T.T. Torrez, daytime personality on iPower 92.1, made her original world premiere in the dazzle of a flash bulb. The Bronx-born straight-talker was the first baby born in a new hospital, and the New York Post commemorated the birth by splashing tens of thousands of newspapers with her photo. “My mom will tell you that I was born to be in the entertainment business,” she laughs.
She was also apparently born with a will and heart of complementary strength, because she’s come through tough times with humor, resilience, and attitude.
T.T. grew up in New York with six brothers and sisters. Her mother was a single parent living in one of the nation’s most expensive cities. So when T.T. was a young teen, her mother moved the family to South Carolina. But life didn’t improve much. “There was no mass transportation, and we struggled even more,” T.T. remembers. “We knew what it was like to be hungry. People tried to do what they could for us. But there were seven of us! What could they do?”
In spite of it all, T.T. carried the feeling that God had big plans for her. “I always felt like I was highly-favored,” she says. “I always knew that I never wanted to end up like this. I never wanted to be in that type of environment.”
When she was 14, her mother took T.T. to a friend’s house for what was to be a week-long trip. She didn’t return. “Weeks turned into months. She just dropped me and left me. A lot of it may sound easy to talk about now, but it took me a long time to get to this point. At the time, I was devastated.”
What T.T. didn’t know, is that her mother and family had moved to Virginia. “I had no communication with her. I had no communication with my sisters,” T.T. says. One day her older brother showed up with a message from her mother: “She thought it would be better for me. But in reality, as a child, I would rather be with you struggling, than be without you,” T.T. remembers thinking. “So I just learned how to solely grow up and depend on myself. I worked four or five jobs. I babysat, I worked at a daycare. I worked at a mall taking surveys. When finally me and my mom got back in contact, she never really knew how to apologize for what she did. I would go and give her money, and try to buy food for the house for my sisters, still being the mom, still being the one that kept the family [together] during the crisis.”
After graduating high school in 2000, T.T. looked forward to college and hoped to possibly get involved in radio. “I didn’t have a childhood growing up,” she says. “I beat the odds and graduated high school. College was a way for me to get out of the environment that I was in, to escape the madness, and have some stability in my life.”
She headed to Norfolk State, and quickly managed a spot on the college’s radio station. “I just hustled,” she remembers. “I said, ‘Hey, I did radio before,’ knowing I hadn’t, but I had a mouth and I knew I wanted to.”
Her first professional gig came soon after when a friend introduced her to a station owner in Charlotte, North Carolina. After a few months commuting, she transferred colleges, but before graduation, took a radio job in South Carolina. “I can remember my first salary, and living in this one-bedroom apartment. But I was so driven about the radio business and I was doing something I loved to do. My life was my work.”
But her station soon reorganized with drastic management changes, and T.T. found herself without a job. “It was a humbling experience because I was the ‘it girl’ in Charleston on the radio, but I had to go to the unemployment office and stand in line just like everybody else. At first it was kind of embarrassing [to hear], ‘I just listened to you! You’re in this line too?’”
Weeks later, when she was offered a job in Washington D.C., she moved without any savings or housing. It was a low-paying, part time position, but she was desperate. Once in D.C., she worked during the day, and slept in her car. Radio One personality and Russ Parr’s co-host Alfredas offered T.T. a vacant room in her house. “That was yet again another blessing from God, who highly favored me, to open that window. I lived in her basement. She did not charge me rent. She just let me stay there.”
Although she was settled domestically, T.T. had no intention of staying in a part time position for long. After impressing some Connecticut radio executives with her air-check and interview, she was offered a position, and moved once again.
Minutes outside of entertainment mecca New York City, her days of struggling seemed a distant memory. T.T. remembers thinking, “Everything is going good for me. I meet this guy and I have this fabulous relationship going on. I feel like I’m being loved. I’m endorsing every product, I’m at every party.” Still younger than 23, she was making more money than ever. “And then I get fired.” She laughs uproariously.
“To this day, I don’t have a clue, but I have a clue, you know what I’m saying? This business, people have to understand, when it comes to a woman in radio, if you’re very vocal and very comfortable in your skin, a lot of men can’t handle that. This can be a very male chauvinist business. You have to be able to be strong in who you are without being disrespectful and without compromising who you are. I’ve been very vocal about certain things. If I think something is not right, I’m going to speak up about it. I’m not going to let people walk all over me because for so many years, that has happened to me. So finally when I found that inner strength to speak up, that was not tolerated.”
T.T. didn’t let the news derail her. “I never allow people to stop me from doing what I love to do,” she says. “The very next day after I got fired, I was interviewing. I knew I’m talented. I knew I had the connections. I was going to make something happen with this.”
But two weeks after getting fired, she suffered a miscarriage, and not long after, her relationship ended. “After that happened, I was very depressed. I’m a very, very private person and nobody knew what I was going through. I don’t open up to a lot of people.”
She decided to look for work in New York, and she found it, with On Demand Music Choice.
But as T.T. prepared to be uprooted once again, she was battling more than moving blues. “At the time I couldn’t see the end of the storm. I didn’t want to deal with the world,” she confides. It was 2005, five years since she’d been a feisty college freshman. “That day in my apartment, I had what I call a nervous breakdown. I had cut off the phone. I was angry and I wanted to end my life.”
Inexplicably, a call made it through. It was Russ Parr. “I just started crying,” T.T. admits. She confided everything. He offered to pay for counseling, and she accepted. But she wouldn’t find liberation until another friend stepped in. “I was still dealing with a lot of things I’d never dealt with as a child,” T.T. says. “[Pioneering programmer] LaMonda Williams, who is just my absolute mentor and I say a blessing from God for, invited me to a spiritual fast.”
T.T. wasn’t thrilled about the idea. “My mom has always kept us in the church, but I turned my back on the church because I felt like they turned their back on us. I was angry for many years,” she admits. But hoping to deal with her despair once and for all, she agreed.
“It was all females in the class and everybody was talking about their problems, from being molested, being abused, abandonment. I felt like there was a piece of me inside of everybody else who was in that room. When it came to my turn, all I could do was cry. I had a transformation. Everything came to light for me. God showed me things that I never saw there before.”
She seized a new relationship with God. “I realize now that you can be angry at God. But you have to talk to Him and tell Him that you’re angry.”
With a spiritual foundation and counseling, she says doors opened. “Once I began dealing with my inner demons, with my issues that I’d carried for so many years, that’s when I became a better person, a smarter person, a better business woman. I started to feel a little more comfortable within myself. I started to handle myself a little more maturely. I could communicate with people without copping attitudes. I started working on my craft and really getting out there and networking with people.”
Restored, T.T. was ready for the future. “Of course, I landed here, and Richmond was my choice to come,” T.T. says. That was February, and her popularity has grown ever since. She was active in Barack Obama’s campaign, and she hosts charity events, with a special dedication to breast cancer awareness and research.
“What you hear on the radio is every part of me. I’m not afraid to embrace who I am. Some people love it, some people hate it. But I am who I am at the end of the day. I will always provide the best entertainment as possible, because they deserve that. I couldn’t be in the position that I am number one, if it wasn’t for the support and love of the community, and of this city.”
She’s managed to find a bond with her mother she didn’t believe possible. “It’s not really a mother-daughter relationship, because those years have flown by,” T.T. admits. “But I have total respect for her. I love her to death. I just realize that parents sometimes make decisions based on emotions. At the time she really thought it was the best thing for me. I don’t think that mentally and emotionally she thought that it would have a backlash on me.”
T.T. says she’d like to have children “eventually” and explains, “Because I didn’t have that family structure, I would want that for my child. So I don’t plan to have kids in the next five years, because I don’t want to be selfish. I want to be in a position where I am doing my thing – TV, books, clothing, accessories – and all of that is up and running. And then once I have my baby, it’s all about recitals, ballet, and piano, football, whatever they want to do.”
To look gorgeous, T.T. shares, “I do a full body detox but most importantly, I drink a lot of water, I exercise, and I have a fabulous trainer.” She gives praise and loyalty to her “glam squad;” stylist Jennifer Lynch, makeup artist Janasee, and hair stylist Dyriel.
But ultimately, T.T. believes beauty is about spirit. “I think the key to looking good is how you feel inside. For years, I thought if I looked sexy on the outside, then it’ll make me feel good on the inside. It’s more important for me now to feel good on the inside. I take a lot of time investing in my spiritual side. I just really try to keep my mental state healthy.”
Outspoken and compassionate, T.T. Torrez has found perspective on the difficulties she’s overcome. “Those trials and tribulations that I was going through put me in a position to share and inspire so many people,” she says. “For years my voice was taken away. But now I have a voice for many people who feel they might not have one.”
by Cesca Janece Waterfield