“The Masked Singer” is sweet on Kandi Burruss. The singer, Grammy-winning songwriter and “Real Housewives of Atlanta” star has been unmasked as the Night Angel, the Season 3 winner of the hit Fox reality competition series.
Burruss, whose music bona fides include being a part of the 1990s R&B group Xscape and writing hit songs including Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills” and TLC’s “No Scrubs,” has become the first female winner of “The Masked Singer.”
Burruss beat out two more celebrities unmasked on Wednesday night’s finale episode: Second place went to singer and actor Jesse McCartney, who had been costumed as the Turtle, while third place was hip-hop star Bow Wow, revealed as the star behind the Frog. (Scroll down to watch all three unmaskings.)
“I got on here, I represented for the ladies, I won this thing, and so to me that’s even bigger for me to be able to say that,” Burruss told Variety. “I was the first woman to win ‘Masked Singer’!”
Among the panel’s guesses Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg and Robin Thicke figured out it was Burruss. Nicole Scherzinger thought it was Taraji P. Henson while Ken Jeong guessed his “Dr. Ken” co-star Tisha Campbell.
Burrys took the guessing game seriously, faking a British accent through the competition to throw the show’s panelists off.
“I felt like my accent wasn’t too bad, but my voice when I sang really gave me away,” Burruss said. “The fans would listen to it, they would be like, ‘if you cannot tell that it’s Kandi, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you!’ I’d laugh because the fans totally knew it, but the judges didn’t know until I was a few episodes in. I honestly thought that Jenny would have picked me out from day one, and Robin,, because Robin had guessed my name on Season 1 and Season 2 for other people.”
Burruss said she couldn’t contain her laughter when McCarthy-Wahlberg first brought her name up, and Thicke dismissed it. “He’s like, ‘Oh, no it’s can’t be her!’ I died! I was like, did he just totally dismiss me? That was so funny to me.”
For the finale, Burruss sang “River Deep, Mountain High,” by Tina Turner, a performance that clinched her win. The singer said “The Masked Singer” gave her a renewed confidence in music and singing, partly because of the anonymity of performing under a mask.
“The best thing about performing in a costume, is that nobody is judging you from preconceived thoughts they had about you from anything else,” she said. “They’re only judging your voice and what they hear that night. Obviously being on a reality show like ‘Real Housewives,’ I get so many people that are like, ‘I like her’ or ‘I hate her.’ It’s no judgement based off of that. It is just totally what they thought of me in that moment.
“It’s not even judging me based off of what I’ve done before in my group or anything like that,” she added. “It’s just me and what they think of me as a vocalist. I had lost confidence in my voice. For a while I started feeling like, maybe people don’t really want to hear me sing. But to be able to do this and get so much positive feedback, it felt really good.”
At the same time, Burruss said it wasn’t easy under that massive Night Angel costume. “It was hot!” she exclaimed. “I was about to pass out the first time I tried it on. It was crazy. At first I didn’t know what to do.”
To train, Burruss ordered ski masks and hockey masks online and started practicing everyday with those on so she could get used to singing “with being hot and sweaty. Once I got used to it, it ended up being a great thing… Now I can stop hiding and dodging people’s phone calls when they ask me about the show. It’s always weird when everybody’s calling you and asking, hey is that you? Or sending me text messages. Even my fan pages they post videos about this show and I’m not responding. So I’m so glad that finally I can say something.”
Timed to the “Masked Singer” reveal, Burruss is releasing new music: The single “Used to Love Me,” which features choreographer Todrick Hall and new artist Precious.
“I wanted something that made everybody dance as soon as you hear it, the track just made you want to move,” she said. “I decided that I wanted to drop new music, and I definitely plan on putting out more music in the future.”
Also putting out new music today is McCartney, with the track “Friends.” McCartney, who’s friends with “Masked Singer” Season 1 winner T-Pain, said he realized the show could be beneficial to help show another side of his music — and timed to his first album in six years.
“I picked songs that were in my wheelhouse, but also ones that made me push the envelope a little bit, or songs that people wouldn’t necessarily think of coming from me,” he said. “Songs like Seal’s “Kiss from a Rose” or Whitney Houston, or even Coldplay. Those are songs that I don’t think people would think of when they think of my name.”
For his final performance, McCartney sang “Before You Go,” by Lewis Capaldi.
“It was incredibly challenging,” he said of the experience. “Once you start shooting, you’re on the clock, and then once you finish, literally the next day once you perform, as long as you get through, you’re back to the drawing board trying to think of what your next performance is going to be. Drawing up all the plays, thinking of 20 different songs that we could perform. What kind of production is going to go with it? Do we dance, do we stand behind the microphone, do we do something interactive? It’s a real production and takes a lot of people but also a lot of effort. It was definitely stressful at times, but hopefully we were able to really put together a great body of work.”
In the end, McCarthy-Wahlberg and Scherzinger figured out it was McCartney, while Jeong guessed Nick Jonas and Thicke thought it was Adam Lambert.
McCartney chuckled at guesses such as Jaden Smith, Chris Evans, Billy Joe Armstrong and his buddy Gavin DeGraw. But then McCarthy-Wahlberg figured it out. “Jenny’s just like a sniper, she knows,” he said. “She can spot them from a mile away. It was definitely interesting to hear them guess the wrong people every night. And then when Jenny finally did guess it, I had sort of like a ‘oh shit’ kind of moment in my costume. I was like, act normal, don’t do anything crazy!”
As for Bow Wow, the rapper saw “The Masked Singer” as a chance to train for his 2020 tour, before it was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I knew that I would have to prep, and I felt like what better way than to do the ‘Masked Singer’ and get on the stage before I had to get on another stage,” he said. “I just felt like that was the right way to roll into my tour. And on top of that, my daughter loves the show. I knew that would make her excited by me doing it.”
But he also saw it as a chance to show another side of him — a Bow Wow that knows how to moonwalk and dances around the house. “As Bow Wow, you can’t do it,” he said. “As a rapper, I feel like it’s not cool for me to do it. But as Frog it’s different. There’s a sense of security being under that mask and embodying that character.”
Bow Wow chose the Frog costume because he knew it would be easier to move around in — and because he was a fan of Kermit the Frog growing up.
“I know as a performer I need to be loose,” he said. “If you watch any of my performances throughout my career, I doubt you ever saw me wear jewelry on the stage. Most rappers that wear jewelry don’t move. They stay in one spot. I learned that early on in my life. Because the diamonds pop out when they clank up against each other. And my whole choice for picking that outfit was it appeals to the younger generation. That’s what I wanted to do, to talk to kids. For the young, the hip, and the energetic. That outfit just describes me, a fly, swagged-out dude who looks like a lady’s man. I just fell in love with him when I saw him and I knew the kids would too. “
For his finale song, Bow Wow performed “Bad Boy for Life,” by Black Rob, Mark Curry and P. Diddy. Thicke and Scherzinger knew it was Bow Wow, while Jeong guessed Kid Cudi and McCarthy-Wahlberg named Lil Romeo.
“It’s a big step because hopefully you’ve got guys like myself and Lil Wayne who opened up that floodgate for rappers to feel comfortable, so that if they are ever approached to do the Masked Singer, that now they’ll do it,” he said. “That’s the win that I’m taking from this whole ordeal is the fact that I made it that far.”
Throughout Season 3, unmasked celebrities included Lil Wayne, Drew Carey, Chaka Khan, Tony Hawk, Dionne Warwick, Tom Bergeron, Sarah Palin, Bella Thorne, JoJo Siwa, Rob Gronkowski, Jordyn Woods, Bret Michaels, Hunter Hayes, Jackie Evancho and Barry Zito.
Next up: As executive producer Craig Plestis told Variety in Tuesday’s finale preview story, pre-production is already under way for Season 4. The show is on the schedule for fall, but it’s unclear how pandemic concerns will impact those plans.
Watch the unmasking of Burruss as the Night Angel:
Here’s the unmasking of McCartney as Turtle:
And here’s Bow Wow, revealed as Frog: