A Jamie Foster Brown Interview
(excerpted from the October 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister)
Monica! She and I have always been tight. We always find each other, we always share. I’m always impressed by her growth, emotionally, intellectually and vocally. She has such a soaring spirit—happy, caring and unafraid.
This time she found me because some exciting things are happening in her life. For starters, she has a new album coming out on J Records under the guidance of the legendary Clive Davis (Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, Alicia Keys and Santana, to name a few) who is rumored to be determined to make Monica’s Still Standing album a blockbuster. In love with her children and her go-to man Rock, she’s learned a lot about relationships, mainly how to be quiet and don’t be arguing with her man all the time. She has some key tips for us.
I got to talk to Monica while she was on the road with Keyshia Cole, who is the godmother to Monica’s baby boy. Somehow Monica keeps it together as she puts her family right up there at the top of her priorities along with her music career and now reality show. Let’s find out the latest that’s happening with this lady who started as a tween singing sensation and, according to some, is one of the most slept-on R&B stars of today.
Jamie: He is so cute! You look so pretty.
Monica: Thank you.
Jamie: You don’t look like you had no daggone baby.
Monica: Good, because he was a big one.
Jamie: How big was he?
Monica: Well, my first one was the biggest. He was 2 ounces from 9 pounds, and I felt every inch.
Jamie: So did you exercise it down, or is it just mama genes?
Monica: I can’t stay in the gym. I’m going to have to, though, because I just found out that I have high blood pressure. I’m 28 years old! And it’s hereditary; it’s on both sides. My mom has it, my grandmother had it, my father has it and diabetes, and his mother had both.
Jamie: We were just talking about that.
Monica: I’m learning about it. It’s me now wanting to exercise and just learn to eat better; it’s not for vanity purposes. They put me on medication but I’ve been off those meds for a week. I’m changing my eating patterns. I was addicted to Lawry’s Seasoning Salt on my soul food—addicted to Old Bay seasoning. That stuff was killing me slowly. I ain’t even been around long enough yet!
Jamie: But wait a minute. What meds were you on?
Monica:He gave me a pill strictly for the high blood pressure, and he said, “If you do what you’re supposed to do, you can wean yourself away from it.” And so I just had to do what I had to do.
Jamie: So your blood pressure went down?
Monica:My girlfriend Mia did the same thing. You know, she was diagnosed with diabetes. She lost over 50 pounds. I mean, she looks incredible!
Jamie: Mia X?
Monica:Yeah! She looks like a 20-year-old, and her daughter is 20. And her granddaughter is the same age as Romelo.
Jamie: Mia was with Master P and his brother.
Monica:She was the only lady in the clique.
Jamie: On the label, right!
Monica: She’s the No Limit female. She used to call herself the biggest mama of the town, but now she’s not a big anything!
Jamie: I want you to tell them why you wanted to do Sister 2 Sister—when you called me up the other day.
Monica:Why I call you each time before I have a project come out? What you read and see on the Internet is usually 75 percent false. Sometimes there’s a little truth in a lie, but in my case, normally it’s not. And what I like about Sister 2 Sister is, straight up, you don’t edit what I say. If I say it in a particular way, I say it for that reason. I want what I said to be understood. I think people just enjoy mess and controversy, so they chop and dice what you say a lot of times. But I also like that you’ve been like that about certain ones of us for a long time. It’s not the first time that we’ve done this, but I just think it’s important for people to know the truth about artists because they’re lost in the lies. And this is really the only place that doesn’t mind if it takes up 15 pages to tell the truth and tell it like it is.
Jamie: So what things have they been saying about you that are not true?
Monica: As of recent? How many children do I have?
Jamie: You’ve got two, as far as I know.
Monica: Thank you. Very good. I would not forget those 21 hours of labor with the first one, 16 with the second. It’s impossible. I had two children—two boys—that I love dearly.
Jamie: What are they saying?
Monica: I don’t really know exactly where it came from, but some people have been asking me did I have several other children and why don’t I keep those children with me. My children are always with me. I mean, my feelings are still hurt today because Little Rock decided he didn’t want to roll with [me and Romelo to Baltimore] today and [chose to] stay with his daddy.
Jamie: How old is he now?
Monica: He’s 4.
Jamie: But people may be thinking about—remember your other…
Monica:The children that I was close to? Absolutely. But I was always very upfront about the fact that they were close to me through their parents. I never excluded their parents, but as far as me biologically, the two that I have, that’s all that I have. I would love more, and you’ll see them too.
Jamie: Were you drinking when you were 14 or something?
Monica:That wasn’t me. Don’t give me no charges now; I did enough already! That’s somebody else. … Drinking—nor drugs—was ever one of my vices. I think most of what I experienced came through either who I dated, at whatever different stages of my life, or just me trying to find myself outside of music, ’cause sometimes you can kind of become “the artist” and forget who the person is.
Jamie: That was hard for you. How old were you when you first got [signed]? Were you 14?
Monica:No. I wasn’t even 14. I think it was ’93 when we signed. So I would have been 12. I’ll be 29 in October.
Jamie: That’s not normal that they would sign a child that young anymore. I mean, they don’t do that anymore, right?
Monica:No. Not very much. Kids are not as successful now, unless it’s more like Disney children—stuff like that. It isn’t like it was with myself, Brandy and Aaliyah—all of us were all around that same time.
Monica: But that’s what I always respected about Dallas [Austin]. He took a chance. I came to his office with blue fingernails, flip-flops—and that wasn’t popular back then like it is now. I’ve always been on my own agenda, finding my own path. So, it took a lot for him to step in and really say, “I see something in her.”
Jamie: Who brought you there?
Monica:Kevin Wells. Kevin Wells actually found [my cousin] Melinda through one of her old classmates from [Fellwood High]—it’s now [Benjamin] Banneker High School.
Jamie: This is in Atlanta?
Monica: Yes. It was years and years and years ago. And I was known for being the little girl that sang “The Greatest Love of All,” so that’s how they tracked us down. They would ask, “Who knows the little girl that sang ‘The Greatest Love of All’?’” Because that’s what I sang at the talent show Kevin saw me at that made him want me to meet Dallas. My mom was getting married to my stepdad the next day.
Monica: So, I sang my song, left and waited on somebody to call me and tell me who won the $1,000 because that was all I was thinking about. I wanted to give [my mom] the $1,000. So they’re like, “The little girl won! The little girl that sang ‘Greatest Love of All.’ She won. Where is she?” So they started this, like, “Where is Waldo?” type of “Where is Monica?” thing. And he found us and he took me to Dallas and that’s it.
Jamie: Who was Kevin Wells now?
Monica: Kevin Wells, he created a lot of different groups: Jagged Edge, Another Bad Creation. … His first-born’s name is Iesha. That was [ABC’s] hit at the time. I think he still does a little bit of music.
Jamie: So you weren’t even looking for a deal.
Monica:Oh no. I thought it was interesting. I figured out that I loved to sing by my Aunt Laura—my mom’s sister. We were real, real close, and she used to do these big pageants at church, down in the country, in Newman. She knew how to get me; she’d show me the trophy. “This is what the winner is going to get. We strive for perfection. We do our best at all times.” And she would give me these speeches and teach me to be a lady. But it was good for me because I learned, you know, you win some you lose some. I learned how to treat people and stay focused on my character and how to interact with other people. You know, and I still got my other side.
Jamie: Yes. Now, let’s talk about that side. Do you like to hang out at clubs or stuff like that? You like to be with the people.
Monica: You haven’t been keeping up with me.
Jamie: But you did.
Monica: My people are my kids now!
Jamie: I know, but I’m saying you used to. You’ve gone through a lot. First of all, it’s a lot to go through as a child to be in the music industry—also the disappointments.
Monica: Yeah, yeah.
Jamie: Tell me about a disappointment: how you got through that one. And then, now, you’re healing. Now you’re saying that you thought you were healing before but you weren’t. [In the late ’90s, Monica talked about her boyfriend who had shot himself inside his car. She got to him by shooting out a car window with the gun that she carries.]
Monica: Yes, you realize it’s an everyday process.
Jamie: How did you realize that it was still with you?
Monica: Because when you wake up and you still feel burdened by something, that means it’s not moving, you know? And I just learned to pack up my yesterdays, stop living in yesterday, stop living in my past and recognize who I am now as a person because that’s the only way that I can help somebody if I’m talking to them.
Jamie: But I thought when you were telling me about Jarvis and what you did, it was just such a brave thing. I thought you were able to be really straightforward and strong. I thought you were strong to try to save him and what you did when you were trying to keep him alive after he had shot himself. Monica, that was just unbelievable that you didn’t even have nightmares about that, or did you have nightmares about that?
Monica: At times.
Jamie: Did you surprise yourself that you were able to do that?
Monica: I think I surprised the people there more than I did myself. I come from a family of extremely strong women. My grandmother’s first set of children and husband were killed in a house fire all at once while she was seven months pregnant. So I stem from [a long line of strong women].
For more of Monica’s interview pick up the October 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine on stands now.