Actress and comedian Mo'Nique is doing it big in `07.
—The Queen of Comedy is a Jane of all trades. She acts, performs standup, hosts beauty pageants, awards and talent shows, and is a mom and wife. Essence.com recently caught up with the F.A.T. Girl to talk about the BET Awards, Charm School finale and why she loves the “N” Word.
Congrats on hosting your third BET Awards! After your legendary performance of Beyonce’s “Crazy in Love” in the past, what can we expect from you this year?
All I have for you are two words — Déjà Vu. That’s all I’m going to say.
Well, that’s more than enough for my imagination. How many costume changes will you make?
(Laugh) You know what? I’m not going to give away the entire show. What I will tell you is that everything I put on will make folks say, “Go ‘head Mo’nique. Go `head!”
What is the evening’s theme?
The theme is: "The Main Event." You know how when you go to the fight there are three fights before the big fight? Well, this show is the Muhammad Ali and George Foreman of all the previous ceremonies. And you know when it’s the main event, baby, everybody has to get prepared.
I hear you. As a celebrity in your own right, is there anyone you are looking forward to meeting?
Ohmigod, Don Cheadle! There are those who are the special ones and he’s definitely one of them. I’m so excited for that brother and even more excited to meet him because everything I’ve ever heard about him has been incredible. His talent makes you say, “Brother, do your thang!” He’s receiving the Humanitarian Award.
You’re also celebrating your junior year with your F.A.T. Chance beauty pageant. How was it taping the show in Paris?
It was absolutely life-changing for me. We did high-fashion photo shoots, walked the runways of Paris and did nude body painting.
Wow, so you let go of all your inhibitions in France. How long did it take you to muster up the courage?
Well, I’ve been nude before. When I visited Exuma, Bahamas, it was extremely private and isolated, so I would take my bathing suit off and I enjoyed that feeling. After doing it the first time on a remote island, I said I wanted to enjoy this feeling whenever I feel like having it and I felt like having it in Paris. And the Parisians were looking at us like, “Whadahell? What are we supposed to do? I’m like, “Get some more paint Sugar because you got to paint all of this.”
So you weren't nervous about letting it all hang out?
Not for my body, but for what people might do or say. It was thinking, “I don’t want to have to cuss nobody out in Paris.” But in all fairness, I think that if anyone knew millions of people would see them naked they’d be reluctant at first.
So did any of the women get cold feet?
The night before and the morning of you could feel the tension and see the emotions on their faces when I told them that we would be getting naked in front of cameras and a crew. What they didn’t know or see was that I was going through the same emotions. But the moment we all had to drop our towels, I watched those women and myself walk into freedom. It was very emotional for all of us. We laughed and we cried. It really chokes me up because when you see it, you don’t see unattractiveness or shame from the women, all you see is true beauty.
###PAGE###You're so confident but there are critics who believe that you’re only vocal about your body because you’re trying to mask your own insecurity as confidence.
Here’s what cracks me up. If Tyra Banks spoke about her beauty no one would question it, but when I speak of my beauty it’s up for debate because America has said looking the way I do is a bad thing. Listen here, I dig Mo’Nique. I dig Mo’Nique’s double belly, her thighs that rub together, her arms that slap in the wind and her double chin. Now, don’t get me wrong Mo’Nique wants to be healthy, and Mo’Nique makes sure she works out with her trainer and goes for her walks so she can make it up a flight of stairs without losing her breath. The reason I am so vocal is because I’m in the public, but I ain’t trying to hide any feelings like, “Let me say I love my body, even though, I’m going through a deep depression about my weight.” That’s absolutely insane.
Speaking of madness, let’s talk about Charm School. Some have said the show debases women and does nothing to uplift them. Do you agree?
Each of those ladies must accept responsibility for their actions. Those cameras can only show the world what they allow them to see.
Do you consider yourself charming?
I like that question. At times, and at other times I can be a student.
With that said, were you the best person to host a show on charm and etiquette?
I would say that for what that show was, yes I do believe I was the best person for the job. The first thing I had to do when I agreed to do the show was ask God to help me to not be judgmental. I wanted to be honest with these women because we live in a society where most people are cowards and aren’t brave enough to say what they really need to say when it’s required. The second thing was I asked Him to please keep me fearless and allow me to say what needed to be said even if that meant I needed to be open enough to hear things about myself.
Larissa “Bootz” Aurora said in an interview that you greeted the women by saying, “You’re a disgrace to Black women,” which set the negative tone between the two of you, but that it was edited from that episode. Do you think that was a bit harsh?
If Larissa can find the tape of me saying that I will resign from that show. She claims it was edited out because she didn’t even see it.
She also said that the contest rules were changed at the last-minute.
Unfortunately, life has beaten Larissa so badly at such a young age that her spirit is going through turmoil. There were no changing of rules or tricks so, no baby, that little sister has to accept responsibility for her actions.
If you had the opportunity would you reconcile with Larissa?
What puzzles me about Larissa is after we finished taping the show, I sent that sister some flowers saying, “I’m still your cheerleader and I want you to get the best that life has to offer you.” But like I said, life has already beaten her up so badly that she can’t see when people are in her corner.
Do you think she accepted the truce?
Judging by the interview she gave ESSENCE.com, Larissa still hasn't taking responsibility for her behavior. It’s always everyone else’s fault. But she’ll learn that life will bend you over and not use any Vaseline. No one will listen when you yell, “Ouch!”
Can you give us a hint as to who will be the victor for the Charm School grand finale?
(Laugh). I’ll say this: The young lady that walks away with the $50,000 is supposed to get it.
Recently, you hosted the Jill Scott concert at Radio City Music Hall in New York. Many felt that your excessive use of the “N” and “B” words was inappropriate. Will you ever give that racial epithet a moratorium?
No, I love that word because that is who our ancestors are. When we get to heaven and we meet those group of people they won’t know to call us African-Americans, they won’t know to call us the Blacks, they going to know to call us N-----. And when they say, "Hey N-----," I’m going to respond, “Hey N-----. Look at all the great things the n------ did." Her name is Oprah Winfrey; his name is Jay-Z. C’mon let’s take pride in our accomplishments. If the White people say, ‘Hey n-----,’ say “Hey!” We have to learn how to take the power back just like the word fat. When someone says, "Mo’Nique you’re fat," I simply reply "You’re right, now what?"
Interesting, but it was the slave owners who addressed our ancestors with such derogatory names. Do you think Oprah would appreciate you addressing her as such?
I don’t know if she would appreciate it or not, but I say it in nothing but love.
During the concert, is it true that you publicly agreed with Don Imus' statement?
People hear what they want to hear. What I said is that Don Imus went too far because he said hateful things in the past. So I asked why did we get so offended by the word nappy? What if he had called those women “curly-headed h---?“ Would everyone still be angry about the “H” word since curly means “good hair” in our community? We’ve become too sensitive and are concentrating on the wrong things. Instead, we should be focusing on our inner city schools and why they are pushing our kids who can’t read or write through the system. Why aren’t we writing articles and making noise about that? We’d rather scream, protest and have town meetings about someone calling us a name. C’mon y’all let’s start focusing on the things that truly matter.
Photo Credit: George Holz