Monica Breaks Down in Tears Recalling Whitney Houston's Influence on Her (Exclusive)

Monica reflects with ET on her friend and mentor's legacy 10 years after her tragic death.

It's been over a decade since the world lost Whitney Houston. On Feb. 11, 2012, the GRAMMY-winning superstar died of drowning and the effects of atherosclerotic heart disease and cocaine use. She was 48.

Still, 10 years after her death, her legacy and impact stay strong. Whitney's family and friends, such as Kelly Price and Dionne Warwick, spoke with ET's Kevin Frazier about her legacy on and off the stage. According to GRAMMY winner Monica, "The past 10 years is like 10 minutes or 10 days to me."

"When I think about Whitney, the first thing that I picture is her smile. It was something that, believe it or not, she never lost. No matter what was happening her smile was the first thing you saw. Even on a sad day she would smile at you first... Selflessness, that was her," Monica shares.

The singer reminisces about one of her last encounters with the late Bodyguard actress, during rehearsals for the preshow of the 2012 GRAMMY Awards. "She was in and out of our rehearsals, she kept touching my face and just telling me, 'You got it. Don't worry about it. It doesn't matter who's watching. You’re the greatest of the great,'" she recalls. 

"That was something she used to always tell me. She would always tell me, 'You forget who you are, that’s a mistake I always made. You know with me, even in relationships, I forget who I am. I forget what I bring. I forget that I am not something I would find every day. Don't let them make you forget.' And 'them' could be the music industry, could be who you love -- it doesn’t matter. I understood because I do it so often," Monica adds. 

"I oftentimes feel indebted when people do things for me or when people work for me. I forget. I sign a check, I get on stage, I leave my kids, I do whatever I got to do no matter how I’m feeling. Sometimes I forget the greatest lesson from her is that I matter, that I'm important. She used to always tell me, 'Don’t let them change who you are. Give it to them how you know you can.' She used to always point at her chest when she talked or point at my face because I think she could see in me that I forget."

Although the memories overwhelm the singer to tears, Monica explains that she often "gives more to people than I give to myself" and the greatest lesson taught by her late mentor was to remember that she wasn't special because of her immense talent, but because of her heart.

"When I think of her, I think of the fact that I have to remind myself they won’t find another you," she adds. "When they work for other people they won't get what they get from me... and that's what connected us. It's not the fact that she was one of the greatest singers of all time ... [it] was really the way she loved others more than she loved herself, and it is a mistake that I've often made repetitively in my life."

Being aware of that similarity motivates the 41-year-old singer to think more about what she puts into other people and "tap directly into my kids" because that's "the greatest love of all." 

When asked what she feels Whitney's legacy should be, Monica says she appreciates how "today's social media users" are all about their research because they can easily "pull up why I can comfortably say she was the greatest of our time."

Monica continues to say that "no voice has come close" to Whitney's universally-acclaimed vocals, and that no one has "sacrificed as much as she did." 

"You can't disrespect a woman that did stuff, you can't disgrace a woman doing that much and you can't change that no one has touched who she is or what she is and how she did it ever since," she asserts. "She's still the greatest to ever sing 'The Star-Spangled Banner.'"

The singer notes that even Dolly Parton could attest that Whitney's version of her song, "I Will Always Love You," is the best, even if the country music legend wrote it and sang it the first time. 

"When Whitney touched something it became hers," Monica proclaims.

(During an appearance on Watch What Happens Live With Andy Cohen in August 2021, Parton said that although she would have loved to sing a duet of the song with Whitney, she didn't think she "could've come up to snuff with her." "She'd have out sung me on that one for sure," Parton said.)

"The memories are there, the history is there, the charts are there. This is [all in] black and white, I don't believe that the tabloids destroyed the legacy because it's real, it's there," Monica says. "And one thing that outshined whatever was said in a negative manner is what she did."