When you’re in a room filled with literal Black girl magic that includes Jada Pinkett-Smith, Queen Latifah, Niecy Nash, Dee Rees, Monica Brown, Tamron Hall and Planned Parenthood’s Kristi Henderson, it’s tough to focus on just one woman at a time.
But amongst the fairy dust and glitter, there was one that stood out for her storytelling skills alone — the one and only Monica. In talking about her start in the music industry at ESSENCE Festival’s “Strength Of A Woman” panel, the singer weaved a tale like she missed her calling as an author. She opened up about her first singing gig, what meeting Queen Latifah for the first time was like and how she was going to go for hers, even when limitations attempted to hold her back.
The result was a hilarious narrative that had the crowd rolling.
“So, at eleven-years old, when I sang in the talent show, my initial only reason for going was the $1000 prize. That sounded like we were gonna be rich,” she told the audience.
“Now when I got to the front door, she said, oh you have to be eighteen to enter. And, I bust out singing “The Greatest Love of All,” on the spot … y’all remember Lil’ Magic on “[In] Living Color?” I’m kind of like Lil’ Magic. Like, I’m literally like clockwork started singing, and she said, ‘I’m gonna let this baby through.’ I went through, I sang, I did win the $1000, but what happened [after] changed my life. I didn’t know Dallas Austin was in the audience. I didn’t know that he would look for me, for three weeks, until someone sent a message to his beeper, which was all we had back then. And they said they’re looking for the little girl that sings “The Greatest Love of All.”
“I sang so loud, she [Queen Latifah] ended up with my tape after I made one song and she flew me to L.A. And, listen, when she knocked on the hotel door, we was like (dancing) Queen Latifah outside!,” she said.
“We was country as hell. And then I opened the door like, “Hi.” -You know I always be cool- ‘Hey, what’s up Queen, what’s happening? I’m glad you made it.”
In addition to relaying that hilarious tale, Monica talked about raising her three children and keeping grounded in a volatile music business. In fact, she’s raising her three children in the same way her mother, Marilyn Best, raised her; to believe in herself so much that she knows she can do anything.
“We’re our children’s first inner voice. So, my kids really believe that they can literally do anything. Hence, the reason my nine-year old is trying to flip his dirt bike in the air like somebody you’ve been watching on T.V. in the motor cross,” she said.
“I continue to tell them that they can. And, that’s what my mom gave to me that’s been irreplaceable. Everything that I ever said I wanted to do, she would tell me how great I would be at it and how I could do it.”
Watch a clip of Monica re-telling the story in the video above.