A Story Unlike Any Other
Those who wish to learn about Montreea will find a story of perseverance & resilience. Her gospel vocal stylings have captivated audiences across the continent, and her songwriter’s pen continues to craft records for DJs and producers worldwide. Captured across film, television and radio is an improbable portrait of a woman who, despite impossible odds, has managed to land on records around the globe.
Though she enjoyed and survived the heyday of the trailblazing gay artist Miss Money, a twist in Montreea’s journey led her down a path not even she anticipated. “I just love music,” she quips while on a studio break. “Through the wins, losses, exultation & embarrassments, I’ve just held on when most people would have probably quit.”
Family and Foundation
Montreea was born in Monroe, Louisiana. When her alcoholic father received Christ, the whole family followed, and Montreea, the eldest child, supported his ministry through singing. “I learned about Christ early and sang at church after church. My dad took me all over the South,” she reflects on her late father, a product of Marshall, TX. His church, built from a dilapidated crack house, still sits in the heart of Studewood today.
“My mom was the original Sister Bailey,” Montreea grins. “I inherited passion from her.” On May 21, 2021, her mother passed away from breast cancer after a fruit-filled life. Though Montreea admits that the choices made early in her music career strained her relationship with both parents, she credits them for her strong determination and introduction to music.
Montreea began studying classical music at age ten. After graduating with honors from the High School for Performing & Visual Arts, she attended Berklee College of Music in Boston. Montreea majored in music business & audio engineering. She also attended master classes by Patti LaBelle, Oleta Adams, Sting & Quincy Jones. “Berklee was magical,” she states. “Brian McKnight, Jonathan Butler, and the great Phil Wilson were accessible and available to mentor & teach.”
Montreea was awarded internships at BMG Records (Whitney Houston) & Island Records (Boyz II Men) as a college student. After graduating Sum Cum Laude, Montreea adopted the stage name Money and came out as gay. Show icon Marsha Carlton renamed her Miss Money to soften public perception. Montreea recalls, “A lot of people thought I was a guy, and Marsha thought the name Miss Money would clear up the confusion about my gender. I was into girls, and being a boy was my life. I planned to one day transition to male.”
Rapid Ascent, Crash Landing
The thirteen years spent as Miss Money were a whirlwind and resulted in numerous awards, including Black Heritage Society Jr. Achiever (2005), a 2006 Texas Lifetime Achievement Award, and The Houston Chronicle Ultimate Musical Multitasker title in 2007. Part of her journey was captured in the award-winning film Pick Up the Mic, a documentary that chronicled the lives of hip hop’s first crop of openly gay artists. “The gay community took me from unknown to national TV and Hollywood. I was making great money. I had a half dozen deals already, the big labels were calling, and I was living my dream.”
Curve Magazine dubbed Miss Money an “underground musical genius,” and she appeared in many publications, including The New York Times, Computer Music, Blues & Soul, URB, David Atlanta, Rolling Stone, and The Dallas Morning News. The exciting ride came to a screeching halt when she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy, a crippling genetic condition. “I lost everything in six months – all my deals and the ability to walk. It never occurred to me that I’d ever be a paralytic.” The once-popular LGBT trailblazer found herself in a wheelchair and a colossal mess.
The Gay Gospel Singer
“No one knows this, but I formed a suicide pact with a well-known female R&B singer in 2008. I was depressed about being a cripple, and she was just lost. We set the date and everything,” Montreea confides. Although the two artists never followed through with the pact, Montreea sank further into despair until the religious community came calling in 2009.
With gay churches lining up to hear her voice and still performing as Miss Money, Montreea set out on a cross country tour that took her deep into gay Christianity. “I performed at the gay churches because they paid well,” she states. “It was like taking candy from a baby. It wasn’t about going to heaven. You just said whatever people wanted to hear. Black churches don’t support lesser known singers. Gay people are different. They support their own no matter what. I could’ve ridden that whole gay gospel singer thing to the Grammys.”
The momentum began to pick up in her career. Montreea won the 2010 Houston finals of the Most Powerful Voices contest. She was nominated for a My Gospel Soul Award a year later. She also won a 2011 Fresh Award and, in 2012, she was a semifinalist in the Unsigned Music Only competition. “I was opening for the biggest names in gospel,” Montreea says. “I thought my music career was over, but I was going places.”
God & Going Viral
While on the east coast touring gay churches, something happened. The young singer holed up in a hotel with a stranger and went on a two-day drug binge. “Here I was making good money to sing as an openly gay gospel singer. I couldn’t lose with the LGBT community, but I was living so close to the edge. I had survived one overdose years earlier, but this binge could have easily been my second and final overdose. I could not continue the lifestyle of homosexuality & drug use. In 2012, I announced I was leaving the gay lifestyle and giving my life back to God.”
A few months after rededicating her life to Christ, Montreea beat out 15,000 singers to land on BET’s Sunday Best in 2013. She toured gospel music relentlessly and worked her way out of homosexuality & transgender aspirations. Then in the fall of 2015, her career took another hit. Her testimony went viral.
“Good grief,” she chuckles. “Don’t ever go viral. The internet took over my narrative, and people became convinced that I hated gay people. It was the opposite, though. I hated that I was associated with religion.”
After being hospitalized for exhaustion in 2017, Montreea left the gospel music industry and headed in a new direction.
Power of the Pen
In 2018, she set up DOPE Recording, an in-house songwriting factory. “I went back to work writing & singing for rappers and DJs,” she asserts. Her songwriting pen has blessed a who’s who of house music, including Sebb Junior (Spain), BOS (Sweden) & Alex Millet (Italy). The film Here’s My Heart also featured Montreea’s testimony in 2018.
In 2019, Montreea celebrated releases on SubUrban Records (Europe), Soulful Legends (US), Check It Out Records (Europe) & House 4 Life Records (US). By 2020, the pandemic hit. Montreea’s buzz as a writer was simmering, and life changed again. “My mom decided to stop breast cancer treatments in 2021,” says Montreea. “I used my money from studio sessions to pay off my studio. I closed up shop and spent as much time as I could with her before she passed.”
After taking time off, she returned in 2022 with a new DJ Alex Ander collaboration that dropped on Quantize Recordings (US) and a Cee Elassaad collaboration that dropped on Ricanstruction Brand Label. Her memoir, My Escape from Sodom is currently in the works and documents her unbelievable journey through music, Hollywood and religion.
Now producing under the moniker Girl on the Beat, Montreea has shifted back to beatmaker. She jokes, “I’m back where I started – beats & DJs. It’s all about the music and showing love. It’s a new season. I’m just blessed to still be able to share.”