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Monica recently stopped by the ESSENCE to talk about her current album, New Life, reuniting with Brandy on their latest single, “It All Belongs to Me,” and her fondest memories of Whitney Houston.

New Life was basically me saying the more I embrace the things that were changing in my life, the better it has been,” she says. “I think that fear is something that is natural—the fear of the unknown and things changing is always something that’s hard, but for me it’s been the best thing that’s happened over that last decade of my life.”

On working with Brandy, Monica says despite their earlier success with the song “The Boy is Mine,” it wasn’t all roses between the two. “It’s natural, I think sometimes for people to try to put females against one another. And with us being, at that point, in high school and not really understanding a lot about the industry, we kind of fell into it a little bit.” Fourteen years later, Monica says collaborating this time around was “totally different because she’s my girlfriend.”

The singer also took a moment to share her memories of one of her closest girlfriends and mentor, Whitney Houston. “When things happen in my life, I can’t pick up the phone and call her anymore or ask her advice or just get a good laugh because she liked to have fun. Those are things I miss the most.”