Monifah burst onto the scene underneath the wings of the late Heavy D with her first album, "Moods...Moments," featuring hits like "I Miss You (Come Back Home)" in 1996. At the time, the sultry songstress was knee-deep in the music industry when more than a few female R&B singers could dominate the charts and R&B singers weren't making headlines for feuding like rap stars.
Now she is in the mix with other songbirds, starring in TV One's most watched reality series, "R&B Divas." Monifah, who came out in 2012, recently spoke to HuffPost about reality television, sexuality, the music industry and more.
The Huffington Post: You once said that you fell out of love with the music industry. It has changed so much since you first hit the scene in the 90s with Heavy D. How do you feel about it now?
Monifah: I feel differently about it because I know who I am. I've grown up and I've been through some things. My perspective is different. I love music and that's my gift. It's one of the biggest gifts that God has given me to minister.
The biggest thing is, it's about who you are in it.
Most of us are young when we get into the business and we're still trying to figure it out. That was some of the reason why I felt the way that I did. I had to regroup. It can be rough, if you don't know who you are.
You’re now on TV One’s “R&B Divas” with Faith Evans, KeKe Wyatt, Nicci Gilbert and Syleena Johnson. On the season two premiere a tour idea was brought up. How solid is the tour idea with you and the rest of the divas?
It's a no-brainer! The thing is that, there are so many different personalities and perspectives.
I can only speak for myself. I want to do what I love to do. I want to share my gifts. It's going to happen anyway, but why not do it together? Separately, we can conquer the world, but together we can change it.
Latocha Scott, formerly of Xscape and Angie Stone just joined the show. What impact do you think they will have on the group?
I think that it's a good addition. I appreciate them just on what they bring. Angie has hits that are older than most of our careers collectively. So I appreciate it. It spices the pot.
Frank Ocean came out not too long ago and it was such a big deal, as did NBA veteran Jason Collins. Meanwhile, new WNBA star Brittney Griner also spoke about her sexuality and it kind of blew over. In the entertainment industry and sports, do you feel it’s easier for women to be accepted [when they come out]?
I don't know if it's easier. I just think it's different. It's a boys club. First of all, people directly go to the act of sex when it comes to homosexuality, which it's not what it's about. So of course it's going to be a bigger deal about Jason Collins or Frank Ocean because it's a guy.
I also applaud them for their bravery and for paving the way for that next guy and for kids. So that they know that they're not alone. And so that they know ... they have everyday and extraordinary people who look like them, that feel like them and that they can identify with. That's what's important.
I didn't come out to get accolades. I just showed my truth. I wasn't trying to be a pioneer. I knew that it would help somebody and it has definitely helped me live my best life.
Do you feel that the climate has changed in regards to accepting the LGBT community in the music industry since when you first hit the scene and were out as opposed to now?
Oh yes. There were a lot of women that were dating each other on the scene in the '90s.There were executives saying not to mess their money up and to keep it on the low (on both sides of the coin for the men and the women).
You had some issues with your daughter accepting your sexuality and relationship with your girlfriend on the first season. Has that changed now?
No. She believes what she believes. We love each other still. You can believe differently and think differently, but if you approach those differences with love and respect, that's all that matters.
Hip-hop recently lost Chris Kelly of Kriss Kross. It was reported that there was a possible drug overdose. You have admitted to using drugs and we’ve seen so many other stars suffer from drug addiction. Why do you think that in the entertainment industry when things get rough or even when they’re great, that drug use is so prevalent?
It's prevalent in this life. The world leaves a lot emotionally for us to deal with and self medication, unfortunately is one of the symptoms of that. When you don't want to deal, that's usually what happens. The industry has a lot of critiquing and you can feel used up and lonely. You're a commodity and it's all about the dollar.
You lost your brother to AIDS. How important is it to you to spread the message about AIDS and HIV Awareness?
It's very important. My generation still needs to know that this isn't something that's getting any better.
You've had some hits like “I Miss You (Come Back Home),” “I Can Tell” and “Touch It.” What song that you recorded is the most personal for you and why?
"It's Alright" from the first album. I dedicated it to my brother Kevin.
In addition to working with the other women on the show, what’s next for Monifah?
Writing and I'm looking into production. I want to get back into acting. I've been in this business professionally since I was 7 years old. You'll be hearing from me.
Also on HuffPost:
Los Angeles-based rapper Murs, though straight, recently released a video, "Animal Style," which features a brief, though intimate, kiss between two men, and explores the damage that homophobia can cause.
Frank Ocean, R&B artist and part of the Odd Future collective, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/04/frank-ocean-rb-singer-comes-out_n_1649079.html" target="_hplink">released a poetic coming out statement</a> on his <a href="http://www.frankocean.com/" target="_hplink">web site</a>, without mentioning sexual orientation. Here is an except: <blockquote>"In the last year or 3 I've screamed at my creator, screamed at the clouds in the sky, for some explanation. Mercy maybe. For peace of mind to rain like manna somehow. 4 summers ago, I met somebody. I was 19 years old. He was too. We spent that summer, and the summer after, together. Everyday almost... Sleep I would often share with him. By the time I realized I was in love, it was malignant. It was hopeless. There was no escaping."</blockquote>
When closing-out this 2008 concert, Kanye's spoke about gay rumors aimed at him and learning acceptance: <blockquote>"Hip hop, you know how many people came to me, called me gay, 'cause I wear my jeans the fresh way? Or because I said 'Hey, dude, how you gonna say "fag" right in front of a gay dude's face and act like that's okay?' That shit is disrespectful! And it took me time to learn that, coming from Chicago, where if you saw somebody that was gay, you was supposed to stay ten feet away. It took me time to break out of the mental prisons I was in, the stereotypes... accepting people for who they are... open your minds and live a happier life, don't hate on people so much."</blockquote>
In this excerpt from a February 2012 <em>New York Times</em> piece, up and coming hip hop presence Azealia Banks <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/02/azealia-banks-rapper-comes-out-bisexual_n_1249996.html" target="_hplink">nonchalantly addresses her sexuality</a> and the problem of tokenization that can happen in the music industry: <blockquote>"The aggression in "212" is palpable, not just in the beat but also in the crass lyrics, in which she asserts her dominance over a male opponent. Ms. Banks considers herself bisexual, but, she said: 'I'm not trying to be, like, the bisexual, lesbian rapper. I don't live on other people's terms.'"</blockquote>
In a 2011 interview with <a href="http://www.vladtv.com/" target="_hplink">VladTV</a>, rapper <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/11/09/fat-joe-gays-hip-hop-rap_n_1084855.html" target="_hplink">Fat Joe said</a>, "There's millions of gay people in the world, girls too... 2011 you gotta hide that you're gay?... Be real!... The hip hop community is owned by gay... I happen to think there's a gay mafia in hip hop... they are in power... if you're gay, rep your set."
"I don't give a fuck about your business," A$AP Rocky said in a <a href="http://www.spinner.com/2012/02/17/asap-rocky-hip-hop-homophobia/" target="_hplink">2012 interview with Spinner</a>, adding: <blockquote>"Man, if you're gay we can be friends. If you're straight, we can be friends. I'm not gay, I don't plan on being gay, I don't condone it and I'm not sayin' I'm against it. I really don't give a fuck and I don't think anyone should care about what another man's preference is... unless he's interested, if you know what I'm sayin'. People need to leave gay people the fuck alone. Like, who cares? If you still care about shit like that you need to just hang yourself like the rest of them KKK motherfuckers. For real. Who gives a fuck?... I don't care and it's like fucked up that hip-hop is so retarded. They don't want to accept nothing."</blockquote>
In an interview with <a href="http://www.vladtv.com/" target="_hplink">Vlad TV</a>, rapper The Game said: <blockquote>"Beyonce should have said 'Who run the world? Gays!'... It's a free country, be gay, you can do that. Game don't have a problem with gay people, Game has a problem with people that are pretending not to be gay, but are gay. Because, the number one issue with that is that you can be fooling somebody and you can give them AIDS and they can die, and so that in the closet shit is real scary... it's just not fair to other people... there's a lot of man fans in hip hop."</blockquote>
In a CNN interview, Jay-Z reached to Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, saying: <blockquote>"What people do in their own home is their business. You choose to love whoever you love. It's no difference than discrimination against blacks, it's discrimination, plain and simple... [Obama endorsing same-sex marriage] is not about votes, it's about people...it's the right thing to do as a human being."</blockquote>
"I think there have been many gay rappers, they just haven't come out of the closet," Minaj said in a <a href="http://www.out.com/entertainment/music/2010/09/12/curious-case-nicki-minaj?page=0,0" target="_hplink">2010 interview with <em>OUT</em> magazine</a>. She added: <blockquote>"Yup, lots of them. They're lurking around the industry now... obviously, the majority of the men in hip-hop don't want you to think they're gay. That's just the reality of it...I'm a woman, so I have a lot more flexibility. And I don't lose credibility in any way if I say I think girls are dope and sexy."</blockquote> She's also stated that one of her alter egos, Roman Zolanski, is gay (see above video).
In an interview with TMZ about Frank Ocean coming out, rapper <a href="http://www.tmz.com/2012/07/07/lil-scrappy-tmz-live-frank-ocean-aids-gays/" target="_hplink">Lil Scrappy controversially said</a>: <blockquote>"I'm glad that he came out so all the real women that love to mess with real men -- the straight men -- we can keep the AIDS situation down, you feel me?...[Homosexuality] is a doorway to AIDS, scientifically... Half the rappers are gay, you feel me? The 'real gangsters' and all that, they're gay, but they ain't coming out... you a coward if you don't stand-up... at the end of the day, a person will respect if you say you would rather be Adam and Steve."</blockquote>
In response to Hot 97's Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg Show asking him what he though of Jay-Z coming out in support of gay marriage, rapper T.I. responded, "To be honest with you, I don't care. I don't see what the big deal is, why some people are so against it. Why could you be so against it if it doesn't effect you or your lifestyle?... If something doesn't effect you, you should not take a strong position against it."
Faced with a press release that said, "Teen idol Omarion announces that he's bisexual," and a Twitter uproar fueling speculation, Omarion called Hot 97's Funkmaster Flex to clear up the rumors: "I did not release that statement. Whatever people like is their business, but I'm not gay, or bisexual. I love women, and that's just what it is."
40 Glocc & Zoo Life
Speaking about Young Money, Lil Wayne's record label, rappers 40 Glocc and Zoo Life said, "The majority of the industry is gay, all you dudes is fags. You know you dudes is fags," and, "You n***as is hugging each other in the studio, kissing each other and shit. What kinda shit is that?" Some other low points: "Young Money is the new 'Brokeback Mountain'," and, "Make sure you put a cork in your butt, 'cause your shit is wide open."
The following is a July 2012 <a href="http://globalgrind.com/entertainment/russell-simmons-letter-to-frank-ocean-gay-bi-sexual-comes-out-photos#ixzz20XAvuyks" target="_hplink">letter to The Global Grind</a> about Frank Ocean coming out, from rap mogul Russel Simmons: <blockquote>"Today is a big day for hip-hop. It is a day that will define who we really are. How compassionate will we be? How loving can we be? How inclusive are we? I am profoundly moved by the courage and honesty of Frank Ocean. Your decision to go public about your sexual orientation gives hope and light to so many young people still living in fear. These types of secrets should not matter anymore, but we know they do, and because of that I decided to write this short statement of support for one of the greatest new artists we have. His gifts are undeniable. His talent, enormous. His bravery, incredible. His actions this morning will uplift our consciousness and allow us to become better people. Every single one of us is born with peace and tranquility in our heart. Frank just found his. Frank, we thank you. We support you. We love you."</blockquote>
In an interview with <a href="http://www.divamag.co.uk/category/arts-entertainment/lady-sovereign-britain's-out-lesbian-rapper.aspx" target="_hplink">Diva Magazine</a>, UK rapper Lady Sovereign confirmed rumors that she was, in fact, a lesbian: <blockquote>"Magazines would always ask about it but [questions about my sexuality] would get stopped by my publicists. It was my choice, too, because I was a bit worried about it but now I don't really give a shit. You can't hide away forever. It's just stupid and now I've come out I feel a lot more comfortable with myself. But it was a bit scary back then because some people do have horrible opinions."</blockquote>
Tyler, the Creator
The Los Angeles-based hip-hop collective, Odd Future, has faced criticism about its use of homophobic slurs, to the point that the group <a href="http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_11002.php" target="_hplink">was disinvited</a> from the New Zealand's Big Gay Out music festival, after <a href="http://www.gaynz.com/articles/publish/2/article_11002.php" target="_hplink">complaints</a>. Collective front-man, Tyler The Creator,<a href="http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1665860/tyler-the-creator-defends-lyrics.jhtml" target="_hplink"> told MTV news</a>: "Well, I have gay fans and they don't really take it offensive, so I don't know. If it offends you, it offends you." When fellow Odd Future member Frank Ocean <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/04/frank-ocean-rb-singer-comes-out_n_1649079.html" target="_hplink">came out</a>, Tyler, The Creator <a href="https://twitter.com/fucktyler/status/220409501487079424" target="_hplink">tweeted support</a>.
In a July 2012 <a href="http://www.mtv.com/news/articles/1689598/50-cent-frank-ocean-gay-support.jhtml" target="_hplink">interview with MTV News</a>, 50 Cent spoke about <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/04/frank-ocean-rb-singer-comes-out_n_1649079.html" target="_hplink">Frank Ocean coming out</a>: <blockquote>"Anyone who has an issue with Frank Ocean is an idiot... I could care less about what his personal preferences in his actual bedroom. To say you don't like Frank Ocean is to say maybe you don't like Luther Vandross or maybe you don't like Kenny Greene. 'Cause there's artists before him that have made these choices, just not, they haven't made the choice to expose it or the general public before an actual release of music... The results of how popular [Frank Ocean's] music becomes now would say how cool or uncool it is to be in the open... Obama is for same-sex marriage... If the president is saying that, then who am I to go the other way?"</blockquote>
Pop star Beyoncé, who is married to hip hop mogul Jay-Z, and has acknowledged and voiced support for <a href="http://www.pridesource.com/article.html?article=48242" target="_hplink">her gay fans</a>, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/09/beyonces-shows-support-for-frank-ocean_n_1660031.html" target="_hplink">posted a poem</a> to her <a href="http://www.beyonce.com/news/frank-ocean" target="_hplink">web site</a> in support of Frank Ocean coming out.
In an interview with Anderson Cooper on "60 Minutes," Eminem addressed his frequent use of the word "faggot" (skip to 9:00): <blockquote>"The scene that I came up in, that word was thrown around so much, you know? Faggot was, like, it was thrown around constantly, to each other, like in battling...I don't have any problem with nobody, you know what I mean. Like, I'm just whatever." </blockquote> Eminem has also discussed gay marriage in the past and told the <em>New York Times,</em> "I think if two people love each other, then what the hell?... I think that everyone should have the chance to be equally miserable, if they want."