Backing Beyonce: Life as a ‘Mama’

As a child, Tiffany Monique Riddick loved to listen to Whitney Houston. Now, she sings backup for another pop diva: Beyonce.

Tiffany Monique
Tiffany Monique Riddick is one of "the Mamas," Beyonce's pet name for her background singers.
Photo by John Emerson

As a child in Newark, Tiffany Monique Riddick often visited New Hope Baptist Church for the thrill of hearing superstar Whitney Houston sing. “From watching Whitney, I learned that little church girls from the ghetto could ascend to the grand stage,” she says. Inspired by the pop diva, Riddick chose “You Give Good Love,” a Houston hit, to sing at a Newark talent show. She was just eight, but it was a defining moment.

“When I won that contest, I thought, ‘I can do this. I can be a singer,’” says Riddick, who uses the stage name Tiffany Monique. “From there, I kept on going after that dream.”

Since 2007, Monique has been one of the voices behind another pop diva, Beyoncé. Landing that choice role was not easy. Monique, who has a bachelor’s degree in communications/journalism from William Paterson University, had been singing background on and off since 1997. Even after her first big-name gig in 2002 with Mariah Carey, Monique’s singing assignments were so sporadic she took a job as a clinical-trial administrator at Novartis in East Hanover.

“I would occasionally go out with Christina Aguilera or Stevie Wonder or Kenny Loggins,” she says. She also sang with Kelly Clarkson and Anita Baker. Finally, she became one of “the Mamas,” Beyoncé’s pet name for her trio of background singers. Monique quit Novartis and has been committed to the pop star ever since.

The work is glamorous—“You get to wear the stage makeup, the stage hair”—but the pace can be grueling. “When you first start in rehearsals, you’re working far more than a 9-to-5 job,” says Monique. “You put in some 16- and 18-hour days. Once the show is in full swing and you’ve worked out all the kinks, that slows down.”

The long hours pay off. “I definitely make more for a two-hour show than I was making at Novartis in a full day,” she says. “It’s lucrative all around.”

Back in New Jersey between tours, all the glamour is set aside, and Monique, the mother of a 7-year-old son, enjoys her anonymity.

“When I’m at home, I’m in a ponytail and sweatpants and Uggs,” she says. “It’s funny, because at my son’s school, some people know what I do for a living, and they see me dropping him off, looking like any other house mom.”

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