Today I am concerned for my former student LaTavia Marie Roberson. LaTavia became my student in 1991 when officials at Sony/Columbia wanted to kick her and her cousins out of what became Destiny’s Child (the label said they wanted a singing group in Destiny’s Child. They were not interested in a six member group where LaTavia rapped and danced, along with her cousins who only danced). There was no way that I was going to take that decision lying down. I had assembled the group, together with the former manager Ann Tillman. It was important that I had deciding rights and Ann agreed. This happened way before Beyoncé’s father forced his way into management. Once Sony/Columbia made their feelings known I requested a six month grace period to find out if I could save at least one of the girls (LaTavia or perhaps one of her cousins. My original vision was a four girl group). LaTavia ended up being the best of the three, so I took her into the group.
Beyoncé begged me to save her best friends position—that’s right, I said best friend. Beyoncé didn’t have many friends back then. She was afraid of the other children at school, in the neighborhood and just in general. LaTavia became her right arm. Beyoncé could always count on loyalty from LaTavia and—always the truth—until LaTavia couldn’t count on her (2000 breakup). LaTavia never treated Beyoncé like she was a princess. While the other girls were terrified of Beyoncé’s parents, LaTavia wasn’t. She was real with Bey and back in 1989 Bey appreciated such friendship.
LaTavia was a brilliant student. Out of all the girls she was the best student academically. Always bringing report cards home full of A&B’s, LaTavia seemed to enjoy life and was always interested in learning new things. I called her my little Diva. How appropriate she’d end up on America’s R&B Divas. But, now LaTavia is in trouble—once again, and I am not going to abandon her. She hasn’t been kind to me but I understand why. In fact, none of the girls of Destiny’s Child have been nice to me. I have never heard from them, not even to say I hope your fine, but my God is a forgiving God. I do not hold any grudges. I went on to help guide 15 other platinum selling artists to superstardom, so this is NOT about me.
I have heard from friends, still living in the US, that people are bashing LaTavia because she won’t sing on R&B Divas. It is not that LaTavia won’t sing, she can’t sing…trauma prevents it. Singing use to bring her such joy but when LaTavia was 13-years-old she confessed to me in her voice lesson that she was being molested (a fact she revealed on R&B Diva's third season, third Episode). She had not told anyone else the horrific details, other than me. She was terrified of telling her mother, that her mother’s husband, LaTavia’s stepfather, Charles Mitchell, a former Houston Police Officer in the Juvenile Division, was indeed her rapist. Unfortunately Charles Mitchell was allowed to retire in 2009 and is living life in Houston to this date, untouched by his behavior. I shudder to think how many other people’s children this horrific pedophile has hurt. Back in 1993/94 I believed LaTavia’s claims and immediately, I sprang into action, calling Charles on the telephone. I initially told him not to bother picking LaTavia up from voice lesson. I wanted to give her extra time to re-work technique. Charles bought my explanation hook line and sinker and hung up the telephone.
What my “little diva” had been through was as traumatic an experience as anyone could suffer. Her childhood had been taken from her. Her rape lasted 5 years before I was able to help her. I told Charles that if he even looked at LaTavia cockeyed I’d go straight to his superiors. The abuse stopped cold but the trauma of it all lived on. She was forced to live with her pedophile, calling him daddy, until 1997/98. LaTavia’s mother told me that she needed to have proof before reacting. Again—I understood her reaction. It wasn’t the right reaction but I understood it and did not judge. LaTavia became my focus. Once Charles had been exposed LaTavia felt better. That is what we all thought. I knew better. The psychological effects of not being believed by her mother took its toll and she went into recluse after the girls break-up in 2000. Drinking, drugs and a sociopathic boyfriend in Brandon Casey became LaTavia’s way of life. He told her daily that she couldn’t sing. He jeered her for even trying to pursue singing. Needless to say, Brandon and Brian Casey are no friends of mine.
I have known LaTavia all her childhood life and well into adulthood. I hope that her fans will give her the benefit of the doubt. She is terrified of singing. Psychologically, when she sings she will undoubtedly re-live her nightmares…Destiny’s Child included. Beyoncé in a selfish move, decided not to save LaTavia and LeToya when she got them kicked out of Destiny’s Child. Her father and mother did not reward disloyalty and Beyoncé was her mother’s daughter. She wrote a horrible letter to Sony/Columbia that ultimately got the girls kicked out in the end. She is not innocent in LaTavia’s pain. Her friendship with LaTavia, ruined, Beyoncé’s horrific act crushed LaTavia, and me. I couldn’t believe that she had been so callus but then again, I know Beyoncé’s parent’s—well. The apple on the proverbial Knowles family tree eventually fell on Beyoncé. I knew this would happen. Beyoncé thought writing a song titled “Story of Beauty,” and releasing it on the “Survivor” album would suffice as an apology. That story catalogued LaTavia’s situation, in detail. However, LaTavia didn’t need a damn song. She needed her friend, a friend who ultimately abandoned her and bashed her in the press to save her own career.
I cringed as I watched Angie Stone, whom I admire, put LaTavia in the embarrassing situation of asking her to sing at her birthday party on R&B Diva’s. LaTavia’s tears crushed my very resolve. I had to write this open letter. I ask LaTavia’s fans not to judge her but to encourage her. I ask the media to be patient. You don’t know the real story—the full story. Her trauma goes much deeper than she is ready to reveal to the public right now but, She can SING! She will find the way back.
LaTavia I am praying for you. I hope that one day you will find the joy you once had, a joy you shared with me for so many years. It has been a difficult road for you with all that has happened. I remember that you were a little girl who had character. You believed in God and you believed in you. Look up more and know that God will not leave you.
Be Blessed…”My GROWN UP Diva!!”.
Your Teacher and friend,
David Lee Brewer