Monifah on being black, gay and an R&B Diva

AE: You sign off a lot to be on a reality television show. Do you feel that up to now it’s pretty true to life?
I know ours is, absolutely. TV is TV. The edits the producers are gonna do they do to make it interesting but our stories are real; they’re true. They’re really true and that’s what I love about this show and why I signed on to do it. Because first of all, these are my real home girls, these are my real friends. And we saw the void and we saw there were things that needed to be told and we needed to share our stories and had some really real stories to tell. And we’re very, very protective of them and thankfully had a great production company, Think Factory Media, and a great network that saw the value in it and was willing to honor those stories with integrity. Bottom line. And I think they’ve done a great job so far on the editing and getting the stories out there just the way we put it out there, and they’re delivering it to the masses and I’m proud of it.

AE: I’m so excited to see the next episodes. I’m hooked already! I have so many other questions. I don’t really know how to ask this one.
Just ask girl!

AE: It just really feels — as a white woman, I even feel there’s not a lot of people “out.” And I keep talking about this “out thing” because it just feels like in the R&B and black community, specifically, that for whatever reason it is, and I could be wrong because I’m not in it, but it doesn’t seem that publicly, there are a lot of people who are out and living their lives as you are living your life, and I was wondering if you had any insight into that?
And I’m glad you asked that question, because here it is. Lindsey, and you said as a white — the bottom line is there are differences in our culture and the only way we’re going to help each other is if we talk each other honestly and rawly and openly. Right? So I appreciate your question. From a black woman’s perspective — what it’s about, we have a lot of “isms.” Every culture does; all people do. The ones that are very prevalent in ours, to me, and I’m going to keep this from my perspective, the ones that are very prevalent to me is the religion piece; is what I have coined “The Uncle Chester Syndrome.” And I think all cultures have a little bit of that. We don’t have a monopoly on that. We’re behind the eightball in a lot of areas. We don’t have the luxury of certain freedoms in different genres and areas, I’m sorry, as our white counterparts. The bottom line is that we have to — we’re not really that supportive of things that are different or things we aren’t comfortable talking about, like sexuality. Sexualty itself — so then you add homosexuality or anything different from sexuality itself and that’s like a whole other thing! It’s like you’re ripping a band-aid off, like “What are you doing? No, we’re not talking about that! We don’t talk about that.” We don’t talk about the choir director. We’re not talking about Uncle Chester that we keep locked away in the room and just make sure the kids don’t go up there by themselves. You know what I’m saying? Like that thing.

Photo by T. Mychelle

AE: Right, so — well you’re a woman, number one. So there’s that struggle. You’re black, number two. And now you’re going to add homosexuality on to it?
Yeah and we don’t support each other. So it makes it that much harder. We don’t have the luxury of certain — in a nutshell there are a few of things that the community, that the black community needs to deal with together and openly and honestly before we can clear some of that shit out. So people can live their lives open and honestly and unconflicted and without shame and thinking someone will be berating them and beating them down with a bible. And that’s across the board. But for me, we’ve been through a lot and we have a lot of self-loathing things going on and do have a lot of things we need to get through. You add this kind of stuff to it and it really is hard.

AE: Do you consider yourself an activist? Do you want to take this on?
Yeah, I think so. I don’t think I have a choice. And I think anybody who is put on this earth and the person who gets the most attention at the point doing it, it comes with a couple — yes, I absolutely do plan on being a voice to things to a lot of issues. I plan on lending my voice to things like the alarming rate of HIV in our children and teens. This is crazy. It’s gotta stop. Getting art back into the schools. I have plans on lending my celebrity, my voice, whatever I can do to keep shedding light on things that are near and dear to my heart. I lost my brother to the disease. I have to to do something. It’s crazy. We have to stop. We have to stop acting as if.

AE: I agree. I think you are a great voice and have a lot to share. Do you believe that same-sex couples should be able to be married?
Hell yes! I absolutely believe that same-sex couples should be afforded the same rights under the law as everybody else. Why not? We pay taxes! Are you kidding me? Marriage, yes!

We’ll be talking more with Monifah during the run of R&B Divas and she’s open to all of your questions. Got something you want to ask her? Leave a comment! R&B Divas airs Mondays on TVOne.

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