Rapper T.I. is defending himself after facing incredible backlash for admitting that he accompanies his daughter to the gynaecologist every year to hear from her doctor that her hymen is still intact.
The 39-year-old says that, out of respect for his 18-year-old daughter Deyjah, he’s remained quiet since earlier this month, when he bragged on the Ladies Like Us podcast that he accompanied her on her annual pelvic exams to ensure that she is still a virgin.
But now he and his wife Tiny Harris, 44, are speaking publicly for the first time about the scandal he jokingly calls ‘hymengate,’ sitting down with Jada Pinkett Smith and her mother Adrienne Banfield-Jones in a new episode of Red Table Talk.
Sitting down with sympathetic interviewers who often gave him the benefit of the doubt, T.I. was quick to defend himself against the backlash, arguing that there was little fault in what he said and what he’s done — and blaming others for overreacting.
Referring to the podcast interview, T.I. says that it was done ‘in a very joking matter.’
‘I just began to — from a place of truth — I began to embellish and exaggerate,’ he says. ‘And I think a lot of people kind of took it extremely literal. Because if you put any of my reputations, like who I am as a father, who I’ve been. I honestly thought people knew me better than that.’
Jada pushes him, asking if he understands the sensitivity of the subject he was discussing.
T.I. replies that he didn’t understand it at the time, but he does now — but still, he blames the public for misunderstanding him rather than what he said or claims to have done.
‘My intentions, I think, have been terribly misconstrued,’ he says.
‘Let me set this record straight,’ he goes on. ‘I never said I was in any exam room, that is an assumption.’
Most of the criticism aimed at T.I. actually made no assumption that he was in the exam room, as he’d explained that he just spoke to the doctor after the exam. Critics took issue with the fact he discussed Deyjah’s hymen with her doctor.
‘I never said that it was being done present day as an 18-year-old,’ he goes on, while his wife interjects that Deyjah was 15 or 16 at the time.
In fact, T.I. did speak about the annual gynaecologists in the present tense, indicating that they were still happening.
He said that every year, he makes an appointment for Deyjah, and can be heard quite clearly in the audio recording of the podcast saying, ‘As of her 18th birthday, her hymen is still intact.’
Speaking on Red Table Talk, T.I. also says that Deyjah’s mother Tiny was present as well.
Tiny, meanwhile, says that T.I. never actually made the doctor’s appointments, despite the rapper saying that he did in the podcast interview.
‘All of this false narrative has just been sensationalized,’ he argues.
T.I. also says that Deyjah never minded that her parents both came to the appointments — but ‘she did have a problem’ with her dad talking about it publicly.
‘And I understand that. And I am incredibly apologetic to her for that. To her. Not to any of these other strangers, any of these weirdos that just kind of toss lies around for fun,’ he says.
Tiny adds: ‘I definitely understood why she would feel like it was personal to her. Deyjah’s a quiet child. She doesn’t talk a lot.’
T.I. then shifts the conversation, arguing that ‘society’ doesn’t want him to be involved in his daughter’s life.
‘I want to know, what is the purpose and place of a father in this society?’ he says. ‘Because a father like myself, who wants to be as involved and as attentive as possible, we could draw the conclusion of, we just donate sperm and come pay for things and we have no say-so in how things are handled.’
Jada and her mom disagree, telling him that no one has a problem with him being involved with his daughter or ‘protecting’ her.
The issue, Jada says, is the hymen part.
Rapper and actor T.I. comes to the table with his wife Tiny to address the controversy around him taking his daughter to the gynaecologist to ensure she’s still a virgin. Part 1 of a special 2-part Red Table Talk.
Posted by Red Table Talk on Sunday, 24 November 2019
Jada tells him that, as a man, he can’t understand what it’s like for a young woman finding her sexuality. She even adds that she has had to have conversations with her husband Will Smith about the difference between protecting his daughters and controlling them.
‘So when I heard what happened, I said, I know what he’s trying to say,’ Jada tells him. ‘He’s like, I’m present in a way that anything that she needs… I’m right here. I got her. I totally understood that.’
But, she says, people who heard the interview saw him as trying to control his daughter’s virginity.
T.I. replies: ‘The word control is very… in order to guide or direct, you must have a certain level of control.’
‘I think that in the age or the time where black women are the most unprotected, unattended, disregarded women on the planet, I’m being criticized because I’m willing to go above and beyond to protect mine,’ he says.
‘And I’m talking about all of the little slimy, grimy, chubby-finger little boys who want to come and defile and destroy the sanctity that I have —,’ he goes on, getting interrupted by Jada and her mother’s laughter.
T.I. recovers, saying he doesn’t understand why people think what he is doing is wrong.
‘If I’m going to the doctor with you just for the sake of controlling you, then OK. But if I’m going for the purpose of being a protective parent…’ he says.
‘I am here to protect all of the children from themselves until they make it to a point where they have an awareness or a sense of self or discernment to be able to make certain decisions on their own that will impact their lives indefinitely.
‘Since she turned 18, I don’t have control of anything,’ he adds.
‘I trust and believe that I put moral standards, principles, and greatness in all of my children. But until they learn how to unlock it and use those powers for themselves, it has to be harnessed.
‘I’m not there to protect, necessarily, “virginity.” I just know that is a big move. Once you make that move, there are things that happen that follow. You have to be equipped. And I don’t know if you’re equipped. Awareness is my first line of defence.
‘Your childhood ends when you lose your virginity,’ he says. ‘And I can’t let you run around trying to enjoy the luxuries of adulthood without any of the responsibilities of adulthood.’
‘I kinda made the comparison of a son versus a daughter. If my son goes out and gets a girl pregnant, how is the household changed for those nine months? The household does not necessarily change those nine months. Whereas if my daughter comes home, my household is changed immediately. The stakes are higher.’
T.I. does not address the way having a baby would affect both a son and a daughter after the birth.
The conversation shifts again, and T.I. complains that parents are allowed to govern things like hairstyles and piercings but not virginity.
‘Mom can tell daughter not to cut her hair, not to perm her hair, not to colour her hair, not to get piercings or whatever, but she can give her body away to anyone without Pop saying anything,’ he says.
Jada explains here that this thinking is indicative of a patriarchal society, which is dictated by the thoughts of men and is often oppressive to women and the feminine journey.
‘Have females actually tried to explain [this] to men?’ T.I. asks.
When Jada points out that yes, they have, and references feminists, T.I. replies: ‘I think that feminists sometimes, it can be misconstrued by people who don’t understand it, as women wanting men to stop silencing them, so they can silence men.’
‘Well, it’s not that,’ Jada tells him. ‘There’s a lot that happens — the feminine journey is often told or seen … through the eyes of men who know nothing about women and what we’re going through.’
‘Well, I think they should say out of that,’ T.I. replies, seemingly not making the connection that that’s exactly what he is being criticized for not doing.
‘Boom, that’s the point,’ Jada tells him.
Tiny finally chimes in, saying that T.I. only just began to understand how ‘serious’ and ‘personal’ the issue of virginity was only after he spoke about it on the podcast.
‘I understand that I don’t understand,’ T.I. concedes.
The video concludes with Jada and her mom saying sympathetically that they knew there must have just been a ‘misunderstanding,’ and T.I. saying that that’s why he wanted to come on Red Table Talk.
Neither T.I. nor Tiny had spoken out publicly about the uproar prior to the new interview, though Tiny had given a hint on social media that she found the whole thing ridiculous.
On November 12, she posted a picture of T.I. and herself in matching ponchos, captioning it: ‘Mi Amor por Siempre.’
Soon after, a fan commented: ‘Is Deyjah okay? We care…’
Tiny replied, but not with words. Instead, she answered with a string of four eye-roll emojis.
Her answer seemed to indicate that she finds the backlash that T.I. is facing — and she by extension — to be unworthy of a serious reaction. It also suggested a dismissive attitude over her daughter’s well-being, indicating that she thinks her daughter is just fine and has no reason not to be.