Lessons From Mo’Nique’s Complicated Case

I’m conflicted. 

I am a Fat Black Woman (more on that later) who has worked in Corporate America for all of my adult life.

I have been overlooked, underpaid, abused, discriminated against, and wrongfully terminated at various times in my corporate past. It happened. I lived it.

Yet despite my personal experiences with all of the grievances she has made, I have a hard time fully supporting Comedian/Actress Mo'Nique's stand against Netflix and calls for a boycott of the streaming platform. 

By now we are all familiar with the issue; Mo'Nique was offered (allegedly) $500K for a comedy special, which by most accounts, was a low-ball offer for the comedy legend. She then took to social media asking supporters to boycott Netflix for discrimatory practices. What has transpired since this revelation has been a messy, confusing, back and forth between Team Mo'Nique (Mo'Nique and husband/manager Sidney Hicks) versus EVERYBODY & Netflix. Mo'Nique has made her case on major platforms like The View and The Breakfast Club, creating fresh meat... I mean topical discussion for bloggers, feminists, media and the like. Team Mo'Nique feels that her offer should have been on par with mega comedians Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and Amy Schumer. While this discourse has been messily controversial, it has sparked a conversation about discrimination in Hollywood, pay inequality, sexism, agism, and even weightism. 

I do not think that this offer, boycott, and the resulting fallout is a cut and dry case of  the '-isms' that Mo'Nique has cited in her many explanations. Does sexism exist? Yes. Does racial discrimination exist? Yes. Any and all of the categorizations that are used to describe and separate humans are actively used to structurally prevent marginalized groups from achieving capitalist, economic success. We know this. Though these factors may have contributed to Netflix's low ball offer, we (those of us who have engaged in any type of business transaction) know that if an offer is made, the receiving party usually has the opportunity to make a counteroffer for which the offering party may accept, decline, or offer a compromise. We do this when negotiating salaries, buying houses and cars, etc. So during her interview on The Breakfast Club, Mo'Nique and her husband/manager Sidney had conflicting responses to Charlamagne's simple question of "Did you make a counteroffer?"; Mo'Nique said "yes", Sidney said many things other than "yes". To me, in my humble opinion, we can end the "boycott" right there. While we will probably never know the details of this exchange between Netflix and Team Mo'Nique, however, if they did not make a counteroffer, then we should not be made to believe that this is a case for the EEOC. 

Don't get me wrong, I have chuckled at Mo'Nique the COMEDIAN for many years, from her show The Parkers, to The Queens of Comedy, to the most recent Almost Christmas in 2016. With the Netflix controversy came another saga where Mo'Nique likened working under difficult conditions on Almost Christmas and producer Will Packer to that of a Harvey Weinstein. She has also had a long-standing beef with Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Lee Daniels for issues arising from how she feels she was treated after her Oscar-winning role in Precious. I also read that Mo'Nique has taken issue (allegedly) with advice given to her by EGOT Whoopi Goldberg, who seems like just wanted to provide insight as a decorated veteran in the industry.

I'll never be the one to negate the opinions and experiences of another person, however, when asked to support and take action in support, I need to be in agreement with what we're fighting against. In many areas, Mo'Nique is absolutely correct. She made a point to say (and I am paraphrasing) that she is a "Fat, Black Woman" for which the perception is that she is unqualified to complain or be disgruntled because she should feel lucky to be in the room. That statement in particular was almost a gut-punch for me, because I have experienced that feeling my entire life, felt crippled by it, and had to work hard to overcome those feelings in order to push forward in my career and relationships. Unfortunately, people are socially and economically penalized for being fat. So when you're Fat AND Black AND A Woman, it can feel like an extremely heavy (pun intended) triple whammy. 

That said, I don't appreciate when people tap into my emotions when their motives are not pure. In watching this situation unfold, it appears that while Mo'Nique makes the same arguments that many WOC have made, her unwillingness to acknowledge the many business missteps that have been made and the number of key bridges that have been burned makes her grievances look short-sighted, bitter, and disingenuous. Team Mo'Nique hass not shown itself as a capable business that competently manages the career of a major multimedia star. Instead it has shown itself to be an ill-equipped, ill-advised, emotional tag team that uses delusion and ego to fuel a disconnect between economic reality and their own sense of what is deserved. I really wish that she used this media blitz to remind us why she is truly a Queen of Comedy and made us laugh while showing us the issues; not beating the matter over our heads and being upset that we aren't fully on board.

Mo'Nique's case has many lessons for the rest of us:

  • Confidence is great! Being egotistical is not. Be sure to use good judgment, current information, and an honest assessment of value when negotiating a salary, fee, or any type of exchange.

  • When given an offer, assess your options and discuss compromises until all parties are satisfied with the terms.

  • Sometimes you do have to play the game, so be smart and have a plan.

  • To make your point, stick to the facts. Name-calling, drawing false equivalencies, and just overall messiness only make you look worse. Sometimes you CAN attract more flies ($$$) with honey than with vinegar!

  • In business, image is everything. Represent yourself in a professional manner. Likewise, your team needs to be professional as well.

  • You can be a Queen without having to take another's crown.
  • When all else fails, just do it yourself.  When you believe in you, others will too.

I wish Mo'Nique all the best, hopefully she gets the opportunity that she feels she deserves. 

This was definitely a learning experience for all of us. What are your thoughts?