Column: The “Blackball” of it all: Was comedian Mo’Nique in the wrong?


Micah Sanders, Editor-in-Chief

“Let me tell you what the game is before the money game. Before the money game is called the integrity game, and we lost the integrity, worried about the money,” said Black stand-up comedian and actress Mo’Nique.

For over the past decade, Mo’Nique has been blackballed and called “difficult” by a number of influential people in the entertainment industry. She has spoken publicly about the situation during several broadcasts from “The Breakfast Club,” “The View,” “Comedy Hype,” and most recently featured on TS Madison’s new talk show “Turnt Out With TS Madison.”

There are always three sides to every story: his side, her side and the truth. Who is to blame for Mo’Nique’s downfall? 

I believe that responsibility falls to three highly recognized and praised Black celebrities that threw rocks and then hid their hands.

In our patriarchal society, being a woman who is confident and speaks her mind is one thing. However, being an unapologetic Black woman who stands her ground, that certainly has to be shut down, ridiculed and dismissed as Black women are regarded as the “most disrespected, unprotected and neglected person in America,” according to Malcolm X. 

In 2008, Mo’Nique was called by one of her former entertainment best friends, Lee Daniels. Daniels had just created the script for the now critically acclaimed and Oscar-winning film “Precious” and thought Mo’Nique would be the perfect role for the mother, Mary. Initially an independent film with no hopes of hitting the charts, Mo’Nique contractually agreed to the $50,000 pay for her role. To everyone’s dismay, the film reached The Sundance Film Festival, a nonprofit organization that actively advances the work of independent storytellers in film and theatre, due to its powerful messages and themes in the Black community. Once the film started gaining momentum, insert Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, who became executive producers. Of course, with their personal brands and influence, the film began to get recognized by larger audiences, leading to the award campaign season. 

Contractually, actors are obligated to do publicity on their films. Publicity is free marketing that includes press releases, advertising campaigns, merchandising and franchising of the film. Working in publicity this past summer at Paramount Pictures, talent must go on several television shows and other mediums for interviews across the country and internationally. However, with Mo’Nique’s situation, it is drastically different. 

Mo’Nique’s obligation for “Precious” was only in relation to Daniels, with whom she contractually fulfilled her duties; if she did not, the company would have sued her. However, as the film’s movie studio, Lionsgate wanted international publicity, Mo’Nique said the one word that made her “difficult to work with” – No. 

As human beings, we grow up believing that saying the word “no” is a negative response when in actuality, it can cause healthy boundaries and the prioritization of your self-worth and mental being. 

“I had the Mo’Nique Show. I was doing the Queens of Comedy Tour. I had little babies and my third husband,” she said. “So what I was not going to do was make Hollywood my priority. I got a call from Oprah Winfrey, and she said, ‘I will send you my private jet,’ and I said, ‘Sis, I’m in the bed with my man and my babies watching Curious George, I appreciate it, but I’m not going to be able to make it.’”

Once Mo’Nique turned down Winfrey, Daniels and Perry, all hell broke loose. Several rumors and allegations were spread in distaste of Mo’Nique, causing her a 10-year spell of absence from our television and film screens. This truly goes to show that some people only care for you if you are doing what they ask of you.

To make matters worse, Winfrey, Daniels and Perry all allegedly admitted that Mo’Nique did nothing wrong privately, but continued to publicly bash and destroy Mo’Nique’s personal brand and work ethic.

During her stand-up comedy tour on May 5, 2017, Mo’Nique made some distasteful comments about Winfrey, Daniels, and Perry, which inadvertently changed the narrative in some people’s eyes, especially Steve Harvey. I do believe that Mo’Nique did not have to say those comments. However, she was just using her gift of comedy to shed light on the situation. 

From every interview that I have watched, Mo’Nique has continued to consistently tell the same story with no deviations or hiccups. Wrong is wrong, and I believe that the Black community has terribly mistreated Mo’Nique for such a long time, and she deserves all her flowers now.

There has to come a time when we value our personal lives more than our work lives. Far too often than not, we see people who are living but are not alive as they constantly force themselves into more and more work because they are scared of the repercussions that saying “no” comes with. I applaud Mo’Nique for taking a stand against three of the biggest Black influential powers in Hollywood and putting herself first. 

So was Mo’Nique in the wrong? Certainly not. Could she have possibly not have made that statement during her comedy tour? Yes. Unfortunately, once the victim does or says anything ill-willed toward the predator, the narrative can be drastically altered in a way that flips the script.

I wholeheartedly stand with Mo’Nique, and I hope that she gets everything she deserves and then some. 

“Oftentimes, when it comes to a Black woman speaking up and speaking out, it goes unheard until she dies,” Mo’Nique said. “Then once she dies, then we go back and say ‘Well she was right, let’s go and make a movie about it.’”