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What ever happened to MoKenStef?

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By Richard O. Jones

Several entertainment websites are commonly sent the following question: "Whatever happened to MoKenStef?" MoKenStef was a female R&B trio from Los Angeles during the mid 1990s. The group name was a combination of the first syllables of each member's name: Monifa, Kenya, and Stephanie. They released one album, Azz Izz, in 1995, and their biggest hit was "He's Mine," which peaked at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100. I heard from a reliable source that Monifa, the former lead singer of MoKenStef, was scheduled to sing at Tokyo -Tokyo Japanese Cuisine in Ontario, California June 16; therefore, I dropped by to resolve the MoKenStef mystery.

As it turned out according to Kim Chutrakul, manager of Tokyo-Tokyo, Monifa was merely standing-in for her mother Rose Mallett who is a jazz singer at the restaurant. "I've seen a lot of performers come and go but I really like these two," says Kim Chutrakul,  "They're very different singers. Monifa is more modern and has a great voice," says Kim. "Everyone likes her but I would like to see her do a few more upbeat songs... Rose, however, appeals to an older audience. She's more traditional jazz."

I spotted a couple in the sparsely occupied lounge, which appeared to be in their early thirties, bobbing their heads between bites to the sultry voice of Monifa, and keyboard talent of Doran Shiroma. I approached and asked if they remembered Mokenstef? Both nodded in the affirmative. "Yeah, I remember them," say the young man who later introduced himself as Curtis and his date as Rashea. "When I was in high school they were hot... With a hit record called He's Mine!"

"Well that's Monifa of Mokenstef," I said.

"Really!" said Rashea. "I remember Mokenstef but I don't remember any particular song. Maybe if she sang one of her songs... I might... It's been a long time since high school. What ever happened to MoKenStef?"

According to Monifa, MoKenStef officially disbanded in 2000. Monifa became a flight attendant for United Airlines. On Sept. 8, 2001 she married Damon Burgess in Hawaii, a youth counselor in San Bernardino. The newlyweds were grounded there a week past their scheduled return flight due to the terror attack of 9/11. As a result of 9/11 the airlines began to cutback on thousands of employees, which included Monifa.    

"I took an early retirement package from the airline and pursued a childcare license," says Monifa. "I've a three-year-old daughter and expecting my second and last child in four months," she says smiling.  "I'm also working on reactivating my music career as a soloist with my husband as my producer and as I operate my own homebased childcare center in Fontana, occasionally I sub for my mom here at Tokyo-Tokyo when she has another gig." 

Regarding the other former members of MoKenStef, Monifa says that Kenya is married, expecting her first child and is in the film and editing business. Stephanie recently resigned as a schoolteacher and went into the real estate business. Stephanie is also married. Stephanie and Kenya live in Southern California. On behalf of MoKenStef, Monifa invites your emails: Burgesscare@sbcglobal.net