Mona Scott-Young’s life has all the makings of must see reality TV.
As Executive Producer of runaway reality hits Love and Hip-Hop, and Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta, the Monami Entertainment CEO has unadulterated inside scoop on all the drama surrounding her cast members. This should only increase now that her new show This is Hot 97—about New York-based hip-hop radio station 97.1FM—has hit the airwaves.
As if she isn’t busy enough, Scott-Young has partnered with rapper Nicki Minaj to push Myx Fusions moscato. The duo are rare females in the lucrative, male-dominated world of spirits. And she serves on the boards of The RSQ Foundation, The GrassROOTS Foundation, and The Haitian Roundtable.
But perhaps the most compelling aspect of Scott-Young’s storyline is her refreshingly progressive partnership with her husband. While Scott-Young earns her living outside the home, her husband Shawn Young holds down the fort as a stay-at-home-dad to their two children.
The onetime co-founder with Chris Lighty of hip-hop management group Violator recognizes their situation smashes hip-hop’s misogynistic characterizations of women as sex objects whose worth is determined by their proximity to powerful men — depictions that are in part perpetuated by some of the scenarios on Scott-Young’s shows.
“He isn’t just taking care of the kids,” Scott-Young said of her husband, squeezing time out of her non-stop schedule for a phone interview. “He’s taking care of me.”
“He’s taking care of our home, and our household, and, you know, taking care of all the things that allow me to go out there and do what I do for… the personal fulfillment that I derive from realizing my full potential.” She added, “[He’s] also, allowing me the freedom to build something for our children, and to build a legacy for our family.”
Scott-Young praises her partner for being man enough to buck narrow gender roles.
“My husband came from Brevoort, Brooklyn, and he came up in the era of hip-hop’s heyday and I actually met him while he was working for Busta Rhymes, who was one of my clients at the time. So he, in essence, should have been a product of the hip-hop, you know, male-dominating mentality, but he’s also an individual with a different experience that he brings to who he is as a man. And that’s what defined him and that’s what allowed us to have the dynamic that we have within our family, which allows us to have had a successful marriage and relationship for the past 17 years.”
This is a side of love and hip-hop sorely lacking on the small and big screens — and in the wider discussion of rapidly shifting gender roles.
With white women like Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and former Hillary Clinton aide Anne-Marie Slaughter leading the heated discussion around what it means to be a mother in the modern-day workplace (even as Yoncé explores a “***Flawless,” very sexual brand of feminism), Scott-Young is in a position to expand the conversation both on screen and off.
But she demurs.
“I think I’m boring,” she says. “I enjoy being behind the scenes. I enjoy producing. And [starring in a reality show] would be a distraction from all of those things. As a matter of fact, it became increasingly difficult to both produce and host the reunion show.”
Scott-Young is also resistant to becoming a poster child for Blacks, women, or anyone else. When discussion turns to the flack she has received for casting women of color who are either in messy relationships or quick to resolve conflict with blows, she laments the judgmental nature of such critique as well as the responsibility implied by her color and gender.
“My preference,” she makes clear, “is to be viewed as a producer first and foremost. Not a Black producer, not a woman producer, not a Black woman producer, but just as a producer.”
She allows, “As a woman, the scrutiny that I’m under, it does bear some weight for me and it does bring a certain modicum of responsibility to me. But my first responsibility is staying true to whatever it is I’m doing.” Specifically, staying true to the stories of the women and men that star in her different series.
“I don’t think that there’s anybody who’s been a part of [the hip-hop] culture and who understands the world from firsthand experience… who can look at the show and say that this is not the stuff that happens,” she says.
Meanwhile, Scott-Young adds, her detractors aren’t as quick to condemn her Caucasian counterparts. To be fair, Bravo TV’s Andy Cohen is rarely mentioned in blowback about the epic fights between the Real Housewives of Atlanta stars, and most people don’t even know the name of the Bad Girls Club’s Executive Producer (it’s Jonathan Murray, according to the Internet Movie Database).
“I understand that our playing field has never been level. I’m very, very clear about that,” she says, “but I think every single day I struggle to create a level playing field for myself.”
To this end, Scott-Young is not really focused on naysayers. “If you are busy judging and condemning others,” she asks, “when do you have time to take over your own world?”
Nor is she concerned with chatter percolating in the blogosphere that she is being sued for stealing the idea for Love and Hip-Hop.
“One minute, I had access to their idea and I shared it with Vh1. And then I saw another report where Vh1 had the idea and stole it and gave it to me. And then they even mentioned that, somehow, Chrissy Lampkin took the idea and gave it to me. So, my thing is this: the show has been on for six years. Why on earth is this just popping up now?”
She takes the opportunity to describe the process of pitching a show, particularly one based on people’s lives.
“There’s no way to lay claim on somebody’s life and say I own this idea of putting a camera on your life. Was there a parallel show being developed? Maybe. Probably. But this happens all the time. I pitch stuff all the time with the networks that’s ‘Oh, we’ve already got something similar. What else do you have for me?’ It doesn’t mean I could then turn around and say ‘I’m suing you for this idea because I pitched it to you,’” she said.
Her end goal — with the shows, Myx Fusions, and what may come next — is fulfilling her every aspiration, and her advice to anyone interested in being a success is focusing on his or her own end goal too.
“Don’t look for anyone else to pave the way for you and to make life easy, or to even help you,” she warns. “I always say, ‘In life, you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.’ So make sure that you are negotiating a course of success and that you stay focused on that… That’s the only thing that’s gonna get you to where you’re trying to go.”
She encapsulates her advice with a personal anecdote.
“You know, I spent many, many years in music and was there when it was at its height, and was there still when things took a turn,” she remembers. “[Going into reality TV] was about taking a chance on me and venturing out into the world and really kind of testing what I was made of in a way that was both… exhilarating and reaffirming. So, that’s what I really want my legacy to be. That’s what I wanna pass on to my daughter and my son, and that’s the message that I wanna send. We have one life. Let’s live it to the fullest.”
I enjoy Love and Hip-Hop, but I’d much rather watch Mona at work. Wouldn’t you?