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 since 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 her 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, Edmonds broke out in 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.”
After the wounds healed, later that year, fate (and her mother) hit again. Driving down Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Boulevard, Edmonds’ 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 her daughter’s card. A day later, he called. A few years after, they were married.
During their 13-year marriage, Edmonds gained 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 Soul Food 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 Soul Food series, Light It Up with Usher, numerous reality projects for DMX and Lil’ Kim, BET’s College Hill franchise and Paula Patton and Angela Bassett’s Jumping the Broom. Today she doubles as the chief operating officer and president of Our Stories Films—created by BET founder Robert L. Johnson—along with being the chief executive 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 in 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 in 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.
Read more at the Shadow League.