Melanie Fiona is a woman of many skills. The 28-year-old Grammy-winning singer and songwriter would also make a super relationship advice columnist. She just released her sophomore album The MF Life, which, like her 2009 debut, explores what a turbulent ride love can be. The first single “4AM” focuses on a soon-to-be ex who isn’t coming home to her at night. While on the triumphant J. Cole–assisted “This Time,” she dares to take a new shot at love.

Right before she stepped on stage to perform with Cole on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno last week, Melanie hit Complex with some priceless pointers on how to treat the lady in your life (or the one you wish was in your life). So read on as Ms. Fiona schools us all on what gifts to get, why she’s the only stripper her man should be tipping, and when it’s quitting time on the relationship tip.

Written by Brad Wete (@BradWete)

How does a guy go about getting your attention? What’s the proper way, if there is a proper one?

The best way is for them not to really try to get my attention, to be honest. I definitely more like to observe and see someone, the way they move and their energy—it’s how I view them rather than how they might want me to view them. I feel like it’s not something you can say or do, it’s just an energy you have. I would notice somebody walk by me before some guy comes up to me and is like, “Hey, how are you?” It’s just the truth. And if I had a conversation with a guy, he’d probably have to be funny, he’d have to make me laugh at some points and challenge me, intrigue me by having a little bit of a mystique.

Talking about those magic moments, it’s easy to plant the seed when you’re hanging around each other? But what about when you’re on the corner and you’re about to cross the street and I only have this moment before you make that move elsewhere?

I think I’m definitely a classic girl, a traditional girl and I can respect someone’s honesty. I’m more inclined to give a guy a chance that just says,  “Listen, I know you have no reason in the world to want to talk to me, but I feel like we should get to know each other.” I can appreciate that more than a guy who’s like, “Oh you’re so fine. You should be my baby’s mama.” [Laughs] The way a man speaks to me is also important. I’m definitely a fan of direct eye contact. I’m definitely a fan of confidence versus cockiness, so to speak. I appreciate a direct exchange and a well-spoken gentleman who knows how to speak to a lady confidently and make her feel like a lady.

I was going to ask you whether you’re a gentleman person or someone who prefers, not necessarily a bad guy, but those guys who are rough around the edges.

 

I definitely need a guy who knows how to check me. He has to have some sort of balls—so to speak—to be able to check me when I need to be checked. I’m not going to be right all the time

 



I always look for a gentleman. I prefer a guy to be sleek and, like I said, to know how to work a lady because we are a delicate species. But I definitely need a guy who knows how to check me. He has to have some sort of balls—so to speak—to be able to check me when I need to be checked. I’m not going to be right all the time and if I’m out of line, if a guy can put me in place when I’m out of line and say, “Yo, you really need to think about this” in a respectful manner that really makes me feel like, “Well damn I just got checked.” I think that’s actually a turn-on. That makes me be like, “Wow, yeah. OK, you gave me something to think about.” I just appreciate that.

So I just can’t agree with you because you’re fine.

[Laughs] No, I don’t like a guy who is going to agree with me all the time. I like a guy who, even if he has a difference in opinion, can respect my opinion and still state his and not be afraid to do that. I think of myself as being pretty fair and rational individual and so I feel like communication is key and if you can talk to me with respect then I will respect you as well.

How do you feel about anniversaries? Are you one of those people who celebrates everything—the first kiss, first month, first six months?

No, no. I think whatever that day is that you consider that anniversary, it’s nice to just remember it and acknowledge it—especially if you’re just dating. There are cool moments you can do something special and I think you acknowledge it, you have a nice dinner. You and your partner plan something together and decide what’s comfortable. I don’t really try to have too many expectations, I feel like you save all of those big things for when you’re married.

You have your big celebration with your partner or your friends and family who’ve been along the journey with you but I think when you’re dating I think you just keep it low-key. Take a little vacation together. But I think it’s just up to the two people to decide when and what they want to do. You don’t want too much pressure, but I think you have to acknowledge it. You cannot forget. Don’t be like, “Oh was that it yesterday?” You have to remember.

On those special occasions, what are some never fail gifts that always work for you?

That’s a good question. I’m also not a big gift person, which is kind of tough. Of course, I like to get gifts and I like to give gifts. Who doesn’t? Flowers are a nice gesture. I think they’re beautiful. Not necessary, but it’s a nice thing. I definitely think a guy needs to know who his woman is and you can never go wrong with making her feel like a woman, making her feel pampered with massages, her favorite food, her favorite dinner, her favorite delicacies that she loves.

I think it’s all tailored to what the woman likes. If a dude really wants to get me a materialistic gift, I love shoes. If he wanted to buy me a pair of shoes, and he’s like, “Listen, I know you love shoes” and it’s a fly-ass pair of shoes and I wanted them, and he knew that, and he didn’t have to come see me, like, “Hey, do you like these?” I’m more impressed with guys that know. They don’t have to guess or hope. They just know that I’m going to love it. Just knowing your partner and knowing what’s going to speak to your sentiments is key.

Your first single is “4AM” is about a guy who isn’t where he should be—which is, of course, with you. But as far as recreational activities, what is acceptable for you? Could your boyfriend hang out at the strip club?

 

Listen, I keep it all the way 100. I’ve done Vixen classes. Put a pole in our house and you don’t have to go nowhere. That money’s going to stay right inside the house.

 



I’m going to keep it real. No, I’m not cool with it. I feel like, granted there are special occasions like somebody’s birthday or somebody’s bachelor party or something. My dude is not going to be the ringleader like, “Hey I’m coordinating a random Friday out with my boys and we’re going to Juggles.” It’s not happening. I feel like, personally, the type of man that’s going to be able to sustain a relationship with me and keep my focus and keep my desire for him and my attraction to him is the man who is entertained by other forms of entertainment. It could be sports. It could be hanging out with the boys. It could be anything. But I just feel like for a man to invest his time and his money into this fantasy of another woman, basically just taking your money and that’s your only form of entertainment... Listen, I keep it all the way 100. I’ve done Vixen classes. Put a pole in our house and you don’t have to go nowhere. That money’s going to stay right inside the house.

I feel like I’m going to be like not too comfortable with a dude whose only form of entertainment or socializing is the strip club. Then guys are like, “Oh we just went to the strip club for drinks.” I’m like, “Well there’s a million bars out there and you wanted to have drinks where you had some breasts in your face?” I don’t know how I feel about that.

I’m pretty cool about being realistic when it comes to the fact that there are women that are going to tempt your man every day and there’s nothing you can do about it. That all relies on trust, and it’s the same thing. It’s not a matter of trusting the man at the strip club, it’s just the mentality of the man who’s like, “Yeah, I’m bored, I think I’m going to go to the strip club and be entertained by another woman.” I just feel like you should be satisfied with what you got at home.

 

How do you deal with insecurity and jealousy? Do you just have to have the ultimate faith and trust in the guy?

You have to have absolute faith in your partner. And when I say partner, I mean seriously partner. I’m not talking about the dude that you’re just talking to. If that’s your main girl or main guy, you have to have faith and if you believe they’re right for you, that they’re not going to do anything to disrespect your relationship. For me especially, the type of industry I’m in, I’m going to need someone who is equally just as confident and comfortable if not more because there tends to be this stigma attached to being in the limelight and granted—you do have more opportunity thrown at you. It comes down to faith and trust in your partner. I know I’ve dated guys where I’m like “If I was away, you might play.”

And then there are other guys that I’m like, “If I was away, I trust you to handle your business and whatever should happen.” Because like I said, things happen. Sometimes people get caught up and you see someone you haven’t run into in a long time and I don’t know, you have a feeling for them and you exchange a couple conversations. But you have to trust that your partner won’t take it to that level of disrespect. You have to let your partner have the room to be able to handle it and make their own decisions. You can’t try to micromanage someone else’s life. It’s just, you have to let people live and learn on their own. You have to have trust and that’s the foundation first.

Are you in a relationship now?

No, I’m not.

Have you had those instances of insecurities from an ex saying something like, “Make sure you keep it clean when you hit the studio with him tonight?”

 

Guys are never going to come out and be like, 'I feel a little jealous.' Guys tend to express a little bit differently, I think. They’re a little bit more passive aggressive.

 



I’ve never had a guy outright have that conversation with me like, “Yo, don’t go out there and do...” I’m a faithful girlfriend. There’s never going to be guys calling or like—you know, all of that. It just comes down to trust, your partner needs to know. If my partner needs to know I’m a flirtatious type of person, but that’s as far as it goes, then they need to know that about me as well and accept me for that. But they need to know and have ultimate faith that I’m not going to do that. I think that with guys, especially being a woman, guys are never going to come out and be like, “I feel a little jealous.”

Guys tend to express a little bit differently, I think. They’re a little bit more passive aggressive. For a girl they’re going to be like, “Yo, who was that?” Whereas a guy is going to stand in the background and give the other guy a little bit of shade. He might be like, “Yeah, what’s up bruh?” He’s not going to be openly friendly. As a woman, I need to read my partner’s energy and secure his insecurity because I think that’s what it’s about. If your partner feels some kind of way, you have to reassure them you have nothing to worry about.

When you’re dating for a time, and you get to that blurry area between just hanging and being in a real defined relationship. Do you think that’s a conversation that needs to be had? Or just wait until things are obvious?

At this point in my life, I’m grown. I have every right in the world to be like, “Hey, I’m just going to let you know what’s up.” I feel like it’s honest. I have no problem telling someone I love them, whether I’m in a relationship or not. If I love you and I care about you, I’m just going to tell you that as a friend or whatever. Any dude who gets shook by me telling him that I’m feeling him or I like him and he gets shook off of that, he’s not the guy for me anyway.

And it’s probably better for me to know that. I just feel like you have to just keep it real and I feel like a friendship is always the main thing. It’s like if you’re my friend and that’s what it is, you’re my friend, then we should be able to have a conversation based off of respect and friendship to be like, “Yo, this is how I’m feeling.” If you’re not feeling the same way then that’s cool too. But we just need to discuss it rather than avoiding the elephant in the room.

You’re not one of those girls who are super guarded to let people know you care.

Everybody is afraid of rejection. That’s why nobody steps up and says anything. If a guy comes up to me and expresses himself to me, even if I don’t reciprocate the feelings I have to respect him for being honest. When it comes to me, sure I have my reservations.

But if I have to hesitate about being honest with the person I’m talking to, then I probably don’t feel comfortable with them. For me to have those types of feelings about somebody, I have to be comfortable enough to be able to talk to them. If I have hesitation like “I don’t know if I can tell this person this” then that says it all right there. That probably says, “Okay, see how this pans out.” If I feel like if it’s someone who can handle it, then I have no problem saying it.

When do you know it’s over? A lot of people spend a lot of time trying to patch up a bad relationship. How do you know it’s a wrap and you need to move on?

It’s a wrap when there’s nothing left to be said or done. It’s a wrap when you’ve exhausted every conversation, every effort and basically the other person doesn’t want to try anymore. Relationships are going to be work. They don’t have to be hard work. But they’re work. And I feel like when one person is willing to give more than the other and you’re not on the same level anymore, it’s a wrap.

There’s no point in being with somebody who doesn’t want to be with you, that’s just the long and short of it. You can’t force that. If I’m like “I want to make this work” and the other person is like, “Well, I don’t” then it’s a wrap. It’s another conversation to be like, “I want to make it work, too. I just don’t know how.” Then you work together and say “Let’s try together.” But if it’s one sided—if I don’t love you anymore or if you don’t love me anymore—it’s a wrap.

That last question was so sad.

Here’s what you can end on: I absolutely believe that life is about love, and I feel like it is about that chase of always wanting to have it and keep it and secure it. And in that chase you’re going to have to lose it a few times. I really believe that it’s possible, though. I believe in ultimate love. I really, really do. You can’t have it unless you believe in it. But to have it, you have to go through some shit to get there.