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Break Time Is Over : Anita Baker's last album was in 1990. Then everyone thought she was lost to motherhood. Guess everybody forgot to ask the important person: Baker

September 18, 1994|Dennis Hunt | Dennis Hunt is a Times staff writer

A: It's critical. Without it, I wouldn't want to make an album. I wouldn't sound like I sound. If I let other people do that, I might be out of this business now.

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Q: You have a reputation for being a difficult diva. Is that warranted?

A: When you hear that a woman in this business is called difficult, you have to consider the source. This business is run by men, and often when men say a woman is difficult, it just means she's independent and she's got guts. But part of that reputation may be warranted. I'm a perfectionist and I'm very demanding. I want things done just right. I'm not mean or nasty, just demanding, but sometimes demanding is interpreted by people as being difficult.

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Q: Do you think that being a black woman has made it more difficult for you to become a success in music world?

A: No question. I've had to fight harder and work harder and longer hours. I don't think being black has held me back at all. Being black makes you strong.

It's tough being a black woman, but the tough part is just being a woman. People look at you and think you're successful and figure you can have everything your own way. But this is a male-dominated business. You see it in a thousand little ways that many men don't treat you as equals. It's not always obvious, but it's noticeable to a woman. Men might not even be aware they're offending you--but they are.

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Q: Some critics credit you with opening the door in pop music for a whole new wave of singers, like Toni Braxton, for instance. What do you believe you've contributed to the business?

A: I think I've helped make it easier for female singers with deeper voices to get signed by record companies. Also, ballads are more popular than ever in the music business. The success of my albums may have helped that happen. I feel very good about that.

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Q: Has being a mother changed your approach to your career?

A: It's changed my priorities. I've always been a workaholic, but I can't do that anymore. I just naturally want to be with my kids. When I go on a promotional trip for a few days without them, I miss them so much. So I won't stay on the road too long. When I go on tour, I'll take them with me, and I'll make sure the schedule isn't too grueling. That's the major difference.

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Q: Would you say, then, that motherhood has mellowed you?

A: Not really. I'm as intense as I always was. People have this notion that you turn all soft when you become a mother but it hasn't happened to me. That world out there is just as tough as it always was. If anything, being a mother makes you tougher. You fight harder to earn a living because you have these kids depending on you.*

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