Toni Braxton Shares Grammy Memories and Advice for New Artists

The R&B singer also looks back on a certain (and certainly infamous) dress

Photo: Lou Rocco/ABC via Getty

It s been almost 20 years since Toni Braxton won her first Grammy. In 1994, the “Unbreak My Heart” diva picked up a pair of awards, in the best new artist and best female R&B vocal performance categories.

Braxton, now 46 and a six-time Grammy winner, chatted with PEOPLE on Thursday about that memorable night, this year s nominees and her awards show looks of years past – including one infamous dress.

Who are you most excited to see at the Grammys this year?
I’m not going to the Grammys this year, but I’m excited about my sister Tamar being nominated, and I know she s going to win. I’m looking forward to seeing what Rihanna‘s going to wear. And I was really hoping that Miley would ve been nominated. But I just love the Grammys, so it s exciting for me to see it. I’m more of a spectator because I’m an old b—- now, just so you know.

What other young artists are you listening to these days?
Oh my gosh, I am a Justin Bieber fan.

He’s had a rough time, right?
He’s had a rough week. A rough new year. But I love him. I love the new artists. One of my favorites is Lorde. Her voice is magical.

It’s been 20 years since you won your first two Grammys in 1994. What do you remember about that night?
It was surreal. I felt like I was dreaming. I couldn’t believe that I was actually part of the A-group. They were accepting me. That was exciting.

You won in the female R&B category, which included Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Patti LaBelle and Janet Jackson.
First, I didn’t stand up when everybody was watching. And then I was like, “Oh my God, it was me.” And I remember feeling very blessed and fortunate. I should’ve celebrated the moment. I always tell young artists, when it’s your moment, celebrate it. Don’t miss it. Party a little bit. Be young. Get in a little trouble. It’s okay. You want to do that in your 20s, not in your 40s. That’s not hot. So, Justin’s age-appropriate. He’s 19. He’s supposed to be doing that. It’s not hot at 49.

You also won best new artist that year. Any other advice to this year’s best new artist nominees?
It’s your moment and you don’t have to share it with anyone. And you can be a little arrogant that night because that’s a big deal.

Of all your awards show looks, which is your favorite?
Whenever I go to awards shows, I always try to wear red, if I’m nominated. My favorite would probably be my red Marc Bouwer dress with the black collar.

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Your white dress at the 2001 Grammys was pretty outrageous. What kind of reactions did people have when you wore it?

I was younger then. Things were up – the boobies were perkier, the cellulite was less. You got to do it when you’re young. I think the funniest thing was “Is she naked under there?” Like, what is she wearing under that?

How did it stay on?

Richard Tyler made that dress for me and it was very clever how he did it. He actually had underwear, a thong, in it, which held it down. So thank goodness for a thong.

Any style regrets from past awards shows?
There are a few things like What the hell was I wearing? but mostly it was the eyebrows that were really wrong. We couldn’t decide whether they should be thick or thin.

What do you miss most about ’90s fashion?
The liberation of music started to change, so you got to be a little free without being criticized as much. Now it s more crucial to be perfect because of social media. One person can take a picture and millions can see it. So you always want to be prepared to try and be as perfect as you can. That’s tough.

Toni Braxton and her sisters hosted a launch event for new Gain flings single-use laundry detergent in N.Y.C. Thursday. She’s also preparing to release a new album with Babyface, Love, Marriage & Divorce, and a memoir, Unbreak My Heart.

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