Tommie Lee is visibly nervous as she takes her seat in the conference room where our interview is set to take place. She is clad in a lace bodysuit with fabric wing like apparatuses lining her arms and silhouette. The custom-made piece is how we’re used to seeing her — flamboyant and over-the-top. Her eyes aren’t hidden behind sunglasses. A clear sign she’s sober. “I wouldn’t consider myself an alcoholic,” she says. “I’ve gone to rehab. I’ve been 4 months sober now.” We applaud the former Love & Hip Hop Atlanta star.
“I probably started drinking more filming the show,” says Tommie. “Dealing with family issues with my mom. That caused a lot of my stressors. It’s been my way to cope for a minute,” she admitted. Tommie’s drinking has seemingly been the source of her legal issues, but if you let her tell it, she’s not drinking because she’s an alcoholic, she’s drinking to cope with profound issues.
Molested by her uncle; in and out of juvenile centers for running away at a young age; and a strained and toxic relationship with her mother have all contributed to Tommie’s dysfunction. “After seeing myself after the seasons and seeing how, in my real life, I just couldn’t deal to a certain extent because it was a lot of things hitting me at once, [drinking] was like a tranquilizer.”
She admits her fault in many of the situations we’ve seen play out in front of our eyes. “I’m not the victim, I’m usually the villain in the situation.”
On January 7, 2019, Tommie was indicted on child abuse charges when it was reported she drunkenly “bashed” her daughters head into a school locker. The report, compounded with numerous jail stints and an abundance of mug shots, heightened the negative narrative surrounding the TV personality and fans, who supported her ready to throw in the proverbial towel. In Layman’s terms, we were rooting for you took physical form.
“Everything in that report was untrue,” says Tommie. “Physical abuse is the last form of punishment for children in my household. I can count the times I had to be physical with my children on my hand because I could take their phone or put them on punishment. We have a good relationship.” But when Tommie’s 11-year-old daughter, an honor roll student, began getting in trouble at school, she panicked. It felt too familiar despite her sacrifices in life to give her children what she never had. Prior to the incident that led to her arrest, Tommie reveals her daughter had gotten ahold of edible marijuana treats, which she distributed to her classmates. Tommie received a call that students had to be hospitalized because they were high. She immediately lawyered up to prevent her daughter from facing further legal trouble.
“I’m scared as hell,” she reveals. “Nobody said anything for a while then I got a letter in the mail from the police that the state was charging my daughter. I have a juvenile record for running away because my mother’s living conditions were f*cked up. Basically we lived in a shelter — my mom, her boyfriend and my family, she has seven kids. I was in high school. I was embarrassed. I used to get off the school bus at the apartments by the hotel next to us because I didn’t want anyone to know I was living in a hotel.”
Her daughter’s brush with the law was triggering and Tommie handled it the most effective way she knew how. “I know what affected me the most when I was younger, me getting my ass whooped in school. I was chopping up chalk and saying it was coke and that my parents sold drugs and I was a dealer. My mother came to school and beat my a** in front of the whole gym and I knew I ain’t never want her to come back up to that school.”
Prior to the incident in question, Tommie took her daughter on a road trip and had a heart-to-heart with the pre-teen.
“I had a talk with my daughter that weekend, like ‘You have to do good. We got the lawyer but you can’t mess up at all. He’s going to make this go away but you can’t do anything bad, which I thought was understood.”
That Tuesday, Tommie received another call and popped up at her daughter’s school to find her “lolligagging and laughing” in the nurses office. After refusing to take her teacher out of fear of being embarrassed, Tommie said she reacted.
“I took her hoodie and I jacked her up against the locker.” She added, “I’m the last person who’s going to hurt my kids.”
Following the incident, a resource officer took a warrant out on Tommie. She was later rearrested for “stalking” after her daughter told police she had been in contact with her. “My daughter thought she was helping me,” she explains. When asked if she had seen her mom, her daughter lied and said she had cooked her breakfast that morning. Technically, though a lie, it was a violation of her bond order. She was arrested again.
“This situation really hurt me” she says fighting back tears. “It hurt my family.”
Rehab allowed Tommie to self-reflect. While she doesn’t consider her relationship with alcohol on the level of others in treatment, it held a mirror up to her battle with depression. She realized “You have a real good chance to do something with your life and you can lose it all with one mistake.”
Since being released just a week ago, Tommie says she’s focused on her music.
“It’s therapy for me. I have a lot of truth in there. I have club sh*t you can vibe to. It’s a release for me My EP is coming soon. We’re going to finish what we started before all this happened. I have a song with Anthony Hamilton called Truth out now. She is also promoting her documentary that was originally supposed to chronicle the road to her EP. Instead it captured her during a turbulent time in her life.
Watch it, here.
As for returning to Love & Hip Hop Atlanta, Tommie is taking time for herself but would love to fight the narrative she built on TV with TV.
“I appreciate the support from everybody.”