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Monaleo Talks Willow Smith, Mental Health & LGBTQ Safe Spaces

Mar 10, 2024

Not only do you share that vulnerability through open discussions on social media, but you also do it through song. R&B has been an outlet for you as well. After dropping “Miss You Already” you hinted at getting into your R&B bag a little more. Is that still something you’re looking to pursue?Definitely! I have church roots. I started in church, the Baptist Church to be specific, so there was a whole lot of singing — it was damn near a musical. I love singing, I love harmonies, I love instrumentation — that’s where my heart is. Those types of songs are more like my passion projects because that’s not what people want to hear from me, specifically. They want to hear rowdy shit, I already know this. Anytime I do R&B, I always really love it because I’m super passionate and talk openly and candidly in a way that matches my vibe. I can rap about feeling a certain way, but when I rap, that’s for me to toughen up. I’m not looking to merge the two…I’m not looking to rap about sad shit. It just doesn’t add up for me in my mind, creatively. But I will always make R&B music. That’s where my heart is…I like to sing.Wait, why do you feel like people don’t want to hear R&B music from you?Because they don’t. Realistically speaking, my demographic knows Monaleo to be an aggressive artist and they appreciate how outlandish she is in her music. There was a period of time where I was trying to completely rebel against that, which is stupid because [I] can’t just completely derail everybody like, “Fuck it, I’m not rapping anymore. I’m only singing!” In the rap space, Monaleo can pick people’s moods up and turn their whole day around, and that’s something that I respect. So, even if I don’t always like writing rap music, I’ll still continue to do it because of who I’ve become in people’s lives.As an advocate, you created an organization called Stay One More Day to help raise mental health awareness and provide resources and coping mechanisms for anyone struggling. Can you tell me how that came about and what the feedback has been like?I’ve always been an advocate for mental health. It’s the life that I’ve always lived. For the majority of my life, I was chronically depressed, super morbid, super pessimistic, and very difficult to be around. That was the direction my life started going after different traumatic experiences, abuse, and all that shit. I met a lot of people on my mental health journey — I was hospitalized a bunch of different times and each time I met a lot of good people who had really good stories to tell. We had a lot of shared experiences, like feeling like an outcast or being deeply misunderstood. We all needed somebody to advocate for us in a way that made sense because a lot of us have trouble verbalizing what we’re feeling.I’ve seen a lot of things. I’ve seen a lot of people lose their lives — people who might’ve benefited from having a little bit more information about what life could be. A lot of people in my family have died by suicide because [mental health battles] run in my family. My grandmother has depression, my mother has depression and bipolar disorder, my brother has ADHD, and I have depression and anxiety. I just felt like maybe if they had a different conversation that day — and I’m speaking from personal experience, because I’ve been talked off the ledge, by people who don’t even know me. They weren’t even necessarily full conversations, but something they said was really impactful and stuck with me. Sometimes that’s really all it takes.I tell myself all the time that I’m very glad that I was able to stay to experience what my life is now. like and Imagine if I would’ve, sold myself short. A lot of people miss out on their potential because of temporary emotions and temporary situations. They just need the proper tools and to hear certain things. Once I realized that, that started becoming part of my identity before I was ever a rapper. When I gave a speech at my high school graduation, I was talking about mental health. I remember my principal read my speech ahead of graduation and told me to take out parts where I mentioned mental health and suicide because it was too “touchy.” But I got up to that podium and read my entire original speech. I know she was fuming, but it didn’t matter because I had already graduated at that point.

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