MELANIE J. SIMS
CHICAGO (AP) -- When Tamar Braxton's "Love and War" debuted at No.2 on Billboard's 200 albums chart last September, her sisters sent their congratulations via Instagram and Twitter.
Braxton, the singer-turned-reality star-turned-singer again, had been expecting more from them, and in her signature dramatic style, she let her sisters know they'd dropped the ball. Viewers watched the confrontation unfold on the hit WEtv reality series, "Braxton Family Values."
Months later, she received three Grammy nominations for her comeback album, and Traci, Trina, Towanda and eldest sister, Grammy-winning Toni, picked up the phone and called their baby sister.
"I got multiple texts from them as well, congratulating me," said Braxton, 36. "And Toni's the most. She says if I rub her Grammys it will bring me good luck."
Braxton could be mirroring her sister's success when the Grammy Awards are presented Sunday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. "Love and War" is nominated for best urban contemporary album, and the title track is up for best R&B song and R&B performance.
"I knew when she got the album together, she'd be great," said Vince Herbert, Braxton's husband and manager, the record executive who signed Lady Gaga. Herbert stars with his wife on their WEtv spinoff, "Tamar & Vince."
Since "Braxton Family Values" debuted in 2011, the youngest Braxton has connected with a core fan base as audiences discovered a reality star who is outspoken, funny and ready for a real singing career. Braxton was a hit on the blogs, and she convinced plenty of fans that she was, indeed, "the bomb-dot-com" (one of her signature phrases).
"I think people root for her because she's willing to put it all out there," said Lauren Gellert, WEtv's senior vice president of production and development. "She hides nothing. She fights hard. She loves hard. She plays hard. She works hard. ... She holds nothing back, and I think that's really an artist. Someone who's just willing to put themselves out there full force."
Braxton isn't the only reality star heading for possible Grammy gold. Faith Evans' "R&B Divas: Faith Evans," which she recorded on the TVOne reality series "R&B Divas: Atlanta," is nominated for best R&B album.
Other singers have looked to television to build their buzz and gain fans -- like rising R&B singer K. Michelle from VH1's "Love & Hip Hop," while other reality shows feature socialites who try to dabble in music -- and fail.
Braxton said she's found success on TV because she had been working on her craft behind the scenes for years, not just when cameras are rolling.
"The difference is I'm not a lucky girl who got a chance to be on a reality show and decided to do a record," Braxton said. "I am a singer who's on a reality show, who got an opportunity to do an album, so it was backwards for me. I was always a singer first, and I will always be a singer first."
Braxton gave birth to her first child, Logan, in 2013. She's co-hosting the daytime talk show "The Real," has toured with John Legend and won three Soul Train Awards.
Now there's just the matter of the Grammys, a topic Braxton has been trying to avoid. "I still can't believe it. I'm still numb to it," she said.
Up until last week, she wasn't even sure who else had been nominated. Her husband broke the news while she was hanging out with good friend and R&B queen Mary J. Blige, a nine-time Grammy winner.
"'Dude, you're in the category with Rihanna and Fantasia. This is huge for good luck!'" Herbert said of the best urban contemporary album nomination.
With new opportunities swirling around her, Braxton -- who released an underwhelming debut in 2000 and was dropped from five record labels -- says this isn't the time to "lay in a bed of roses."
"It's time to step, step," she said. "And chop, chop."
Follow Melanie Sims at twitter.com/MelanieJoySims
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