Comedienne Mo’Nique started her showbiz career doing stand-up on a dare a couple of decades ago. From there, she gained visibility and immense popularity with performances on “Showtime at the Apollo,” HBO’s “Def Comedy Jam,” “Apollo Comedy Hour” HBO’s “Snaps,” BET’s “Comic View,” The Montreal Comedy Festival and Uptown Comedy Club.
But her big break came in 1999, when she landed a starring role on the television series, “The Parkers.” During the show’s five-year run, Mo’Nique earned numerous awards, including four NAACP Image Awards as the Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series. Her film credits include “Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins,” “Two Can Play That Game,” “Hair Show,” “Baby Boy,” “Soul Plane” and “Phat Girlz.”
As a full-figured woman who has become a role model for many women, Mo’Nique wrote the best-selling book “Skinny Women Are Evil,” as well as a follow-up entitled “Skinny Cooks Can’t Be Trusted.” She also created, produced and emceed “Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance,” America’s first full-figured, reality beauty pageant.
Struck by the skyrocketing number of women behind bars, she brought her act to a prison to tape a comedy special called “I Coulda Been Your Cellmate” which aired on TV before later being released on DVD. Then, she delved further into the issue as the host of “Mo’Nique: Behind Bars” for the Oxygen television network.
She recently spoke with the Banner about “The Mo’Nique Show,” her new late-night talk show on BET, and her performance in the eagerly-anticipated film Precious, Lee Daniels’ screen adaptation of Sapphire’s novel, “Push.”
Hi Mo’Nique, thanks so much for the time.
Hey Kam! Thank you, baby!
Congratulations on the new TV show.
How would you describe the format? How are you dividing the time among monologues, interviews, and musical and other performances?
I can’t give you those numbers, baby, because the show is so unpredictable. We’re just having a great time.
What interested you in doing a talk show?
Well, I’ve always wanted to do a talk show. That was the whole focus from the very beginning. First, I thought it’d be like Oprah Winfrey, but the comedienne in me wouldn’t let me do that. So, when my husband [Sidney Hicks] and I spoke with Loretha Jones [BET’s President of Programming], we said, “We want to do late-night. We want to have a party.”
When you mentioned Oprah, it reminded me that I told my readers I’d be interviewing you. And one of them, Laz Lyles, was wondering how much it means to you to have Oprah personally get behind the film in such a strong way.
It was a pleasure. She’s a powerhouse. She’s Oprah Winfrey. You know what that means. So, when she said, “I dig this,” I was very appreciative of it.
Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks, how do you do it? You’re already a mother, actress, author and comedienne, and now adding late night TV host. So, she wants to know how you keep sane and healthy and how you manage to juggle everything.
There is a great group of people that surrounds me, starting with my husband, who is my business partner and executive producer of the talk show. With our assistants and our staff in our home, we have a great team. So please believe me, I’d love to say, “Oh honey, I’m a superwoman!” But I’m so far from being a superwoman. It’s all the people who surround us are what make Mo’Nique work.
Laz also asks if it was hard for you not to take your character home with you at the end of the day when you were shooting Precious?
It wasn’t hard at all. We left it on the stage. When Lee said “Cut!” that’s what it was.
Marcia Evans says that she wants you to know that this fan of yours gained more respect for you after you opened up to Oprah about the sexual and emotional abuse that happened to you. Just let her know that I’m so proud of her stepping up. She goes on to say, “I want Monique to know that she has probably healed some women by sharing her truth. Monique you are looking beautiful!” I guess she didn’t exactly have a question.
Well, tell that baby, thank you very much!
I was totally blown away by your performance when I saw Precious. I’ve never heard so much Oscar-buzz so far in advance of a picture’s release. Everybody’s been talking about your performance since last January when the film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival. How do you feel about all the buzz?
You know what? I’m excited about any buzz. I was excited when Lee Daniels first called me up. Just for the movie’s message to be told, that’s where the real excitement comes in for me.
The Laz Alonso question: How can your fans help you?
By realizing that they’re not my fans, but my bosses. I want them to know that I’m just as excited as they are when they ask for an autograph or take a picture with me, because I’m still that little girl who used to practice in the mirror.
Speaking of mirrors, when you look in the mirror, what do you see?
[Laughs] I see somebody, baby, that’s full of life. I see somebody that still has a lot more growing to do and is willing to take it on. I see somebody that the universe said to her, “We’re going to give you this and see how you deal with it.” I see somebody who has an incredible husband, amazing kids and great people around her. So, when I look in that mirror, I be like, “For real?”
The Flex Alexander question: How do you get through the tough times?
Bless my brother Flex’s heart. Fortunately, I don’t have no tough times.
Thanks again, Mo’Nique and I’m expecting to be congratulating you on your Oscar, the next time I speak to you.
Thank you so much, Kam. Bless your heart, sugar.