Could Mo'Nique fall victim to the black Oscar curse?
MediaTakeout was the first to report the surprising news that BET’s latest late-night talk show attempt, The Mo’Nique Show, had fizzled out. Unlike African American-led late-night shows of the past, however, MediaTakeout insists that ratings were not the cause of the demise. Instead, it’s claiming that “personality conflicts” are responsible.
Officially, Tracy McGraw, a BET spokesperson, told theGrio , ”The Mo’Nique Show will be on production hiatus beginning in the fall.” Still, it appears BET is dancing around the obvious.
Unfortunately, reports of personality clashes are not all new for Mo’Nique. In 2009, there were ample reports, including one by the New York Daily News’ gossip column, “Gatecrasher,” that her best supporting actress Oscar was in danger due to her diva attitude. Personality aside, however, those who believe in Academy Award superstitions chalk Mo’Nique’s latest news up as more evidence of a black Oscar curse.
Well-talked about in entertainment circles, the Oscar curse is not race-specific. Remember Sandra Bullock. After giving her touching acceptance speech, all hell broke loose within weeks, as Bullock became tabloid fodder thanks to her then husband Jesse James’s cheating ways. For black actors, however, an Oscar hasn’t necessarily meant the break-up of a marriage. Instead, it’s proven to be the career nail in the coffin, especially in recent times.
Since 1929, just a dozen black actors have won the Oscar: Hattie McDaniel, Sidney Poitier, Denzel Washington, Lou Gossett, Jr., Cuba Gooding, Jr., Morgan Freeman, Whoopi Goldberg, Halle Berry, Jamie Foxx, Forest Whitaker, Jennifer Hudson and Mo’Nique. More than half of them have seen their career opportunities diminish, not increase.
Being nominated has even cast some black actors like The Color Purple’s Margaret Avery, for example, in the “where are they now?” pile. Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins may unfortunately be her biggest role to date since The Color Purple.
Even big stars have proven largely unable to weather the storm.
During The Color Purple reunion show on the last season of The Oprah Winfrey Show, Oscar winner Whoopi Goldberg told Winfrey that she joined The View because “I needed a job and no one was asking me to be in movies.”
While Halle Berry and Jamie Foxx are still being asked to be in movies, film isn’t treating them so kindly. As popular as Halle Berry remains with the media, her film career has been very limited. Granted Catwoman didn’t help her cause. Still, despite rave reviews for the small film Frankie & Alice, her custody battle for her daughter Nahla has generated far more general public interest. Meanwhile Jamie Foxx is just simply doing whatever makes him happy and has found some success in the music industry.
Lou Gossett, Jr., who won best supporting actor for An Officer and a Gentleman, hasn’t minced words about his post-Oscar blues. In one online interview, he admitted to feeling that his Oscar would be his “key to the kingdom.” Noting that Paul Newman, Marlon Brando, James Dean and George C. Scott “were able to do one part after another of their history from Napoleon to the Romans to the Greeks to the British to the Vikings, and they were flourishing. We know all about the European culture by the movies that they did. So I thought that when I won my Oscar I would be able to do the same thing,” he said.
Instead, Gossett, Jr., who did play Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, albeit on television, claims “denial of opportunities” was his post-Oscar reality.
Cuba Gooding Jr. won his best supporting actor Oscar for Jerry Maguire but later appeared in less than stellar Oscar fare like Snow Dogs and Boat Trip. He blamed his post-Oscar blues on himself citing that he “thought people wanted me to make them laugh, but I was wrong on so many levels. I try to take all my energy and take it into comedy, and that’s when I’m terrible.”
It hasn’t been dismal for everybody. People forget that, before Denzel Washington won his best actor Oscar for Training Day, he already had one for Glory and it actually was a boon to his career. Of course Sidney Poitier continued to work after his historic 1963 win for best actor. Morgan Freeman won his Oscar so late in life that it really couldn’t make a difference in his career.
Given Jennifer Hudson’s personal trials, it’s impossible to assess how her career is going but, sadly, those challenges do feed into the Oscar curse lore. Also, it’s not a great sign when her biggest role since has been starring in commercials for Weight Watchers. White spokespersons like Kirstie Alley and Valerie Bertinelli have turned to Weight Watchers when their careers have dried up. Hudson signed on with them during her prime.
With Mo’Nique, her late-night show was already in the works when the Oscar buzz got deafening. Since so many black actors only seem to receive their Oscar glory in once-in-a-lifetime type films like Ray and Precious, it’s doubtful that Mo’Nique missed out on great film opportunities while doing her late night show. After all, her primary career path has been comedy and television and film have sprouted from that.
And because Arsenio Hall has been the only African-American to successfully do late night, Mo’Nique’s woes may not necessarily stem from the Oscar curse.
Superstition aside, however, when it comes to black Oscar winners, one thing is clear. In Hollywood, substantial movie roles just don’t come in black even when Oscar is standing by your side.