Let’s cut straight to the chase here: Will and Monifa Sims (the couple who you fell in love with last week for their impromptu, hidden-camera-televised karaoke session) say they didn’t stage a thing.
Despite a report from The Smoking Gun that suggested the husband-and-wife team who melted hearts everywhere with their playful renditions of “Living on a Prayer” and “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” for a mock news anchor (on Jay Leno’s The Tonight Show) at a Costco gas station pump in Burbank, California were hired actors, they say none of it is true.
“No, it wasn’t staged. There are always going to be people out there who have negative things, and we definitely don’t feed into any of that. Had I known I was going to be on national TV, I definitely wouldn’t have been on there in my sweats wearing a bandana,” Monifa says.
Adds Will: “They showed some unedited footage [on the Today show Wednesday morning], which I thought was great. It showed people that you can’t create viral. It’s either people like it or they don’t. That’s it. ’Cause if that was the case, I’m pretty sure somebody would’ve found the formula to make things viral.”
In an exclusive interview with EBONY.com, we chat with the couple about the love and the backlash, and if their 15 minutes of fame might get extended just a wee bit longer.
EBONY: This last week and a half has been a whirlwind for you guys. That’s an understatement, right?
Monifa Sims: It’s been awesome. Who would’ve thought us just being silly would lead to such wonderful comments that we’ve gotten from people?
Will Sims: I think why the video’s so popular is, people forgot how to laugh and have fun. I think with so much negativity in the world, people just forgot how to have fun. And in that five minutes, they saw how much fun me and Monifa have on a daily basis. I mean, that’s just us. God has truly blessed us with this. There’s no words for that.
MS: It’s been so great. People have been reaching out to us saying how wonderful it is, how we’ve made their day, how they hadn’t smiled all week. Honestly, that probably is the best thing about this whole experience.
EBONY: I hear you’re from Detroit originally, Monifa. Any Motown influences?
MS: I’ve always thought my voice is OK, but I never really considered myself like a real singer! But in karaoke everybody can sound good. My mom loves music, she’s always loved music. I remember growing up it was always music in the house. When I was little, I would always do the little block parties and dancing. So I remember all that growing up. We’ve always loved music. I didn’t sing in church like Will did, but music was always around.
EBONY: You said this wasn’t staged or planned, but this is the second time this has happened right? [The Smoking Gun reported that she was duped in a similar bit, on The Tonight Show, a few years back.]
MS: It is! I was on there a couple of years ago. Same thing. It was very quick though. We pulled up to the Costco this time around—it’s at the gas station that I normally go to. When we were there this time though, I was actually doing some business on my phone and Will’s just pumping gas, and when I saw that TV come on, I hollered. They did not show that part either. I was in my car like, “Oh my God! What are they gonna have this fool do?!” And I said, I’m gonna just sit in the car and enjoy it.
EBONY: But eventually you got out of the car and joined in. Why?
MS: He was trying to get gas and the Costco card wasn’t working! You guys don’t see that part. But we actually were debating even before we pulled up. “Should we get gas?” Our Costco card was about to expire. But Will was like, “Let’s just try it first, because you actually have to pass the gas station first before you go into the store.” So that’s why I got out. I was like, let me help this poor thing out, because this card is not working.
EBONY: Does it surprise you that this has been as popular as it has been? You’ve racked up more than 11 million views on YouTube, and this is one of the most popular viral videos Jay Leno ever had.
WS: I think it shocks me. But I think why it’s shocking is because you haven’t seen something lighthearted, positive, people having fun in a long time. There’s so much negative stuff in the media today that people don’t have time to laugh and have a good time. That’s why people are attracted to the video, because they see two genuine people having fun, laughing and everybody around them having a good time. So it’s infectious.
MS: We don’t take ourselves too seriously. You can’t. life is way too short. So we’ll break it down in a heartbeat. Anywhere we are, if the spirit moves us, it is on. That’s just how we are.
EBONY: And let’s just go ahead and say it: you guys are a seemingly happily married African-American couple too. That stands out as well.
MS: This is just a part of what a happy marriage looks like. People get so caught up in the day-to-day trappings of life. We get up in the morning, we go to work, we pick the kids up from school, we come home, we go to bed and that’s it. And they forget that during those times, you can find places and spaces to just enjoy each other’s company. Nobody is promised tomorrow, so we just try to take advantage of it and have fun any chance we get. It’s important.
WS: And that could be part of the controversy! People don’t think that there are happy African-American married couples. Just like they don’t think that Black people sing Bon Jovi. I do. Bon Jovi liked it, and 11 million people are shocked at how we’re singing Bon Jovi!
MS: And he sings it all the time!
EBONY: Will we be seeing more of you all? Have the calls started coming in yet?
MS: It’s happening a little bit, and I just see nothing but good things coming from this. I can’t see it any other way. This, in itself, was a blessing. We’re looking forward to what’s going to happen and we hope and pray that you guys can see more of us.
WS: We know God is in control of this thing, so whatever blessing He has for us is gonna be huge.