Popular Gospel Singer, MONIQUE
Everybody knows her as Monique. But her real name is Temitope Monique Lawal. She is one of Naija’s biggest gospel singers. This very gorgeous looking songstress is an award winning singer who has under her belt a string of hit songs that have made waves at different times. A very private person who devotes her time to writing songs and developing her craft, her passion for everything God has stood her out amongst her contemporaries. Tall, exceptionally beautiful and blessed with an amazing voice, Monique’s love for God and unwavering confidence in her ability as a musician are two factors that have helped her survive the murky waters of showbiz. And, if anything, challenges of the business have only gotten this hugely talented super star more determined than ever before to reach for the stars and take her music far beyond the shores of Africa. Already, she has gone international with her music and she says she hasn’t even started yet.
Always with a pretty smile on her face, Monique wowed guests at the recently held City People Music Awards where she also picked up a recognition award. The obviously elated crooner of the monster hit, ‘Kabiyesi, Oba Gbogbo Aye,’ spoke with City People’s Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290) moments after she picked up her award and she opened up on how she dealt with one of the bad experiences that brought her a bit of bad press some years back and also expressed her joy at how well her career is presently doing.
It’s a pleasure to have you talking with us, let’s start by congratulating you on the award you just picked. How excited are you about this recognition?
Thank you very much. I am very, very excited. The thing I like about this award is the fact that it’s a no-contest award. It’s not the award that you have to be campaigning for votes or an award that breeds competition and enmity between artistes. It’s a highly recommending award to honour people who have contributed to the music industry and whom people have benefitted from their talent. So, I want to say thank you to Dr. Seye Kehinde for doing this because this award does not come with pressure, its just to encourage you and make you do more. It’s to let you know people can see what you’re doing, people can feel what you’re doing, so don’t stop, don’t give up.
How have the last couple of years been for you? Like you said earlier on stage, there was a moment you had to slow down and allow the bad press you were having at the time blow away….
No, I actually didn’t slow down. The truth is, no matter how, once you are talented, you are definitely going to be seen by the world because the world will see your talent and they will congratulate you. So, the thing that comes with it is the devil. The devil does not like anything that is good, so definitely you will be attacked. So, some people get attacked whether spiritually or physically. Spiritually could just mean that that person had glory before but he’s no where to be found again. But physically could be that the people who are celebrating you could also be the ones bad mouthing you, trying to bring you down. So, glory comes with all of these. Then, when I had my own fair share of that particular experience, it hit me but I kept going, knowing that I have a calling from God, I have God backing me up, so I continued with what I was doing and to the glory of God I was still blessing lives.
When did you start singing?
I started over 20 years ago but officially, I made my first hit in 2010. So, 2010 to 2023, that’s about 13 years ago.
Was Mo rire your first hit?
No, Kabiyesi, Oba Gbogbo Aye. Mo rire was a song by Mike Abdul which I got featured on and in 2020 I released Power Flow and I kept releasing and releasing great songs and my songs blessed people all around the world. I have gone international and I hear people singing my songs, even the ones that people don’t really know in Nigeria. I thank God that my journey in ministry has been much of a blessing to the world, so, I don’t care whatever the devil is bringing. So, this award is one of the strengths that we get, knowing that people are seeing you and we are being encouraged. No matter what comes our way, we are standing and standing for God.
Looking back at those difficult moments you encountered few years ago, what were the things you did that helped you pull through it all?
Okay, for me, number one, it’s God because no man has strength of his own to fight some challenges like that. So, God was there for me. God upheld me and told me don’t worry, you’re going nowhere. Secondly, my family. My family was so strong for me and thirdly, I will say my fans. These are the people that my songs have contributed immensely to their growth and to their blessings. Lastly, I will say the fact that I knew that it was a lie that was written about me, so I had the confidence that enabled me stand anywhere to say that I’m the only one who knows the truth. So, no lie can bring me down. I want to say to anyone that has been challenged with a situation like this and still going through such, just stand on your truth and know that one day your truth will speak for you and you will be vindicated. That will first of all give you the strength that you need so that whenever they are coming for backlash, you know that you know the truth and their lies should not affect you.
You are a very gorgeous looking lady, how has it been for you navigating through the music industry dominated by men who are waiting to take advantage of the females?
One thing I thank God for is that the first thing people see in me is the talent, not the beauty. So, they first and foremost appreciate the gift of God upon my life before they appreciate the beauty. And the good thing is I married early so I have the support of my husband and most of my works were done by my record label. You know I was signed to Spaghetti Records, so my interviews, my recordings, the company handled everything. All I had to do was go there, do whatever I needed to do and come back. That’s why I can say I didn’t have such challenges in my growth because of some of the people God surrounded me with.
Who are some of those artistes who, by your standards, have earned your respect?
Number one for me is Midnight Crew. I am somebody who loves culture and in Midnight Crew you can find the Igbo, you can find the Yoruba, you can find the English music all in one, so I love Midnight Crew so much. And I have been mentored by their ministry even unknowingly to them. It was later I told them that you guys are my mentor, they even read it in the papers. I love Midnight Crew a lot. Another person I love a lot is the late Brenda Fassie. She was not a gospel artiste but I love her so much. My number three is Celine Dion. I just love the fact that a lot of her songs pass the message of love to everyone. In this world that we are now, we need to spread love all around us. Even the person you want to preach the gospel to, you have to let the person know first and foremost that you’re loved before you can now pass the message of the gospel. They have all inspired me in one way or the other and I’m grateful to them.
You have everything that you could possibly need to make it big in secular music. You have the look, the face, the height, the talent, the voice to make you a big hip-hop/R&B star, yet you chose a much more difficult path which is gospel, why gospel?
Well, from my childhood, I’ve been raised to be decent. I was born into a family of ten, I am the last born and I have seven brothers, so they imposed discipline on me. You didn’t even have any other choice than to be decent. My mother is an Evangelist and my father a Christian to the core, so you can’t even go home to say, oh, I want to become a secular artiste. That is not to say secular artistes are not Christians or that they don’t know God, they do, it’s just a principle of upbringing. To even allow you to do music alone is a lot, especially back in those days. Back then, when you come out to say you want to do music, they already tag you as indecent. So, for them to even allow you to do music, you are lucky, but to say you want to do secular, that’s something my father would never allow. So, I want to say, first of all my father and secondly, it’s God because I started doing like motivational songs, songs that would encourage people too. But as time went by, I had the calling. I was visited by God and I heard him saying to me, I want you to use your talent for me, strictly for me. So, at the time, I was working as a banker and then a friend saw me at the bank and was like, what are you doing here? Come and do music and I was like, ehehn, how will I survive now, there’s no money in gospel music. But later, the Holy spirit interpreted to me that seek ye first the kingdom of God and every other thing will be added unto you. So, I overlooked the profit and chose ministry first. And indeed, God has been faithful. I don’t lack the things that are necessary. It is when you have so many clothes in your closet and you’re still saying it is designers I want, that’s when you get yourself into trouble. I may not have those designer wears, but I will never be naked. God makes sure that I am okay and I am grateful.
Tell us about your current work
Ah, my current work is amazing. Last year, I released an album called Timeless, that was before Davido released his own Timeless album. That’s my last effort for now and it’s doing very well. And I’ve released videos and done concerts like Monique live in concert and it went viral. Even City People was there, it was huge, it was massive. Souls were won and I’m grateful to God. Right now, I’m compiling songs for the album and launching my own music studio, Zel music studio, it’s a recording studio at Omole Phase 1. So, that’s my major project this year, and afterwards I’m going to release a song in December that will launch us into the new year.