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


Singer Monifah is best known for her 1998 single “Touch It,” but she’s back in the spotlight on the new TVOne reality series R&B Divas. Having spent the last 20 years in a strained relationship with her daughter because of her substance abuse issues, Monifah is finally in a good place where she is working on herself, her relationships and re-starting her music career.

Photo from TVOne

On the first episode of R&B Divas, viewers met Monifah’s partner, Terez, and on this week’s episode, her daughter Akemi, who doesn’t agree with her mom’s lesbian partnership. We had the chance to speak with Monifah about coming out, letting cameras into her life and why she thinks there aren’t a lot of out gay black celebrities. What is your coming out story? When did you come out?

Monifah Carter:
I had made a conscious decision to start dating women. I have a few gay people in my family, so it was pretty normalized. It wasn’t like a huge deal. My brother who is 12 years older than me — we were very close. He was like my brother [and my] dad — brother/dad. We were very close. He was gay. I made the decision — so I almost felt, when I made that decision… I made the decision because I had a really weird and abusive relationship with this guy. And I was like, “You know what ?” Once I got through that, I was like, I’m gonna date women. Because I did, at a certain point, when I was 17, I had a crush on this young woman, and I just wanted to kiss her. I was like “Oh my gosh! What’s going on?” So I was like “Let me explore this.” It was a conscious decision. I was about 23 about the time I had hooked up with Heav [Heavy D] and was working in stuff in music, recording. I just started dating this woman. I met this young lady and she was awesome, and she was a friend of a friend and we hit it off and that was it, you know? That was it. That was the beginning of my same-sex relationships.

AE: So it was before you recorded your first album?

It was during, like it was simultaneous. We were together when I first started recording my first album. So it was newness all around. I had just got my record deal, just getting into that, recording my project, having my first intimate relationship with a woman. So it was a lot going on. It was an explorative time in my life, and that’s to say the least. I don’t like the label thing and I know in the community I’m a part of and I do claim, I just hate to label things. I just really base things on like tolerance and being human beings. And the bottom line is as human beings we deserve to be treated equally and fairly. We should all enjoy the same rights across the board. And because I have the capability of loving, you know, both genders, I’m attracted to and have had great relationships with both men and women. I’m big on how I, as an individual, identify, as myself. That’s what is important, do you understand? I’m big on that. I don’t like to label myself anything but a human being, God’s child, capable of loving, period. Loving anyone. So there it is.

AE: I understand. You’re a role model you’re in the public eye, so on the one hand you want to be able to say “I’m gay” to help other gay kids, but if you say “I’m bisexual” or queer, which I like to throw “queer” out there because I think it’s a great all-encompassing word.

Yeah, yeah, I think so too!

AE: Do you find yourself struggling now that you are out publicly? It’s almost like you are almost forced to put a label on it.

But I don’t. And that’s what’s funny, trying to make sure I’m very clear about that because I think that’s where we get tripped up a lot and I think that’s where the misunderstanding with the groups of people and people from different walks don’t understand. I think that’s where we get tripped up. I think people really needs to understand it’s how the individual identifies themselves not how you need to identify them. That’s completely the thing.

AE: Right, well there’s a B in LGBTQ. There is a B and people don’t talk about that and it’s really there.

Bisexuality? Yeah that’s true! I get stuck with that a lot. It’s not about being all over the place. When I take about responsibility and stuff. Everybody is guilty of being irresponsible at some point, if that’s the case. It’s not about being greedy; it’s none of that stuff to me. We could go on and on and on really! That’s why I say I’m in a committed same-gender loving relationship, you know what I’m saying?

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