"Words mean more than what is set down on paper. It takes the human voice to infuse them with deeper meaning." Maya Angelou
Entertainer, Emcee, Poet, and Mother, Thea Monyee is the Honorary Diva of September. Why you ask? Well, lets see. Her Television appearances include BET’s “Lyric Cafe”, and BET’s “The Way We Do It.” Her live performances include 100.3’s “The Beat” in Los Angeles, 102.3 KJLH in Los Angeles, 90.7 KPFK in Los Angeles, HBO’s “Light As A Feather Fashion Show”, Isaac Hayes’ “Downtown Comedy” at his restaurant in Chicago (Information came from her MySpace Page), and several colleges around the world including the University of Missouri.
Ms. Monyee was also a member of the 2002 Los Angeles Slam Team. In 2005, her Black History Month promo, which was directed by actress Kim Fields, was aired on Nick@Nite and the TVLand cable channels. Along with that, we can’t forget her highly requested pieces A Different World and Woman to Woman that were performed on HBO’s Def Poetry Jam. (Side Note: I still watch those on YouTube). So when I got the news that she was coming to Mizzou, of course I got exited. I look up to her so much. I got the chance to meet her at Third Thursday, a poetry event at Mizzou that occurs every month, and discovered that she is such a down to earth person. I even had the honor to interview her for my blog and here is what she had to say:
Dreana: When did you start writing?
Thea: Since I was little. I remember I use to write things and rap them on my answering machine and my dad would beat box. I also had a rap group. Me along with my sister and friend started it. I wrote most of the raps. I have always kept a journal though. I stopped writing for a minute and I picked it up again around 19…20.
Dreana: What inspires you to write?
Thea: The people I meet and my experiences. If someone just come up to me and say “can you write me this or that”, I can’t. Something has to trigger me. I do not write all the time, I have another job so I am quite busy. But I have at least 10 pieces a year.
Dreana: You said you needed experience to write something. The piece that everyone talks about “Woman to Woman”, what is the story behind that?
Thea: (Laughs) I used to work for a company that shall remain nameless and of course we would all share our drama. Woman to woman was inspired by one of the women that I worked with. I listened to her, put myself in her shoes, and wrote the piece as if were her. Some people criticize the piece saying that she should have gone after the man…and who’s to say that she didn’t? That is an assumption on their part. Regardless, I believe in sisterhood and I would consider the situation in that piece to be a violation of sisterhood. Only another women knows what goes into building a relationship from a female perspective. She is aware of the damage on some levels more than the man, because she is a woman. So there is a level of accountability that falls on her as well. Besides, if you have never been through it, you damn sure cannot tell someone else how to deal with it.
Dreana: How is it being a mother and a poet?
Thea: It’s funny because my husband is a poet and a MC. The children never interrupt him but they always interrupt me! But they have changed my writing. I knew my writing got serious after I had my girls. I think it made a more conscientious writer.
Dreana: Why do you do poetry? Is it your passion? Why not do it full-time?
Thea: That is a great question. Overall I consider myself a writer more so than a poet. I like to write and aspire to one day complete a book of fiction. But I also believe that God gives us many gifts. I love being a family therapist a little more than performing poetry. I straddle between the two quite a bit. If I am working and not performing I begin to miss the stage. If I am performing and not providing therapy, I miss the connection with my clients. I am literally half therapist, half artist. In addition, I have a beautiful family and I really miss them when I am away from them. I could never tour the way I did in 2006 unless they were with me.
Dreana: What was the largest crowd you performed in front of? How did it feel?
Thea: I honestly don’t know! Def Poetry was definitely the most nerve racking because I am camera shy.
Dreana: What made you accept the invitation to come to Mizzou and how has you experience been?
Thea: Besides the fact that they paid me (starts laughing). No, but I never been to Missouri. If I am able to speak to college students I am down. I learn from students, I mean, I like it. I like the interaction.
Dreana: How was it coming from L.A. to Missouri?
Thea: The traveling itself was exhausting. But that is true most of the time unless it is a direct flight. But once I got to my hotel room I was all good (smiles).
Dreana: What do you think are the leading causes of the lost of community in today’s society?
Thea: That depends on the community and what they value. I think one contributing factor to the state of the world today is that women have stopped passing down the traditions and wisdom that helps young girls come into their power as women. Being a producer of life and attuned to the earth is a connection between women and nature, but we don’t spend enough time valuing and utilizing that connection. I can only imagine what society would look like if all women came into an awareness of themselves and their natural power.
Dreana: Was there ever a time in your life that you felt like given up? If so, what did you do to stay focused?
Thea: Hell yeah! (Laughs) In 2002 after my first slam experience I could not write for a year. I second guessed everything I wrote and I felt like a complete failure. My husband helped me through that difficult time. I just had to write and not look back. No more reviewing it to see if it was “hot” or not. Just accept the piece and move on.
Dreana: What advice would you give to young writers?
Thea: I think being a reader is important. Read a diverse amount of books from diverse authors. The trick is to be true and honest to yourself. I believe that if your goal on stage is rooted in authenticity and love the audience will naturally respond to it. Everyone wants to have a human connection.
Dreana: Thank you so much for the interview Ms. Monyee. It’s been an honor.
Thea: Thank you. Keep up the good work
She answered those questions VERY WELL! See what I mean…Now that gets 3 sNaPz