While Atlanta R&B singer Monica can emote with the best of them when she sings, she's no drama queen on TV.
“I didn’t want a show filled with a lot of drama,” she explained over a burger and fries at the Glenn Hotel downtown last week to promote the finale of her BET show “Monica: Still Standing.” “I wanted a show to remind a lot of young people that you can make it through anything if you believe first in yourself.”
At age 29, she comes across as level-headed and shrewd, with a supportive family.
Her mom, for instance, has a hard time accepting anything from Monica and hated being on camera. “I bought her a Benz once,” she said. “She bought a Honda, never drives the Benz. She’s not a flashy person.”
The show focused mostly on her efforts to put together a new album. The big debate was over a first singe: a dance tune or a ballad. Monica wanted a ballad, her bread and butter. The label preferred something more upbeat because radio tends to embrace those songs more, especially as the first single off the album.
In the end, they had the fans decide: they chose a ballad after all: "Everything to Me," which just shipped to radio. V-103 began playing it a few days ago. It was produced by Missy Elliott. "The people spoke," she said. Ballads are "closer to my heart."
“They don’t want me Auto-Tuned,” she added.
Monica was inspired to do the show by being on Keyshia Cole's BET show a couple years back. "She's my youngest son's godmother," she said. "I understood it was great for her… I'm older than she is. I've experienced different things. But we are in the exact same places." She is happy to see Keyshia's mom and sister Frankie and Neffe with their own show: "They can stand on their own and she can on the birth of her first son, things I've experienced a couple of times over."
She's also close to Tameka "Tiny" Cottle from "Tiny and Toya." "Our mothers lived one street over for years," she said. And she's buds with Kandi Burruss of "Real Housewives" fame. "I love Kandi's mom," she said. "She's always open and honest with us as young women. She's always been candid, even when we were younger, before all of us were on reality TV."
Monica naturally defends reality shows, even if she admits there are a plethora following female R&B singers. (VH1 last week debuted shows about label-mate Fantasia and Salt-n-Pepa's Sandra Denton known as Pepa.) "You can truly get to know intimate details you don't get to see when listening to an album. That's the plus about reality."
The final episode was just taped a few weeks ago. The show originally wrapped a few months ago but BET wanted four new episodes on top of the original eight.
Her show opened big after the BET Hip Hop Awards in October (2.8 million) but quickly fell to just 613,000 by episode three. Overall, she hasn’t gotten boffo ratings compared to “Keyshia Cole” or “Tiny & Toya,” but after several episodes below 1 million viewers, she did rebound January 5 (the most recent numbers I have) to 1.2 million. She said she is in talks with BET for a second season.
BET sister station VH1, which has a much broader audience, played a “Still Standing” marathon over Christmas. “A BET executive said this was positive energy they wanted to see on another station,” she said.
“When you do something positive, it can be mistaken for being boring,” Monica said. “I’d happily take that than contributing to what people face every day already. We have our own drama. Personally, I don’t want to see that every single day on television.”
The final episode features Monica giving props to her heroine Mary J. Blige at an awards show. She said she gets teary — but not in a "cute way" but that "ugly cry," she said, with a laugh.
She is the type of person who won't necessarily forgive a bad act but will give people another chance if they are willing to try to change. She supports both R&B singer Chris Brown ("he's like a younger brother") and former Falcon Mike Vick for that reason. Producer James DuBose, who worked on her show, is also doing a show on Vick. "I've seen clips," she said. "He's really fighting to redeem himself. I don't condone the acts, but at some point, we need forgiveness."
“A lot of people,” she added, “don’t forgive until it’s their time to seek forgiveness. I look at it as karma. I’m a firm believer in Christ. I think he forgives.”
She said in the 1990s, there was no TMZ and gossip sites. "Plenty went down we got away with," she said. "Myself, Brandy Aaliyah."
Monica did throw out a secret passion if she hadn’t gone into music. “I wanted to be a homicide detective,” she said. “I even started my studies.” But she couldn’t juggle both. Instead, she watches crime shows galore such as A&E’s “The First 48″ and “Crime 360.”
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I’m on vacation this week so there will be no breaking news updates. (I wrote this before I left and had it posted later) I’ll be back on January 25.
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