‘The Masked Singer’ Winner Kandi Burruss Thought She’d Be Guessed Sooner

The Masked Singer Season 3 Finale Night Angel Winner Kandi Burruss
Michael Becker / FOX

The Night Angel belted her way to victory in The Masked Singer Season 3.

The finale saw the last three contestants standing singing one last time in hopes of being the one to take home the trophy, and Night Angel beat out Frog (Bow Wow) and Turtle (Jesse McCartney) to win the season. After, she was unmasked as singer, songwriter, television personality, and businesswoman Kandi Burruss.

Here, Burruss takes us inside her winning season of the Fox hit singing competition.

Congratulations on winning and on being the first woman to win! You’ve obviously had some time to sit with that, but how does it feel to be able to talk about it?

Kandi Burruss: It is way better now! The thing about it is I remember when I first won, and of course I was excited in that moment of it happening. But then when I was in the car with my husband and friends, [it] was, “wow, I won, it’s great! Okay, so… what’s next? I can’t even talk about it. What do we do now?” You just have to hold it in. It was so much better last night because then I could actually share my excitement with the world. Before you were sworn to secrecy. You can’t tell anybody anything and you see all these posts online and you can’t say a word.

What made this season the right time for you to do this?

They had approached me for Season 1. I remember not being sure about it … and the timing wasn’t working. After I watched it and I saw T-Pain won, I was like, “okay, that’s dope. If the opportunity ever comes back around, then I’ll do it.” [They reached out] at the end of the year last year. I’d just had my daughter, Blaze, at the end of November, so I was like, “I don’t know guys, what are we going to do?” And they [said], “we’re going to make it work.” It just worked out.

The Masked Singer Season 3 Finale Night Angel Winner Performance

(Michael Becker / FOX)

What were the biggest and most surprising challenges for you as the season progressed?

My biggest challenge was learning how to perform in that costume. At first, I was rehearsing, everything was good, and then we had the first day of dress rehearsal, and when I tell you I almost passed out in that costume, trying to dance … I was like, “oh, no, this is not going to work.” I don’t know how Turtle and Frog especially were dancing so hard in those costumes while performing. It’s so hot under there.

I could barely breathe in my mask. I had to learn how to do that. I ordered a ski mask and a hockey mask and put them on at the same time and would rehearse at the house and just jog in place with the masks on so I could get used to getting super super hot and trying to sing through it. That was very challenging.

Also trying to pick the right song. That is very challenging too because you sing the wrong song, that could get you kicked off. I was trying to figure out what songs are going to work and which ones aren’t going to work.

I feel like the question on everyone’s mind is what is a Night Angel, but what did the costume mean to you and what was the appeal of it to you on a personal level but also practically when it came to performances despite the problems you just mentioned?

Initially, they gave me different options and I had picked a different costume. Then shortly after, they hit me back, “hey, another costume became available, if you want to try this one instead, you can do it.” When I saw the picture, I [knew], “this is it.” One of the main things I knew going into this is I wanted to have something with pants because I wanted to be able to move around. Some of those costumes are not easy to move around in. To be honest with you, I’m kind of clumsy. I need something that’s flexible.

The costume itself is just beautiful. The huge wings and all the jewels on it, but the thing is those wings are really restraints at the same time because you can’t really move your shoulders as much. It pulls your shoulders back so you can’t breathe the same. It restricts your breathing, which is kind of crazy. But other than that, I loved my costume. [With Night Angel], an angel is sweet and all things beautiful and great but then you have the dark side. She’s kickass.

What was the first costume?

I don’t think I can tell people because they might still use it later. The Taco was [another] one of the options they gave me.

You did a mix of ballads and upbeat songs. Which performance are you the proudest of and which meant the most to you? You spoke about the meaning of “Last Dance” when you performed it.

“Last Dance” was so fun because that was the first song I actually knew the lyrics to. When I got the chance to sing it on the show, I [thought] this should be easy, but it ended up really being hard for some reason. The way I rehearsed it, it was terrible. I really changed the whole way I was singing it in rehearsals. I came back the day of show and really just turned it up a notch because I was like, “I can’t allow the song I’ve been doing my whole life to be the one I lose on.” I had to go home and figure it out and revamp.

And then my favorites were “Rise Up” — I really loved that performance, [it] got me past the top 9 — and then also the Lil Wayne song. I felt like it was so cool to take a hip hop record and basically flip it into a real actual singing song. I did that just because I wanted to do something different. I was getting closer to the end and I was trying to figure out how to make myself stand apart from Jesse McCartney and Bow Wow because they’re so dope as performers. When I was thinking about people, I [figured], “Wayne was on the show, why don’t I do one of his songs?”

You spoke about choosing the right songs. Are there any you’d considered but ended up not doing?

There were a lot of songs that I had put on the list. One of Toni Braxton’s. It was an iconic song, and I just didn’t want to mess it up. When I do a rock song or if I did a country song, because it’s a different genre and I have never been in those genres in real life, it’s not necessarily a comparison but because I come from R&B, I can’t go up there and play around with a Toni Braxton song. People expect a certain thing from a Toni Braxton record. They really, really wanted me to do it and at first, I [agreed] and then I thought about it and, “if I mess up at all on this Toni Braxton song, people are going to roast me.” I just couldn’t do it.

A couple of the panelists figured out it was you. Were you surprised? What was it like listening to their thoughts all season?

I actually thought they would’ve [guessed] me a lot earlier. I couldn’t believe it took them that long. Jenny and I actually are cool, we talk many times, and so I really thought she was going to know who I was from day one. The same thing with Robin. He had guessed my name in Season 1 for somebody and in Season 2. Clearly in my mind, I’m [thinking], “he’s going to know it’s me.” I just really thought it was so funny [when] he was like, “yeah, I think this might be somebody from a crew,” and then Jenny says, “you think it could be Kandi?” and he’s like, “oh, no way, this can’t be her.” I was like, “Did he really just dismiss me?” I just thought it was hilarious. I wanted to [start] laughing on that stage because, “how is it he guessed me two seasons in a row for other people and here I am, standing right in his face, and he doesn’t know it’s me?”

You spoke about channeling your fear of failure with this experience, so how is that going to change your approach to music going forward? What are you going to take away from the overall experience?

This experience helped me a lot because obviously I always see different things that the blogs say or people are saying online on social media. Before doing this show, people would [say], “oh she can’t really sing.” … But [The Masked Singer] rebuilt my confidence to make me feel like I really can be an artist if I want to in my own right and not just have to write for other people or just be in a group. I can really do my thing and people still love me for me. That’s what I took away. It just really was cool to get all that positive feedback from the judges every week and it was uplifting. I was really happy that I did this show because of that.

I plan to continue to do music. This time, I don’t want to put myself in a box. Before, I felt like, I came from an R&B group, I just have to do R&B records. Now, being on the show, I sang every genre of music, at least I tried to: country, rock, disco, I did everything. … The new single I just released yesterday, “Used to Love Me,” is more of a dance record. I just wanted to do something that was fun and that everybody could dance to.

What’s been the response you’ve been getting from friends and family since the episode aired? Obviously you couldn’t tell anyone you were doing this, so who has been the hardest person or people to deny your involvement to all this time?

My phone’s been blowing up since last night. It’s so funny because my aunt has been texting me and I just was ignoring her texts. Because I [couldn’t] tell her. She’s always on Facebook. I didn’t want her to mess around and say it to other people or put it on social media. I didn’t tell her.

The Masked Singer Season 3 Finale Night Angel Panelists Host

(Michael Becker/FOX)

Even my fan pages on Instagram, I try to follow as many of them as I can. Normally I like and comment on their pictures, but when they started posting about The Masked Singer every week, I couldn’t because I didn’t want it to be like I was confirming that I was on the show. It was really funny actually.

The Masked Singer, Season 4, Fall 2020, Fox