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VOL. 38 | NO. 3 | Friday, January 17, 2014
Murfreesboro 'reality' family finds its Bravo audience
By Stephanie Toone
A blended family of Murfreesboro millionaires joined Bravo TV’s reality lineup in November and recently ended its first season averaging 2 million viewers per episode.
The show, “Thicker than Water,” tells the story of Ben Tankard, a renowned, multi-platinum-album-selling Christian Jazz artist and minister, and his large, multi-generational clan – self-dubbed as the “black Brady Brunch.’’
Six of the family members live together in a lavish mansion, the Tankard Palace, which, according to the father, serves as the backdrop of the family’s quarrels and adventures.
“We call it Christian calamity with kingdom conclusions,” Ben Tankard says. “We collide, but we don’t like to call it drama. We get into it, but we can make it work with God’s help. We have each other’s back.”
In addition to patriarch Ben, a former professional basketball player, the family’s cast of characters includes his wife Jewel, a businesswoman, author and evangelist; daughters Brooklyn, Britney and Cyrene, son Benji and his bride, Shanira, and Brooklyn’s daughter, Diamond.
Brooklyn, Britney and Benji are Ben Tankard’s children from a previous marriage. Cyrene is the youngest.
Brooklyn, Diamond, Benji and his wife, and Cyrene all live together in the Murfreesboro mansion, which makes for much of the show’s premise.
Benji’s wedding, Brooklyn’s quest to gain her own millions with her hair extension line, Queen Brooklyn and the Christian upbringing of Cyrene have been audience grabbers.
As the family teenager, Cyrene, has developed her own fan base.
She says her peers have positively responded to her experience growing up in a secular world but also in a Christian household. A talk about remaining a virgin in spite of dating a college freshman made for some honest, on-air conversation with her mom.
“It was not planned,” Cyrene said of a conversation with her mom about having sex. “It humors me to mess with my mom, because she’s so awkward about sex talk. I think it shows that we go through normal situations, but we are believers so we try to do things in the way of God and in the will of God. No one’s perfect.”
For years, the family had joked that their antics and interesting lives should be the subject of a reality show, but it was Brooklyn who got the ball rolling by posting pranks featuring the family on YouTube.
“I’ve been touring around the world for over 25 years, but this being on a reality show is different,” Ben Tankard says.
“We had our first experience of being reality stars not too long ago. Jewel shut down the cosmetics department at the Macy’s.”