From the world of stand-up to sitcom stardom on The Parkers to global superstardom in Precious, Mo’Nique was on track to continue her ascent to the top of the Hollywood ladder. But when conflicting stories concerning the promotion of Precious started making their way through Hollywood circles, Mo’Nique’s reputation and ability to work were both affected. Recently Mo’Nique has come out strongly against Netflix for allegedly offering her a lower rate for a stand-up special than some of her contemporaries. Thus far, the Mo’Nique Netflix boycott has made headlines.
In the era of the #MeToo movement, there is nowhere else to expect to see Mo’Nique than on the frontlines fighting for equality in all its forms. When I sat down for a chat with Mo’Nique, we talked about everything from her LGBT fans (and her love for one particular episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race) to why fighting for the underdog continues to be one of her most important goals.
HORNET: By singlehandedly taking on Netflix over pay inequity and gender bias, you’re standing at the forefront of an issue, and you’ve been outspoken against some powerful people in Hollywood, like Oprah Winfrey and Lee Daniels.
MO’NIQUE: I thank you for that. I think there have always been amazing women at the forefront, but when I think about the sisters that came before me, like Hattie McDaniel, for example, she stood for the same things that I am standing for now. We let her die in despair because we did not stand with her. I have had people tell me that “the one that speaks up is the one that takes the hit.” I am too damn young, baby. I am not taking any hits lying down.
In short, Netflix offered you money that was far below what they were offering other comedians for stand-up specials, including Amy Schumer. Looking at the whole picture, do you feel the issues you went through with the Precious promotion are following you?
Absolutely. When the offer came in from Netflix, I now have this stigma hanging over my head that I am “difficult and demanding,” and now they don’t know if they want to work with me. Therefore, Netflix can offer me whatever they want to. What are you going to do about it? All of it ties in together. That is why I have to speak up and speak loudly.
You publicly spoke out against Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry when, according to you, they did not support you in your promotion of Precious. Speaking out against such power players in Hollywood would be an extremely hard step for some people to take. What gave you the courage to do it?
Because it’s true. They bullied me in a situation. When we go back to Precious, for example, I can remember Lee Daniels and I kiki’ing and laughing, and I said to him, “If this film saves one life, we have done our job.” Ironically, I didn’t know that I would be fighting for my own life after that movie.
After I did a film with someone who I thought was a friend, I am fighting for my livelihood based on that man telling a lie about me not wanting to promote the film. Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry both sat back knowing that it was a lie and said absolutely nothing. I did not promote the film in the way that they thought I should do it, so they watched my livelihood be snatched from me.
I sit in a position to say that, no, I cannot say quiet. That black woman, Oprah Winfrey, sat back and watched a black woman get thrown under the bus and said absolutely nothing.
With both your stand-up comedy and some of the roles you have played, you’ve been a trailblazer. Is it hard sometimes standing on your own before others may or may not join you?
I didn’t think about it. All I knew was that what I was saying had to be said. Many years ago I was in a room with [wife of slain civil rights leaders Medgar Evers] Myrlie Evers; it was just the two of us. I asked her if she knew what would be happening tomorrow. She told me that we could not write about tomorrow, we could only write about today. That’s exactly how I felt. When people ask me if I was scared about backlash or standing alone, it did not matter. It needed to be said and it didn’t deter me from saying it.
The LGBT community still stands with you. Do you continue to see so many comparisons with you and the LGBT community?
Oh, yes. I actually did a show recently with my LGBT brothers. You know why I love y’all? Because you loved on me when no one else did. There was a beautiful group of brothers in Baltimore, Maryland, that were all these wonderful gay boys. They made this little fat black girl feel like Diana Ross in Central Park when it was raining! [Laughs] Now all of my babies are gone. I gave them my word that I would not back down, and I would always speak loudly. So I’m just keeping my word.
Did you get a chance to see Stacy Layne Matthews recreate Mo’Nique during the “Snatch Game” challenge during her season on RuPaul’s Drag Race?
[Laughs] Let me tell you something, I cried so hard when I saw that! That is the biggest award I could get. People always ask about receiving an Oscar, and I am appreciative of every award that I have ever received.
I’ll tell you, though, when you have someone who studies you and they have your every move and every nuance and everything about you, do you know what kind of an honor that is? I could not get myself together! I remember people doing Patti LaBelle that way. I used to think to myself, “Oh my god, that is such an honor.” Now you are doing Mo’Nique? C’mon baby, that is a story I am going to share with my grandbabies!
In hard times, what helps keep your head up and moving through?
Honesty. People will ask me, aren’t you scared of the truth? I can’t be; it’s true. I can’t be scared of the truth. I say to people, don’t waver from the truth, even when it feels like you are on an island by yourself. Don’t waver from what you know is true. When my husband tells me “Mama, we’re good, truth has been around longer than all of us,” then I know we’re OK.
You went seamlessly into acting from stand-up, and it almost seems it was an undiscovered talent — even to you.
I thank the universe for it, and I don’t try to make it make sense. Whitney Houston could not explain her voice. It was just there. I can’t explain it. All I know is that when they say action, I love playing dress up. We’re dreaming and were having fun.
So when Netflix came to me with that B.S. offer, I told them I can’t play like that. If you offer that to me and I take it, what do you give Sommore, Miss Laura and Adele, all legends? How do you give a baby like Amy Schumer $13 million when she has already said that she is not a legend? They could not make that make sense. Until they can make it make sense, we must continue to boycott against Netflix. And if even just one person does it, guess what? You are making a point.