Coming to town

Toni Braxton’s breathing again

Courtesy of Toni Braxton

Guaranteed: Severe wardrobe malfunctions, like lightning, don’t strike twice.

Toni Braxton let a lot hang out in the backside region last week when part of her dress popped off during a concert in New Brunswick, N.J. Not that her 45-year-old body didn’t look fantastic, and that expose couldn’t have hurt sales for her tour, which hits the James L. Knight Center 8 p.m. Thursday.

From the sounds of it on a recent conference call, the singer has it all together now. Really. Braxton is a survivor. The Maryland native who shot to fame with such hits as Unbreak My Heart, You Makin Me High and Breathe Again, has been through her share of stuff: bankruptcy, divorce from Keri Lewis (just finalized), health issues (her son is autistic, and Braxton suffers from various ailments including the autoimmune disorder lupus).

The Grammy winning Braxton’s Family Values star is nonetheless upbeat and promises to give the concert her all in support of a duets album with longtime collaborator Babyface Edmonds ( Give You My Heart). Their Love, Marriage & Divorce goes on sale Dec. 3.

How did it feel to reunite with Babyface?

I was feeling a little depressed, like I couldn’t control my life as much as before. He told me, ‘That’s part of your story. You gotta get up and do it even if you don’t want to.’ That’s the challenge. We have such a great relationship and have been through the same kind of things. But to be honest, I’m still nervous, a little unsure and cautious. That’s what we need guts for. I’m going to have fun this time. I love performing.

In your opinion, what does it take to be a great performer?

Someone like Ella Fitzgerald — her discipline, the amount of shows she did. I think to be successful is knowing the limitations and knowing how far you can go, how far you can stretch your instrument. I try to understand my voice, my body. I wish I could jump and dance more, but I’m in my 40s now and had to change. That doesn’t mean I’m limiting anything. I know who I am and how I got here.

How are you doing physically?

I feel good. I’m just getting ready to be Toni Braxton. This is the first time in my career that I’m not thinking about the No. 1 song. Everything I’ve been through, it’s an adjustment to look at this [tour] as just art. It’s about making music and enjoying it. That’s refreshing. I have to remember to breathe in between songs.

How has lupus affected your performing abilities?

When I was diagnosed in 2008 I remember not knowing much about it. Of course, I Googled it and then my doctors educated me more. Once I realized my life would never be the same I stopped feeling sorry for myself. I don’t have to let this hinder me. My body is allergic to itself, which makes it more delicate to perform. I’m on so many meds — I was also diagnosed with blood clots. I have good days and bad days. It’s like having the worst flu of your life pretty much a couple times a week. I don’t want sympathy. I don’t want empathy. I want to enjoy the quality of my life.

Your debut solo album came out in 1993, the same year Whitney Houston, Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey were atop the charts. How was it being surrounded by those powerhouses?

Wow, that shows my age. I’m an old lady now, been doing this 20 years! It all seemed surreal. I didn’t enjoy it like I was supposed to. To be compared to Whitney? Well, you can’t touch her. Janet and Mariah had an impact on my career. Those girls, I still look up to them.

Madeleine Marr

Tickets at, 800-745-3000

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