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When you hear the name Mona Scott-Young, you instantly think about “Love & Hip Hop” and the reality television empire created by her Monami Entertainment company. Founded by the manager turned TV executive, Scott-Young recently shared her full story in TV One’s latest episode of “Uncensored.”
“The best piece of financial advice that I’ve ever received is get that insurance policy early. We have a tendency to think that we are invincible, that we’re young and we’re going to be around forever,” she told REVOLT. “Make sure that you’ve laid the groundwork. Get proper financial management, proper financial advice. Even if you’re riding high, we’ve seen this happen with musicians and actors, especially in this incredibly fickle and volatile entertainment industry.”
For Financial Literacy Month, REVOLT caught up with Scott-Young to chat about the hardest financial decision she’s had to make, what she learned about financial responsibility in the entertainment business, and how her budgeting skills shifted once the pandemic hit. Check out our conversation below!
Talk to me about your “Uncensored” episode on TV One.
I would have thought there would be nothing interesting to talk about because, for the most part, I keep my blinders on and just go nose to the grindstone. There are elements of my life that I have experienced and the way I’ve gone about doing things that hopefully someone will watch here and pull something from. It’s really just my journey and I’m as open and as honest as I can be about it. I was thrilled to be able to share the stories.
In the episode description, it read that you “stumbled” into your career. What exactly does that mean and how did it lead you to where you are today?
I say that I stumbled into it because I didn’t set out to do music and management, but I certainly always felt I had a natural aptitude for it. I know there are so many people who are like, “This is what I want to do.” I didn’t have the benefit of attending college, so there wasn’t that formal education. It always kind of, in the back of my head, lent a little bit of doubt as to whether or not I was really capable of doing what I was doing. What I always knew, even without the benefit of a formal education, are what my natural skill sets and talents are. I knew that I had an understanding of business. I knew that I understood how to put pieces together to form a whole. That’s just the way my mind worked.
How has your work left a monumental imprint on Black culture?
I think people see the work that I’ve done as a means to an end; a piece of a larger machine to help stories be told. If you go back to my days as a music manager in the early days of hip hop, I was part of so many amazing careers, played my role in helping those artists realize their dreams and tell their stories, and fulfill their destinies. I take that skill into what I do as a storyteller and television. I hope that that may be the legacy that people will see me as is someone who helped bring hip hop, the culture, the music and the storytelling to the world on a much larger, broader scale.
What are some key things that you learned about finances during your time as a manager?
A lot of it was about the education of understanding the music business, where the revenue is, and how to monetize those skills. That’s definitely something that I recommend for artists and for the people behind the scenes. Not necessarily just the accountants because you’ve got to be able to keep an eye on the accountants. You’ve got to be able to understand those contracts even if you can’t negotiate the finer points. You should at least have a sense of what it is you’re getting into.
There are so many horror stories of artists who really were out there busting their butts, working hard and had no idea where their money went, and really didn’t even understand how to monetize their skills, [and] where those avenues and areas of income existed for them. It’s important to understand where the money is made in your business so you can focus your efforts in those areas and make sure that you’re maximizing the ability to earn income in whatever it is that you set your mind to do.
When you first started building your empire, what were some of the most difficult financial decisions that you had to make?
The hardest decision was probably like, “Do I roll the dice on this and put money in this direction when there’s no guarantee that there’ll be a return on that investment?” You’ve got to spend money to make money. Being able to make an investment in something that was not immediately tangible. Something that you were not able to quantify in that moment, but you understood that if you spent the money in this area, whether it be hiring the bodies, getting the equipment, putting together the infrastructure, it would better prepare you for what was to come, especially if you believed in it.
It’s got to start with making sure that you’re checking the boxes and doing as much as you can to ensure the best opportunity for success. Nobody can guarantee success. There’s a chance we take in everything that we do but what you can, at minimum, do is give yourself the best chance for success. That starts with doing the research, doing the homework, putting in the work, making the right investments, making sure that at every turn you’re making the best decision for that moment.
What are some lessons about money in the music and entertainment business that you wish you would have learned earlier in your career?
You’ve got to make the right decision for you at every juncture. You can’t try to keep up with the Joneses. You can’t look at what the next man is doing and think that that’s going to be the same thing that works for you. There’s no magic crystal ball that gives you the answers, but being as prepared as you could possibly be every step of the way. Leaving management to go into television was a major gamble that I took. That was a very difficult thing to contend with because there were all these plans that I had made and all these arrangements that were laid out that were supposed to bridge the gap, and take me through this period.
It didn’t quite pan out that way. Make sure that you have the ability to sustain yourself, to make sure that your base expenses are covered before you take that leap because it’s not always going to turn out exactly as you planned. You have to make sure that you can survive because moving out of desperation is never going to yield the right results.
How did your money management skills shift once the pandemic hit?
It was about making some really hard decisions. You look at going from a fully functioning company to everything coming to a stop immediately. No one had any sense of how long this was going to be for. Is this a couple of months? Who knew that we’d be looking back and it would have been a complete year.
We chose to dig in and to use the opportunity to make an investment. I saw it as an opportunity to really push through. I had time that I hadn’t had in a very long time where I could really focus in on pushing the company in different directions. My team and I really just linked arms and drilled down, and took this as an opportunity to push the company into different areas. We had done mainly unscripted, but we really wanted to take this time to see how we can focus in on those other projects like scripted format. That’s exactly what we did and thank God, knock on wood, it’s a gamble that’s paying off for us.
How have you seen social media impact money management skills?
Everything that you see isn’t necessarily the reality, the truth of what’s happening. I don’t want to say that celebs don’t really have the money, but they also get a lot of things for free, and they get goods and services in exchange for their posts, and the access to their audiences. Unfortunately, a lot of people see that as a blueprint or something they have to follow. If they’re not in that same category or spinning at that same level, then they’re not playing on the same field. You’ve got to live within your means within your reality.
It can’t be about comparing yourself to other people and trying to mimic the things you think are the reality because you’ve got to be smart about looking for that paid partnership. It’s a blessing and a curse, social media. It’s given us a wide open playing field, but I think that’s where it gets a little dangerous and understanding that balance of using it for the platform that it is intended for is key.