August was supposed to be Fantasia Barrino's comeback month.
For three years, the "American Idol" winner had been working on her third album, recording 100 songs with a variety of producers around the country, selecting tracks that would speak to how far she'd come in her troubled life. To outsiders, everything seemed on track for the Aug. 24 debut of the album, "Back to Me."
But behind the scenes, something else was brewing that eventually led Fantasia to the sad events of Aug. 9, the day she tried to end her life by taking sleeping pills and an entire bottle of Bayer. In a lengthy interview with The Times in Los Angeles on Wednesday, Fantasia opened up about the events that preceded that dark day this summer when she couldn't fight the desire to "sleep forever" and the painful recovery process she just began.
"I always covered up everything so well," Fantasia said, sipping a glass of Malbec after she taped "Lopez Tonight" on Wednesday and returned to her Beverly Hills hotel. "I'm always the bubbly life of the party. And, for so long, I pushed and pushed and pushed. And, this day, I had no push in me. Look at all this stuff I've been through at the age of 26. All of it just overloaded."
Physically, Fantasia could still fool you into thinking that life is perfect. She showed up to the Times interview and photo shoot dressed in a sexy semi-sheer black top and tight pants and a new short hair-do. But when she opened up about the tragic turn her life took recently, it's evident it will be long before she conquers her feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion.
The 26-year-old single mom's well-chronicled life has never been easy. But she has always shared her struggles openly, revealing in a book and Lifetime movie how she had been raped as a teenager, dropped out of school and became pregnant two years later. Winning America's hearts on the "Idol" stage in 2004 changed her life, but it didn't necessarily make it easier. Her lifelong dream to share her singing gift with the world had come true, but with it came the perils of suddenly having money and being famous. Her first album, "Free Yourself," sold 1.8 million copies, but her sophomore set disappointed, posting less than half of those sales. Along the way, she earned eight Grammy nominations, landed the lead on Broadway in "The Color Purple," and faced more hurdles when she inexplicably missed shows. Eventually, Fantasia revealed she had two tumors removed from her vocal cords, which had threatened her singing career.
Once she recovered, Fantasia decided it was time to take chances again. Last summer, she began filming her popular VH1 reality series, "Fantasia For Real," an attempt to share her highs and lows as she prepared her new album, continued to be the sole caretaker of her entire family, readied to tour a final time with "The Color Purple," earned her G.E.D. and overcame her substantial financial problems. When her VH1 series premiered successfully in January, it seemed her fans were as ready for her return as she was.
Unfortunately, for the R&B and soul singer, her long-awaited album's launch on Tuesday was overshadowed by a disturbing turn in her personal life. What follows is Fantasia's account of what transpired in her Charlotte, N.C., home and what she's doing to heal herself.