Well…as my girl Lovelyti said, 2018 had a Black History Month to remember. Black Panther was released to stellar reviews and is still tearin’ up the box office (if you haven’t seen that beautiful film as of yet, PLEASE watch it!), Blac Chyna and Safaree (rapper and Nicki Minaj’s ex) both had sex videos leaked to the world wide web (about a week apart, on top of everything else), Stacey Dash annouced she’s running for Congress (ugh), and Fergie attempted to channel the late jazz great Billie Holliday when she sang her rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the NBA All Star Game, but she ended up channeling memes, GIF’s and countless jokes for Twitter followers and late night talk show hosts instead. In spite of everything that happened this past February, the lady that nearly everyone was talking about last month was the legendary comedienne Mo’Nique.
As I’m sure all of you know by now, Mo’Nique was approached by Netflix to do a comedy show sometime around December. The reported deal was $500,000, which was much lower than the $13M Amy Schumer walked away with (she was originally offered $11M), not to mention the $20M that was offered to Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle. Mo’Nique refused the deal and asked everyone to boycott Netflix in protest, due to the streaming powerhouse being biased against her because of her race and gender. Very few people did so for two reasons: The threat of missing out on the upcoming new season of Jessica Jones and other stellar shows/movies was too great, and most folks felt that Netflix’s decision wasn’t because of race and gender bias, it was due to Mo’Nique’s reputation of being hard to work with and the fact that the aforementioned comics sold out more shows and were more active than Mo’Nique as of late. I muar admit, I am also one of those people.
Now, I know what y’all are thinkin’, “Nadiya, aren’t you a black woman? And didn’t you just say that Mo’Nique is a legend?” The answers are yes and yes. I am a black woman that is well aware that gender and racial bias exists, and I’m from the south, just to add icing to the cake. Also, Mo’Nique’s resume is very impressive. She won an Oscar for Precious, had a hit sitcom for five years, and very successful stand-up specials, one of which was The Queens of Comedy. I can see why Mo’Nique feels she was lowballed by Netflix, given her past successes. I just don’t think that race and gender have anything to do with it in this particular instance. Allow me to explain.
Netflix Has a Ton of Predominately Black Movies, Specials and TV Shows
If Netflix only had one or two black actors and actresses on about two or three movies and/or TV shows, I’d see more validity in Mo’Nique’s claims of them being prejudiced against her. That’s not the case. Netflix gives jobs to a lot of black actors. Movies and shows like Luke Cage, Mudbound, Bright, The Get Down (I hope this comes back, by the way), The Cloverfield Paradox, She’s Gotta Have It, Chewing Gum, A Message to the King, Seven Seconds, Coach Snoop, Imperial Dreams, and Dear White People consist of a mostly black cast and/or have black leading men and women. Not only that, but I’ve seen other black comedy specials on Netflix featuring Marlon Wayans, Chris Tucker, DeRay Davis, Katt Williams and Cedric the Entertainer, just to name a few. I haven’t been able to find out a lot of information on how much the comedians I named made for their deals, but considering there’s been little to no press on the subject—aside from Mo’Nique’s dissatisfaction with her deal—I can only assume that they were happy with what they made. According to Vulture, more comedians are going to Netflix because “they want the money while [it’s being offered].” Then, when it comes to the case of gender discrimination, I highly doubt Netflix is guilty of that, considering that they recently closed a multi-million deal with Shonda Rhimes, the female (and African-American) creator of Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How To Get Away With Murder.
Mo’Nique’s Reputation Proceeds Her (Still Love You, Though!)
Steve Harvey once said that in order to be successful, you have to have some dog in you. There has to be a dogged determination to grind and reach a certain level of success. Mo’Nique is no exception to that rule. She’s always had a strong personality. That’s what made her so appealing when she first burst on the scene. Women in the entertainment business have to have a thick skin and that dogged determination to strive in the industry. However, Mo’Nique’s personality may be a little too strong. Now, I’m not going to sit here and label Mo’Nique an angry black woman, because that’s a stereotype that’s always followed us, and is always thrown in our faces whenever we stand up for what we want. I will say that Mo’Nique may need to learn to compromise and realize that everyone may not agree with her opinion.
The whole “Mo’Nique is difficult to work with” stigma started back in 2009 when Precious was screened by multiple film festivals. The movie was nominated for the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival, and director Lee Daniels insisted that Mo’Nique fly to Cannes, France for the event. She refused, opting to spend her free time with her family. This situation reminds me of a quote from the film Gladiator that I often use myself: “Sometimes in life, I do what I want to do…but mostly I do what I have to do.” Family is important, but it’s also important to feed your family as well.
Mo’Nique also stated that she was not contractually obligated to promote the film overseas, which was another reason she refused to go to Cannes. Once again, this harkens back to the quote. Working as a customer service rep (my day job), I often have to go above and beyond my job description to make my clients happy. That way, the company looks good, I look good, the client is satisfied, and I don’t have to worry about him/her calling back with an attitude. Mo’Nique may not have been obligated to do international promotion, but whenever you help create a film—or anything regarding entertainment—you have to promote said work. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure my sweeties Bruno Mars and The Rock are tired as hell right about now (Bruno especially…he’s STILL TOURING!), but they’re doing what they have to do to promote their art. If Mo’Nique had gotten on the plane to France (and I’m sure her family could’ve gone with her), she and the film would’ve received more press, she could’ve networked and garnered more roles and/or connections, and the powers that be would’ve seen her as a “team player” and contracted her for even more work and more money. Everyone wins. Plus she could’ve chilled at Cannes. Have y’all seen that place? It’s gorgeous!
This brings me to the next point I mentioned: Mo’Nique must make peace the fact with everyone may not agree with her. As I’m sure all of you have heard, back in Jan., Charlamange tha God from The Breakfast Club gave Mo’Nique Donkey of the Day for declaring herself “the most decorated comedienne alive,” after receiving Netflix’s low bid. Mo’Nique was none too happy about that. Shortly after that show, Mo’Nique went on her live stream and asked “why [Charlamange] had so much hatred towards black women.” By late February, she basically started a tour to speak about her issues with Netflix, and she was invited to The Breakfast Club for an interview. While she was there, Mo’Nique let it be known that she didn’t appreciate Charlamagne giving her Donkey of the Day, and pretty much talked down to him the entire interview. As a matter of fact, she made it her business to refer to him by his real name, Lenard, instead of his radio persona whenever she addressed him. Before she left, Mo’Nique made sure she had the last word, and strongly implied that Charlamagne was a house negro.
Now Mo’Nique, that was all the way wrong. No one is exempt from Donkey of the Day. I get Mo’Nique feeling some type of way about getting it, but at the same time, she acted as if she was above that title. As Charlamange himself once said, “Donkey of the Day [doesn’t] discrimate.” What’s worse is that Mo’Nique implied that Charlamange only gave it to her because she was a black woman, which wasn’t true. She could’ve let it be known that she didn’t appreciate what Charlamange said without being condescending and twisting the situation around.
Now you may be asking what this has to do with the Netflix deal, considering this incident occured afterwards. Once again, Mo’Nique’s reputation proceeds her, and other stories like that have bounced around for years. That interview at The Breakfast Club may have confirmed those stories. Then, let’s not forget how she put down Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey at one of her comedy shows a few months back (although I can understand why she’s angry at Oprah; the way she handled that interview with Mo’Nique’s brother—who molested her as a child—was rude and wrong). All these things combined more than likely caused Mo’Nique to get that low offer, and The Breakfast Club interview probably made the suits at Netflix say, “See! We knew we shouldn’t have offered her anything more than $500,000!” I’m not saying Mo’Nique has to be a shrinking violet that just accepts everything (we can all agree that the $500K offer was low), but you can’t be completely uncompromsing and offputting.
I’ve been a fan of Mo’Nique’s since I was a teenager, and I still love her. I want her to win, and I want her to have a successful career. I get her feeling that she was a victim of bias, especially given the fact that Netflix gave her wack ass excuse as to why she was lowballed, instead of telling her the truth (see the Variety article about the Netflix offer I hyperlinked earlier). I also understand why a lot of African-American people—namely black women—are taking her side, given that we’ve gone through legitimate bias time and time again, and still experience it.
But this particular situation has less to do with Mo’Nique being a black woman and more to do with her being inflexible. Even her “Netflix tour” is inflexible. She’s not giving up this fight by any means, despite the fact that Netflix isn’t the only network out there. Mo’Nique is talented enough to go to Hulu, Amazon Prime, Epix, HBO, Cinemax, or Showtime and have them give her the deal she really wants. My suggestion to her is to show Netflix that they made a mistake in lowballing her. If no one else will make a reasonable deal, she should put her own money up and try another project. She should definitely showcase more comedy on her Instagram page (at the moment, all her posts are either fitness videos or content regarding the Netflix controversy). Not only that, she should continue to do more comedy shows at bigger venues, which honestly, may be another reason Netflix offered such a low amount. She hasn’t been as active as she once was. Mo’Nique, keep that strong personality, and that dogged determination, but don’t burn bridges, and be a little more accomodating and open to different opinions. Show everyone that why you are a Queen of Comedy, Ms. Mo’Nique, and why you should be treated as such.
—Written by Nadiya
So, what do y’all think about this situation? Is Mo’Nique right about Netflix being biased against her because of her gender and race, or do you think it’s due to her past reputation? Do you think Mo’Nique deserved Donkey of the Day, or was she right in putting Charlamange down for doing so? Do you believe she should keep fighting against Netflix, or should she leave them alone and try finding a better deal and/or starting her own project? Let me know in the comments section!