Mo’Nique, the superfabulous comedian, actress, author and happily single sister from Baltimore, knows the power of her words. She speaks in down-home truths that resonate across gender, body size and social class. And today, even with the end of her popular series, The Parkers, Mo’Nique is busier than ever. The host of Showtime at the Apollo and the BET Awards, airing June 29, Mo’Nique just finished filming two movies, including Shadowboxer, in which the 36-year-old appears in her first dramatic role. And if that isn’t enough, the author of Skinny Women Are Evil is at work on her second book.
Between meetings for upcoming projects and raising her sons, Mark, Jr., and Shalon, Mo’Nique finds time to chat with her very good friend Steve Harvey. It’s a lovefest over lunch as they discuss their 15-year friendship, the falseness of Hollywood and the way they learned to keep it real.
STEVE: I love how you keep it real. People out here forget that. You and I weren’t raised in Hollywood, so we don’t have that Hollywood groove. We brought the East Coast–Midwest thing, treating people with respect. Out here the idea that we’re all just regular folks gets lost. All of a sudden folks don’t know how to play spades no more. People think that because we’ve got shows and tours, there ain’t no more struggle. But that’s not true. There still ain’t enough Blacks on TV, or enough Asians or Latinos or enough Black executive producers or writers. Hollywood isn’t interested in our stories, but our stories always make money. I don’t think there has ever been an African-American film that didn’t make money. Now I can tell you hundreds of big-budget White movies—like Waterworld—that lost money. But Kevin Costner is still in a movie any time he wants. So we’re still in a struggle.
MO’NIQUE: It is a struggle, but you said something to me when I first got to Hollywood: Never forget how you got to this party. I received that as I didn’t have to do things the Hollywood way. I didn’t have to be less than 200 pounds, or not cuss, or not be loud. You and I changed the standard out here. The standard used to be a man who was doing comedy couldn’t wear colorful suits, and he had to be clean-shaven. We said, “This is how we’re playing the game. We ain’t taking no speech classes. I’m not losing 50 pounds. For what? This is what got me to the party.”
STEVE: When I started in comedy, everybody was wearing gym shoes, jeans and sweatshirts onstage—even the White boys. Then one day I was thinking, I’m from Cleveland. My brothers wore straw hats, silk socks and snakeskin shoes. I told God if he ever let me make it, I was going to walk out the door every day looking like I had made it. That’s why I wear suits every day. Mo’Nique, you came as a full-figured woman; you came butter-sharp every time. That made a statement to other women who didn’t fit the Hollywood mold of beauty that you can be a full-figured woman and still look like something. How you present yourself is how people will perceive you. I don’t care what size you are. Sexy is an attitude. You’ve given attitude to the big girls.
MO’NIQUE: I’ve always had real brothers around me who said I looked sexy. I had no reason to doubt them. Personally I can’t wait for Hugh Hefner to call to ask me to pose nude. Women need to be comfortable in their skin. Big girls used to say, “Turn off the lights” to their man when they made love. He knows you’re fat. If you’re not at ease with your body, then you need to stand in the mirror every day and look at yourself butt-naked and say, “I’m worthy.” Look at your rolls, grab them, love ’em. It’s so unfortunate that we get caught up with the surface; it’s nothing but the shell. I don’t think I’m the prettiest person on the outside, but damn if I’m not fine on the inside. And that’s what people see.
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