Mo’Nique made a career for herself as a brash but smart comedienne, breaking down barriers in the entertainment world for plus-size women of color. But her latest role as Mary Lee Johnston in the highly acclaimed and awarded film Precious has helped her reach Hollywood’s A List.
Funny enough, the Baltimore native was working as a telephone sex operator when she got her first shot at comedy at the Baltimore Comedy Factory Outlet only after her brother Steve dared her to perform. This led to other stand up opportunities and acting roles, including Showtime at the Apollo and Russell Simmons’ Def Comedy Jam.
She is best known for the role of Nicole “Nikki” Parker on the popular UPN television show The Parkers, which ran from 1999 to 2004. Mo’Nique has also played supporting roles in such films as Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins, Soul Plane and Two Can Play That Game, as well as hosted radio and television talk shows, including her current late-night talk show on BET, The Mo’Nique Show.
In recent years, Mo’Nique has become best known for her activism around showing more positive images of women in the media, namely through Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance, a beauty pageant she hosts and produces for plus-sized women on the Oxygen Network and writing the New York Times best-seller, Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World.
“I’m not going to apologize for liking a good piece of fried chicken, some macaroni and cheese, some cake,” Mo’Nique said in a Knight Ridder interview. “I see all those skinny girls on those workout videos and I say, ‘I’m not going to kick up my leg like that. That’s unfair.’ That’s why I’m about to put out a video called The Phat Girl Workout.”
In 2007, she produced the documentary/comedy special I Coulda Been Your Cellmate!, where she interviews incarcerated women about the issues that led them to prison and how they can evaluate their self worth. Over the course of her career, she has garnered the respect of women everywhere for her brains, beauty and self-confidence.
So it is no surprise that she is receiving praise from film critics for her Academy Award winning breakthrough performance in Precious. During her acceptance speech at Golden Globe Awards for best supporting actress, Mo’Nique, who has admitted that she too was a victim of sexual abuse, dedicated her award to other victims.
“I celebrate this award with all the Preciouses, with all the Marys,” she said. “I celebrate this award with every person that’s ever been touched. It’s now time to tell. And it’s OK.”
Click here to view a timeline of the history of African-Americans in cinema.