it. 

Executive producer Randy Barbato said he had no doubt in his mind that Barrino would overcome this latest roadblock.

“As a television show, we’re capturing someone who was struggling through so many real life personal crises that we watch her navigate, struggle and evolve. It’s continuing on a larger scale [for Season 2],” Barbato said. “The reason she is so captivating to follow is she is committed to persevering and solving. I’m really hoping that’s the trajectory here. Right now, obviously, it’s a waiting game.”

Barrino seemed to hint that the show would tackle the drama surrounding her personal life, though in light of recent events, the question lingers as to what, if any, will be addressed on the show.

“With this season, I’m not holding back," Barrino said last week. "It’s a lot of questions that everybody wants to know, and I always let them hear it from my mouth. I don’t ever fight back with the press, and I’m not gonna go up to the radio stations and say I’m gonna clear up what they said. I let it smooth out, and let the people hear it from me."

-- Gerrick D. Kennedy

With additional reporting by Maria Elena Fernandez

Photos: (Above) Courtesy of J Records.

(Below) Barrino rehearsing at the Orpheum downtown, with her mother, Diane, for an event in 2009. Credit: Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times.