19 Jul 2010

Mashonda Speaks On Swizz, Alicia, Date Rape & Life After The Drama

Source: VIBE
Snail up Mashonda’s gated, mountain-top driveway and you’ll catch an unexpected sight. Weeds tall enough to kiss knees. An unused pool sad with leaves and dirt. Silence. However, the particularly glowing 29-year-old laughs off the scenery, dubbing her soon-to-be ex New York home (once owned by Madonna) a “ghetto mansion.” Inside, cardboard boxes stuffed with wineglasses, appliances... memories. It goes without saying—Mashonda has had more than a rough two years. You know the story. It lives in gossip blogs, tweets, and between the fingers of a showy A-list pair. Now for the first time ever, the ex-wife of Swizz Beatz is revealing the whole truth and nothing but. In a candid two-part interview, Mashonda opens up to VIBE's Tracy Garraud about her past, present, and why she’s more resilient than ever.
VIBE: How much of a burden is it to be referred to as Swizz Beatz ex-wife, rather than Mashonda?
Mashonda: I can't wait until that goes down. I hate that when [Swizz and Alicia Keys are] doing something I always come up. I can't wait for the day when we’re both in our own worlds. I’m a separate person and just want my own identity.

How far have you gone to regain your own identity? Have you still kept his last name, Dean?
I do. I kept my last name for my son’s sake, until I remarry. There's no need to rush to change it… that just complicates things for my son. That would be so petty of me. The only thing that could change [my last name] is a really good man.

Speaking of which. You’ve been spotted with producer, Michael Honablue. Going well?
Yeah. It’s only been two months, [but] Michael and I have a really good thing. I've been really private with my personal life, but I will say that Michael and myself share a lot of characteristics. He's just a good guy.

When did you feel you could comfortably date again?
I had to be fully divorced before anything because it was important to show my son that that's just not how you do it. You're not going to do this to your wife… over my dead body are you going to do this to your wife. If you don't want to be with her, you wait until your shit is right, [then] you do all your public stuff. That was really important for me to [be] an example for him. So I waited. It wasn't really an interest of mine to date anyways. I just really wanted to figure out me and my next move because I was so confused and hurt. If you're not complete with yourself there is no way you can be complete in a relationship. But now I'm in a really good place, and I only mess with positive people. I will not entertain negativity.

You were with Swizz for ten years, married for four, is it weird being with a man that isn't your ex-husband?
It is definitely weird. The first time I went on a date with somebody, I cried. It was like ‘Oh my God.’ I didn't even know how to talk to another man. It was just weird being there, but I knew it was something I had to do, a part of moving on. Thank God I've been blessed to deal with only good, educated, sensitive men. God will send the right person for me. [Right now] my son is my number one man.

How old is little Kaseem now?
Three-and-a-half. He'll be four in December. 

I know it was very important for you to sit down with Alicia if she was going to be around your son. Safe to assume that happened?
When I wrote her that Twitter letter everybody wanted to say things like ‘Oh, what do you need to meet her for? It's not her problem, it's Swizz's." I'm like, ‘You have a kid, go through what I went through and then talk to me.’ I'm not having my son around anybody I don't know. I don't give a shit who you are and how much money you have and what management he's going to be under when he visits you. I need to see you and I need you to see how serious I am about him. And that's what happened. We had to sit down, and I told her how I felt. I didn't mention anything else, it was all about my son and it was fine after that. I'm not going sit and talk to [them] about what happened between the three of us. This is about my son.

 How did you introduce Kaseem to Alicia?
‘This is daddy's friend Alicia… Daddy's girlfriend.’ I don't want him to ever go over there feeling uncomfortable.

 When did this meeting finally take place?
It took a good year and a half. I think that only happened in March.

 How was Alicia’s demeanor?
She just listened.

 This all sounds like a really awkward gathering…
It wasn't awkward; I wouldn't have done it if I wasn't ready. I said what I had to say as a mom. It was a whole sit down dinner. So you know how intimate that is. There are certain things we have to do as women in order to move forward.

Very true, have you received an apology from either one of them yet?

No, because I honestly feel like they think they didn't do anything wrong. I don't care about their apology. As long as he’s a great dad to my son and she's a good step-mom, they don't have to worry about apologizing because they will never understand or care about the pain I went through. That was a big thing at first, I felt like nobody was respecting me. He's not respecting me, she's not respecting me. [But] then I had to say, ‘Fuck my ego, because this can't be an ego thing. If it is I'm going to fall down and die.’ People feel that they are so happy and they are so in love, but what really happens is that real love does not come from a foundation when you hurt somebody else. Love does not happen like this. Love doesn’t involve hurt, lies, or destructing anybody else's soul. 

 If real love isn’t born from infidelity, are you saying it wouldn’t shock you if their soon-to-be marriage ended in divorce?
I don't think about it, it's not my concern. I don't think about them anymore. If there was no little boy involved in this, I would’ve probably moved to another country by now. I've thought about going to live in Europe, but I can't because his dad is here. I don't like confusion, I don't like drama, I don't like none of that stuff. I would have left before the divorce was even final.

How did you even find out that they were engaged and she was pregnant? Please don’t tell me the blogs.
I knew these things for a couple of months… I never talked to him about it though. It’s his life, but people talk. Nobody is nobody's friend when it comes to stuff like this. There are people in their circles that talk and it gets back to me and I'm like ‘Wow, okay.’ I still feel like we should tell each other…No, I don't care. I don't give him the vibe that I care, so he wouldn't feel obligated to tell me.

If you were generously invited, would you attend their wedding?
No. Not out of malice, but because weddings are sacred. It's just not my place. The only reason I went to his birthday party was because he invited me and I did that for myself. I needed to see them together for it to transfer. And I was like ‘Wow, this is real.’ We were still totally married…We had a divorce that was nowhere near final, but I just needed to see them in action for it to be real to me, and it was definitely real. You have all these different types of steps that you have to set up for yourself until you get to that place where you are free. And I will tell you, after I got divorced maybe three weeks later I woke up and felt a weight removed. It was the first time I’d ever felt mentally free. And I sent him an email wishing him all the best in the world.

Did he reply back?
He did. He said, "Wow, thanks. Thank you."

When was the last you cried?
I haven't cried in about a year. I don't cry anymore. I thank the good Lord for that, because it takes a lot for me to cry now. It's been a journey. The whole first year I cried my fucking brains out. And when “Try Sleeping With a Broken Heart” came out, I was like… "Wow, this song is for me." [Laughs] I would cry in my sleep, I would wake up crying.

Does it hurt listening to her now? Were you an Alicia Keys fan?
I believed her before. 

And now?
I don't make it an effort to listen. I don't make it an effort not to listen. I still like her songs. She's head over heels in love and I get it. Every woman deserves to feel that, not at the expense of another woman though. But I understand why some of the decisions were made on her part, because her heart was so in it. I can't fight that [and] I can't fight her because she’s a household name. People are always going to love her for her music, as they should. She makes great music, but no one is really ever going to understand what happened in this house. Bottom line, the rule is, if you're messing with somebody, you don't know they're married, and you found out they're married if you come into any contact with that wife, leave it alone… respect the woman, respect the wife. Like I said before, it was an ego thing for me. I'm being fucking disrespected, nobody respects me, this is my husband, this is my family, this girl thinks she can just do anything she thinks she wants to. And that's what I dealt with for a while, until I gave up.

Ego can be a dangerous thing. Were you still in love with him while you were fighting for your marriage?
I got to be honest with you… I was not in love. Love is unconditional; “in love” is very conditional. [Being] in love is a state of insanity, infatuation, when you can't live without that person. But when one thing goes wrong you feel crazy, it's insane. So when you’re able to tell the difference you're better off. Because [being] in love doesn't last, [it’s] for the moments. Love is forever. I still love him, he's the father to my son. We have history, there's no reason not for me to love him. What he did was done for me to learn something. I don't blame him anymore. Now he has to learn because I've already learned.

Is Alicia the reason your state of being in love faded?
There were lies, infidelity. I would die for him, but I was more focused on family. 

Are your parents still together?
They had a messy divorce as well, so I saw what it was like, how it effects kids. I didn't want my son to live through that.

Did they like Swizz?
They loved him.

You mentioned there being infidelity prior to Alicia. What happened?
His older son Nasir was born while we were together. We were living together [and] I was pregnant at the time. I stressed so much because I found out [the other woman] was pregnant... it put me into pre-labor. I lost my baby in 2000 when I was five-and-a-half months. It was tragedy. Nothing compares to losing a child. That shit put me into a two-year depression, it took me six years to even try [having a baby] again. I was afraid. So not only did I lose my baby, but now I was waiting for this other woman to have hers. Because of what happened to me, he wanted me to name the baby. He wanted a Muslim name and I loved the name Nasir. The first time I met Nasir we fell in love and whenever we had visitation he was my baby. I took care of him. We did everything that I would do with [Kaseem]. And when Swizz did that interview with DJ Enuff, he mentioned that I made him choose between his marriage and his son, and I was like ‘What?!’ 

That kills me the most. He was saying these things because these are probably the things he told her. Obviously something is wrong with his morals, but I don't play with kids. Even now with Alicia's pregnancy, I believe she deserves privacy. I hate hearing people wish bad stuff on her and the baby. I'm like ‘People shut up!’ This is a child, an actual life… someone who has nothing to do with what's going on right now. I wish her the most successful, healthy pregnancy in the world, that child is going to be my son's brother or sister and that's the only way to look at it.

That’s commendable to say. But what about that Twitter message you sent her?
I did not expect that letter to do what it did, I swear. I was in a state of insanity when I wrote that letter. I sat on the bed and I was like, ‘I can't take this shit anymore’ and lost my mind. I sat and wrote it all out on paper first, and then I tweeted it. The next morning it was on every blog and I was like ‘Ah! Oh my God, what the fuck did I do?!’ It was not intended to be that. And I kind of felt bad.

Bad enough to apologize to Alicia?
No, I didn't feel like it was anything for me to apologize about. I wished we could have done it a different way. If she would just acknowledge me… I was begging for this person to just talk to me, woman to woman.

Are you close to Swizz’s family?
[Hesitates] We're cool. When you divorce everybody, you can tell your real friends after a divorce. You can tell who’s really down for you.

How many friends do you think you’ve lost from this?
5% stuck around. The other percentage was a part of the Swizz fan base. It's like the red sea parting. You get to see who promotes the bullshit and who’s like ‘What [Swizz], you did what?’

Did any industry names reach out to you in support?
People reach out all the time. I don't really entertain that stuff and I don't talk to a lot of people because really friends aren't always as loyal as they claim to be. I don't have a problem helping females out, because I want women to get something from my story. But I don't do a lot of talking [and] I don't do the friend thing. I'll hang out with girls and laugh and have a drink but as far as sitting down and crying about my problems, that would never happen. When I'm going through real serious shit I go into hiding. I don't talk to anybody but God. And that first year people were like ‘Mashonda are you okay?’ You're not answering your phone, you're not talking’… I just didn't have anything to say. I would get up at four am and just pray and try to go back to sleep because nobody can really do anything for you. People might love you to death but they can't do everything for you.

You’ve mentioned in the past that Swizz repeatedly denied having an affair with Alicia. Did he ever fully come out and admit to it?
My husband admitted to having his affair on Mothers Day 2008, six months after I found out. I didn't sleep for a whole year. I had to take pills to sleep because I'd wake up in the middle of the night crying. I couldn't even look at my son some days because I didn't have the strength and I never wanted him to feel my bad energy. It was a battle. They are just now going public, but this has been going on for a very long time. I refused to really break it down for people to understand because there was no way I could go around not making [Swizz and Alicia] look extra crazy and I didn't want to put that out there for my son. I didn't want him to see his father as a monster. But the shit is deep.

What was the last thing you remember doing to keep the marriage in tact?
I did everything I could do, but I knew there was no working it out when he admitted his affair to me… he was happy about it. After lying about it for so long and finally admitting it I was like ‘I can't take it no more!’ In the back of my mind I was like, ‘I have to fight for my family, this is my son's father. We were supposed to grow old together, we were supposed to raise this baby together, we were supposed to do all these things, I'm fighting for my fucking husband. I don't care who he's dating, I don't care how much money she's got, I'm fighting for my husband.’ And then I realized… I can't fight for him… he doesn't want to be with me. I'm not going to win this one. 

How do you fight for a husband?
I fought more for the family than I did for my husband. It wasn't ‘I love you, don't leave me.’ It was never that because that’s not even me. It was, ‘Let’s work it out for this baby. You can't leave. I can't be a single mom. Let’s go to counseling, we are a family.’

Did you ever get a response?
None… none.

Were these conversations mainly over the phone?
Phone. Person. He lived here for a long time after he left to go be with her. He was back and forth.

Did you guys sleep in the same bed?
No, I put him in a different room. I know my worth. I don't have to beg anybody to want to be with me. I wouldn't torture myself with that.

When was the last time you spoke to him?
We talk almost every day. We have a child so we have to.

Sounds a bit obligatory, are you guys trying to rebuild a friendship?
We're cool. I want to be the best we could be for our son. If my son wants us to hug, we'll give each other a hug. Whatever makes him happy, you know kids like to see that. And I don't hate [Swizz], there's nothing anybody can do to me to really make me hate him. Hate is such a terrible word. It's strong. I just don’t approve of what he did and how he did it

Have you been able to speak to Alicia since that dinner?
We don't talk. We don't have any business talking unless it has something to do with my baby.

Tell me more about this house.
We moved here in 2004. This was his dream house. We moved here with hopes of fixing everything… we needed a new roof, we needed maintenance. We bought this house knowing it was a project and that he had to fix it, but this was his dream house and when he left, he let it fall apart. Black mold, leaks everywhere. Not only was I dealing with that and them, [but] I had to deal with how my son and myself were living. When the marriage fell apart, so did the house.

Is this house under his name or both of your names?
It's our house. But I just need to get out of here. There are just too many memories, and it’s just too big environmentally [Laughs].

Have you been getting your alimony and child-support payments?
Everything is perfect now, but there was a time where shit was a little rocky. At first there was an issue, but now we’re in a good place. He realizes it’s just something you have to do. It’s a part of divorce. He is really trying to be a better person to me and he’s doing an excellent job at being a better dad. But I still have to get out of this house. It’s too big and I just want to start over somewhere new; some place that has absolutely no memories of my marriage. I’m really excited to leave. I’ve been packing for months. 

You’re currently working on a memoir, Death of a Mermaid. I’m sure there’s a story behind that title.
When this all happened, I didn't know if I was coming or going. I sat in my house for a year. By the second year, I had things more in perspective. I figured, okay, writing is what I did when he met me. Death of a Mermaid stems from my pool. When we first moved in, the pool needed renovation. We had pool specialists come and show me all these different tile samples and I said ‘I want a mermaid in the pool and I want her to look like me.’ So I had them create this mosaic at the bottom of the pool. When [Swizz] left, he stopped paying the pool payments. So my pool became a swamp and my mermaid died because I couldn’t see her anymore. And every time I walked down my bedroom stairs and looked out those big windows, I saw the swamp. It made me remember the good times and the mermaid and how happy I was when I created her. The mermaid represents me. People automatically think that the book is going to be about [Swizz and Alicia], but it’s a spiritual journey. It’s about a young girl growing up in Harlem with nothing but dreams. Struggling. Scrambling up money to get on the train and go to the studio. Doing all these different things without a manager, getting a deal and being involved in the whole beginning of commercial hip-hop. My book is about my life and coming into my own. Even experiencing… Should I say it? [Hesitant] Experiencing… situations with music industry guys and how they treat women.

Something happened that wasn’t supposed to?
Yeah and just being unprotected in that type of situation where you feel like, ‘Okay I want to do this and make it happen then you come into some shit like, Oh my God this wasn’t supposed to be a part of it’ [Whispers: ‘I should just say it… it could be good for other women’]… experiencing date rape within the music industry. Going from that, to meeting someone that accepted me and stood up for me. When Swizz found out… I was very honest with what happened to me and I told him who did it. And he stepped to them and he told them, ‘This is my girl now and I want to make sure that there’s respect. I know what happened, but I just want to make sure that you know this is what it is. And I need respect in this situation from now on.’ Because [the offender] was somebody we knew we would constantly run into.

Wow, a record exec?
I can’t even tell you girl. I never said anything because I was like, ‘There’s no making it out of this okay.’ Because as a young girl, by me opening my mouth about this, I’m either going to fuck the rest of my career up or I’m going to end up getting someone locked up, and I don’t want to do that. So I just dealt with it and I knew what to do and what not to do ever again. You can’t blame people all the time because if I hadn’t put myself in that situation then it wouldn’t have happened. So I took 50% of the blame.

Did you have a feeling sex was going to be involved when you met with that man?
No. It wasn’t a part of the agenda, but it did. It wasn’t rape to the point where I was screaming. Date rape and rape are totally different. But rape is rape. Bottom line, when you say ‘No,’ it’s supposed to be no. I walked away saying, ‘I can’t believe this shit just happened.’ It opened my eyes to know what to do next and what not to do. A lot of young girls are lost; they don’t know how to make it out.

That’s the truth. It was really big of Swizz to stand up for you. What were the beginnings of your relationship like?
What people don't know about me is that I got my first publishing deal when I was 18 with Warner Chapel Music, I got my first record deal with Columbia Records when I was 19. This was all before I met Swizz. He saw my picture in a studio and was like ‘She’s beautiful. I want her.’ When we met, we were crazy about each other. We fell in love hard. In the very beginning of our relationship, I had a lot more money than him and he would rarely want to stay at my place. So I’d give in and go to his apartment, which had no furniture. We’d sleep on the floor with our winter coats on. This was all when he was just starting out. That’s how far back we go.

Damn. So what helped you to finally let go of all the pain?
Pilates helped me so much that first year. For those couple hours of doing Pilates nothing else would matter because you are so focused. You're learning all these breathing techniques and breathing, I swear, it cleans you out. It pushes out a lot of that negative energy. I also bought a lot of spiritual books on the universe and the laws of life. Once you start realizing that things really do happen for a reason, you accept it and stop fighting the world. There is one book called The Secret of Life, and it's about letting go of false emotions. I realized that the pain I felt wasn't coming from him or her, it was coming from me. I had to change.

Do you look at marriage differently at all?
No. I would get married again, but this time to someone who is completely happy with themselves and in a place in their life where they want to be. I'll definitely get married again one day, no time soon though.

How do you think Swizz answers the question, ‘What ended your marriage?’
Knowing him, he’d probably say we grew apart. It sounds ridiculous, because you’re not supposed to grow apart. People just don’t understand the concept of marriage. They do it, just to do it sometimes.

What would be your advice to women dating within the industry?
I would avoid it completely. People in the industry… a lot of them are just that. They can't turn off, they are always on, they forget who they really are and they think they are just this athlete or this rapper all the time. And they get a pass for doing foul shit, that’s just how it is. You don't want to be apart of that. You need to be with somebody who understands when they are messing up and that can stop and fix their shit. Someone that doesn’t strive off what everyone else thinks of them. 

What’s most important to you right now?
My son. My independence. I especially love helping women. WEEN (The Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network) just invited me to join the Honorary Chair Committee for their second annual awards. I’m very, very proud of that. I also love volunteering. Sanctuary For Families… this shelter is incredible. They take in women that were domestically abused in any shape and they take in their children. Give them shelter, legal support, health, put the kids in school, it’s incredible. I wanted to do something for women that go through what I went through on a different level. You always think, ‘Oh my God, I’m so bad off, I can't believe he did that to me.’ And then you hear stories from these women and realize how blessed you are.

How long have you been working for them?
I started last year. I'm very involved. The mothers sometimes just need people to talk to. I give a lot of donations.

I’m sure you’ve received a bunch of reality TV offers as well.
I’ve been offered three shows in the past two years, but I’m not ready for that. My life has been so publicly displayed already, I need some form of privacy. I’m more into producing reality TV than being on a show, but I might make a few guest appearances like Shaunie O’Neal.

Will you be writing more after Death of a Mermaid?
Yes, I’m actually working on a book of quotes. There’s also some film stuff. I’m in the process of forming a production-publishing company. And just got certified as a professional interior designer… looking to get a Pilates certification as well. There’s a lot going on. Women can get so caught up in love and totally forget about themselves, so it’s always important to have your own thing going on.

It’s been awhile since we last heard a music record from you. Will we be seeing another Mashonda album any time soon?
I love music, it’s how I began. I’ve received some offers to work with different producers to come up with an album [that] I’m going to entertain it; I’m in the studio working on a lot of writing and recording. Right now, I want to sell a lot of songs to different artists.

So folks shouldn’t anticipate a heart-wrenching, personal ballad anytime soon, right?
I will at some point, but not right now. Right now I want to do music to make people happy. I’m just not on that page of letting people only talk about this situation. Don’t want to stay in that realm. I’m not even looking for a record deal, I’m just being free. I like it that way. I’m not using this situation as a publicity stunt to try and get other things going. I’m not going to live off them and their names. I don’t want to be remembered as an ex-wife that went through a time of public divorce.

What do you want to be remembered for?
Making women stronger.  

Tracy Garraud


  1. Interesting read. She's got a string head on her shoulders and I admire how she's maintained her dignity throughout this.

    She contradicted herself when talking of rape saying that rape and date rape are different, but then saying rape is rape. She gives out a muddled msg by and saying she doesn't wanna put the person in jail ..so why are you talking about it then?!

  2. I feel you on the rape part of the story. There are a lot of women out there who feel that there are different levels of rape and some are less serious than others. I blame it on that stupid term date rape that was introduced in the 90's.

    For her, this whole thing must have been humiliating. People say she needs to shut up on the subject, well my thing is this. If the breakdown of her marriage can be public as it was, then hell she can interview as much as she likes to get it out of her system. I have a feeling though after this VIBE interview she's going to lay low on speaking about it after that.

  3. Interesting read and good thing she is moving on.

  4. She also contradicted herself when she said she would 'completely avoid' dating within the industry yet she's dating a producer.

    Reading all of this just made me think of Swizz as even more of an ass. I just can't believe he asked Mashonda to name that other baby and I can't believe she actually did it SMDH

  5. I think its a great thing your talking about your story,Talking is healing please write the book can't wait to read it.I know your pain and it helps to know other women have made it through. Keep being strong be blessed.

  6. admirable!.. I hope things really go great for her.

  7. Well, I think Mashonda seems to be a positive woman. I just feel I would have became a little aware of who he really was with the "other woman pregnant" situation. Another woman was pregnant with his baby as well as Mashonda. Uh, that's too much. To me (in my opinion), that situation pretty much showed his character and the type of man he is. Some change and some don't, obviously he didn't.

  8. Boy, I admire that woman, talking about woman of strength...I am going through a ruff time right now, and Mashanoda has given me the courage that I will be ok... am so proud of her and it takes a real woman to go through hurt and still maintain her dignity. love you girl and may God give you peace in the midst of this time.

    R. A. Clarke
    Jamaica W.I

  9. I feel for what she went through but she has that rape shit all wrong.

    Rape is rape is rape is rape. She said no and the dude decided to rape her. The end.

    She doesn't want him to go to jail? Why? Because she buys into this whole stop snitching bullshit hip-hop pushes?

    What a horrible role model.


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