Why I’m Interested in What Oprah Did To Mo’Nique
Because nobody else is
Mo’Nique is back in the news. It’s been a solid year since she rocked the establishment by challenging Netflix for the paltry amount offered for a comedy special that seasoned comedians are able to negotiate top dollar for, without issue. Even Amy Schumer, who is as talented as dry toast without butter was able to garner $13 million for her show.
Things went all the way left when Mo’Nique demanded a boycott of Netflix after she vehemently turned down $500,000, and expressed how her undeniable talent, combined with her Oscar-winning status for her stellar performance in Precious, not to mention her longevity in a business that is mercilessly traitorous — made her just as worthy as the icons who command up to $50 million for their specials.
The wave of feistiness that swept over the famed stand-up comedian and actress from disapproving observers who were taking their cues from beloved Black entertainers, who were vocally unsupportive of their colleague’s clueless tantrums, immediately increased my interest in what seemed to be a fascinating snapshot of the abusive mechanisms of an unforgiving industry.
Even the ordained mouthpiece of Black culture, The Breakfast Club, joined the masses to clubber Mo’Nique for daring to speak up about the seediness of show business and how the soiled reputation she amassed from being blackballed by revered Black icons, was once again threatening to derail what was poised to be her heralded comeback.
Charlamagne tha God & Co. invited Mo’Nique and her devoted husband and manager, Sidney Hicks to their studio, after the comedian insisted on challenging the trio in person after being unceremoniously awarded “Donkey of the Day,” for the crime of not wilting away in a corner after being hung to dry by a bevy of high-powered detractors.
The clips of that segment captured Mo’Nique demanding to know why she was unrighteously mocked by those in her community who are meant to cushion their own from the blows emanating from outside forces.
I revoltingly watched the entire episode, and as a Black woman it was appalling to witness the lack of empathy from the hosts, who were more interested in demeaning the stature of their guest with recycled testimonies from unreliable sources, and not at all invested in an unbiased overview that depicts the vulnerability of a Black woman of a certain age and size, who is woefully outnumbered.
Charlamagne’s defense for baptizing an accomplished and uber-talented entertainer who has paid her dues in more ways than one — “Donkey of the Day” — never quite made sense and still doesn’t, and even worse is the fact that his underserving target is a Black woman, who managed to conquer the obstacles that typically bury creatives who resemble her template, and emerge victorious with a best supporting actress Academy Award to boot.
As a Black woman with dark skin, and the features that are usually hampered by the supremacy of colorism, it was offensive to watch Charlamagne unapologetically maintain his questionable stance. And it was frustrating to watch co-host Angela Yee, a woman of color, disgustingly allow that level of disrespect to be levied without an ounce of push back.
It forced me to realize how damaging it is to have the absence of Black women in the spaces where certain conversations definitely require the relatable voices of those who can rise to the occasion, and shut down the ridiculousness that Black men tend to cook up for a feast that devours the ones they should be treating like royalty, instead of feeding to the wolves.
No disrespect to Angela Yee, but she’s not the ideal representation or spokeswoman for the ladies that I personally consider as part of my sisterhood, and it showed in the way that she tolerated the shit fest that she helped to ignite, as she weakly watched Mo’Nique staunchly refuse to go down in flames.
But this ongoing saga is much bigger and complex than spending a wasteful morning with graceless radio personalities.
During the height of the scandal, while notable celebs were weighing in and offering the advice that seemed to indicate their neutrality, which is to be expected of a bunch of wusses, who barely stand up for anything worth a damn — there was the need to dig in further into the meat of the matter, so as to form a coherent opinion.
What I unearthed angered me, and since writing is the only way to diffuse those emotions, I proceeded to break it all down on behalf of another “angry Black woman,” who has every right to loudly share her truth — unfiltered — and with the blessing of having survived the worst with enough fuel for her second wind.
Mo’Nique was blackballed after winning her Oscar back in 2010, and she spoke out about it to The Hollywood Reporter, in a 2015 exposé, where she detailed how her unwillingness to succumb to the international promotional tour for Precious, after the film proved to be a bigger hit than anticipated, resulted in her banishment by the upper echelons of Black Hollywood who were also the producers; Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey.
For those who aren’t well-versed when it comes to the logistics of press tours that take you all over the country and the globe, the allegations against the film’s unexpected leading lady undoubtedly convicts her as the classless, ungrateful and unreasonably difficult actress, who complicated what was meant to be the standard routine for talents who are tasked with selling their successful projects.
Mo’Nique has always been aware of the reception that greets her, and while she can’t control the behavioral patterns of those who seek to destabilize her standing by distorting her pursuits, she does have complete authority to chart her own journey in ways that match the trajectory of her dreams.
But when you’re dealing with wealth and the hierarchies of power, in an industry where only few Black executives make it to the very top, there can be a high price to pay for stepping over the visible line, that clearly states how and why your preferences can’t be considered over the A-listers that cost more than you.
Mo’Nique refused to play by the rules. She wasn’t satisfied with being a pampered puppet who obediently does what she’s told, despite the glaring inconsistencies in the contract. She wasn’t about to fly out to film festivals or do additional hustling for zero compensation. She didn’t care about being the source of infinite frustration and irritation for three of the most influential Black figures in Hollywood — and that shit cost her a lot more than she could’ve ever imagined.
Despite the dedicated hard work and disciplined consistency it took to provide that memorable Oscar-winning moment, Mo’Nique wasn’t able to extend that good luck streak, and she’s convinced that her stalled career can be attributed to the nefarious forces of her unrelenting defamers, who were mean-spirited enough to spread the venom that made their victim the assigned leper of Hollywood.
Oprah’s role in another Black movie that was made for White people, The Butler, was originally written for Mo’Nique, a fact that Lee Daniels confirmed, but somehow those plans never manifested. There’s also the role of Richard Pryor’s grandmother in the upcoming biopic that Daniels is close to completing, that was supposed to go to the embattled actress, but again, that didn’t happen. She was also scheduled to join the cast of Empire, during the early stages of development, but that opportunity, like the rest, mysteriously evaporated.
And that’s why I’m interested in what Oprah Winfrey did to Mo’Nique, and how that bad blood runs long and deep.
Let’s face it, the former Queen of Daytime TV, can’t be fucked with, and God help you if you try. You can’t say shit about Oprah unless you’re armed to take on the avalanche of haters who are ready to assign the same treatment that the Beyhive is famous for coordinating.
I’ve tried to subtly question the problematic motives of the matriarch of OWN as it pertains to the unyielding endorsement of the late Michael Jackson’s accusers via the controversial interview she hosted, that was in conjunction with the release of the documentary, Leaving Neverland.
That very risky move inevitably re-tarnished the legacy of an icon, who spent the last years of his life, fighting those allegations without being convicted.
And there’s also the case of the Exonerated Five, and how she was fully aware of Donald Trump’s deadly quest to watch five teenagers of color get systemically murdered for a crime they didn’t commit. And yet she shared how hopeful she was gazing at the nauseating photo that captured the aftermath of a hellish election that placed the President-Elect in the Oval Office of the Black president, who had weathered the degradation of Trump’s bigoted birther smear.
There are other issues that give me pause, but when it comes to Mo’Nique’s longstanding beef with Oprah, you can’t downplay the heartbreak in the voice of a broken spirit, who can’t find peace until she gets the thorough explanation for why her unfit family members were carted onto The Oprah Winfrey Show — without her knowledge or consent.
That event occurred over a decade ago, and there are many who feel that time should’ve healed that wounds, and perhaps the mental state of a bitter, old, fat Black woman is to blame for her pathetic need to stay relevant by reinitiating the past.
But I happen to believe that the rawness of pained dispositions aren’t easily euthanized, especially in instances where the perpetrator has the upper hand because of the absolute power they wield, and how the accepted devaluing of their rival, fuels the desire to reject the responsibility of taking ownership of the pain they caused.
The Netflix debacle came and went, but these recent viral clips that are making the rounds, showing Mo’Nique holding court with an interviewer as she and her loyal husband make another attempt to clarify shit, and hold her debtors accountable for their misdeeds against her — have once again resurfaced the unsightly feud that involves another Black woman that White Hollywood loves enough to do her dirty work.
When I try to imagine being in Mo’Nique’s unenviable position, the emotions that swell up are carved out of the inherent tendency to embrace her and pray that she gets the justice that she’s been denied for too long.
Regardless of the part that she’s played in this nightmarish tale of woe, we can’t discount the fact that she has been betrayed by those who concluded that she was dispensable for obvious reasons. There’s also the brutality of the abuse at the hands of Oprah, who knowingly batted where it hurts and never looked back.
Personal attacks that center around relatives who are hungry enough to take the bait are the absolute worst, and it’s even more painful when it comes from a source that was trusted and admired, before those true colors blotted the beauty and exposed the beast.
I’m interested in how badly Oprah fucked up Mo’Nique because nobody cares, and the silence from ordinarily outspoken folks is both intriguing and worrisome.
As a Black woman who looks Black, I’m aware of how little we matter when we defiantly state the bullet points of our heartache, and so I refuse to pretend not to hear Mo’Nique when she cries out for the apology that’s not coming.