Lee Daniels’ Precious, based on the novel Push by Sapphire, was released in 2009. When the film hit theaters, it was immediately applauded for its cultural significance, as well as for the performances of actors Mo’Nique and Gabourey Sidibe. A project with the potential to be polarizing in our community — featuring plus-size, dark-skinned women enduring unthinkable abuse at the hands of Black men — was catapulted into worldwide discussion and resulted in Mo’Nique’s Academy Award win for best supporting actress for her portrayal of Mary. Fanfare for the film was well-deserved, but noticeably missing from press surrounding it was Mo’Nique herself. At the time, few people knew what was happening behind the scenes, and it would be a decade before stories would emerge. In 2015, Mo’Nique spoke to The Hollywood Reporter and detailed her disappointment about a lack in both opportunity and pay increase following her historic win. She credited these things to a phone call she received from Daniels. “I got a phone call from Lee Daniels maybe six or seven months ago,” Mo’Nique told THR back then. “And he said to me, ‘Mo’Nique, you’ve been blackballed.’ And I said, ‘I’ve been blackballed? Why have I been blackballed?’ And he said, ‘Because you didn’t play the game.’ And I said, ‘Well, what game is that?’ And he gave me no response.”
So went to see #monique & she brought out #leedaniels 😧 #NoAprilFools pic.twitter.com/HOt7Hf90gD— Sade Salami (@sadesalami) April 2, 2022
At the time, Daniels responded to THR by criticizing Mo’Nique’s behavior during award season, saying, “Her demands through Precious were not always in line with the campaign. This soured her relationship with the Hollywood community.” Though the Oscar-winning director made sure to drive home that the pair were still friends, the actress seemed to disagree, telling Good Morning America a month later, “Mr. Daniels had a problem that I didn’t say his name the night of the Oscar awards.” The dialogue continued into 2018, when Daniels told TMZ, “It breaks my heart that she feels that we blackballed her. No one blackballed her. Mo’Nique blackballed her.” The mudslinging seemed to come to an end, until news of a potential Netflix comedy special featuring Mo’Nique was rumored to be coming to the platform. After receiving, what she felt, was a severely low offer from Netflix for someone with her résumé, the comedian was once again discussing how she’d been ousted by major players in Hollywood — including Daniels, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey. Fans of the star were split between full-on supporting her and agreeing that she should graciously take what she can get.
However, Mo’Nique never wavered in knowing her worth.
Time and time again, she was relentless in calling on the carpet the people who she felt were behind her not getting what she’d worked so hard to deserve. From her work as a standup comedian to starring in her own primetime sitcom, The Parkers, to being the first Black woman host of a late-night show—it was clear that what she brought to the table was more than enough to demand the same type of payday her male and non-Black peers were receiving from the platform. While Winfrey remained pretty mum, both Daniels and Perry doubled down on denying the accusations, with the latter refusing to respond to questions about it publicly. Taking on some of the biggest names in Hollywood can be a career killer for some; thus, Mo’Nique’s unwavering courage started to gain more and more respect as time went on. Her claims that she was paid a small sum — $50,000 — and was asked to do much more work than that sum covered (while the movie grossed over $47.5 million domestically), were met with praise from other Black women who know what it’s like to be overworked and underpaid. Successful Black women are often faced with swallowing mistreatment in order to maintain their careers, often sacrificing our mental health and personal relationships to do so. The actress talked in detail at the time of the film’s press run about the age of her young children and wanting to put them first, and her refusal to trade time with them for unpaid labor for Winfrey and Daniels.
Mo’Nique’s stance has been one based firmly on principle over the past few years. Never stooping to the level of others, she has remain steadfast in who she is and never felt the need to prove her worth — she’s simply stood in it. Fearless and confidently complete, whether or not anyone else chose to validate her truth, Mo’Nique has done what so many Black women have been unable to do either due to financial need or lack of access to the platforms needed to share their accounts of mistreatment. She has fought against a system that so easily writes us off as “difficult” and buries us underneath respectability while dodging accountability — and won.
Recently, Mo’Nique was joined onstage by Lee Daniels at her comedy show, where the director publicly apologized to her. “I am so sorry for hurting you in any way that I did,” Daniels said, prompting Mo’Nique to place a hand over heart. He continued, “Y’all, and she was my best friend — my best friend. Y’all think that Precious was just — that was God working, through both of us.” The pair ended the moment by exchanging “I love you”s before Daniels broke the news that the two would be collaborating again. Deadline has reported that Mo’Nique will star alongside Andra Day and Aujanue Ellis in Demon House for Netflix, with Daniels directing.
It has not been disclosed how much she stands to make from the project, but something tells us that she’ll be getting exactly what she wants … and not a cent less.