NEW YORK — A lot has changed in the last year for Sara Stokes and Lynese “Babs Bunny” Wiley.
They now have a recording contract with Bad Boy Records, a top-rated MTV reality series and live with their boss, who just happens to be Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. As the only two girls who made the cut in Combs’ “Making The Band,” Stokes and Wiley agree that, while they have wanted to be stars since they were small, it’s not as easy as it looks.
Today it shows. The girls appear tired and, running on two hours of sleep, it’s no wonder. But since the MTV cameras are close behind, Stokes and Wiley apply their lip gloss, brush their hair and prepare for another long day.
“We only get like two or three hours of sleep a night and when we wake up the cameras are right there,” Wiley said. “It’s really hard. Our schedules are so tight.”
At 27, Stokes is the oldest of the group of six rappers and R&B singers now known as Da Band. Out of the six, it seems she had to give up the most for ambition. A native of Port Huron, Mich., Stokes had hoped to enter the music scene since she was 18. Her life took a different path when she married at the age of 19. Now the mother of three children and still happily married, Stokes couldn’t pass up the chance at stardom when she heard about the auditions for MTV’s “Making The Band.” With the encouragement of her husband, Stokes headed here to try out for Da Band. She made it, beating out more than 40,000 others.
“It’s really hard being away from my husband and my kids,” she said. “But I speak to them on the phone every day and when I say I am going to give up and go home, my husband is always encouraging me to stay and do this.”
Stokes joins the band with 22-year-old Wiley, a Brooklyn native who spent her life surrounded by hip-hop culture. Before joining Da Band, Wiley worked as an usher in an off-Broadway theater while shopping a record deal with her demo. That ended when she made Da Band.
“I was so happy to leave my old job,” she said. “I did that for three years and had to deal with some major personalities and a lot of racism.”
So anything beats that — even the fights constantly seen between band members on the show, something Wiley said is now under control.
“The physical fighting has pretty much stopped,” she said. “We still argue, but in the end, it’s all love. We are like siblings.”
Combs runs a tight ship. The six band members are now living in his house with him before they hit the road to tour.
“No one wants to live with their boss,” Wiley said. “I mean, he’s been great, but it’s like we are on pins and needles at all times, and he makes us clean — like it’s boot camp. I’m pretty sure he never cleaned his own house.”
Stokes added, “Just last night we got home at 3 a.m. from an event and I went to the fridge to get a drink. I closed the door and there he was in his robe, wondering what I was doing. I don’t want to see my boss at 3 a.m. in a robe.”
While the two think it’s hard to live with their boss, nothing compares with living with four guys, who are also members of Da Band. Wiley said they are constantly ganging up on the girls, making fun of them.
“They always have something to say about something,” Wiley said, “but in the end, we all love each other.”
“It’s like Puff is our dad and our mother left him with six kids,” Stokes added. “We are really like a family.”
While fame has changed the way these girls live their day-to-day lives, one thing really hasn’t changed all that much: their styles. Stokes, who labels her style “sexy hip pop,” prefers to wear tight jeans with high-heeled boots.
“I love boots, I don’t care what the weather is,” she said. “There’s nothing better than a good pair of sexy, high-heeled boots.”
Wiley thinks there is something better. Standing at 5 feet 9 inches, she would rather wear flat shoes. “I don’t like boots at all and I’m too tall for heels,” she said. “I like sneakers.”
Wiley called her style “rap rock.”
“I love rock accessories like chains and grommets, and my clothes are more hip-hop,” she said, pointing to her black leather handbag embellished with silver studs and chains hanging off the zipper pulls. She bought the bag at Misu, a Brooklyn-based boutique that has been her favorite store for years. “This bag says it all,” she said. “This is my style.”
Even with her new fame and ability to shop in more extravagant ways than she is used to, Wiley said she still frequents her favorite stores (Wet Seal, Bang Bang, Misu and Girl Props for accessories) and is still loyal to her favorite brands (Bubblegum jeans and Ecko Red). She likes that she can wear almost anything she wants, since companies are always sending new clothes, hoping she will wear them on the show.
“It’s great because now I am able to wear anything I want,” she said.