Monica the Medium airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family
When college student Monica Ten-Kate goes out, she’s not just dancing with her roommates or scoping out cute guys – she’s also fielding requests from the dead.
“It definitely comes through at interesting times,” the Monica the Medium star tells PEOPLE. “That’s for sure.”
It leads to some awkward moments, like when Ten-Kate was waiting in line for the bathroom at a bar when she began to give a reading.
“As we went into the stalls, I continued basically connecting with the spirit while we were like going to pee,” she recalls, laughing. “So that was probably the most uncomfortable location.”
Read on for more on her reality show, how she discovered her gift and what it’s like to be third-wheeled by a ghost. Monica the Medium airs Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET on ABC Family.
When did you start communicating with spirits?
I was intuitive and empathic growing up, but it really wasn’t until high school that I was like, “Okay, I am feeling and hearing and sensing and seeing things that I’m really not sure where it’s coming from.” After time with friends and acquaintances where they would tell stories of their childhood or friends who had passed, they would would be talking about them and I would hear or see the entity of the story before they finished telling it. And I was like, “Oh, that’s weird, that’s coincidence, a lucky guess.” As it started happening more and more, it would be like I would get choked up or emotional with being around certain people. So when I started to kind of repeat what I’d been hearing, feeling, sensing, seeing, et cetera, to people, they’d start crying and be like, “Nobody knew that about my mom,” or “No one knew that about my brother, how’d you know that?” I realized, though, after it happening more and more, that it was coming from a spirit. But you’re in high school already trying to deal with everything else and trying to fit in and be normal, so I really did not share it or open up with everybody about it out of fear of people thinking I was crazy. It wasn’t until the beginning of college that I kind of came out of the medium closet.
How did you even connect the dots between sensing something and talking to ghosts?
At first I thought I was crazy, or I had some illness and I had to got to a psychiatrist. I thought I was nuts. And it’s kind of weird to be searching “hearing voices,” you know? That’s kind of an awkward, uncomfortable thing to be Googling. In that moment, you’re like, “I’m a crazy person.” I read different books by other mediums and I watched certain shows that had already been out there and interviews. I was like, “Oh my goodness! Seeing these people express and communicate what they go through as mediums sounds like a lot of what I’ve been experiencing for quite some time now.” I was able to realize, when I’m hearing these things, this is coming from a spirit. And once it started happened with strangers, and I could see how much feeling it brought them and how it was changing their lives. I was like, ‘Okay this is very much so a positive gift, and I’m supposed to be sharing it to help people.”
How did your friends and family react?
My mom, she comes from a very Catholic, conservative Hispanic background, and the way she found out was like the last way you would want your mother to find out you talk to dead people (laughs). It was over the summer, I was home from college. I kept this from her for months and months and months because I knew she’d be worried because of her faith and all of that. She overheard me on a telephone call with one of my friends kind of talking about a reading I had done. She basically eavesdropped and heard me talking about it, and I remember walking downstairs in the kitchen, finding my mother crying her eyes out. “Monica, are you talking about the devil? What do you see?” And I was like, “Oh my god, Mom, this is not the way I wanted you to find out.” I had this whole plan, I was going to sit her down, try to gently explain to her. So yeah, she basically heard in the worst way possible. She never doubted or questioned if I had this ability, she didn’t think I was some liar or fraud. She just was worried, is it coming from God? Is it a gift from God, is it coming from a good place or could this be negative disguising itself as a positive spirit? She was more concerned and worried. With my dad, he’s an auditor in Afghanistan, he works in Kabul at the American embassy there, and so he’s a very analytical thinker. He was not sure what to think about all this and is still kind of coming to terms with things. My sisters have been very supportive. One of them thought I was a nut job and she’d roll her eyes, but now my three sisters fully trust and believe in my gift and support me in any way they can. And even my mom, she’s coming around, and you’ll see it on the show.
How has being a medium affected your dating life?
It’s either the guy is completely freaked out, he’s like, “This is a red flag, you’re crazy,” or they assume that me being a medium means I could read their mind and know all their secrets and all of their stuff, and I’m like, “No, that’s not what it is.” It’s either they get freaked out and I never hear from them again, or it’s one of those things where they say they’re open to it or okay with it but as they start to spend time with me, they see how much of my life is dedicated to this work, and sometimes I have to put what I do and helping people and sharing my gift over spending time with them. They might date me because they think it’s a fun thing to parade around at parties with their friends. It’s hard to find somebody who is just in the middle of accepting me and supporting me but liking me as much for just being Monica as being Monica the medium. And now there’s the aspect of being on TV, so there’s a whole other category, them maybe not having the right intentions because it’s a girl on television.
What are your thoughts on E! developing a similar reality show about Tyler Henry, Hollywood Teen Medium? Do you have a circle of medium friends?
My medium mama, I call her, is Maureen Hancock. She’s from Boston, she had a special when there used to be a Style Network a few years ago, and she’s amazing and gifted and great. So I have kind of my own little community. I don’t know all the mediums. I’ve never met Tyler. I think we’re kind of in the middle of an evolving consciousness, a spiritual awakening you could say, and I think it’s great that more and more people are begin introduced to the topic of mediums and those who have this gift and that life does exist after you leave the physical world. I think it’s great that these shows and having this platform make it so people can have the conversation at the dinner table. I just hope, with a show like the one on E!, that they portray it in the right way and that it doesn’t turn into trashy reality TV, you know? I just hope it’s portrayed in a positive way in that it respects the work that we do and doesn’t make a joke out of it.
What do you say to skeptics?
Whether you’ve been doing this for a day or you’ve been doing this for years, you tell people you talk to the dead, and you’re going to have haters, you’re going to have skeptics, you’re going to have people who are going to doubt you, not believe in you, et cetera. So it kind of comes with the title, and I’m used to it. I know where the skeptics are coming from. If I wasn’t the one doing this work thousands of times, day after day, I would be skeptical. People should question things, but there’s a difference between not understanding what I do or being skeptical to it and being the bullies and the mean people online. I’m not here to convince those people, but I have turned a lot of skeptics around, I have had them be more open to the possibility of all this, but even if they don’t believe me, my hope is to continue to spread the healing and comfort. That’s why I do what I do.
What can you tease for the rest of the season?
What I love about the show that makes it different than other medium shows that have been out there is you’re really going to see just as much of me being Monica as you will see me being Monica the medium. So whether or not people can relate to losing someone very close to them or a significant loved one, they’ll relate to being nervous getting ready for a job interview or going on a date. I think it’s a very relatable show, whether you’re even a believer or not. There’s so much more to the show than just the readings and spirit.