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Tired of spending her singing career in the shadows, backing superstars like Mary J. Blige and Beyoncé, background vocalist Montina Cooper took a giant personal step this year when she auditioned for season 10 of The Biggest Loser. At 287 pounds, Montina bravely bared all at her hometown audition but didn’t land a coveted spot on the show. Disappointed, Montina, was told not to give up as a second chance at coming to the Biggest Loser Ranch could be in her future.
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However, two weeks after auditioning, Montina was delivered the devastating news that her husband, Dedrick Donnell, had lymphoma. “I was going to pull out of the show,” she tells In Touch. But at his insistence, she was told to stick with it. “He said, ‘If something happens to me, you have to take of our children.’ He told me I had to finish this process.”
Armed with the news of his condition, and a possible return to the show, the couple immediately made changes to their diet lifestyle by going all natural and organic. “My husband lost 30 pounds and successfully started tackling the disease with diet and exercise,” she reveals. “I am inspired by him, and he is really cute, too.”
After being signed to a label deal early in her career with Mary J. Blige, which, she reveals, “didn’t work out as planned,” Montina soon realized not fitting the required singer-mold might be her downfall. “If you are not size negative two you are not considered sexy in the music biz,” she admits. “I ended up in the background.”
While Montina admits it was rigors of touring that led to her diet demise, it was touring as a backing vocalist for Beyoncé for seven years that inspired her to make 2010 her year. “Besides being an incredible performer, Beyoncé is an incredible lady,” she tells In Touch. “She is very much about being healthy, she has to look good onstage. She inspired me to want to be a better woman. She is about woman empowerment, and being healthy and centered is very empowering. Beyoncé influenced me in that I thought if she could do it, then I can! If she can look that good, I can!”
With The Biggest Loser second chance challenge still in her future, the newly energized Montina and her husband started losing weight and bringing sexy back. “We are now the supersexy couple,” she laughs, adding, “We are always trying to out-sexy each other. But I will be way sexier than he is.”
On a recent episode, Montina’s second chance to become a Biggest Loser aired but sadly it was not to be. “I was very disappointed,” she says of losing her challenge. “I wanted that spot bad, but I was happy for whoever made it. We all went through that 30-day journey of waiting at home, together, staying in contact and supporting each other. I was working out six times a day.” Yet still the weight she wanted to drop was not happening. Concerned that there may be a serious problem, a doctor’s visit confirmed her fears. “I had my thyroid and hormones checked,” she reveals. “I’d burn 5,000 calories a day and in a week would lose 3 pounds. Sure enough both of them were off. Once you start becoming healthy, it can throw everything else off. I didn’t know this, I should have lost 35 to 40 pounds and couldn’t.” After the diagnosis, Montina was prescribed appropriate medication and the pounds started falling off. “I recommend every woman of a certain age get checked by a doctor,” she says. “The Biggest Loser saved my life. It really saved my life.”
Today, Montina is hard at work and a whopping 60 pounds lighter. She just wrapped filming a Black Women Rock special for BET (backing Jill Scott, Monica, and Keyshia Cole) and is happy to be working. She’s also eagerly anticipating her solo album’s release in November (a single “Better” is currently available on iTunes). She’s loving her new curvy frame and enjoying that people are following her journey. “Beyoncé is aware of my journey, too,” she says. “I ran into her mom, Tina, and she said she couldn’t wait to tell her how good I looked. Tina said I looked amazing. They are like family to me as we have been together so long. I was Skyping with Ty Hunter, her wardrobe stylist, who asked where my neck was?” And they are not the only one’s noticing. “People have asked if I have lost 100 pounds,” she laughs. “I made a decision at the ranch that no matter what happened that day, I would commit to be healthy and that’s what I have done. I am in a happy place and damn I look good!”