On the surface, Monica Ten-Kate appears to be your average college student. As a communications major at Penn State University, she spends most of her days juggling her studies and her social life. However, that’s not all Monica has on her plate. Unlike other college students, Monica possesses a unique ability: the ability to communicate with the dead. It’s an ability that she’s had since high school, when she finally stopped suppressing her gifts and embraced her future as a medium. On the Penn State campus, she’s made quite a name for herself, earning the moniker “The Penn State Medium” and gaining national attention. On August 25, Monica’s new show, Monica the Medium, will premiere on ABC Family. I recently had the opportunity to chat with the bubbly and quirky medium about what we can expect from the show, how she communicates with the dead and her obsession with Pretty Little Liars. Check it out below!
When did you first realize you were a medium?
I was intuitive and impassive growing up, but it really wasn’t until high school that I started to realize that this is not just things I’m feeling and hearing, but there are dead people around me. I was able to see that I had this gift and when you’re in high school, you’re already dealing with a lot of other things to try to fit in and you want to be normal, so it was hard for me. I still suppressed my gift, out of fear of what people and what my classmates would think, so I only told some of my closest friends, but when I started college, I realized I needed to be true to myself. I came out as a medium and I’ve been doing it publicly ever since.
What did it feel like when you realized you were a medium?
When I first realized that what I was experiencing was coming from Spirit, I went through like every stage of emotion I think [laughs]. Like when you start to first experience it, it can be a little bit fearful just because I remember going to bed thinking “I don’t want to see anything, I don’t want to hear anything, I don’t want to smell anything” because it’s so unfamiliar. Once I started to have more experience and start passing on messages, I realized what a beautiful gift this is and that it’s not a scary thing. It’s a very peaceful, happy and great experience to have, but I still went through different emotions that, of course, just me being a rational person in general, I was even skeptical. I was skeptical of myself when I first started doing this work and connecting to Spirit. I thought it could be a coincidence, or a lucky guess. I was doubting it because even to this day you’re still thinking “Oh my goodness!” It’s so crazy to wrap your mind around, but the more and more that I did it, the more I realized, okay this is not a coincidence, this is definitely Spirit and there’s no question.
Where was the craziest place you’ve done a reading and what was your craziest encounter during a reading?
The most interesting encounter that I’ve had was in a steam room at the gym, where I delivered a message spontaneously through the fog and steam, and we were in towels [laughs]. That was probably the craziest encounter as far as location goes, but I would say that every reading has something distinct and special and memorable about it. I do try to release all the information, memory and energy after every session or it would just be too much, too draining and too emotional to be carrying around all those feelings, emotions and messages after every reading. I don’t really remember the nitty-gritty of every reading, but I do know that there’s something special about every connection.
Who was your first Spirit that you encountered?
That’s actually a tricky question [laughs]. The first Spirit that I really knew and felt was in high school. I had a friend of mine who had lost her mom in third grade, and every time I’d be around her, I’d get emotional, I’d get choked up, and at first I wasn’t really sure why. Every time she would tell stories of her childhood and share memories of her mom, I would just hear the ending of the story before she’d even finished telling it. After a few months, I decided to tell her all the things that I would be hearing or feeling, and I would repeat the message and she’d start crying asking “How’d you know that about my mom?” since no one else knew about it. So that was the first Spirit that I ever really communicated with.
Do you have to be in contact with a person to do a reading for them, or do you contact Spirits without people present?
For the most part, I have to at least be communicating with that client or with the person and hear their voice in order to really start to hear and feel Spirit come through. We could be talking about the weather for all that matters, but I just need to have some connection. Communicating and hearing their voice is usually the switch for me to start feeling and hearing their loved ones. Occasionally, there will be instances where I could be texting with a friend and then all of a sudden I get that overwhelming emotion and I’ll tell them what I’ll be hearing or feeling about their loved ones. So, there are occasionally times where it happens randomly, but for the most part I have to be talking to them.
Has there ever been an encounter with a Spirit that scared you?
There has never been an encounter with Spirit that scared me. I am very clear with people that I’m a Spirit medium and not a ghost buster or paranormal activity person. I don’t go through haunted houses and things like that, but there have been occasions where I went into a home or an apartment, where even though I do not connect to that energy, I might feel a presence of something that is a bit more earthbound and not somebody who is in heaven. I think for the most part, I’m not scared of it, but I can get uneasy. But I know how to protect myself and I say a little prayer to the angels. You’ll see this actually in one of the episodes of Monica the Medium. I actually check out the apartment of one of my friends and her roommates after they felt like they had a ghost there. So, you’ll see how I react to that kind of feeling with that kind of thing.
Have you met any of the Pretty Little Liars cast yet?
Yes! I obviously met Ian Harding because we did live tweeting together for one of the PLL episodes which was amazing. It made my summer! So I’ve met Ian, and I’ve met Shay Mitchell, who I’ve seen twice now. We ran into each other getting lunch the other day, which was cool, and then I met her at the TCA press day and I met Janel Parrish at TCA as well. I’ve also met Marlene King, the creator of Pretty Little Liars. I’ve met quite a few, which was very exciting.
Can you connect with animals or do readings for any pet owners about their pets?
I’ve had clients ask to schedule a reading who have told me they haven’t lost anyone close except for a pet and want to connect with their pets, but for me it doesn’t come through as often in the readings. They do come through and sometimes spontaneously, like somebody’s dog or cat will come through, but for the most part, it’s something that will come in supplemental. I wouldn’t schedule a reading just for them— it would come up naturally in a reading where they’re already talking to other loved ones because their dad or their brother or their grandfather who’s passed might be telling them that they’re with the dog. It’s interesting where animals do come through and communicate just like the people I’m communicating to.
One of the strongest readings I’ve ever done was with a woman over Skype actually. She lost her cat, and I asked if she would call her cat Mr. W, and she lost it. That was what she called her cat, Mr. W. I told her I felt like she was with him from the moment this cat was born and the moment that he passed. Then the craziest thing that I was nervous to say because I’ve never had a cat and it’s not part of my frame of reference, but I told her that her cat was showing me a wooden box and it says Mr. W and I described the box to a tee, and I told her he’s telling me that she cremated him and his ashes are in this box which I had described. She turns around because she was at her desk and pulls open a drawer and pulls out the box that I had described that her cat’s ashes are in and she says “I’ve never posted about this, I’ve never told anyone about it, no one knows what this box looks like,” and it was amazing. So, there are definitely times that animals come through quite strong.
Besides being a medium, what are you studying in college and hoping to do after you graduate?
I’m a communications and PR major, and I joke around that I’m a bit busier with the different kinds of communication [laughs], but that is my college degree that I’m working on. After college, I still plan to be doing my work as a medium full time. I always say I plan to be doing this work connecting to Spirit until the day that I die, but whether or not, maybe 20 years from now, maybe one day, I will want to be a stay at home mom for a bit and have a family or do other things and take a little break from doing this as a career. But that doesn’t mean I would stop doing it and sharing my gift out and about.
Have you also done any readings with other mediums as well?
I actually have. We call it a medium trade, where you give a reading for another medium and then they’ll give you a reading, so you just do it free for each other. I always say that Spirit comes through strongest for those who need it the most, not necessarily who want it the most and I don’t really need it because I know how much they’re around. People always ask can you connect to your own loved ones and I can’t because they’re too close to me. I can’t communicate with them the same way I communicate to everybody else’s loved ones, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see the signs and symbols, the hellos from heaven, songs on the radio, butterflies, all those things. I still feel that connection and know they’re around me.
How did you get involved with the show Monica the Medium and why did you decide to continue with it?
It’s actually a long and crazy story, but the way I got into TV is probably one of the coolest parts of this whole thing. I was not looking, trying or asking for these opportunities. I didn’t do anything really to get the TV show; it landed in my lap, and the fact that I didn’t try or go out of my way by any means, was a sign from Spirit and the angels that I was supposed to be open to opportunity. About a year and a half ago, three different producers from different production companies unrelated from each other, found me in random ways and all reached out to me asking to have a casual conversation and all asked to set it up the same Friday, back-to-back-to-back. I noticed that Spirit made it loud and clear that I’m supposed to at least be open to it. So, from there things just went on to me flying out [to L.A.] to have meetings, and then I signed with Lionsgate. I always said from day one that if I was going to do a TV show, I would only do it if it was with ABC Family, and everyone told me not to get my hopes up. But I just had a feeling that I was going to have a TV show with ABC Family and here we are now, so it’s been pretty amazing.
Does your gift as a medium interfere at all with your social life and in your studies?
It definitely does. I’m learning more and more how to try to juggle and balance everything. Back in high school, where you’re just trying to get through and be a regular girl, you’re already struggling with a lot of other things and you want to be the one to fit in and be normal. But for me, once I was in college, I decided I’m not going to care what people think, I’m just going to come out and I’m going to be loud and proud that I’m a medium and this is what I do. That doesn’t mean that everybody responds in the perfect way or in the nicest way. Especially around college boys. It’s hard sometimes to even say “Hi, I’m Monica,” at a party and then tell them how I talk to dead people, especially when it’s with a guy that you’re flirting with or one that you’re interested in. Some may take that as like a red flag or think I’m crazy. It’s definitely a bit hard and I think socially you want to fit in. This is a very unique thing that is very different than everybody else at school. But I think more and more people are realizing once they have the experience or they witness that I do have this gift and how beautiful it really is, they realize I am just like everybody else. I’m not some weirdo with a crystal ball; I’m very normal.
How is your show going to be different from other medium shows on television like Long Island Medium?
It differs in a couple of ways. Monica the Medium will be hour-long episodes, and the biggest difference is that it truly shows just as much of me just being Monica as it does me being Monica the Medium. I know with other shows like Long Island Medium, it does show her being a mom and shows that part of her life, but I really think with our series it takes it to the next level of everything that’s going on in my life, whether it’s from my day-to-day like dating, being with my friends, pulling all-nighters, things for school, hanging out with my roommates, bickering over whose turn it is to empty the dishwasher, to seeing my family. All the aspects that are going on and around me in my life on top of being a medium and connecting with Spirit. I think that what’s great about it. There’s something that everybody can relate to. There’s some people who maybe haven’t really had a significant loss in their life, but they’ll relate to going on a date with a guy and being really nervous getting ready for it. So, I think there’s something that everybody can relate to.
How long did it take for you to get used to being filmed?
[The] first episode, was our first experience with having a camera crew follow us around and film all these readings. I had done events and larger group readings and things like that, but it is definitely the first time where I’m not just the only one being vulnerable and open to all these other people being around and watching me as I connect to Spirit. It’s the first time that my clients or the people that I’m reading are also having to be very vulnerable and open to that experience and allowing it to be shared with so many. I was definitely pretty nervous and it was out of my element at the beginning, so you’ll kind of see the difference as the episodes progress—even just by episode two. I got so used to it after about a week and a half to two weeks, the crew became like family to me. The readings, my everyday life and just going out and about, everything, was so much more natural and comfortable and I truly forgot the cameras were around and it kind of faded in the background and I just wouldn’t notice.
Have you ever done a reading for one of the crew members?
It’s funny; at the beginning of production I made a pact with Spirit telling them it’s going to be a little tricky if every time I’m giving a reading or connecting to Spirit, some of the crew’s people start to creep in, because that would just be too much [laughs]. It would be too overwhelming, so I asked everybody from the crew and their loved ones in Spirit to please back up or give me the space so I can do my job because it can be hard sometimes. Once you open the door to Spirit it’s like everybody wants to come through who’s around you, and so, for the most part Spirit behaved and did that, but I did do a couple readings for the crew when it was the right time.
I joked if people from the crew wanted a reading, the best way would be to be stuck with me in the car for a while, because then it is bound to happen—especially if we were alone. One of the girls on our crew wanted to go visit some family in DC. We had a weekend off and I wanted to go too. So we took the ride together and it was four hours long, so I ended up connecting with all her loved ones because it was just the right time. It did happen a few times, for about four or five people, but hopefully we’ll have a second season and that will be more of an incentive for them to come back and work on our show and give a chance to the ones who didn’t have a reading yet.
I also found out something about the crew that I didn’t know until we had our wrap party. On the days where the clients came over to my home office, we tried to have what we call a “skeleton crew.” Just the most essential people that have to be in the room, so there will be less people with Spirit trying to come through, but also so the clients are more comfortable. It would just be two cameramen and the audio guy. I asked them [at the wrap party]: “Were there ever times when I was giving readings where the client wouldn’t be able to validate somebody and the messages that were coming through connected to a particular Spirit, but it did connect to you guys?” Both of the camera guys and the audio guy said they each had had an experience where someone came through with a name connection, how they died, how many kids they had, everything connected was one of their loved ones and they just didn’t tell me and they didn’t speak up because they didn’t want to interrupt the reading. So, I was like “Oh my gosh! How could you guys not have told me?” Because here I was, thinking “Who the heck is this person?” And it sucks for this client that I’m talking to another person’s loved ones. So, I thought that was really cool that they still received some healing messages, even though I didn’t know that it was for them and it was something that they didn’t confirm, but they still got the message.
Have you ever had any funny Spirits?
I have funny Spirits all the time. I love Spirits who come through with their humor and their personality and especially some of these loved ones that would have been very witty and have a dry sense of humor or be sarcastic. They have me just cracking up, giggling and same with their loved ones [laughs]. There are so many instances that at least for me and my readings, where you are laughing mid tears. You’re wiping away the tears but then they have you laughing so much that it hurts because they’re so joyful and fun, so yes, definitely.
If you could guest star on any ABC Family show, which would it be?
No question, Pretty Little Liars.
Who would you want to play on Pretty Little Liars?
I think it would be fun to play a medium, but in that sense it would be fictional, because Monica the Medium shows me in my real life, and doing this part would be fun on a scripted show to do that. Also, I think it would be a good part to play in Chasing Life. I feel like in some of the storylines for sure with people being sick. My favorite show other than Pretty Little Liars is Grey’s Anatomy. They could definitely, with all the people over the years that have died, they could use a medium on that show.
Do you find yourself getting messages everywhere or are there any specific places where you know that you’ll get messages or feel something coming through?
For me, it can happen anywhere and everywhere. For the most part, I do have a bit more control in turning off the porch lights, as what I’ll jokingly call it. But it is a lot more likely, even if my lights are turned off, that maybe a pushy Spirit will still come through even though I’m trying to stay off the clock. It happens especially in situations where I’m getting my hair or makeup done, I’m getting my nails done or I’m getting a massage, things where people are physically touching me, because they’re so close to my energy, I’m so close to theirs. In those instances, a lot of times, even though I didn’t have any intention to, I end up giving a reading.
Does it also happen when you’re sleeping as well through dreams or nightmares?
I’ve had interesting dreams my whole life, and ever since I was a child I was also a lucid dreamer, which is when you know you’re dreaming and you can kind of control the dream, but there have been instances where my loved ones—and this happens to not just me as a medium, but lots of different people have had experiences like this—where you can have your visitation dreams. Like my grandfather who’s passed away, he’s come to me in a dream before and I realized that the last time I had a Spirit visitation dream with him was the day of the anniversary of his passing. I didn’t realize it was the anniversary of his passing until I checked the calendar, which was really amazing. So, I have visitation dreams with my own loved ones and one of the ways that I sense them is through dreams.
I’ll also occasionally, very, very rarely, but occasionally, have a reading booked the next day and I’ll go to sleep and I’ll have a dream where somebody connected to one of my client’s loved ones will come through. I’ll wake up thinking, “Who is that Fred who is talking about his three daughters…blah, blah, blah” and then I’ll be with one of my clients that day and it’s her daughter and it all connects to her. So, it definitely has happened before.
Do you have any family or friends who are mediums like yourself or feel that they’re intuitive?
I am the only one in my family that is a full blown medium. I know that on my mom’s side there has been a great aunt or one of our grandmothers that would have had actual dreams before. Loved ones would have passed and they were just more intuitive, but they were a very conservative Catholic Hispanic family where you wouldn’t ever say that is medium stuff. They would never acknowledge it that way. I do have some friends that are mediums that I’ve become friends with after coming out and looking for people who are like me and I can relate to. You can relate to them and you have them as support and they totally get it because they go through it too.
You can catch the premiere of Monica the Medium on ABC Family on August 25, at 8:00 pm. Also, you can follow Monica on Twitter at @MonicatheMedium!