The discourse on gender and color biasâ—âoften a lesser discussed subject in mainstream mediaâ—âconstantly strikes a nerve in my body. To state it plainly, every time I think about it, I turn into the kind of angry Black woman folks who stereotype us expect.
Having to substantiate our worth constantly is not for the weak. But we do it every day for the sisters who come after us. It’s called leaving the door open for the “next Black woman coming,” as comedic legend Mo’Nique puts it.
And Mo’nique single-handedly defined substantiating a Black woman’s worth when she checked the injustices of being underpaid for our shit.
However, while Black women stood with Mo’Nique in her fight against industry biases and being paid her worth as a Black woman, it didn’t stop our good sis from still being subjected to ruthless and neverending criticisms from folks who look just like her.
Thankfully, it didn’t stop Mo’Nique. And it should never stop us, either.
On February 22nd, Netflix released a trailer for “My Name is Mo’Nique,” which debuted on the streaming platform April 4th. The special comes years after Mo’Nique first accused the streaming giant of racial and gender bias in 2018 and nearly a year after the lawsuit filed in 2019 was settled.
For the Oscar-winning Queen of Comedy, her return to the stage was highly anticipated and “when we turned off our TVs, we should now understand this woman,” Mo’Nique warned us.
But if I’m honest, I understood her then.
Netflix has garnered a respected reputation for developing and producing similar specials for comedians such as Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Amy Schumer. And more importantly, they were undoubtedly proven to have been paid their worth. However, when it came to Mo’Nique, the arrangement was not reciprocated.
In January 2018, the actress became controversial when she called for her fans to boycott the streaming conglomerate. As she explained in her video on Instagram, she was offered a $500,000 deal, significantly less than comedic legends Chappelle and Rock; and white comedienne –Amy Schumer. Mo’Nique ended her message by urging her audience to stand with her and saying she “loved us for real.”
“I’m asking that you stand with me and boycott Netflix for gender bias and color bias. I was offered a $500,000 deal last week to do a comedy special. Amy Schumer was offered 11 million dollars, Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle 20 million dollars. However, Amy Schumer renegotiated for two more million.”
According to Mo’Nique, Schumer reportedly felt that while she didn’t deserve a Chappelle or Rock deal, she did feel she deserved more than what was offered, and Netflix agreed.
When asked to explain the difference between her deal and Schumer’s, Netflix reportedly responded that while the multifaceted entertainer is a legend in her own right, the white comedienne’s offer was in response to successes such as “selling out Madison Square Garden twice and a big hit movie over the summer.”
If comedic legends matter to Netflix, Mo’Nique was literally a “Queen” of comedy. The “Queens of Comedy” tour earned $37 million for 100 shows in much smaller venues in a two-year period. The math breaks down to $15,417 per show. That ain’t nothing to balk at.
It was no surprise after her announcement that Mo’Nique would be subjected to criticism across mainstream media. But more specifically, she faced a worse backlash within her own community and peers.
A few days following her IG post, Charlamagne Tha God named Mo’Nique Donkey of the Day during his segment of the Breakfast Club regarding her boycott announcement,
“First of all, I don’t understand how she’s claiming race and gender bias. It’s all kinds of contributing factors that go into these types of offers. And while I don’t find Amy Schumer funny, it’s not about your old resume. It’s a what can you do for me now kind of industry.”
Charlamagne added that while he believes Mo’Nique is a legend, he doesn’t think she’s decorated enough to be offered the same deals as legends Chappelle and Rock.
“My sister done burned too many bridges, and there’s nothing I can do for her now.”â—âSteve Harvey.
In February 2019, Mo’Nique sat down with her “brother” to discuss claims of being “blackballed” in Hollywood and her boycott of Netflix. While discussing her claims, things got heated between Mo’Nique and Harvey.
“Y’all knew that I was not wrong. Each one of you said to me, ‘Mo’Nique, you’re not wrong.’ And when I heard you go on the air and say, My sister burned too many bridges, and it’s nothing I can do for her now, Steve, do you know how hurt I was?”
Harvey responded that Mo’Nique “went about her boycott approach wrong,” that she never gave people a “point of action,” and that she wasn’t specific as to whether she wanted her fans to “drop their subscriptions or pick up signs.” Harvey also went on to say that the average person couldn’t relate to her problems and that he would never sacrifice money for integrity.
“If I crumble, my children crumble, my grandchildren crumble. I cannot, for the sake of my integrity, stand up here and let everybody that’s counting on me crumble, so I can make a statement.”
Mo’Nique attributed most of her industry struggles to her 2009 film, Precious. The film, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry and directed by Lee Daniels, earned the talented actress an Oscar for best supporting actress in 2010.
Mo’Nique has spoken previously about being “blackballed” in the industry after refusing to promote the Precious movie overseas and has been widely labeled as “difficult.” Mo’Nique has expressed that she felt punished by Winfrey, Perry, and Daniels and said this is what happens when you tell important people in the industry “no.”
In addition, the conversation also speaks to a larger issue around the overall wage disparity among Black women. And while Mo’Nique’s critics have concluded that her concerns were unique and unrelatable, she asserted that the problem is bigger than her. If she accepted such offers, it would compel similar platforms to continue widening the pay gap to the next generation of Black women.
“I couldn’t accept that low offer because if I did, I couldn’t sleep at night. Because if I had accepted $500,000, what does Tiffany Haddish have coming? What does the Black female comedian have coming? Because what they will say is Mo’Nique accepted this, and she’s got that.”
Black women, on average, experience a significantly wider pay gap than their male and female counterparts due to the compounded effect of race and gender bias. Black women are ambitious, of course, but when asking for more, they seemingly get punished while their counterparts get promoted. And in Mo’Nique’s case, data proved that even in the same job, Black women got paid less.
It doesn’t get any more biased than that.
It’s been five years since the Baltimore native battled the streaming giant. By June 2022, the legal battle that began in 2019 had been settled, and when all was said and done, Mo’Nique reached a deal to do her first Netflix comedy special.
My Name is Mo’Nique opened with the comedian walking out to the stage while snippets can be heard of critics calling her “difficult” and “crazy.” When she stepped out on the stage, she thanked everyone for the “encouragement”â—âeven the critics and naysayers.
And standing in the front row, clapping for Baltimore’s daughter, was Lee Daniels, who also resolved his feud and made amends with Mo’Nique months earlier.
The 55-year-old comedienne’s new special delves into deeply personal truths and rightfully leaves the door open for the next Black woman coming.
Most importantly, I love how Mo’Nique knew a Black woman’s worth, even when it wasn’t popular.
Look at her now.
In a nutshell, most commentators and critics will contend that Mo’Nique finally earned her right to a Netflix special. Most will likely clap for her that she’s finally arrived. But if you’ve ever been constantly driven down by both gender and racial discrimination, if you ever had to work twice as hard to substantiate your worth at the same rate of your peers, if you ever had to become controversial to be heard, then you know that the reality is that it was in fact much bigger than a Netflix special.
Whether or not the special achieved the mainstream success of her counterparts, Mo’Nique won in defining the weight of Black female worth. And when Mo’Nique walked out on the stage, I realizedâ—âfunny as the saying isâ—âthat she does “love us for real.”
Because how many people can you count on to become problematic for the greater good?
Real talk. Mo’Nique was never the problem. But critics and naysayers found it easier to call her a problem so they wouldn’t have to address the real one.
However, she did have a problem. And so did Netflix. And yep, it did make her an angry Black woman. Netflix and critics alike tried to tell Mo’Nique her worth, but thankfully,â—âshe couldn’t be convinced otherwise.
But Mo’Nique swung on the problem and real hard. And she did so, knowing she put a target on her back.
Often when Black women have a problem, we deal with it internally and introspectively until we determine an appropriate way to address it. We will even find strategic ways to deal with or duck the problem to avoid causing controversy. Moreover, many of us fear that disturbing the peace won’t affect real change. So, when we see those sisters like Mo’Nique standing on the conviction of their worthâ—âbeing exceptionally clear and open about the issues impacting Black women, it can be somewhat intimidating for critics and us facing similar issues but are too afraid to speak the same truth.
But have no fear. The putting respect on a Black woman’s name era is here.
Because while it certainly does pay big to scapegoat Black women in these times, Mo’Nique single-handedly proved that the payday for a Black woman who knows her worth could deliver even bigger.
Swing, Black woman, swing.
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