The stunning transformation of Kandi Burruss

How did you first hear of Kandi Burruss? Was it on an episode of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, a show in which she is a lead? Or perhaps you came by her music first, either when she was part of a girl group or was striking out on her own? Either way, Burruss has been in the center of pop culture zeitgeist for decades, showing that she not only has what it takes to be a star, but also the staying power to hold onto it.

The daughter of a reverend who was the son and grandson of bishops, Burruss has wholesome, religious roots, as noted by The Christian Post. From her early life in Georgia to her reality television stardom, Burruss has transformed from a young girl full of ambition and talent into a matriarch with serious clout and impressive means.

So how is it that Burruss came to be where she is today? And what happened along the way? Did she have to face any roadblocks? Read on to witness the stunning transformation of Kandi Burruss.

As a child, Kandi Burruss was a "saver"

As a child growing up outside of Atlanta, Ga., Kandi Burruss didn't exactly come from a family with tons of money. But that didn't quash her innate entrepreneurial spirit, which she nurtured from an early age. "I was a saver as a kid," she explained to Money. "That was my thing — I always wanted to make sure I had something [stashed away], you know?" That budget-savvy instinct would come to benefit her later in life, too.

Burruss also has fond memories of spending time with her mother, while both of them would imagine what it would be like to be rich. They would drive around wealthy neighborhoods boasting large homes and think of what could be. "We'd ride around all the time and dream — like, 'Oh, one day we're going to have a house like that,'" she said. She added that, as an adult, it's a bit surreal that she actually can afford the homes she once fantasized about. Sometimes dreams really do come true!

Kandi Burruss lost her brother when she was only 15

While Kandi Burruss' childhood was just like most girls, when she became a teenager, her family was struck by sudden and unexpected tragedy. Her brother, Patrick, passed away. "I ... just turned 15, and he was in Mexico in a car accident," she recalled on Xscape Still Kickin' It (via Bravo's The Daily Dish). "It was devastating to me." Patrick was 22 years old. How unbelievably sad.

But just because Burruss' brother had passed on, that didn't stop her from talking to him as often as possible. "When I would say my prayers before I would go to bed, I would just ask God, 'Would you please allow me to talk to Patrick?'" she shared on an episode of Kandi's Wedding (via The Daily Dish). "Sure enough, he would appear in my dreams." Burruss would also pretend that he was still at school instead of having passed away, which helped her cope with the pain of her loss.

As an adult, Burruss often wonders what her big brother would have been like had he lived and if they would have worked together. We're so sorry for your loss, Kandi.

Kandi Burruss signed her first record deal as a high school junior... and got super famous

It would seem that Kandi Burruss was destined to become a celebrity from very early on in her life. In fact, she was a founding member of a girl group called Xscape as a teenager, which was quickly discovered by producer Jermaine Dupri. "We started our group when I was in the ninth grade," she revealed to Forbes. "We got our record deal when I was in the 11th grade." Then the group dropped their first single just before her senior year in high school, and voilà! They had a hit song.

Thus began the adventure that would render Xscape one of the top R&B groups of all time, with all three of their albums being certified platinum. Thanks to them, along with peers like OutKast, Atlanta became a musical hub, says Burruss. "We were definitely at the beginning of it," she told Variety. "LaFace had just moved to Atlanta in the early '90s, started their label here, and brought a lot of opportunities for a lot of people to do their thing." And the rest is history!

After Xscape dissolved, Kandi Burruss struggled with her confidence

From 1993 onward, Xscape ruled the R&B airwaves, serving up singles that frequently broke onto the Billboard charts. But after a while, tensions flared in the group, as the ambitions of its members began to clash. That made Kandi Burruss quite concerned. "One of the group members wanted to go solo," she shared in an interview with Forbes. "I felt like it was the end of the world." Given that she'd just purchased her first home, Burruss was facing bills to pay, even though she was only 19 years old.

That meant that Burruss had to figure out what her next move would be, as the future was looking a bit unpredictable. "I didn't have anybody who could afford my bills at that point," she continued. Fortunately with a lot of talent and a little luck, Burruss was able to calculate which next step would be her best option for future success. In fact, one of her greatest accomplishments was still in front of her. 

Kandi Burruss won a Grammy for writing "No Scrubs"

Not one to give up in the face of difficulty, once Xscape was dissolved, Kandi Burruss and fellow group member Tameka "Tiny" Cottle decided to go into business making demo songs for record labels. That was when their manager introduced them to the famed producer Kevin "She'kspere" Briggs — and that's when things really started falling into place. "When we met She'kspere he played us this track," she explained in a chat with Forbes. "We asked him if we could take the track and re-write the song for it." And thus, the iconic 1999 feminist anthem "No Scrubs" was born. 

Once the song was recorded, it found its way into the hands of the legendary record executive L.A. Reid. "I met him at a party and he told me that he was going to make this the biggest hit of my career," she continued. "I took for granted what he was saying."

"No Scrubs" went on to be recorded by one of the biggest girl groups of all time: TLC, as noted by NPR. It spent four weeks in the top position in the charts, and won Burruss a Grammy Award.

Kandi Burruss became a mom in 2002

In 2002, Kandi Burruss celebrated another joyful first in her life: She gave birth to her daughter, Riley. Unfortunately for both Burruss women, the girl's father — Russell Spencer — didn't take an active role in their lives. "Riley's dad and I — we never co-parented. He never was involved," she revealed in an interview with E! News. "We would hear from him for a little while then you wouldn't hear from him again for like a year." That's why Burruss decided that it wasn't a good situation for their daughter, and she quietly dealt with that in a private manner.

Fortunately, Burruss found love again, and, for a while, was engaged to Ashley "A.J." Jewell, who took an active interest in Riley's life. Sadly, he passed away in 2009 after an altercation in Atlanta, as noted by People, which devastated the young girl. "She cried so hard when I told her he passed," she told Xappeal. "He was the dad she didn't have, because her father really isn't in her life, so for her it was like losing a dad." 

Initially, Kandi Burruss didn't know if Real Housewives of Atlanta would be popular

You might be tempted to think that Kandi Burruss would only get one chance at fame and that she peaked in the '90s. But that couldn't be farther from the truth, as she was selected very early on to be one of the stars of the Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA) – which was a big surprise for her. "When I first ... joined the 'Housewives' ten years ago, I did not know it was going to be as big of a deal as it was, and is, for me," she confessed in a 2019 interview with Variety. "I definitely didn't think that it was going to be something that would take up years of my life."

In fact, Burruss was coming at it from a musician's perspective, unaware she was about to become a bona fide reality television star. She thought she was just going to do the show for a year. But, of course, it turned out to be a completely "life-changing" experience for Burruss, who's been on the show for over a decade.

Kandi Burruss' wedding was an homage to Coming to America

After many years and several heartbreaks, Kandi Burruss finally found true love with producer Todd Tucker. The pair met in 2011, got engaged in 2013, and tied the knot the following year in Atlanta, much to Burruss' delight. "This is one of the best days of my life! I never imagined that I would marry my best friend," she gushed in an interview with In Touchadding, "And to have just had the wedding of my dreams, it's all been so beautiful."

Burruss and Tucker spared no expense on their wedding day, according to Bravo's The Daily Dish, sharing a report from In Touch. In fact, the newlyweds reportedly forked over a whopping $400,000 for the event, which was an homage to the Eddie Murphy classic Coming to America. Burruss wore a $20,000 Reco Chapple gown (custom made, of course), paired with crystal-studded stilettos designed by Christian Louboutin. Even the cake was jewel-encrusted, with a price tag of $2,500. Talk about decadent!

Naturally the crowd was chock-full of celebs, as was the musical line-up that guests danced to all evening. Congrats, you two!  

Kandi Burruss used RHOA to level up financially

One thing that Kandi Burruss was determined to do was make a profit off of her reality star fame. "What's the point of having this huge platform if you are not benefiting off of it?" she asked Money. Good question, Kandi!

That's why Burruss made a pledge to manifest her entrepreneurial visions and not fall prey to making empty promises. "If I speak anything on that show and say it's something I want to do, it is a rule of thumb for me and my team — it has to happen," she continued. "I am going to be a person of my word."

Indeed Burruss did exactly that, as she's now worth $30 million, as noted by Celebrity Net Worthmaking her one of the richest Real Housewives. On top of her annual RHOA salary of $450,000 per season, she also has a children's lifestyle brand, an intimate toy company, and several restaurants to her name. That's on top of the royalties she collects for "No Scrubs" and "Bills, Bills, Bills." Talk about diversifying your revenue streams! 

In 2017, Kandi Burruss went on an Xscape reunion tour

In addition to all that Kandi Burruss was already doing — running her businesses, raising a family, and starring on a successful reality television show — when the opportunity came to once again go on tour with Xscape came along, Burruss couldn't say no. And as it turns out, doing so rekindled a flame she'd let dwindle. "When Xscape came back together for a tour in 2017, and all of our shows were selling out, it made me miss being on stage and producing music on a regular basis," she shared in a chat with Variety. "That's what I did for most of my life." She added that being on tour was just as "amazing" in 2017 as it was back in their early heyday, when they were new to the world of success and celebrity.

With the energy of the stellar reunion freshly under her belt, Burruss decided she needed to return to her musical roots. All she needed to do was figure out the next step.

Kandi Burruss made her Broadway debut in 2018

In 2018, Kandi Burruss made the next step in her career: She starred as Matron "Mama" Morton in the wildly popular Broadway musical Chicago, a lifelong dream come true. "I have been wanting to do Broadway all my life, since I was in high school," she revealed in an interview with Broadway.com. "For whatever reason, I didn't pursue it as hard as I should have." So when the opportunity came knocking, she excitedly jumped at the chance.

Interestingly enough, the way that Burruss was offered the role was something of a "fluke." She made an audition tape for a television musical, and she chose "When You're Good to Mama" as her audition song. But her agent liked it so much that he sent it onto the Chicago company, and they asked her to come in for an audition. Obviously she nailed it, as Burruss graced the Chicago stage for a three-month run from January through March in 2018, as noted by Broadway Buzz.

Kandi Burruss and her husband used a surrogate for their second child

On Jan. 6, 2016, Kandi Burruss and Todd Tucker welcome their first child together into the world, according to Us Weekly. Their son, Ace, weighed seven pounds and six ounces at birth after a safe and successful delivery, although the pregnancy was high risk (via BET).

But when Tucker and Burruss decided to have a second child together, they made headlines for their decision to use a surrogate, making Burruss one of several celebrities you didn't know used a surrogtea. Initially, their decision wasn't met with much enthusiasm — both from family members and the general public — as they were misinformed and assumed she was doing it for cosmetic purposes. "Come on, honey. I got money to get my body back together if I need to," she proclaimed in an interview with Tamron Hall. "It's not a vain decision!" Tell 'em, Kandi!

Little Blaze Tucker made her grand entrance on Nov. 22, 2019, weighing eight pounds and one ounce, as noted by Entertainment Tonight

Kandi Burruss won Season 3 of The Masked Singer

Before Kandi Burruss was a reality star, she was famous for her vocal stylings. But over the years, Burrus put music on the back burner, partially because she was pursuing other avenues and partially because of what people were saying. "I kind of lost confidence in my voice because I'd be seeing people posting and tweeting 'Oh, she can't sing. I hate her voice' and, you know, making jokes about me as far as like my vocals or whatever," she confessed to The Grio. "And so that stuff kind of plays into my head." You can see how that would have an impact on her.

But once again, an opportunity came knocking that Burruss couldn't refuse: She was invited to compete in The Masked Singer in 2020. Not only did she crush it on the show, but she beat out every other contestant to win first prize as the "Night Angel." Congratulations, Kandi! Enjoy the hater tears.

Kandi Burruss says her brother is her guardian angel

In many ways, Kandi Burruss has really undergone a stunning transformation, from a teenager with big dreams to a woman with an empire. But one thing that will always be the same for her is the love she holds for her departed older brother. "I know in my heart of hearts, whether it's true or not, he's my guardian angel," she revealed to The Grio. "I have accomplished so much and so many great things have happened to me after his passing."

That doesn't mean Burruss believes his death had to happen for her to manifest her destiny, though. It's more that Burruss knows that her brother is always watching out for her and has always had every confidence in her. "If he were here, I know he would say 'I told you you had what it takes to make the pros,'" she continued. Indeed she did, and, in 2020, her Bravo show Old Lady Gang was announced and she starred in The Chi.