By Florence Edwards*
Monifah set the music world on fire in the ’90s, and her music continues to have a tremendous impact on R&B music fans around the world. There’s no question that no one brings it quite like Monifah. Her seductive, soulful voice can help you overcome a tragic break-up, inspire you to push forward, or make you have explosive mind-gasms that will take you on an unforgettable erotic journey of raw passion and sexual bliss.
A spiritually conscious artist who is not afraid to be herself in a world that wants to define her, Monifah is defying stereotypes about same-gender-loving people, and is teaching the world that love is love. She is redefining what a real Black woman is, and is a true example of how we can own our power, transform our lives, and live fearlessly.
Besides starring in TV One’s hit reality series, R&B Divas: Atlanta, Monifah is an incomparable entertainer, actress, writer, advocate and entrepreneur who knows who she is, what she wants, and how to get it. Her unshakable faith, profound wisdom and courageous spirit is why she is a true diva and an inspiration to women and girls everywhere.
Monifah’s ground-breaking wedding to Terez recently earned the show a 2015 GLAAD Media Award nomination for “Outstanding Reality Series.” She was also honored with the 2015 Vanguard Award from The OutMusic Awards – The LGBTQ Academy of Recording Artist (LARA), and she’s just getting started! Monifah’s ready for her next close-up and is calling her own shots in the entertainment industry.
We recently caught up with Monifah and asked her all of the juicy questions you’ve been dying to know. In this candid interview, we discuss everything from her definition of hot sex to her impact as a same-gender-loving woman in Hollywood.
FLORENCE: After marrying your long-time girlfriend, Terez, you were the first African-American same-sex couple to wed on national TV. In an interview, you stated that you did it for a bigger reason. Do you think it made a long-term impact on how the world perceives Black lesbians, love and marriage? If so, how?
MONIFAH: Firstly, I’d like to clarify how I sexually identify. I identify as a bisexual or same-gender-loving woman in the LGBTQ community. People assume that I identify as lesbian because I have dated, been in long-term relationships with women, and am now married to a woman. It’s easy for us to paint situations and people with a broad brush and put each other into nicely wrapped boxes of perceptions, stereotypes and judgments that keep us “comfortable” and stagnate in not getting an understanding of the beauty of our differences.
Sexuality, although a birthright and important to be expressed and respected equally, is not all of who any person is and how an individual identifies can only be expressed by that individual. I believe wholeheartedly that Terez and I making the decision to share our nuptials with the world was necessary and very impactful long-term.
We’ve received many messages from the Black LGBT and heterosexual communities alike, that they can see themselves in our relationship and are proud of our representation of ourselves or that being privy to our relationship changed their opinion, views and perception of same-gender love because all they saw was the love, respect, reverence and partnership between us and it normalized it for them.
FLORENCE: You mentioned that your sexuality wasn’t really a focus for you when you were younger because you had gay family members. When did you first realize that you were bisexual? How were you able to escape the stigma of being a same-gender-loving woman in the African American community and love yourself without taking on the world’s judgment of your sexuality?
MONIFAH: I experienced my first attraction to a girl at age 18. I didn’t judge it or myself. I just felt it. I have same-gender-loving family members and the messages I received weren’t negative, so it didn’t feel like this big bad monster I needed to try and escape. I was just myself. When I met my first girlfriend at 23, I just simply had a girlfriend. [Laughs.] I’ve been blessed with the spirit God chose for me to have and this spirit never felt embarrassed or shameful nor did it care what anyone else thought about what gender the spirits I connected to were encased in.
I knew the gender of the person I chose to be with didn’t completely define me and if someone felt “a way” or thought it did, that was their issue, not mine. Maybe growing up and living in New York City, which is a melting pot of diversity, afforded me this luxury, but I did experience my share of discrimination.
FLORENCE: A lot of LGBT youth are [dying by suicide due to] the hatred and condemnation they receive because of who they choose to love. What would your advice be to young people who are contemplating suicide because of their sexual orientation? What are two things they can do to overcome judgment, bullying, or being disowned from their family and friends?
MONIFAH: I’d say to them: “I cannot begin to imagine the pain of being judged and treated like you are invisible or worthless. My babies, you are more than worthy and you do matter. You are more than your sexuality and are unique because of it. You were created just as you are in the image of the Most High Divine Light and you have a divine purpose. Please reach out to someone you feel safe with and ask for help creating a plan to of action to stay out of harm’s way.
Call 9-1-1 if you don’t have access to anyone in the moment of emotional, mental or physical crisis. There are places for you to find refuge. Unfortunately, it’s often necessary as a person in the LGBTQ community that we create our family bonds and units outside of blood relation because that’s where we find commonality and understanding of the struggles that we are faced with. YOU ARE NOT ALONE. I love you.”
FLORENCE: In previous interviews, you stated that you received a lot of support when you came out in the media. Some people feel that [same-sex] couples should not publicize their [sexual orientation]. Have you ever been criticized by fans/the public/or other artists about being transparent? If so, how did you handle it? Were you ever told that you should have kept your sexuality a secret?
MONIFAH: For the record, I believe sexual identity is not a lifestyle. It’s funny to me that I never hear anyone say “heterosexual lifestyle” but yet perceive homosexuality as a lifestyle choice. I’ve received more of an outpouring of support than not and I haven’t been criticized to my face, where it matters. I’m sure there are self-loathing cowards in the midst, but I don’t focus on those energies because they don’t make a difference in my world.
In the early part of my career, I was encouraged to keep my private life private and I was okay with that because at the time, I had no interest in championing any causes. I just wanted to be an artist. I was having fun, living my dream and swimming in the arrogance and self-absorption that more often than not accompanies youth.
FLORENCE: Do you think that coming out has catapulted your career? If so, in what ways? Do you think that Black [same-gender-loving women] in the industry have a harder time than their white counterparts? If so, do you think things will get better or worse for same-gender-loving women of color?
MONIFAH: I would have to say no to “coming out” catapulting my career. I’ve accomplished great things as an artist and believe that the opportunity of being an ensemble cast member on the successful docu-series R&B Divas: Atlanta and allowing people to experience me as a human being has helped the resurgence of my career. What people learning I was involved with a woman did affect was further opening my eyes to the injustices and biases that plague our society and the need it created in me to be a voice for the voiceless on different issues.
Yes, I do believe that Black LGBTQ artists in the music industry have a much harder time than their white counterparts. But my full answer to this question has so many layers that if I was to expound, it would turn into a thesis. [Laughs.] There’s no place to go but better for LGBTQ women of color in this industry and beyond.
FLORENCE: What were two of your biggest fears about coming out? Has coming out helped your marriage become stronger? How has it affected you on a spiritual level?
MONIFAH: I didn’t have any fears about coming out because it was what God divinely ordered me to do. And where God leads you, He will not abandon you. I see that every day. My marriage to Terez is strong and healthy because we individually and collectively walk in our truth, are comfortable in our skin, and we do the work to maintain our partnership. My spiritual life has benefitted tremendously from me living my truth. I must maintain my connection to God and stay spiritually fit to be effective on the path I was given to travel, which is a daily work in progress.
FLORENCE: What changes would you like to see in the entertainment industry regarding Black [same-gender-loving female] artists? What was one of the toughest lessons you learned from being in the industry and how has it made you a stronger artist and a stronger woman?
MONIFAH: I would like to see us being different than the perceived “norm.” What’s the big deal? I’ve learned in this industry that if you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for everything. I’m good with my piece of the pie and my sanity.
FLORENCE: If you can list one thing that turns you on the most about Terez, what would it be? Describe the first moment when you realized that you were in love. Were you afraid, happy, or both?
MONIFAH: What turns me on most about Terez is her mind. She’s a brilliant woman who knows who she is and loves herself. I knew I was in love when I laid eyes on her that first time after not seeing her for a few years. Something was different. My spirit fell in love with her and it was exhilarating.
FLORENCE: With all of the temptation in the industry, how did you both handle jealousy and people outside of your relationship in the early days of your relationship? Did you trust each other completely, or was trust something that was developed over time?
MONIFAH: Life is one big temptation. So knowing what matters to you and moving accordingly to keep it is key. I think Terez and I both are more territorial than jealous and we both have clear lines that the other is aware of and respects. Communication is the cornerstone of our relationship. We became good friends first and then that trust was built up.
We courted for five months and got to know one another pretty well before we became physical or committed as girlfriends. We have both lived many years and experiences on this earth and as Terez often says, “[You] don’t have to touch everything. The fantasy is waaaaaaay better than the reality.” And I couldn’t agree more! [Laughs.]
FLORENCE: What is your definition of hot sex? How can [same-gender-loving women] in long-term relationships become their partner’s ideal fantasy in and out of the bedroom?
MONIFAH: Hot sex, to me, is feeling safe to explore and be free and unabashed with your partner. For me, being stimulated mentally always makes for a deliciously good time.
FLORENCE: When people hear the name “Monifah,” they immediately associate it with sex. At this point in your career, how do you want fans to see you and what do you want your legacy to be?
MONIFAH: Do they? Well, that’s news to me. [Laughs.] What comes from the heart reaches the heart. I want people to see me for what I am, a perfectly imperfect, sensitive, complex soul in a beautiful Black woman’s body, striving to be her best self each day and keeping her shoulders squared and strong for the ones who are and will be standing on them.
Monifah is developing a signature sportswear line, penning her first inspa-(raw)-tional book of lessons she’s survived along her life’s journey, and, most importantly, releasing her long-awaited fourth LP, which has been a true labor of love, pain, joy, struggle and faith. She is a passionate advocate for AIDS/HIV awareness and prevention; mental/emotional health; drug/alcohol abuse and recovery. Be sure to connect with Monifah by visiting the sites below:
You can purchase Monifah’s hot single, “The Other Side,” on iTunes.
Florence Edwards is a seasoned writer, publicist, author, and speaker who loves helping women have passionate sex lives and relationships. She loves writing edgy, sensual, and creative material that gets people hot and bothered. Contact her with all of your LGBT questions at Florence.Edwards1976@gmail.com. Be sure to visit the Publicity 911 website, www.Publicity911.com, if you are interested in obtaining top-notch, kick-ass PR services at a competitive price. You can follow them on Twitter: @Publicity911.
*This post originally appeared on Examiner.com. Cross-posted with permission. Read the original article here.