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Monica: Through The Fire

feat_monica

To define anyone by the tragedies they’ve

experienced is a mistake. The world is made up of those who have suffered. The

ones we view as survivors and not victims are the ones who handle tragedy with

grace.

Until her life became tabloid fodder, Monica

Arnold was considered one of the successes in this industry – a singer

whose natural talent was discovered early on who was making the transition to

an adult career with relative ease.

Her first album Miss Thang (1995) was a smash

with classic joints like “Don’t Take It Personal” and “Before

You Walk Out My Life” and her second The Boy Is Mine won her a Grammy for

the title track with duet partner Brandy. Then tragedy hit in 2000 when her

boyfriend, Jarvis Weems, took his own life in her presence. (She has a tattoo

on her left arm in his honor.)

A romance with No Limit’s C-Murder also

went awry when he married someone else and then landed in jail on a murder charge.

Despite that, Monica seems more old soul than helpless victim of wayward romances.

Slim and approachably beautiful at 22, she exudes

both serenity and an ease with herself and others that belies her age. Her current

hit “So Gone,” with its 70’s feel, is a perfect fit for her untrained

yet powerful voice. Out promoting her new album After the Storm, we caught up

with her recently in New York.

AllHipHop: When did you know you could sing?

Monica: I was seven and I sang “The Greatest

Love of All” for a king and queen contest for our church and I realized

kind of then that something sounded different. That’s it and that’s

all to it and I sang in church and that was it I enjoyed it and I had fun with

it and after doing the talent show I met Dallas and that was pretty much the

start of all of this.

AllHipHop: How do you give gospel music a secular feel?

Monica: It happens naturally. It happens, because

its so out of my control it comes from one place and that’s my heart its

easy for me to incorporate the two.

AllHipHop: How was it like working with Missy

Elliot?

Monica: We hadn’t worked together before

and it was so weird to have worked with her before and have the kind of relationship

we had in our friendship. It felt normal to go to Miami and work at night and

sleep all day because that’s her schedule. That kind of creativity is something

that you can’t find everywhere. She definitely worked different with some

of the other producers that I worked with but not that I needed adjustment sometime

we’d do two songs a night. I just picked what I felt best reflected me

and what best reflected the album.

AllHipHop: How is she?

She had that easygoing type of relationship with

me. She may have to think about how to word things with other artists, but she

would give me her opinions and we would go from there with no hesitation. If

at any point if it would have been hard I would have really stopped the sessions,

because I didn’t want it to put a strain on our other relationship. People

didn’t know what we were working on [and] we kept everything to ourselves

until we were finished. She likes to do things herself without any outside influence

and by the time you [say], “Where is it?” its ready to go

AllHipHop: What do you do offstage?

Monica: Real relaxed. I love vacations. You have

some people in this industry that are so high strung they don’t know how

to vacation when they have the chance. I’m big on resting and eating well

because of all the change of climates and the travel. I’m never in any

of the pictures in the nightclubs, because that’s not the stuff that I’m

interested in I like the real relaxed environments and I’m a big movie

person.

AllHipHop: Have your views on eating and health

changed these days?

Monica: Yes, I’ve changed my style of cooking

because it was really southern – lots of rice and fried foods. It’s changed

quite a bit. If I get the urge to have something like that I do it but I try

not too my biggest weakness it cakes and pies. I have an aunt who bakes. Both

of my parents are high blood pressure patients and most people think that its

weight that makes you sick but she’s four pounds heavier than me at 53.

Hollywood is obsessed with being thin and though I used to hate (being skinny),

now I can eat and it’s fine. My mom changed the way she eats, my mom doesn’t

even cook anything but turkey and maybe no meat period. My stepfather is a diabetic.

I eat [what I want] if I get in that mood, if I get a craving, but I won’t

overdo it. If I have mcdonalds to day I won’t do fast food for another

four weeks.

AllHipHop: Why you are attracted to the men you

are and do you think current trends make young women believe that it’s

a good thing to date thugs?

Monica: I think for me that it’s become

a trend for some people when I’m attracted to a person its never because

of any one thing. I find things in those people that people never got a chance

to see I think people always use us (celebrities) as a scapegoat for whatever

they believe. If you like this person you consider all the issues that come

with them. I considered that in my relationships with Corey (C-Murder) and in

my relationship with Jarvis (Weems, the drug dealer who committed suicide) and

you see because of the tragedies that happened that I had to deal with the repercussions.

AllHipHop: Are your personal friendships are

more important than business?

Monica: I don’t allow music to affect my

real relationships that I would love to have 30-50 years from now. I guess because

certain things are more important to me. That makes my connection with people

so much stronger. I think its comfortable for them to be my friend and now that

I keep myself so separate and know what they go through a lot for my friends

that aren’t celebrities. I totally disconnect myself from that.

AllHipHop: What place would people be surprised

to see you at in your offstage life?

Monica: Kroger. People are so shocked but I’m

like, ‘What I’m gonna eat?’ Usually they say “Oooh, you

look like Monica, but she wouldn’t be here in Kroger shopping with us.

When somebody sees that you’re approachable, that makes them feel comfortable.

AllHipHop: Could you find love again despite

the trauma of the past?

Monica: I don’t let things deter me although

both situations ended so sadly. I look at it that I have a great opportunity

to not make the same mistakes. I’m not deterred when it comes to love.

You have people 10-15 years older than me and they haven’t had things end

so tragically and they’re still afraid to be in love.

AllHipHop: Why did your write ‘I wrote that

song?’

Monica: To touch somebody to help somebody, I’m

not the only person who’s experience all that different. It’s esier

to write it and harder to sing it because that’s when your emotions are

in play.

AllHipHop: What is your worse flaw?

Monica: My temperament is crazy I’m not

wishy-washy I don’t switch it up on you but when someone upsets me that’s

really a problem. I don’t take my problems out on everybody

But I think that sometimes I’m direct and that’s not always the best.

AllHipHop: Do you want to be a working wife and mother or will you give up your

career for marriage and a family?

Monica: I gotta be honest I just have to see

how I feel when it happens the connection between a mother and child. It varies

for every woman. Some want to take their kids on the road and some say this

is it this where I want to be.

AllHipHop: How you want to be remembered?

Monica: I want people to be like “That girl

really sang no matter whether the tracks were new and innovative or not.”

You’ll never forget how Chaka sang, how Whitney sang, how Mary J. sing.

I want people to remember my real love of music

AllHipHop: Who are your influences?

Monica: The Clark Sisters, Smokey, Mary Mary,

Al Green. My dad loved that type of music and I would ride with him. I find

different stuff in the south. The most recent thing I did I went to this club

in Atlanta called fuel I want in to the club and they were banging!

AllHipHop: Who would you invite to a dinner party?

Monica: My mom, my best friend, these are two

different people – Rodney Hill. Always Mary J., I would invite her to anything

I do and the President (Bush) so they the other guests could give them a piece

of their mind. I would love to see what Martha Stewart got going on. And my

brother That would be interesting conversation all night long….

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