‘Once You Get to a Place of Freedom, You Truly Start Living’: Mo’Nique Talks About Fighting for Fair Pay With Her Newest Netflix Special
If anyone ever doubted Mo’Nique’s ability to get what she wants, here’s a relevant case study — five years ago, Mo’Nique sued Netflix after openly accusing the company of discrimination by attempting to low-ball the Oscar winner during negotiations for a possible comedy special on the platform. The Precious star was blackballed in the entertainment industry, and media commentators rushed to declare her comedy career officially over. Today, My Name is Mo’Nique premiered today on Netflix, and, this time, she got paid.
Back in 2017, Netflix approached the remarkably awarded veteran entertainer with interest in a Mo’Nique comedy special, offering her $500,000. Considering the company’s propensity for shelling out nine-figure sums in exchange for specials, Mo’Nique found the offer insulting, and, as she’s done her entire career, she spoke her mind — Mo’Nique publicly accused Netflix of pay discrimination, turning the discussions acrimonious and leading to a four-year legal dispute that was only settled this past June. Though the details of the settlement remain private, Mo’Nique’s representatives said of the out-of-court conclusion, “The matter has been amicably resolved.” Netflix had no comment. Now she’s on their homepage.
In an interview with Vulture, Mo’Nique reflected on her half-decade on the blacklist and her dedication to her own ethics, chief among them the “F— You, Pay Me” principle.
When Mo’Nique first spoke up about Netflix offering her far less than what her contemporaries earned — Amy Schumer was paid $11 million for The Leather Special the same year Netflix approached Mo’Nique — the reaction in the entertainment world was one of comedic incredulity that Mo’Nique would publicly damage her own position by attacking her potential employers. It wasn’t just Hollywood executive and Netflix suits who made Mo’Nique out to be a laughing stock — Charlamagne tha God of The Breakfast Club recognized her as the radio show’s “Donkey of the Day” for going public with her pay discrimination accusations, and much of the coverage around the complaints was derisive and dismissive of Mo’Nique’s claims.
“I heard some people say, ‘Oh, girl, just take it.’ ‘Oh, I would’ve taken it.’ ‘Oh, I would’ve handled it this way or that way,’” Mo’Nique explained, “None of those people had done what I had done, and I say that humbly.” Mo’Nique held firm and demanded Netflix return to the negotiating table with a fair offer, and, when the streaming giant refused to move on the price point, she took them to court. Said Mo’Nique, “I knew that I could not flinch nor waver, and I knew that from the conversations my husband and I had. We had to stand in it.”
Mo’Nique discussed the difference between the comedy world rallying behind Dave Chappelle’s contract consternations and her own lack of support within the industry, saying, “We pick and choose … People feel when you’re a Black person, and you’re a woman, and you’re fat, you should just be excited that they welcomed you to the party. So I understand why they pick and choose.” Mo’Nique went on to explain of the entertainment industry’s reaction, “We’ve been taught to do that — we’ve been taught to say, ‘If you’re not one of the beautiful people, if you’re not one of the people we pick, you should just be excited,’ especially when you look like I look. I understood it.”
But Mo’Nique didn’t settle for less than her worth, and, five years later, My Name is Mo’Nique is her vindication. “That special, to me, speaks to everyone. It speaks to the ones that stood in my corner,” she says, “It speaks to the ones that said, ‘I can’t believe she’s taking this fight.’ It speaks to everyone. You truly understand why I could not waver.”