by Michelle Denise Jackson
Last week, Mo'Nique told The Hollywood Reporter that despite her 2010 Academy Award win for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Precious, it has been incredibly difficult for her to find consistent work within Tinseltown.
In the same article, Lee Daniels—who directed Precious and is the current creator and executive producer of hit TV show Empire—seemed to support Mo's story, saying the actress has effectively been "blackballed" by the entertainment industry. He went on to say, in an interview with Don Lemon on Wednesday, that Mo'Nique hadn't been able to get roles because she was making "unreasonable demands," and even went so far as to blame his perspective of the actress's alleged behavior on "reverse racism."
Well, Mo'Nique sat down for an interview with CNN's Don Lemon on Thursday to set the record straight.
In the interview, she addresses the preconceptions that she hasn't received offers for roles by stating that in fact, she was made offers, but that accepting those roles would have perpetuated negative representations of African-American women, something she was unwilling to do.
“If we continue to accept these low offers, how do we make a change?” Mo'Nique asked in her interview with Lemon.
She also brought up the fact that she was reportedly only paid $50,000 for her part in Precious, despite the film's critical and commercial success. This, coupled with competing demands due to other entertainment work and her family life, led to her declining to do promotional work for Precious at the Cannes Film Festival, which she feels led to certain parties labeling her as "difficult" to work with.
Many people have weighed in on Mo'Nique sharing her opinions that she hasn't been treated fairly since winning her Oscar in 2010. To me, this is not just about whether or not an actress feels she was blacklisted, but it speaks to the continued differential treatment that Black actors, writers, directors, and producers received compared to their white counterparts.
Her points about the kinds of roles she was receiving after her Academy Award win are especially salient. We've seen time and time again how white actors not only receive better roles after winning prestigious awards within the entertainment industry, but they are also afforded the luxury and freedom of choosing different kinds of roles. However, Black actors and actresses are pigeon-holed into playing the same kind of roles, which are often based on stereotypes. Thus, Black entertainers must choose between waiting for "good" roles—which are already hard to come by for minority actors—or taking roles that aren't as celebrated to pay the bills, and then risk having their talents and merits questioned.
We're damned if we do, damned if we don't.
Mo'Nique ended the interview by discussing why she's decided to focus her energy on independent films and her role in the upcoming indie flick Blackbird. She highlighted that there's more space for her and other African-American actors and filmmakers to take ownership of their work by pursuing independent opportunities. And with ownership comes agency, power, and financial control—not always offered in mainstream Hollywood films.
Watch Mo'Nique talk with Don Lemon below and tell us your thoughts in the comments.