If there’s any couple that is the epitome of love and strength it’s the Bells. We had a chance to talk to Ricky Bell of New Edition and BBD fame, along with his wife, Amy Correa Bell, about their beginning, the making of The New Edition Story and their upcoming joint release titled “Gold”.
The lovely couple shared so much, including some wonderful relationship advice. Here’s the complete interview with the power couple…
Parlé Mag: Let’s just jump right into it. I want to know how you guys actually met. I was looking through both of your Instagram profiles and y’all are the cutest couple ever. You definitely portray the epitomé of love goals, so I want to get your backstory on how you met.
Amy Bell: Thank you. Ricky and I were friends. We’re the kind of couple that were friends for a long time and then we started dating later on. So it was definitely a surprise to both of us. But our first initial meeting was at a concert. Not a New Edition concert, [laughing] I think it was like a Superfest concert. And I would run into him in a lot of places. We kind of knew a lot of the same people. I’ll let you take it away Ricky, if there’s something you wanna add.
Ricky Bell: It was a Mary J. Blige concert. I forget, who else was on the show. And we would just run into each other after that whether it was a movie, or at church. We ended up going to the same church. So yeah, that’s basically how we met.
Parlé Mag: Amy, how did you get your start in the music industry?
Amy Bell: Ricky, he helped me with my first record deal cause I didn’t know much about the music industry. I grew up acting. I was an actress since I was 11. He convinced me to audition for this girl group. I knew how to sing, but at the time I didn’t consider myself a singer. I just could sing, in choirs and things like that. So he talked me into it! But then, I needed his help because I had these crazy contracts. This was back when 360 deals were really popular and so he looked at my contract and was like “Oh my God, this is like the same contract we got ripped off with!” He helped me with that and was pretty instrumental by being a good friend and helping me in the music industry. He gave me pointers, back then as a friend. We never thought we’d end up getting married. And beyond that, we never thought that we’d end up doing music together.
Parlé Mag: That’s incredible. How long have you guys been married?
Amy Bell: It will be 15 years, September 18th.
Parlé Mag: So, Ricky, the stardom came before you guys met and became a couple right?Ricky Bell: Yes, I’ve been in the business for over 30 years. The stardom for us, started right away in 1983.
Parlé Mag: Yeah, of course! Amy, what was that like for you, being in a relationship with a superstar?
Amy Bell: Um, well…at that time there was no social media. All we had was MTV and BET and I would watch videos there. I didn’t know Ricky’s history. I knew him from Bell Biv Devoe, when I first met him and I didn’t put two and two together that he was in New Edition also. That’s kind of a funny inside joke. But it didn’t really occur to me how famous he was, until later. The more I knew him, the more I realized everybody knows this guy. He’s a really big deal. But, I just knew he was somebody. I saw him in one of his videos. At the time, because we didn’t have a lot access to the internet and things like that, I wasn’t aware that he was a part of a legendary group, ya know?
Parlé Mag: [laughing] That’s hilarious.
Amy Bell: I know, I know!
Parlé Mag: The New Edition story when it aired was absolutely amazing. What was it like seeing that come to life? How hands on were you with that process?
Ricky Bell: It was an amazing process. We started it probably 10 years prior to it going into production. I think it came together at the right time. It was supposed to be through BET and it was supposed to be a 3 night series. Just the fact that we were able to bring families together to watch it, it kind of had this Roots feel to it. We were very hands on. The story that you see, is our personal story.
Parlé Mag: After it aired, some of the feedback was how shocking it was to see your struggle with drug addiction. How did you get introduced to drugs and how did you get clean?
Ricky Bell: I mean drug usage in this business… it kind of goes hand in hand. Just from hanging out at parties, one person tries it. For me, I had been smoking weed and drinking basically my whole life, since the age of 13 years old. I was able to do it. Have a drink, get drunk, go home and wake up the next day. It was when I started messing with pills and cocaine [the harder drugs] is when it took a toll. It was really at a time in my life when my career was in the down swing. Just as you saw it. At the Home Again-that era, that tour was really like a disaster for us. It was hectic for me. It was probably the most stressful time I ever had, being in the business and having to take on responsibility for my life. Until then, a lot of it had been roses. But at that point in time, the money wasn’t great and I was just sitting with my life in my hands-not knowing what I was gonna do. Not knowing who I was. All of my identity was New Edition, so I didn’t know anything else. Drugs for me, became a coping mechanism. It became that for me. It just seemed to numb the world out and gave me the escape to all my problems. Of course, we all know where that leads to. As far as being introduced to it, just hanging out: with friends, at clubs, at parties, you try a little bit. And being able to handle it, you dip and dab until one day you cross that line where, I’m using even when I don’t want to.
Parlé Mag: And how did you come into sobriety? Did you do a rehab program, did you quit cold turkey?
Ricky Bell: Nah, I didn’t quit cold turkey. Once I realized I had a real problem with it, I got into rehab, got into AA, NA…the whole twelve steps…all of that, with a sponsor. And it’s a program that I still work to this day.
Parlé Mag: I definitely commend you on your recovery process, because it doesn’t always end positively for a lot of people. It’s amazing that you were able to turn yourself around. You guys have been together [married] for 15 years and have been able to support each other through everything. Personally, and as a couple, how has that support shaped and motivated you guys?
Ricky Bell: I mean, honestly for me, especially dealing with what I was dealing with, Amy has always been very instrumental in supporting me, in being patient with me and in encouraging me. There was a time in my life when I was in a dark place, very depressed and had no motivation to work. I had no inspiration, I didn’t feel good about life. I didn’t feel good about myself and she was that rock for me. She was stronger and she was the one that saw the gold in me. LITERALLY! She was the one that encouraged me and built me up, like “Don’t you know who you are? Even outside of being, just Ricky Bell [the famous part] you’re an amazing person.” And for me, it was a process of me seeing that in myself because like I said, so much of my identity was what and how other people saw me, I was trying to live up to that. And she was the first one that got to see the raw me, the vulnerable me. The me not on stage, the me not pretending to be anything. The me not having to perform. But just the one that says “I know you, I see the real you and you’re amazing and I will be that rock for you. I’ll be strong when you’re weak.” So, our marriage has been of that. When I don’t have strength, she has it. When I need to lean on her for understanding, as someone that I can be raw with and talk to, to let know what’s really going on; she’s that person.
Amy Bell: Thank you sweetie, aww. [You can literally feel the love and chemistry between these two]. Seriously, that was so sweet. I just want to piggyback off of him. Ricky, is also the same for me. So as much as he gives me credit, for helping him, I’m not perfect either and I have moments. I think what helps us to stay together and be able to work together is that beyond how we feel about each other, we always come at each other as friends and try to understand each other’s viewpoints as a best friend. And then, we support each other no matter how we’re feeling. For me, being in this entertainment industry and acting for so long; I try to quit acting every year, probably around October. I tend to get angry. Just depending on how many jobs I’ve booked and he has been the one person that has talked me back into it; continuing to audition, continuing to work on music, continuing to grow as a producer. So like, Ricky, he has definitely been a big motivator and like a mentor for me to pursue my dreams and not give up. He’s the perfect example of someone that was a kid with a dream and made it happen. For him to encourage me, it definitely really, really helps. Like I said, we’re not perfect but I think what helps us is just having the friendship. And then there’s the respect, and a working relationship, where we respect what one another does. And I think that really helps.
Parlé Mag: It does, for sure. What advice would you guys give to couples about withstanding trials within a relationship-or just advice to couples in general?
Amy Bell: You want to take that one babe, or you want me to? [Told you, they were the cutest couple, ever!]
Ricky Bell: I would say that, we’re individuals but we have so much in common and the same spirit. But when we’re going through challenges—I like to call them challenges, we look at it as an opportunity. It’s an opportunity for you to work, God’s plan. It’s an opportunity for you to pass the “test” so to speak. We look at each situation like “Ok, that argument or that disagreement or struggle or moment, that’s all it is. A moment. It’s a moment that can be overcome.” Any couple that’s been married, (30, 40 years), they’ve gone through every reason in the book that would give them a reason to break up and leave each other. Those things happen. It’s just a matter of looking at it like: it’s hard, it hurts, it’s frustrating but what can we do? Breaking up can be an option, but we made a decision a long time ago that we’re just gonna take that option right off of the table. When you take that off the table, it’s not an option so whatever we got to do, we do. And let’s use every resource possible that’s available to us to get through this marriage—and not just when you’re going through a rough time. We’re in therapy now! We go to counseling, we go to couples’ counseling, we have individual therapists. One thing our Pastor told us when he married us, he said, “Look. You are not gonna be able to do this on your own and you don’t have to. You’re not even supposed to try to do this on your own.” It doesn’t mean that your love is weak. Or that you don’t love each other or you’re not smart enough, but by the grace of God, we stayed and made it a regular practice to treat ourselves and we’re grateful to have that. We’re grateful that we don’t have to figure it out alone. We don’t have to have all the answers. So, when you ask that, I think the best advice I could give is to reach out and not try to depend on your own understanding and knowledge or love that you have for each other. A lot of people, when they first fall in love, you hear, “Our love is so different, and so strong. And it’s not like anyone else’s love in the world! And I don’t care what ya’ll been through, we’re gonna survive this!” That’s just not the case. You have to be able to humble yourself and ask for help. It’s one of the hardest things for men to do, is to put that ego aside and say, “I don’t know what I’m doing, can you help me?”
Parlé Mag: For sure, that male ego is something else. [laughing]
Amy Bell: Right, amen!
Parlé Mag: Amy, did you have anything else to add to that?
Amy Bell: Wow, [laughing] that’s pretty hard to follow up there Ricky.
Parlé Mag: [Laughing] A little bit, yeah!
Amy Bell: I have to agree with Ricky. I think that advice we would give is to ask for help as well as to surround yourself with people that have been married-for a long time. If you’re married but all your friends are single, they’re probably not the people you want to reach out to for advice on staying together because they’re not with someone. As Ricky said, you constantly go through humbling yourself and forgiving. I feel like that’s something you have to accept in the beginning of a relationship, that you’re going to make a lot of mistakes and so is your partner. You have to get used to forgiving one another. Forgiveness, comes with the territory of being married. Not only do I commit to being married to you, I commit to forgive you whenever you make a mistake and not judge you for it because I know I’m not perfect either. Just knowing that you have someone that is not going to judge you. Of course, you can sometimes hurt each other without knowing it and even sometimes purposefully, but if you are willing to forgive and reach out for help, you already have a higher percentage of staying together. Most people, that I know, have broken up because they can’t get over something and they never forgave the person. And when they go to their next relationship, it’s the same pattern repeated over and over. You’re never going to meet someone that’s got it all together and is just the perfect person. You have to decide, “Ok, I’m going to deal with all your issues and you’re gonna decide to deal with mine. Are we down to forgive each other for the rest of our lives? Ok, cool, let’s go!”
Parlé Mag: Exactly! Are we doing this or not? Let’s talk about your first collaboration “Gold”. Set to be released on Valentine’s Day. I’m excited and have been liking the post on Instagram. Amy, I’ve checked out your YouTube channel and videos, I’m all about it. Why did you decide now was the time to do a collaboration, together?
Ricky Bell: Ok, I’ll take it. I’ve watched Amy grow as an artist basically, since the day we met. She was in a girl group, Girl Society. She was in a group with Megan Good and Megan’s sister Lamiya. What was the name of that group Amy?
Amy: Hello Girls.
Ricky: The Hello Girls. And she’s worked with her brother in another band. In all of these situations, it was just the process of her finding herself, musically and as an artist. When she hooked up with Gabe La-
Ricky: Bozgo, right. When she hooked up with him, she started working on this project. She was writing more and producing, And I just watched her develop as an artist. So when I listened to that project, that she has now, the EP that’s about to come out-her solo EP, I was like “Wow!” I was blown away, she really discovered herself and who she was as an artist. I was fan! And I wanted to be apart of it. I thought the first song she should put out was a song of us together. What better way to introduce it? So let’s use it. That was the main decision and everything else just fell in place. From there it was, “Ok ,well what type of song should we do? Let’s tell our story.” Let’s talk about that. That should be the song. The song should be inspiring. Why should people care? Is it just another good song? Is it just you trying to be more famous? Or make more money? Why should we care about this? And for us, we just felt like being authentic was the best way to speak of our story as well as introduce Amy as an artist.
Amy: I was just gonna piggyback and say, when I met producer Bozgo, he was also a really incredible musician. Ricky has done so many R&B songs; when he came over, we thought we were just going to get his advice on my project. We weren’t expecting him to say, “Let’s do a song, together.” Bozgo and I were like, “Wow, we got to step our game up! Ricky wants to work with us.” [laughing] Gabe is a really incredible guitar player. And Ricky, some of his favorite artists are James Taylor and Phil Collins-and no one really knows that. They just hear the R&B side of him. I said, “Gabe, you know, my husband listens to James Taylor and these incredible songs that are alternative songs. He has a great voice and we should cater to that style.” He’s been in a group, so he had to cater to the sound of that group. So, we wrote the song provisionally on the guitar because we were going to turn it into the beat after the melody was written. But the guitar sounded so beautiful, and Ricky sounded so great singing, it blew us away! This acoustic song is it’s own song.
Parlé Mag: So, we have two versions, being released, correct?
Amy Bell: We have “Gold: The Acoustic” which comes out on Valentine’s Day. But then, we also did a remix which is more of a dance and urban-kind of Latina R&B feel. We also wanted to cater to the fact that Ricky is an urban artist and people are gonna want to dance in the club to him, too.
Parlé Mag: I can’t wait! How did Megan Good get on board?
Amy Bell: We have two versions coming out. And the great thing is, my best friend Megan Good heard the song and she started crying. She’s so sweet, and I told her that we were just trying to find out what we were going to do with the music video and she’s like “I’ll direct it.”—are you kidding me? That was incredible. Fast forward and she directed the videos and honestly, they’re so good in my opinion. I’m just really excited to share it with you guys because she brought a very cinematic feel to these videos. It’s nothing like Ricky and I have ever done. And she definitely took the song to a whole ‘nother level.
Parlé Mag: Wow. how incredible is that? A powerhouse of talent all the way around. What was the significance of releasing “Gold” on Valentine’s Day?
Amy Bell: The reason we decided to put it out on Valentine’s Day is because we felt like, we want to give a gift away. A lot of people on Valentine’s Day are depressed because they’re single or just broke up-or whatever they’ve been through. We thought, what better way than to give them a song that is beyond being with someone as a couple. It’s something you can sing to your mom. Something you can dedicate to your auntie, your best friend.
Parlé Mag: And what a gift it would be, because you are donating proceeds to a charity.
Amy Bell: What we decided to do was donate the profit from the acoustic song. Because of all the natural disasters and poverty going on in the world, we found a non-profit called Direct Relief that is the number one charity helping in these natural disasters in Puerto Rico and Mexico-all the places that have been hit by hurricanes. So not only are we putting it out, but anyone who purchases will be helping to better our world. We figured with this first acoustic version, we wanted to give it away and share our hearts, be vulnerable with the world. Also, to give everyone an opportunity to give back as well as hearing us share our story. We want everyone to join in on the Gold Movement and share how they found gold in themselves or someone else. We’re trying to bring out the best in everyone and be led by God on how to go about it.
Parlé Mag: With that being said, is there anything else you want us to know about you guys personally or about your project?
Ricky Bell: Um, wow. Let me see. Just that, one revelation we got from me being in the business and us as a couple, when it comes to your purpose in life: when God gives us desires, he blesses us with all these talents and gifts. Sometimes, you can get caught up and really start thinking it’s about you. There’s been many times that I wanted to give up. Many times when I just wanted to say “Eff it! I don’t want to sing no more. I don’t want to deal with this group stuff. I don’t want to deal with the business.” And I always got some kind of message, some kind of way. Whether it was through somebody else or I heard that voice say, “It’s not yours to give up. It’s never been about you, anyway” Your testimony is your purpose, that’s what it is. It’s about everyone else that’s looking up to you, that needs to be inspired and encouraged. That’s the purpose for us: keeping what we have by giving it away. It’s not about fame and money or attention; it never fills that void because you’ll get to the point where you feel like you don’t have enough of it. You’ll keep chasing that, thinking that’s what it is. But really, the story is and the goal is for us is to give back and help others along the way as much as we can. By sharing our story, we really hope that would inspire and encourage others to do the same whatever your situation may be.
Amy Bell: I would just piggyback off Ricky on that. We’ve been through a lot together and the best revenge is to do something positive as opposed to complaining about it. The years that we lost going through things, God is redeeming that, in time. So, we just feel like what better way to connect and share what we’re about. What you can expect from Ricky and I, is that we’re going to be sharing a lot more of our story online. We’re going to get a lot more personal-beyond what people saw in the movie. Stay tuned to my YouTube channel, we’re gonna be releasing some stories. Beyond that, you guys are gonna get TWO new singles of Gold! And two music videos within the next six weeks. After that it will be my EP. But, Ricky and I are having fun together and we realized this is not going to be the last thing we do together. We’re excited about just putting ourselves out there and working on our own solo projects and also helping one another out.
Parlé Mag: You guys are amazing—individually and together, I know that you’re just going to give us sheer magic. I’m looking forward to it all.
Amy Bell: Yay, thank you! Thank you for your support and hearing us out, letting us spread our truth. Lovely meeting you, we’re excited to connect with you.
Ricky Bell: We appreciate it, thank you.
GOLD. The highest form of alchemy and the most precious and valuable resource in the world. The only thing more valuable is the moments we get to share with those that we love. GOLD (the single set to be released on Valentine’s Day) captures this journey of unconditional love and the bittersweet nuances of life’s golden moments.