o live big is to live the life of Detroit native Jewel Tankard-wife of multimillionaire superstar pastor Ben Tankard.
In their new reality show Thicker Than Water, the Tankards invite viewers to meet their blended Christian family of nine (five of which live at home) and the luxurious lifestyle they live in Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Together, they are the "Black Brady Bunch"-though you'd be hard-pressed to imagine the working-class Brady family piling into one of the Tankards' seven luxury vehicles, which include a souped-up tanker truck. And let's not forget the private planes-which are not jets, says Jewel, coyly: "Jets are a lot more expensive to run. Prop planes are, you know, a lot less expensive." Yes, everyone knows that, right?
Before Jewel could jet back to her big life in the limelight, we caught up with our homegirl during a recent visit to the Motor City to talk about finding love, family-and how broke Christians almost kept her from finding God.
How did your Detroit upbringing shape your values?
We lived downtown, 1300 East Lafayette. I think (Detroit) was a huge part of my love for people, entertainment and really where I got a lot of my entrepreneurial spirit. The whole thing of the show is family. I grew up with a fairly big family. I was not raised in church, but my grandmothers kept me going.
And you have six at home?
We have Brooklyn (25), Benji (22)-him and his wife, Shanira (23)-and Cyrene (18) and Diamond (10). So we do actually have five at home, but that's kind of a mix. We have Britney (23) in Nashville. She is 30 minutes away. Then our son Marcus lives in Missouri with his wife.
You call yourselves the 'Black Brady Bunch.' I don't picture you as a Carol Brady type?
I am definitely the glue. I am keeping everybody together. We just kind of made up our mind, when Ben and I got married, we weren't going to have stepchildren, which I think helped. It just creates unnecessary animosity.
And how did you meet Ben?
We actually met in Detroit. He was doing a Ben Tankard concert. And I felt like he kept looking at me during the concert. Then he came up to me during intermission and said, "You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. You're supposed to be my wife." I did not know what to say because, you know, growing up in Detroit you hear all kinds of game. But I had never heard anyone say anything like that. So I was like, "Amen." Went in the bathroom and shouted, "Thank you, Jesus!" We talked all that night until 4 o'clock in the morning.
You say that you realized 'God wanted you to be rich'?
I had not really been exposed to Christians that were living the kind of life I was used to living when God wasn't a part of my life. Most of them I knew were broke. Sad. Church was like a funeral. And then I see Bishop Wayne T. Jackson and Pastor Beverly teaching powerful word. They didn't look broke. They weren't preaching broke. They looked like what was in my heart that I did not think I could do in church.
How did Bravo approach you about the show?
We had some funny family videos on YouTube. And they got a hold of them and loved them. They contacted us and said, "We like you guys."
Do you feel pressure to behave a particular way in front of the cameras because you are wealthy?
Not really, because I am just who I am. I feel like everything I have is because of God's grace. I am not stupid. When most people are kicking their feet up, I am working. I don't believe we have what we have just because we are Christians-because there are broke Christians. And everybody doesn't want it, and you don't have to have it. It's up to you. I want to be a blessing to people and help people. Just let them realize slavery is over. They can have whatever they want to have.
I've noticed doing things 'big' is a reoccurring theme.
Big man. Big house. Big thinking-big in prayer.