“What She Was Did Not Work” Sheryl Lee Ralph Talks Mo’Nique Being Blackballed

February 24, 2015  |  

Actress and comedienne Mo’Nique made all kinds of headlines when she explained to the Hollywood Reporter, why we haven’t seen her around in a while. Basically, Lee Daniels told her she’d been blackballed in the industry. The news came as a bit of a surprise considering the fact that Mo’Nique is so undeniably talented. Well, there was one person who wasn’t surprised. Actress, author and philanthropist Sheryl Lee Ralph sat down with “Access Hollywood” to say that perhaps Mo’Nique just needs to get better at playing the game.

Check out the highlights from her interview below…and then we’ll discuss.

There is obviously a game. When you walk into the room, do people love you? Do they want to give you stuff? Do they want to do things for you? Do they want to give you their money with the hopes that they’re going to get it back with an interest on the time they spent just handing it over to you. That’s part of the game, how you make people feel.

But the best part of the game is public relations, baby. Are people talking about you? Well, she’s been gone for how many years now, we have not been hearing about her, seeing her, nothing.  Right about now, everybody’s talking about her. And that’s good stuff.

Refusing to campaign for ‘Precious’

What’s interesting about that is she didn’t campaign. I wonder, do you think that they would blackball Tom Hanks for not campaigning for a movie? The game is different for women… Maybe she was in a state. We don’t know what was going on with that person. She might have been in a state of her mind where she said, ‘I cannot go out there and do this with all these people without causing harm to myself.’ We don’t know what was going on in her mind.

Is she really difficult?

Maybe she is. There are a whole lot of actors who are mean and terrible but they work all the time. It goes back to who likes you. Who wants to be in your kind of crazy company? Who wants to give you money in hopes that they’ll get something back on the return of your madness? And sometimes you just need to shut up, sit there and look pretty. It’s the truth. That’s a part of the game too.

Have you ever done that? 

No, I’ve never done that. I’ve never played well at that. But I think this is a set up for a comeback. Now, when she comes back, she better be as tiny as you. *Points to hostess Kit Hoover.*

Really? Then she wouldn’t be Mo’Nique…

She doesn’t need to be Mo’Nique anymore because obviously what she was did not work. So she better come back brand new. That’s what they’re waiting for and if a big time producer says to you, ‘You have been blackballed, what’s he’s really doing is looking at you and saying ‘You ain’t never working with me again.’

Is any of this race driven?

There’s always a difference when you add color to it. When I was a little girl, my mother used to say to me ‘You’re going to have to work twice as hard for half a chance. You are going to have to win the race five times before they give you the award.’ So that has always been true. But in this case, maybe it’s just a case of timing. She was not in the right head space. Maybe she was heading down a dark road. Maybe she had some of the wrong people around her and it wasn’t the position to jettison her from that Oscar. But maybe it’s all working itself out in the comeback for Mo’Nique. Come on back, girl, come on.

I would think there would be other roles

Do you see a whole lot of roles for somebody who looks like the Mo’Nique we have seen in the past, unless you are Precious?

Let me just say, I’m genuinely confused by Sheryl’s statements. There are times during this interview where I think she’s making a legitimate critique of the industry. And then there are other times where it seems like she’s making a critique of Mo’Nique, suggesting that in order for her to succeed in this industry she needs to change everything about herself.

I understand the notion of playing the game but telling another woman to sit down, shut up and look pretty, specifically when Sheryl admitted that she’s never done it, rings as odd and counterproductive to me. How is the industry going to change and be more accepting if women are knowingly playing the shut up and take it game?

I’ve watched quite a few Mo’Nique interviews over the years and I just recently re-listened to her acceptance speech at the Oscars. Where she took time to thank the Academy for making the award about the performance and not about politics. In other words, even at what we consider to be the pinnacle of her career, Mo’Nique was not about playing the game. Judging by her decision to even speak to the Hollywood Reporter about being blackballed and dropping Lee Daniels’ name, specifically, it doesn’t seem like she’s about playing the game now either. If she were she would have sat on that information and hatched a plan to change the way she’s perceived in the industry.

Also, I can’t be the only one who noticed that Ralph seemed to be making comments about Mo’Nique’s mental state, suggesting that she was in the wrong headspace or heading down a “dark road.” I just kept wondering does Sheryl know Mo’Nique? Does she know something we don’t about her journey as a woman and actress?

Lastly, and perhaps most disturbingly, Ralph suggests that in order for Hollywood to accept Mo’Nique she must not only lose weight but become an entirely different person because the person she was did not work.

Huh?

You know how your grandma, auntie or even mother can only give you advice based on the experiences they’ve had and the trials they’ve faced? They’re trying to help you succeed, not quite understanding that times have changed. And we don’t have to play by those antiquated rules anymore. I always reference my mom telling me to wear a wig to cover my natural hair during job interviews, the career advisor telling me to remove the Black associations from my resume and my grandfather telling me I needed to remove my nose ring in order to be taken seriously. Each one of these people ultimately meant well. But they also failed to understand that I didn’t want the type of career success that came with hiding who I really was and still am today.

Perhaps this is what Sheryl Lee Ralph is doing, trying to save Mo’Nique some of the pain and heartache of being abused by an industry she knows pretty well.

I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and say she probably meant well. But we can’t expect to change the industry if we all kept playing that same old, losing game.

You can watch Sheryl Lee Ralph’s full remarks in the video below.

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