Sharing your private life on reality television is “tricky” for anyone, admits Syleena Johnson. That’s why the Grammy-nominated singer considers her R&B Divas: Atlanta costar Monifah Carter particular “courageous” for allowing audiences to watch the evolution of her same-sex relationship.
“I have great respect for [Monifah] and Terez for allowing the world in,” said Johnson of Carter and her partner, who were married on the show’s Season 3 finale. “It’s a very personal thing they have decided to share with everyone.”
Since its launch on cable’s TV One, R&B Divas: Atlanta has focused on a revolving cast of performers, including series originals Keke Wyatt, Johnson and Carter, whose relationship with Terez has been heavily featured throughout. The most recent cast also included Angie Stone (who recently quit the show in controversial fashion), former Destiny’s Child member LaTavia Roberson and Kameelah Williams of the group ‘702.’
Throughout it’s run, Johnson says all involved have embraced the women’s relationship. According to the singer, who received a 2005 Grammy nod for her Kanye West collaboration “All Falls Down,” she particularly admires Carter for overcoming initial misgivings to be so open.
“I know for a fact [Monifah] was afraid at first,” shared Johnson during a recent telephone interview to discuss “Perfectly Worthless,” the dramatic second single from current album Chapter 6: Couples Therapy. “She wasn’t certain she wanted to show everyone her life, but she did.”
In the late-1990s, Monifah scored three Top 20 R&B hits from her first two albums. Her most lasting success was the seductively slinky 1998 classic “Touch It.” Painting her as (presumably) a sex-hungry man-eater, the song landed the star in the Billboard Top 10 and atop Rhythmic charts.
Once Carter’s career cooled, she faded from public consciousness for more than a decade. Returning to the public eye on R&B Divas, she was tasked with revealing more than just her music musical progression however. Johnson, admitting she too is sometimes afraid to share deeply personal aspects of her life with viewers, calls Monifah’s “controversial” decision to come out on TV “very brave.”
“When you have fans, sometimes you might not know if it’s OK to do certain things, to be you or live your life,” Johnson related. “A lot of people are just afraid to live their life. What Monifah and Terez did is make it OK for people to just live their lives.”
While chronicling Monifah’s return to music, including the release of 2014 single “The Other Side,” R&B Divas has largely explored elements of her romantic life – good and bad. Fans discover Carter’s daughter from a previous relationship, citing religious beliefs, disapproves of her mother’s lesbianism. Still, that didn’t stop her from marrying Terez at the end of last season.
“I think it’s awesome,” Johnson said of the union, “It says it’s ok to love who you love, on such a large scale.”
Johnson is happy the majority of public response has been overwhelmingly positive for her friend and colleague. With all slated to return for R&B Divas‘ fourth season, she is excited to continue sharing in Carter and Terez’ journey — and the message it relays to viewers.
“I support them – and will keep supporting them – because I feel like you should be able to love who you want to love and do what you want to do in this world,” Johnson stated, “Whatever makes you happy, you should be able to do.
“God wants us to be happy,” the soulful singer concluded, “I know that for a fact.”