Brandy isn't the only former '90's teen star aiming for a comeback with a new album and a hit reality show. I also just caught up with Monica, the other voice on their Grammy-winning 1998 megasmash "The Boy Is Mine," for the latest issue of Us about her new album, Still Standing (out March 23), raising her two young sons (Rodney, 4 and Romello, 2) with rapper fiance Rodney "Rocko" Hill and overcoming tragedy -- plus the new mom secrets she dispensed to BFF and fellow duel reality and singing star Keyshia Cole. Read on for the full interview!
UsMagazine.com: As a longtime fan, I'm excited to see all of this going on for you right now.
Monica: It's real exciting. I mean it really is. It doesn’t seem like 15 years it doesn’t feel like it sometimes I think about it when I perform or different stuff like that but it’s been a long time coming.
Us: How have things changed now that you're releasing an album in the age of Internet promotion?
Monica: You know it's tremendously different. Of course once upon a time people were excited about going into the stores because they were being serious about looking at album packaging. The age of the Internet was not around. The audience [listening to my music these days] enjoy the internet so my label has a whole Internet [marketing] campaign.
Us: How do you juggle getting ready to release an album with two young children at home?
Monica: I have a two-year-old and a four-year-old. It takes your patience to a totally different level. I'm okay with hard working until things pay off.
Us: As a busy mom, what are your survival tips to balance work and home life?
Monica: My first priority is my children. If at any moment I put aside something that I want to do to be a better parent than that is more than okay for me. I dedicated almost 12 years to the music industry before having children. My family makes it easy for me to travel and when I take the boys, lots of family members are willing to go as well. There are so many different factors that make it work, but also having faith in myself that I can balance and not lose focus on the things that I want to accomplish. Multitasking is a part of my everyday life.
Us: Your friend and duet partner Keyshia Cole also did a reality show. Did she give you any pointers as you were filming?
Monica: Her main concern for me was understanding that everything that I am when the cameras are off is everything that you want to be when the cameras are on. What I enjoyed about Keyshia's show is that it showed her finding her own way and assisting her family. In my case, my family has always been my backbone -- they've always been the reason that I was able to do what I love.
Us: What was it like having cameras follow you as you recorded your album?
Monica: It was different I will say that. It was very different. I totally enjoyed having [cameras] around. I'm excited to release my new album. I have some anxieties about stepping back into this area knowing that it will be me and my children moving around the world and constantly being in different places and feeling different things. Those are things that are thoughts of mine but I am not nervous at all. I am a firm believer that God has already ordered the things that have taken place in my life...and I'm just learning to follow the path he's laid before me.
Us: Would you do any other reality shows like Dancing With the Stars?
Monica: I definitely would. I can't say how far I would go on DWTS but I'd try it. [Contestant] Chad Ochocinco is the leading man in my new video "Everything to Me" and I think he'll be a real crowd-pleaser with fans.
Us: Do you keep in touch with former duet partner, Brandy?
Monica: She found me through Twitter. We lost touch and some of my followers told me that she was looking for me, and it was just a blessing for us to be able to make back up. We are complete opposites, but I think that gives us a chance to really see things from a different perspective on a regular basis. She is a lot calmer than I am and helps me objectively deal with some things. Sometimes I’m able to bring a different perspective on things she may be experiencing. As adults, at 29 and 30 years old, we have a great relationship and a great rapport with one another. We talk about different things inside and outside of the industry.
Us: You got engaged in 2007. What's the status on your love life?
Monica: My love life is cool! Basically, I’m very much like a guy. I don’t apply pressure. The only thing I expect is respect and great care for my children. As long as I have that, I'm very happy. I'm sure [a wedding will] happen at some point. Like I said, I’ve been very focused on just making sure that the home is in order. A lot of people get so concerned with paperwork and not what needs to actually happen for the paperwork to last for a last for a lifetime the way it was intended, so we’re just focusing on the things being done the right way.
Us: In the past few years, you have gone through tragedy. How did you overcome such sadness?
Monica: I lost a lot of people. Death just took over in my life, from my grandmother to the person I was in a relationship with at that time, to my cousin having an aneurism with us only being three years apart. All of these things happened when I was 18 years old, and it was just rough. Having a lot of success, you start to think that success is the key to life and being wealthy and famous are things that will continuously keep you happy, and it was just the hugest reality check you could ever imagine. The love and support just helped me to overcome it all.
Us: How did you make it through your ex-boyfriend committing suicide?
Monica: A lot of prayer. That’s why I speak on God. I’m far from perfect, I’m still a work in progress and I have so much to do to be the woman that I wanna be. I always look at my mother and say I wanna be like her and I’m so far from that, but I think that I’ve come a far as I have because of what happened to me. It brought me back to my knees, it brought me back to prayer, and it re-centered me with my family. That’s why family’s first in my eyes.
Us: I’m sorry you went through all that, but I’m glad to see you’re so much stronger and doing so well now.
Monica: That’s right. Still standing! That’s my motto, that’s my life, that’s what I want other people to feel in their experience.