Jason Howard Green

Jason Howard Green

Monday, June 5, 2017

Monifah: R&B Diva

I distinctly remember where I was in my life when Monifah dropped her hit single "Touch It." The year was 1998. I had recently become a new resident of Phoenix, AZ having moved there from Alabama shortly after college.  I had managed to secure a job with Xerox.  But trust, every minute after work was spent hanging out with friends and every weekend I would make my way to somebody's dance floor.

"Touch It" was my jam.  It still gets me moving and grooving to this day. But as much as I loved this anthem to promiscuity, I must admit, Monifah did not stand out to me as an artist to watch.  Yes she was beautiful and talented.  And yes, her song was amazing.  But in reality, she existed in the shadows of some of the bigger divas of the 1990s.  In my defense (and in her defense) she was competing against artists like Janet Jackson, Toni Braxton and Mariah Carey.  It was easy during this time for my focus to be elsewhere.

It would be many years later when I would fall in love with Monifah the person.  In 2012 I had almost given up on television.  It seemed like the only thing available to watch was reality TV and I was not a fan of it.  But then came the show R&B Divas.  As a lover of R&B music and a fan of all the women listed on the first season of the show, I had to tune in.  Imagine my surprise when Monifah announced not only was she bisexual but that she was in a long term relationship with a woman. For black same-gender loving folks, this was a big deal.  We were here for the show and we were here for Monifah.  She was unapologetically out and that made me proud.

Considering this bizarre and complex intersection queer people of color must live in, it is always appealing to me to see people comfortable with who they are and announcing to the world that they are happy with their dual citizenship in both the African-American community and the LGBT community.

Monifah and R&B Divas forced black folks to continue to have a conversation about homophobia within the black community.  Let's be real, this is a conversation that is not going to go away anytime soon. Spiritual abuse, social stigma and institutionalized homophobia run rampant in society in general, but black folks are not yet ready to admit that they exists within our community.  So for Monifah to walk proudly in her truth, in spite of all this, I admire her.

In the third season of the show, Monifah would go on to marry her partner Terez.  All the other divas on the show flew to Hawaii to celebrate her and her relationship.  

As much as I go on about her single "Touch It", please do not think of her as a one hit wonder. Monifah would have seven total hits that made it onto the U.S. R&B charts including songs like You Don't Have to Love Me, Bad Girl, and Suga Suga. Following the success of season one of the show R&B Divas, founder of the show Faith Evans would record an album of the same name and invite the ladies from the show to join her on the single "Lovin' Me" which would go on to earn a Grammy. In 2014, Monifah would return to the studio to record her latest single "The Other Side."  Please check her out below:

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