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Monica On Motherhood, The ‘Pink Friday 2’ Tour And Finding An ‘Amazing’ Love

Monica 2024 HelloBeautiful May Mother’s Day Cover

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

It’s the Thursday before the first stop on the Pink Friday 2 World Tour and Monica Denise Arnold has carved out an hour of her busy schedule to chat. She’s preparing to embark on the 59-show trek that will challenge her mentally and physically – something the Grammy Award-winning entertainer doesn’t take lightly.

Monica’s inimitable voice evokes deep emotion in regular conversation just as much as it does when she’s belting out one of her most beloved ballads. Its rich tone feels like a comforting hug. Her serene energy is palpable. This is a woman who feels at peace.

Behind The Beautiful: BTB: Monica Is Our Mother’s Day Cover Star

Through her diary on wax, the vocalist with gospel roots has chronicled Black womanhood through the eyes of a woman who admittedly loves hard. That is easy to glean from the ATL native’s gynocentric lyrics and songs that have been the score of Black love for decades. Monica established herself as a vocal force with her debut album, Miss Thang (1995), a classic R&B disc that serves as a marker in time. Black women sing “It’s just one of them days…don’t take it personal,” in unison, like a rallying cry. She was just an emerging artist then, with pipes that would eventually impress even Whitney Houston, but Monica was born to do this.

Monica has given so much of herself to us. If it feels like we’ve grown up together, it’s because we have. After all, she’s chronicled her experiences from teenager to woman to mother, cruising through each hood with an impeccable style and a street name – Goonica — that carries weight. Her 2003 album, After The Storm, produced by Missy Elliott, was a commercial success. The platinum-selling disc spawned the hit single “So Gone” – a sonic experience of her resilience in real-time.

Today, Monica’s catalog can be heard billowing through “Gag City” – the fictitious (but very real) playground of the Barbz as an act on Nicki Minaj’s Pink Friday 2 World Tour.

Monica is centerstage as the matriarch of our May Mother’s Day cover. With her tribe thriving, a new man, and the lessons she’s learned throughout her transcendent career, everything has culminated in this moment, she is more than “ready” for what this stage of her life has to bring.

Monica ‘Pink Friday 2 World Tour’

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

Nicki Minaj had a vision for The Pink Friday 2 World Tour – to transport the Barbz to a golden time in music. Ah, the ’90s.

“Once I understood the vision of it all and what [Nicki] is doing is really paying homage to an era of music that was a part of her childhood and a part of her teenage years,” said the record-setting artist. “The goal is to take everyone back to that moment and allow them to live in that space during the time that I’m on stage.”

The mention of a tour originated when Monica stepped in the booth to record with Nicki and Keyshia Cole on the laced “Love Me Enough.” Monica and Nicki built a relationship via social media when they would reach out to one another to exchange positive affirmations via DM.

“Nicki has always been extremely supportive,” explained Monica. “She always shared stories about singing my records when she was younger. We established a relationship early on. I would always reach out and say ‘Thank you for the support’ and vice versa. And over the years we’ve talked back and forth many times.”

Anticipating the “crazy hours” and the strenuous work of touring, Monica is keeping a pulse on her health. “I’m much better every performance when I’m rested.” For her, that means pulling off the ultimate balancing act by prioritizing her health, maintaining her voice, and tending to her family as a mother of four. “I’m learning to take the time and do the vocal therapy I need to do, I had a very intense surgery almost a year ago. They told me that it could very well be a two-year process to totally rehabilitate and make sure that everything was back to normal and a hundred percent.”

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

Recharging is a self-care remedy Monica plans to implement while traveling state to state despite it not being second nature for her to ask for a break. “I’m not one that is good at saying, ‘I need time, I need a break, I need space. I need a moment.’ That was never easy for me.”

Monica has been transparent with her fans about her health and struggles with heart disease. In 2021, she shared she underwent eight-hour endometriosis surgery. According to HuffPost, Monica was diagnosed, at 18, with a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse, which doctors discovered after the “Trust” singer collapsed at a Washington D.C. show.

Earlier this year, Monica faced a similar experience. Fan footage captured glimpses of what appeared to be the singer passed out on the side of the stage before being carried out to an ambulance. While fans speculated on her condition, Monica revealed to us she underwent a hospitalization after that performance due to her long health battle.

“I passed out immediately following that show and was hospitalized in Houston. And it does come from years of me putting my body through a lot. There’s absolutely no pretending that I’m this superhuman robotic form of myself. And as you age, you start learning different things, trigger your body in different ways. And I’m learning those and listening to my body, listening to my doctors, so that, that could never happen again. That’s the goal, to never end up in that place again.”

Currently, halfway through back-to-back sold-out shows on the Pink Friday 2 tour, reviews of Monica seems to be in good health and spirits. Her performances of songs like “So Gone,” “Love All Over Me” and other classic tracks, can be summed up into one tweet, “the mic is on.”

“So Gone”

According to the R&B veteran, her favorite track to perform is the Missy Elliott-produced hit “So Gone.” If “we ride at dawn” had a soundtrack it would sound like Monica reciting the words, “kick down your doors and smack ya chick.”

It’s almost unthinkable that Monica and Missy Elliott had to advocate to keep “So Gone” in its original cadence. The chart-topping single, which revitalized Monica’s career, became a women’s anthem and inspired a viral challenge in 2016, that encouraged fans to rap over the Missy beat.

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

“It’s because I can never forget the pain that I felt when I was recording that record and being extremely transparent and honest and authentic to who I am and what I was experiencing at that time.”

Monica experienced unimaginable tragedy in 2000, when she witnessed the suicide of her ex-boyfriend Jarvis Weems. Constantly questioning what more she could have done to help him, the overwhelming weight of his death compounded with the loss of her grandmother and cousin – all within the same year — she went recluse. During her time out of the spotlight, she determined she wanted to channel her pain into her music, and her 2003 album, After The Storm, was born. The lead single, “So Gone,” is nestled in a chamber in Monica’s heart. However, it wasn’t an easy feat to get released.

“I remember one record executive saying “’So Gone” doesn’t have a hook. ‘Go back and finish it up.’” There was no doubt in Monica or Missy’s mind about the structure of the beloved song. “We understood everything that that record was because it was created in real time while I was in the middle of a real situation. And trying to express that in rooms and places where people may not be where you’re from, they may not understand it in totality, you have to fight for it.”

We pause for a moment to muse about Missy Elliott’s impact on pop culture. “Missy is one of the greatest believers in herself, and that’s important,” she said praising the hip-hop pioneer whose work behind the scenes comes out in bits and pieces.

“A big part that she played in it was being there not only as I took it to radio stations, which was necessary back then. And in those times, yeah. She made a lot of the phone calls. She did a lot of the appearances and things of that nature with me to let people know that this was far more than a unified front. We were a team. We were a unit.”


Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

Our conversation naturally drifts to the topic of motherhood, career and how Monica manages to “balance it all.” With a strong tribe surrounding her, she’s able to get it done. These days, the Brown unit consists of her preteen, Laiyah, recent high school graduate Rodney Hill Jr., Romelo Hill, and Monica’s oldest son, Ramone Hill, who is like a caretaker to them all.

A quick scan of Monica’s social media account is a glimpse into who she is as a mother – fashionable, present and proud. One caption of a photo of her and Rodney, in coordinating black looks reads, “My bond with my children is endless.” Scroll a bit further and she’s posing with her daughter. Despite her long list of accolades – including Billboard dubbing her hit song, “The Boy Is Mine,” one of the “Greatest of All Time Songs of the Summer,” a personal stamp of approval from Whitney Houston, and an incomparable catalog of music — her family is still her biggest accomplishment. Becoming a mother was sacred to Monica – an honor.

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

“It’s a level of happiness and joy and it’s the unconditional love that you just can’t find in other places,” she passionately described. Her daughter she shares with former NBA baller Shannon Brown, Laiyah, turned 10 in 2023. “One of the things I try to consistently instill is her confidence, her belief in herself, her understanding that she is great just as she is inside and out. I push her towards her goals and her dreams,” she explained. “I’m not directing her or redirecting her away from what her goals and dreams are. We’re pushing her towards it because I think she has the right support system to be a part of whatever she wants to be a part of. But I love the joy of having a daughter. I love the fun of us being able to talk about some of the female things.”

As someone who has been transparent about her struggle with love, Monica felt a responsibility to prepare her daughter the best way she could. “I get a chance to talk to her as she gets older about relationships, about what she requires, about understanding what she deserves, how she’s treated.” She leads by example. “Her seeing the door being opened for me, her seeing me being cared for, treating and treated a certain way is really important.”

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

When it comes to co-parenting, she said it’s “easy.” “I have no feelings there. I just have responsibilities, which is to make sure that my kids feel happy and whole. And whatever that requires is exactly what I do.”

Monica and her ex-fiance Rodney “Rocko” Hill split in 2010, but that didn’t affect her relationship with his son Ramone. She entered his life when he was 4 years old and over the years, Ramone has become more than a big brother to his siblings, he is the leader of the gang. He is her right hand as a presence at parent-teacher conferences, traveling with the family and ultimately helping Monica “balance a lot of things.”

“It allowed me to have this unbreakable bond with him that he knows and understands that he is absolutely no different than the other children in any way.”

Through her children, she has experienced unconditional love; now, she’s feeling what it feels like to be loved by a man with her best interest at heart.

Love All Over Me

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

For Black women, ride-or-die love, the type of love Monica sings about in songs like “Should’ve Known Better,” sometimes comes at the detriment of our hearts. Black women have notoriously suffered at the hands of our partners physically and mentally. “I love extremely hard and that sometimes has caused me to be hurt in tremendous manners.” Monica can forgive because she holds herself accountable for “her part” in any situation.

“I’ve learned the ride-or-die mentality will sometimes allow people to just ride completely over you. I found myself in my loyalty and in my dedication to people that did not share the same in return for me. For years I thought letting go was wrong because I put that in the same package as loyalty. I guess I was about 30 years old when I truly understood it.”

While in the past, Monica may have given “the right thing to some of the wrong people,” she is currently experiencing a healthy, joyous love.

“I’m in a relationship that has been amazing,” Monica gushed when asked about her current romance with manager, TV and film executive Anthony “Ant” Wilson. Her relationship with the BMF producer may be fresher news to her fans, but their feelings have been brewing; he’s a friend she never expected to connect with.

“When you fall in love with someone that’s been your friend for a very long time, I think it’s different. This is the first time it’s ever happened to me. I’m new in the space, but I’m definitely enjoying it. I’m enjoying being supported. I’m enjoying being really loved in a way that allows me to be a lot softer than I typically am. There are a lot of firsts happening for me right now.”

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

“One of the things that stands out to me most that he consistently does, he fixes things. And I don’t mean physically fixing them, but I mean, in any capacity, if I’m looking for it, it helps that he’s very knowledgeable about the business and he runs several businesses of his own, but he’s able to help me do things that I’ve always had to do alone. And taking some of the burden off my back on a daily basis allows me to be more free, even with the children or in other places. I can think about so many other things because if he calls me and he hears the slightest bit of stress in my voice, whatever I tell him is wrong. He fixes it. And that’s something I’ve never experienced before, ever.”

Wilson arranged for Monica’s kids to visit her at the Denver stop on the Pink Friday 2 World Tour, a surprise that moved Monica to tears. Being from Georgia, Monica naturally considers herself “submissive,” when led properly. She’s enjoying this soft era.

“In my relationship now, I don’t have to take over. I don’t have to overthink anything really. I can just be myself, express myself, explain what’s happening in my daily, and he just fixes it. He can tell you where all of my children are most of the day. He loves to make sure that his relationship with them is intact. Not in a way that seems forced but natural. Whatever it is they love, he goes to that, meets me, meets them where they are.”

Led By Faith

Monica May Mother's Day Cover - HelloBeautiful

Source: Dalvin Adams / for HelloBeautiful

Monica is blessed to be surrounded by family, her partner who pours into her, and the love and support of her friends through Christ. The divine voices –Yolanda Adams, Whitney Houston and Kim Burrell– which make up her R&B Mount Rushmore, have been guiding lights in her life. Monica credits the gospel powerhouse, Yolanda Adams, with being instrumental in her growth and faith.

“She addresses me with no judgment. She has never made me feel as if I’ve fallen from grace. She’s always the reminder that he’s constantly forgiving and he’s watching, and he’s a part of evolving into the woman that I desire to become.” If there’s anyone who could get Monica to commit to a gospel album, it is Yolanda.

Monica and the late Whitney Houston’s relationship has been well-documented in the media. A grainy clip on TikTok captures the nostalgic moment Whitney Houston, holding her daughter Bobbi Kristina, called Monica to the stage to show off her captivating vocals. But it is the moments behind the scenes that Monica reminisces about during our interview. “Anytime something really difficult transpired in my life, she would show up.” And by showing up, she means any place, any time. Imagine, Whitney Houston just popping up like an angel at your toughest moment to offer a consoling line of wisdom. “Her consistently telling me, ‘Always be who you are. Don’t let them change you,’” played a pivotal role in Monica’s personal life and career. She has carried that mantra like a gem in her watch pocket.

Thanks to her friends, family and man, she is on the very deserving end of the love she has continually poured out. While Monica is still a work in progress, she seems fulfilled; that’s all anyone can ask for.

Monica On Motherhood, The ‘Pink Friday 2’ Tour And Finding An ‘Amazing’ Love  was originally published on

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