It's hard to believe it's been 19 years since made her debut with the R&B classic, Miss Thang. Now a mom of three and wife to NBA player Shannon Brown, Monica shares that her life in the spotlight has been mirrored by tremendous personal loss. In that loss were valuable lessons on building her faith and spirituality. She spoke with ESSENCE.com about her journey inwards.
Is there a proverb or scripture that you always find yourself going to during the tough times?
I've read the Book of Psalms at least 500 times in its entirety because it speaks to so many different things that have come about in my life. I'm very fortunate. My stepfather is a Methodist minister. He’s been in my life for 25 years and has been my spiritual advisor. Even when I was making terrible decisions personally, he never stepped away from me. That's when he would step to me. The Book of Psalms is where he would always take me and break different things down for me. You can never go wrong with the 23rd Psalm. ‘Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil.’ That's something that I have to say on a constant basis because evil is amongst me in this industry, every single day.
Can you share a time when your faith has been tested and what lessons you learned from that?
My 18th year of living was the hardest. My first cousin suffered an aneurysm and she died. She left behind some children. We were both young, having a good time. Then, I lost my grandmother. She had lived in the home with us for all these years. It's the type of loss that you can't ever explain. There's been nothing to replace her. Even when that time of year comes around, I can just feel the loss. I also witnessed a suicide when I was 18. I think that was the year where I had to really get into my faith. I had learned about God. I had read the Word. I grew up in the word because I grew up in the Church, but I had never lived it. I had never experienced the types of nights where I just had to fall on my knees and ask God for mercy. It was a great time for it to happen because it was before my children. As much as I wouldn't wish those three occurrences on anybody, they shaped and molded who I am because I appreciate life in a way that most people don't.
Who or what has been your greatest teacher in the music industry?
Failure. I think my failures have allowed me to just live fearlessly, and be okay with, if things don’t go the way I planned, then they went the way they were supposed to. I live fearlessly. I'm not afraid to try different things vocally. I'm not afraid to speak on my faith; whereas most people say because I'm a public figure I should be more neutral. I'm okay with me. I think that allows the public to be okay with me because they know that nothing that I say or do is from malice or ill intent. It's truly what I believe.
What do you consider your greatest achievement?
The fact that I have three children who wake up every morning with a smile on their faces and can acknowledge that we have a blessed life. I think they are the best reflection of me. Accolades are sometimes easy to come by in the industry, but when you look at family and children and the love amongst them, that's when you can really see real accomplishment.
What are some songs you listen to every time feel a need to connect with or just rejuvenate your spirit?
Rance Allen is one of my favorites. I play “Something About the Name Jesus.” It's actually a Kirk Franklin song but Rance Allen is snagging on it. I can play that song over and over and I just hum along. Whatever I'm faced with, it slowly goes away. I always tell people, I may have a bad moment, but I never have bad days because I never give anything that much power any more.