The Monique ‘Precious’ Interview: Big, Bad And Bodacious

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Though big, bad and bodacious Mo’Nique may be a cutting edge comedienne on stage and screen, her role as mother from hell in her new movie, Lee Daniels’ Precious, is no laughing matter. The plus size jokester extraordinaire, who’s also got her own late night talk show on BET called The Mo’Nique Show, spouted assorted unusual opinions during this conversation, about weighty matters regarding just how she goes about being as ‘U’nique’ as she can be.

Including her philosophy of the all-natural origins of Funny, what in the world her curvaceous dimensions have to do with being a talk show host and having a big head, and the talky diva’s uncharacteristically ho hum brevity concerning her extreme personality makeover for this movie.

Monique

MO’NIQUE: Hey, Sugar.

Congratulations on your Sundance prize for Precious.

Mo’Nique: Thank you. You know what, anytime someone wants to give you an honor, it’s always appreciated. There’s talk about the Oscar and there’s talk about the Image Award that I’m very excited about. So anytime someone says, we want to honor you for this, thank you baby.

How do you juggle everything in your life, between this movie, television, the comedy clubs, and touring?

Mo’Nique: When you say how am I going to juggle everything, I take it one day at a time. And people say, what’s going to happen in five years or ten years, I don’t know.

Because I’m so happy with the way I sit right now. And no, I’m not going to put touring on hold. I’m still a comedienne. I love it, baby.

But with Precious coming out, with the talk show happening, and with everything that’s going on, it’s still just one day at a time. Nothing gets neglected. And whatever else comes tomorrow, we’ll deal with it as it comes.

You said that you think of yourself as a comedienne, but with Precious, people are going to think of you in an entirely different way, or an entirely different side of you. Have you begun to get a sense of that the expanded horizon for you?

Mo’Nique: No. That movie was what it was. The moment Lee Daniels said, that’s a wrap, it was a wrap. Now, you move on. You know, with all of the buzz about the movie, that’s that movie, but you move on.

And I’m not looking for any expectations, or because that happened, this should happen. It was a movie that happened. Now, I sit here, not looking to tomorrow to say oh, because I did that movie. No.

Precious is about terrible sexual and emotional abuse suffered by a young woman, and you’ve opened up to Oprah about your own ordeals in these areas. How did the film affect you, as someone who has also experienced abuse?

Mo’Nique: Just for the movie’s message to be out there, that’s where the true excitement comes in for me.

We are seeing more funny women these days. How would you define your own kind of humor, and when was it that you found out you were funny?

Mo’Nique: I think December 11th, 1967. That’s when I entered into the world, baby. But no, I don’t think we find out that we are funny, I think it just happens. Like, I don’t think you can make a comedian. I think it’s just who you are.

You know, it’s in your blood. You’re a journalist, you like to write about things. Well, I like to make you laugh. I like to make you feel good. And that’s been happening since I was a kid. Now, it wasn’t always cute, because I would say some things out of order in front of adults as a child.

But I felt like, well, did they laugh? Then okay. I’m going to tell you something, I like a good time. I like to see you smile. Because when you smile, it makes me smile.

Now, keep in mind, if you make each other smile, you look at somebody else and they smile, see how contagious that gets? So it’s always been part of who Mo’Nique is.

What are the challenges of being female on a nightly talk show? It seems to be sort of a boys club, and women always end up on daytime.

Mo’Nique: I’m one of the boys, baby. They don’t say, well we’ve got a challenge because you are a woman. Or, we’ve got a challenge because you are a black woman in late night. I work with a group of people that say, hey baby, let’s go get it.

You were one of the first people to really put plus-size women on television, and now we are seeing a lot more of it. Do you feel in some way that you helped open people’s eyes?

Mo’Nique: Do you know what? Do I think I open up people’s eyes, Sugar? I can’t take that credit. I appreciate it, but I can’t take that because there are so many big women that came before me. Her name was Oprah Winfrey, remember?

But I just think that it was time for us to stop feeling like we were doing a sin. Or that we were doing something wrong because we had a double belly or our arms flapped a little, you know, more than most.

So it was time for us to get out there and say, we are beautiful, too. Not that the other women aren’t beautiful, but so are we. And I can’t be too much smaller because…my head is big!

Why do you think the TV executives are finally seeing that yeah, not only should we do it, but we can get a hit out of it?

Mo’Nique: Because most of the television execs that I was talking to were big women like me. And you start talking to people directly and you say in a meeting, hey, sister, what size are you, and she says oh, I’m an 18. Well…

So I’d say, when you are watching TV, don’t you want to see someone that looks like you, that you could feel good about yourself? And that’s how Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance happened.

So what’s new and different on your show?

Mo’Nique: Do you like having a good time. Do you like feeling good before you go to sleep. Do you like to have joy in your heart. Do you like to hug before you close your eyes. That’s why you should watch The Mo’Nique Show, baby. And we’ve got 150 episodes to feel that joy, baby.

The Michael Jackson movie, This Is It, is hitting the theaters around the same time as Precious. What were your feelings when he died?

Mo’Nique: When I got the call and someone said, hey, Mo’Nique, Michael Jackson died, I said, may that brother rest in peace. And I kept on going. Leave him alone. Leave his family alone. And let that brother rest in peace.

So as of today, make the promise to let that story die. Write about The Mo’Nique Show, baby. Make people feel – okay. Write about that.

Now about your book, Skinny Women Are Evil, do you still think they’re evil?

Mo’Nique: Well, you know, I’m going to say this – Yes! Because they are hungry. You can’t be friendly when your stomach is growling. And that’s why I can’t lose all that weight, because, baby, I like to chew. I’m a chewer. I realized that about myself.

So I try now to chew things that won’t put the pounds on. But I’m used to my mouth moving. That’s why I’m a talk show host! You see how much I be moving my damn mouth.

Do you prefer being spontaneous as a performer, or being scripted?

Mo’Nique: When I do stand-up, baby, as I think about it, it makes me feel warm. But no script. And I don’t want a script. You can’t have a script in life either, because it will trick your ass quickly.

Because tomorrow is not promised. So the script is right now, in this moment. I don’t know what it will be in the next hour, but right now in this moment, this is the script.

Prairie Miller is a New York multimedia journalist online, in print and radio, who reviews movies and conducts in-depth interviews. She can also be heard on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network’s Arts Express.