Mo’Nique rested her hand against her belly on the day of our interview, gently cradling the form of David, who had just moved in her womb. “He tends to curl up,” she winced. Her voice, usually powerful enough to reach the back row of a comedy club, was now as soft as kitten fur. At his mother’s touch, David simmered down and nestled against brother Jonathon, who loved to chill. “I can’t wait to meet them,” Mo’Nique said. “I’m like, Wow, I’m 37 years old and having twins with my best friend.”

She and Sidney Hicks, her soul mate from high school, welcomed their little princes into the world October 3. Though the new parents have known each other for more than 20 years and kept in somewhat close touch, it was a surprise to them both when a platonic hug at a party Mo’Nique threw last year awakened romantic yearnings. “That night it was different to me,” says Mo’Nique. “I saw him as a man, my man. I thought, Oh my God, I could fall in love with him.” Hicks simply says, “The love has always been there; it has just been taken to a different place.” They plan to marry in May.

The bigger surprise may be that the two, who grew up in the Baltimore area, still know each other at all. They only attended Randallstown High School together for one semester—more than two decades ago. But they stayed connected and maintained a friendship that has lasted through her two marriages and divorces, his girlfriends, and the children they’ve each had along the way: her Mark, 19, and Shalon, 15, and his little Michael, 2. All the while Hicks has watched his friend go from being the funny girl in English class to a Hollywood power broker. Her latest groundbreaking project, . Mo’Nique’s Fat Chance, is a plus-size beauty pageant that gave the Oxygen network its highest-scoring original program.

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Yet with all her accomplishments—television and film roles, best-selling book, sold-out comedy concerts (see “Big Business” in the December issue) —neither she nor Hicks could have predicted that she would take on yet another pivotal role: the leading lady in his life. In hindsight, it makes sense the two would end up together, with all they have in common—including a love of comedy. Hicks, who worked in corporate sales for many years, first tested the comedic waters when Mo’Nique opened a comedy club in Baltimore a dozen years ago. She told him she was going to sign him up, “and I said, ‘Okay,’ ” Hicks recalls. So he honed his joke-telling skills and for several years wrote material and TV-show treatments for Mo’Nique.

To read the entire article, “Mo’Nique’s Moment,” pick up the December issue of ESSENCE.