Money

The Supremes’ Mary Wilson Talks Diana Ross, Flo Ballard, and Money

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(Image: Mary Wilson Collections) (Image: Randee St. Nicholas)

When I begin my interview with legendary singer and original member of The Supremes, Mary Wilson, I began by asking her a question that the great financial advisor George Kinder asks his clients before he helps them create a financial plan: If you found out you were going to leave the planet tomorrow, what would be your biggest regret?

[Related: NFL’s Dre Kirkpatrick Shares His Most Important Money Lessons]

Kinder asks his clients this in order to help them identify their most important values, so that they can lay the foundation for a financial blueprint that is in-line with their values.

Wilson’s answer made it clear that relationships, particularly hers with her former band mates, were front and center. “If I was leaving tomorrow, I would make things right with Diana,” referring to Supremes lead singer Diana Ross.

Wilson and Ross had a falling out after the release of Wilson’s book Dreamgirl: My Life As a Supreme, in 1986.

In addition, Wilson says she deeply regrets that she didn’t have the knowledge to help the other member of the original Supremes, Florence Ballard, who lost her battle with alcohol and depression in 1976.

Wilson’s experiences of wealth and loss have also changed her perspective on what it means to have a healthy relationship with money, as she shared with me in our discussion.

BlackEnterprise: What has all that you’ve been through, with the Supremes and before, taught you about money?

Wilson: Money does not define who you are, but often one finds that out too late. I was always happy until I found out that my mom, IV Pippins, and my dad, John L. Pippins, were not my mom and dad. I never asked why my name was Mary Wilson and not Pippins. I was a very happy child who always had lots of pretty little cute dresses, and bows in my hair, and I wore white patent leather shoes…. Because I always had everything I could possibly want, even my own bedroom, it never occurred to me that we were possibly poor, or that we were even black.

Money was never an issue, that is until I turn 10, and had to be moved to the Brewster projects to live with my biological mother, Johnnie Mae, and siblings, Catherine and Roosevelt.

Johnnie Mae was a domestic worker who gave up her first child, me, until she could get back on her feet. Now with 3 children, she had to seek help from the government, welfare. Despite it all, I learned to love my new family, and love my new home in the Detroit projects. Money to this day has never defined who I am inside.

Be sure to check back for Part 2.