The Real Monalisa: VH1's "Flavor of Love 3" Breakout Star

Monday, 05 July 2010 10:41 Written by  Sydney Corryn

Monalisa Brown walks though the doors in a gray dress that blends beautifully with her chocolate skin. Her shoulder length black hair frames her face and her eyes give you a soothing comfort—a different feeling than the one she gave to the housemates on VH1’s “Flavor of Love 3.”


Monalisa Brown has made a 360 since the first airing of “Flavor of Love 3” in February 2008. Brown was the fourth girl standing and in a desperate attempt to leave the circus of the reality show that made her break down. The 27-year-old budding actress has made a transformation that only God can do. She has changed her life, rebuilt her spirit and is focusing on numerous projects.

“Shy” a.k.a. Monalisa Brown took her first breath into this world as the sixth of eight children in 1983 to a spiritually devoted household. Her father was a manager for Illinois Bell, now Ameritech, and her mother was a stay-at-home mom.  As a minister, Mr. Brown made it a priority to have his children present in church several times a week; this was his attempt to shield them from the worldly dangers outside.

A young Monalisa remembers always being overlooked compared to her other sisters. “I was always the strong one, so my parents thought I would be okay,” said Brown. Her parents invested more time and money into the other children’s hobbies because they thought Monalisa’s dream to act was impossible. Later on, Monalisa realized it was because “church was all they knew.”

Brown found comfort in church plays and writing. As a fourth grader at Marytes Elementary School in Matteson, Ill., she wrote a short play called, “Welfare” about wealthy citizens who receive aid, while the poor are suffering. Her work received the attention of Fox channel 32, who aired clips on TV.. Monalisa felt her calling in life at that moment; however, her parents thought nothing of it and went on with their daily lives.

As she went though school, Brown continued to participate in church and school plays. In 2002, Brown’s life went haywire when her mother died of a skin disease called sarcoidosis, which damages the scar tissue and any organs. The matriarch had been secretly dealing with the sickness for six years, and finally revealed her hidden pain four years before her death. As a family with a strong faith, they believed in God for a miracle; however, he took her to heaven. The entire family was in disbelief because they never thought God would put them through such a tragedy.

The then 17-year old said, “God prepared me for her death. I saw it in a vision.” She envisioned her mother’s funeral in the bathroom, a week before she passed. When she finally arrived at the hospital, she saw her mother with a big smile on her face and clear skin. “It as if she was saying, ’Thank you God because I’ve been suffering,’” said Brown.

Monalisa regrets the fact she never saw her mother before she died. As her mother was rushing her to come to the hospital, Monalisa was smoking weed with her boyfriend, delaying her hospital trip.  “I felt like she would have given me some valuable piece of information or advice,” said Brown.

Coping with her new reality was not the only hurdle; two days after her mother’s funeral, Brown found out she was five months pregnant with her son. Then, tension among her family increased. Her father was furious because he was a minister and felt he taught his children better. The relationship with the father of her child was strained and hurtful. They fell head over heels in love with each other. However, he was more set on their future together as a couple and did everything in his power to keep a strong hold on Monalisa.

“He had a plan to keep me in his way of life, and that was to get me pregnant,” said Brown. It broke the young mother into pieces. “It killed me because this is how he says ‘I love you’,” said Brown who is now raising their 10-year old son. His father later went to jail and their time together came to a bitter end.

Home life was not any better. Her father was now the sole caretaker of three young adults who were struggling to hold their lives together. Mr. Brown also had a heart attack because he was so worried about his youngest children who were freely roaming the streets, exploring everything that was a taboo in their Christian upbringing.

Her father had the last straw; he bought an apartment and cars for the youngest children and said, “Good luck.” He paid their rent for a year, hoping they would save money, but it failed to happen. During their freedom run, Monalisa, her siblings and her son lived a wild life. Weed, drinking and sex replaced church, praying and living a godly life.

“We were so anxious to experience the world. Being told no all of our lives gave us more desire to experiment,” said Brown.

After a year in the apartment, the Brown clan packed up and made a bold choice—they moved to California. It was in Los Angeles where “Shy” discovered a hidden talent—music. She began her rapping and singing career when she entered a rap contest. Brown battled other performers and won. Her victory led to collaboration with Octane Writers. While she was performing, she was still hoping for an acting break. She got a huge reality check when she noticed everyone in L.A. was a performer. Brown went on hundreds of auditions.

“I was never what they were looking for, I didn’t fit their mold or perception of beauty,” said the budding actor who did not look like her light-skinned counterparts.

After countless attempts, Brown decided it was time to move back out to the Windy City and enroll in Columbia College. The media arts powerhouse rejected Brown’s application twice because of her horrible grades.

“It was my last year that got me, the struggle with my mom and all. My teachers passed me because of grace.” In fall of 2004, Brown entered the Columbia Bridge Program, a pre-screening for grades, as performing arts major and a psychology minor.

“To be honest, I felt the program was not enough for me. There was no enough ‘one on one’ to enhance my talent, “said Brown who often skipped semesters for auditions and acting parts.

Brown’s career took a turn for the better when she played the lead role in the remake of the 1950’s film “Embrosia,” a vampire film. The movie won second place at the Independent Film Festival.

Then in 2007, she auditioned for “Flavor of Love.” In Brown’s mind, this would be her first step to success and receive attention. Brown wore Flav’s signature clock around her neck to separate herself from the rest of the women.  It was between her and New York, who would play the instigator. In addition to drama, the producers wanted the women to do sexual favors for Flav--something that was not in Brown’s mind. In the end, New York was the star, but not for long. Two years later, Brown received a call from the producers inviting her to be on season three. She went through the entire audition process again, even though she was picked anyway.

“Shy” was the “New York” on season three, but it was the master plan from the creators. The producers would give Brown dirt on the girls and tell her to use the information to create drama.

“It was my job to expose them to the world and Flav,” said Brown. As the drama queen, Brown often started pointless arguments, degraded the women and lowered her own spirit. Brown was used to enhance VH1’s ratings. She made a deal with the producers as if they were a team. However, they were not always loyal or concerned about her well-being. Her family was not pleased with her filthy language and actions but was happy to see her on T.V.

“I became mentally drained and the negative atmosphere killed my spirit,” said Brown, who is usually an upbeat person. As the fourth girl standing, Brown decided to break her contract, which caused hell. To make her elimination real, the producers used the excuse that she had bad breath and created a dentist scene, which they edited behind her back.  At the reunion, hell broke loose because tensions and negative feelings rose after seeing the entire season, which is edited to create bad situations.

In reflection, Monalisa does not regret anything because she said, “God got some glory out of me.” Her life went from negative to positive.  Brown began her journey back to God in 2009 when she attended a Church conference where gospel star Kiki Sheard gave Brown the microphone. Brown then shared her testimony with 1,000 people. Then she went on tour with the Clark sisters, Tye Tribbett and other gospel stars to share her testimony. “People were getting saved because of my story,” said the newly devoted Christian.

Brown is not only now an actress, model, writer but can now add business women to her impressive resume. The single mother has created her own company, “It Factor,” which is an agency that caters to performers who have many talents. Brown is in the process of recruiting a talented group of triple-threats.

As far as her music career, Brown is a hit overseas. Her single, “Keep on Dancing” is big in Amsterdam. She has been on tour where she traveled to Spain and Australia, just to name a few. Since her life change, Brown has made a name for herself by acting in plays, “What Every Woman Wants in a Man” and “Mr., Mrs., and the Lover,” which will be on tour this summer. In addition, Brown is writing a book to share her testimony.

“It’s a quick glance at the change, struggles, aftermath and the transformation,” she said.

Her goal is to educate others who have big dreams. “Teach them how to go about their dreams the right way in Hollywood,” said Brown. “Is a moment of fame really worth your name?” is the question she hopes her readers will answer. Most of all she wants people to get saved. “God is Key,” said Brown.

Brown is focusing on raising her 10-year-old son, investing in her career and walking with God. Although Brown says God is still working on her, she says, “When he gets done with me—GET READY!”

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Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn

Sydney Corryn is a recent graduate of Columbia College Chicago with a degree in journalism. Her interests range from socioeconomic problems, culture, traveling, dysfunctional political campaigns, and of course, Chicago's nightlife. She hopes to use her communication skills and passion for community issues to create a career for herself.  She will be teaching English in Chile for six months starting the end of June, 2012.

Sydney can be contacted at Sydney@glossmagazineonline or