The name Adrienne Bailon first entered my orbit during the turn of the millennium, when she was the spiral-curled member of one of my favorite girl groups: 3LW. Mimicking her belted notes on songs like “No More (Baby I’ma Do Right) was a beloved pass time, and while I looked more like Kiely Williams and Naturi Naughton, Bailon was the one who caught my attention and inspired me.
Years passed and I saw Bailon on my screen less and less. Fast forward to 2013, and I’m acquainted to my BFF-in-my-head again, this time on daytime TV. “The Real” gave Bailon the chance to be more candid than ever, and seeing the adult version of Bailon, just as loud and proud as she was in her youth, but now with wisdom a woman only acquires when she’s been through some things, was part of the show’s magic. It made many, myself included, root for Bailon more than ever before.
I go into my conversation with Bailon with that, and my memories of her springy curls and ultra cool dance moves from the early aughts, front of mind. I’m nervous too. Meeting someone who you’d describe as a childhood hero can be dangerous — how could they possibly live up to the image you have of them in their head? And worse, what if they’re terrible.
Surprisingly, Bailon was everything I imagined and more. I’m greeted by not only her warm smile, but that of her husband, Israel Houghton’s. I can’t help but tell Bailon how much she’s meant to me over the years. Turns out her mother Nilda brought up the impact she’s had over young women over the course of her two decade-long career.
“It always shocks me and surprises me and means the world to me every single time,” she tells me.
My fangirl moment gets us talking about the early days of Bailon’s career. She tells me that while in 3LW and The Cheetah Girls, she was often told to keep her makeup brush at bay to make sure she didn’t look too old.
“It was kind of funny because I was the oldest of the group [3LW] and I love makeup. I’ve always loved makeup. I remember being like, ‘ugh, I want to wear lashes, I want to do this, I want to do that.’ [But] we definitely didn’t do makeup then,” she shares.
After her tween star days were in the rearview mirror, Bailon was ready to experiment with makeup and her look.
“I really got into technique and contour,” she says. “And I became obsessed with trying out different looks. It really became a passion of mine.”
Then she landed “The Real,” and her makeup and hair routine became on “a whole other level.”
“Now you’re talking [about] television makeup with huge lights on you — your contour is even harder. We used to call that being beat to capacity, and that makeup was intense,” she remembers.
Now, Bailon finds herself reverting back to the makeup routine of her youth she once resented. Much to her husband’s delight, her vacation makeup kit has been cut done to just one bag, as she embraces her natural beauty with open arms.
“I love a dewy clean face, I actually enjoy doing my makeup myself more than sitting in a chair for two hours total,” she confesses, adding that as she stares the big 4-0 in the face, she’s enjoying “my bear face more than ever.”
The 38-year-old’s makeup routine is just one indicator of the fact that she’s in a new phase of her life, one that includes first time-motherhood. Bailon and Houghton welcomed their first child together via surrogate last month, much to the joy of the couples’ fans who’ve seen the multi-hyphenate struggle to conceive.
Bailon is beaming about motherhood, and can’t help but gush about her son, Ever. His cooing is the soundtrack to a large portion of our interview (Bailon gives me a sneak peak at her son’s relationship with his older sister, Mariah. It’s sure to be a close one.). But awaiting his arrival wasn’t without it’s anxieties, and when I ask Bailon, who has been open about her struggles with anxiety in the past, she says faith, rituals, and music got her through.
“No one can prepare you for this experience,” she tells me of surrogacy, which she and her surrogate playfully called “extreme babysitting.”
Ever was the product of Bailon and Houghton’s last embryo, and she describes feeling the “desperation” around the beginning of their surrogacy journey. As things progressed, Bailon was focused on finding ways to connect to her baby.
“You try to think of ways that you can bond with your child,” she adds. “And for me, I did that on a spiritual level. For myself, it was creating routines that I would do every morning. I would pray for my son every day, and I had a journal that I would write letters to him in.”
Ever isn’t the only Houghton baby welcomed in 2022. Israel & New Breed, Houghton’s Grammy Award-winning gospel group, is dropping a live album in October called “Worship Anywhere.” Recorded and shot at Camp New Breed, an adult summer camp for the New Breed crew that was Bailon’s brainchild, “Worship Anywhere” is an “interactive” and “immersive” experience that reminds listeners how fun worship can be, both Houghton and Bailon tell me.
“It actually can be so fun what life can be when you look at it a perspective of knowing that God’s in control,” she tells me. “And it really is that kind of an album.”
The future is a sweet notion for Bailon, who has so much to look forward to: a quicker makeup routine (Bailon points out that thanks to her newborn, she’s on her way to mastering applying eye liner one-handed), brining Camp New Breed’s magic to the world, and, of course, raising her son.
“I can’t wait for all that’s to come especially because I’m a boy mom. I never imagined that I would have a boy— we only have girls in my family.” She shares giddily, adding that the only thing she wants to go slow is Ever growing up. “I’m so looking forward to being my son’s best friend. I can’t wait for it all.”