Why You Don't Hear About Mo'Nique Anymore

Mo'Nique Hicks, better known by her mononymous name, came onto the scene as a stand-up comic in Baltimore. From there, she found fame on television in 1999 playing Nikki Parker on "The Parkers" until 2004. Mo'Nique reprised her role in that time, appearing on shows like "Moesha" and "The Hughleys," and following the end of the sitcom, proved herself as a dramatic actor with 2005's "Shadowboxer." Just a few years later, she secured a supporting role in what was then Lee Daniels' latest flick, which would change the course of her life forever.

In November 2009, following her incredible performance as viciously abusive mother Mary Jones in "Precious," Mo'Nique sat down with "Today" to talk about her participation in the film. "[It was] rewarding. It was excit[ing]. It was challenging because I love to laugh, baby, I love to laugh. But it was appreciated because I don't know of any other director that would have given two fat, black women the opportunity to do what we did. ... The world needs to see it because guess what? Mary Jones exists, baby. So does Precious," she explained.

Her role in the Oscar-winning film seemed to be a sign of much more acclaim to come, but tragically, it was just the beginning of the actor's downfall. From getting blacklisted to many public feuds and her own familial drama, here's why you don't hear about Mo'Nique anymore.

Mo'Nique turned down appearances at film festivals

After delivering a heartbreaking performance in "Precious," there was Oscar buzz around Mo'Nique as she received her first and only Academy Award nomination for her role. She was expected to campaign for and promote the movie, but she just wouldn't play ball. As Mo'Nique put it, she had to put her own family first.

In speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in February 2015, the "Domino" star explained, "I received a lot of criticism [around the 2010 awards season] because people felt like I wasn't campaigning. ... [W]hat I was saying was, 'You want me to campaign for an award — and I say this with all the humility in the world — but you want me to campaign for an award that I didn't ask for.' ... If people want to say I didn't campaign because I took my family first? I'll accept that."

Mo'Nique divulged that she was unable to justify an appearance at Cannes for free while speaking with Don Lemon in an interview for CNN that same month. She had a couple of days off from her comedy tour, talk show, and award season and wanted to spend it with her family when she received a request from the movie studio to appear at the Cannes Film Festival. "I wanted to spend [the downtime] with my husband and my kids. ... [W]e said we respectfully decline," Mo'Nique explained. This left the studio unsatisfied, and further speculation began to circle the incident.

Mo'Nique's Oscar acceptance speech turned heads

There have been dozens of awkward Oscars moments caught on camera, and Mo'Nique's acceptance speech for best performance by an actress in a supporting role was easily one of them. After the controversy surrounding the actor's willingness to campaign for the film, Robin Williams presented her with the award, and she received a standing ovation from the crowd.

"I would like to thank the Academy for showing that it can be about the performance and not the politics. ... Sometimes you have to forgo doing what's popular in order to do what's right," she said in her speech. Mo'Nique went on to thank many of the names tied to "Precious," as well as her husband, but made no mention of Lee Daniels, the director of the film.

During her February 2015 interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Mo'Nique remarked, "I get asked that question a lot: How did the Oscar change my life? What it did was that it gave me a new reality. And it let me know that an award wasn't going to change my life — that I had to be in control of changing my life." The "Precious" star explained that what she had expected after winning the Oscar was "more respect, more choices, and more money," but she sadly found herself in quite the opposite situation.

She said she was blackballed from Hollywood

While speaking with The Hollywood Reporter in February 2015, Mo'Nique explained that she had spoken with the "Precious" director six months prior to the interview, and this is when she had learned Hollywood would no longer cast her. "I got a phone call from Lee Daniels. ... 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," she said.

However, this did indeed seem to be the case because Mo'Nique failed to appear in any projects in the four years that followed her Oscars win in 2010. She continued, "One of the networks said to [Lee] that I was 'really difficult to work with.' And I said, 'Well, that's funny, because I've never even worked with them, but OK.' Whoever those people are who say, 'Mo'Nique is difficult,' those people are either heartless, ruthless, or treat people like they're worthless. And that's unacceptable." What seemed to be a total conspiracy against Mo'Nique led her to begin pursuing other kinds of projects, and she took on an independent movie, "Blackbird," in 2014.

Mo'Nique feuded with many celebrities

The controversy surrounding Mo'Nique and her unwillingness to "play the game" continued on for over a decade as she entered into three long-standing feuds. Her close relationship with "Precious" director Lee Daniels suffered after she snubbed him at the Academy Awards, and he seemed to distance himself from her. Years later, he thought of Mo'Nique for roles in projects he had been working on, 2013's "The Butler" and the 2015 series "Empire," but couldn't cast her. As Daniels explained to The Hollywood Reporter in March 2023, "I did [want Mo'Nique for these roles]. But I didn't have the power to hire her. There were studios and other producers involved."

Mo'Nique's actions in 2010 also frustrated the executive producers of "Precious," Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, even though she did acknowledge them during her Oscars acceptance speech. The actor later claimed that Oprah and Perry were instrumental in her blacklisting from Hollywood, alleging that they had joined Lee Daniels in spreading rumors that she was difficult.

While speaking to The Hollywood Reporter in the same piece Daniels did, Mo'Nique said, "For all those years, it just wasn't making sense. ... I felt the same injustices and inequalities that all the Black women who came to Hollywood before me felt. Oftentimes, people call that anger. They call it bitterness. They call it unstable. They give it all these titles except what it really is."

She accused Netflix of gender and color bias

By January 2018, Mo'Nique hadn't appeared on-screen in two years. Her last role at the time had been playing Aunt May in 2016's "Almost Christmas," but then she updated her fans with some surprising news. As the actor said in an Instagram video, "I am 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. However, Amy Schumer was offered $11 million, Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle [were offered] $20 million." Mo'Nique went on to say that Schumer managed to negotiate another $2 million for herself, but that Netflix wouldn't budge on her own surprisingly low sum.

The comment section flooded with a mixture of support and discouragement. Some fans praised Mo'Nique's ability to take a stand, while others claimed she shouldn't have been so outspoken. However, fellow comic Wanda Sykes reached out via Twitter the following day to show her support. She shared a post that read, "[T]hank you for speaking out. @netflix offered me less than half of your $500k. I was offended but found another home. #EPIX," referring to the cable network, which is now known as MGM+.

Many of her celebrity friends weren't supportive of her

While some celebrities have stood by Mo'Nique's side throughout her controversial moments, there have been others who disagreed with her tactics. In February 2019, following her call to boycott Netflix, the "Soul Plane" actor appeared on her longtime friend Steve Harvey's talk show, "Steve," and the two entered into a heated debate about how she handled campaigning for "Precious." Tensions were clear from the get-go, seeing as the host began the interview by saying, "You have been a problem."

Mo'Nique went on to call Harvey out, saying he had been on her side at one time but ultimately betrayed her. "Y'all knew 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 you said, 'My sister done burned too many bridges, and there's nothing I can do for her now.' Steve, do you know how hurt I was?" she asked. Harvey replied, "I thought you went about it wrong. See, I felt that you had done yourself a disservice by the way you chose to go about it." As the conversation heated up, Mo'Nique defended her integrity while the host interrupted her repeatedly, insisting she should have just played "the money game."

Mo'Nique called for a public apology from those who had feuded with her

A decade after the drama around Mo'Nique and her unwillingness to promote "Precious" at film festivals on her own dime, she was still in the midst of a feud with Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey, and Tyler Perry. Everything unfolded very publicly, and the actor had made her stance known to the media. Still, nobody was owning up to their mistakes.

During a February 2020 interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Mo'Nique expressed why it was so important for her to receive a public apology from Daniels, Winfrey, and Perry. "If those three people ever get courageous enough to say we owe this woman and her husband an apology. ... It would have to be a public apology, not just private. ... [I]t's not the same if you tell me I've done nothing wrong privately but won't say it publicly. I have an audiotape of Tyler Perry saying, 'You've done nothing wrong.' But he hasn't said it publicly. Oprah privately told me I did nothing wrong. They have to do this publicly so the public can see just how the powerful operate," she said.

She filed a discrimination lawsuit against Netflix

Some of Netflix's biggest scandals have involved everything from romanticizing mental health issues to the gender pay gap, so it's no surprise that Mo'Nique brought her concerns over gender and color bias to court. After Netflix offered her just $500,000 for a one-hour comedy special — compared to the millions fellow comics had been offered — she accused the streaming giant of discrimination, saying they systematically underpay black women.

The complaint (via The Hollywood Reporter) argued, "The offer made to Mo'Nique was merely an 'opening offer' from which there was an expectation — both by Netflix and Mo'Nique — of continued negotiations likely leading to increased compensation being offered to Mo'Nique. Once Mo'Nique engaged in protected conduct by protesting the discriminatory offer, Netflix shut down any further negotiations and refused to negotiate in good-faith consistent with its standard practices."

Netflix ultimately settled with Mo'Nique in June 2022. While the details have been kept private, the "Precious" star's representative stated publicly, "The matter has been amicably resolved."

Mo'Nique had a Las Vegas residency

As Mo'Nique struggled to get her place in show business back, she opted for a new approach. Instead of continuing her work in television and film, she became the first black female comedian in history to secure a Las Vegas residency in January 2019 and absolutely killed it.

On her opening day, she sat down with KSNV News 3 to talk about the honor. When the host called her a trailblazer, Mo'Nique responded, "A sister said that to me earlier, and I said to her, I said, 'I want to thank you, but there's so many before me that we never got a chance to meet, to hear their names, to understand their plight, or appreciate their journey. So I appreciate it, but there were so many more.'"

Mo'Nique's time on The Strip reinforced her stance that she would never change. She was able to make this move in her career despite the drama that had surrounded her in previous years. She spoke about this with The Washington Post during a February 2019 interview, saying, "I've always been this. If it didn't make sense, you had to make it make sense to me. So, they think I'm new, but the people that know me? They're just like, 'Man, she been that.'"

Mo'Nique made peace with Lee Daniels

After years of feuding, Mo'Nique and Lee Daniels finally put their dispute to bed, and it seems like the two have made peace. Everything changed in 2022 when the director extended an olive branch and offered her a part in his upcoming film "The Deliverance," which is set to be released on Netflix in 2024. Then, in April of that year, Daniels joined Mo'Nique onstage at one of her comedy shows in Staten Island and gave a public apology in front of the audience.

"I am so sorry for hurting you in any way that I did," he said, embracing the actor. Daniels then turned to the crowd and said, "She was my best friend. My best friend. Y'all think that 'Precious' was just ... that was God working through both of us. And we're gonna f***ing do it again. I love you, I love you, I love you." Mo'Nique emotionally replied to the director, "I love you." And just like that, their beef seemed to be squashed.

She's making her way back into the spotlight

As Mo'Nique's career in Hollywood dimmed, she continued speaking out against issues in the industry and making her fans laugh, proving she's the kind of phenomenal female comedian who deserves her own talk show. Now, it seems that producers are ready to work with her again, and she's been climbing her way back into the spotlight with new projects. After settling her lawsuit with Netflix, the streaming company shared a video in July 2022 on Twitter, announcing that she would be getting her comedy special after all. "Can y'all believe this s***? I done came on home to Netflix," Mo'Nique joked in the clip.

In speaking with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in April 2023, Mo'Nique explained that she accepted the deal because she wanted to tell her story. "My name is Mo'Nique! Let me tell [you] why I had to file that lawsuit. Let me tell you why I will not waver. Let me tell you why I won't flinch. Let me tell you why I don't take to bullies very well," she said.

In 2023, Mo'Nique appeared in the Courtney Glaude film "The Reading" and a few episodes of "BMF," and her Netflix special "I Am Mo'Nique" was finally released. After more than a decade of feuds and being labeled difficult for advocating for herself, it seems like things have been finally looking up for Mo'Nique.

Mo'Nique continues to be outspoken about Hollywood's discrimination

While she may have finally secured her deal with Netflix, let bygones be bygones with Lee Daniels, and took time to mend her tarnished reputation, Mo'Nique isn't done speaking out about injustices in Hollywood. In February 2024, the actor sat down with Shannon Sharpe on the "Club Shay Shay" podcast and spoke at length about her experience in Hollywood and the discrimination she still sees today.

"If I was a white woman, my name would be Melissa McCarthy. Same track record. Five-year sitcom and syndication. ... The opportunities are not the same. ... We get judged by a different stick," Mo'Nique explained. In addition to highlighting the disparity between the treatment of herself and a white actor, she also took the time to rehash her grievances with Oprah Winfrey, claiming she has still yet to receive an apology from the talk show host.

She became estranged from her son

As her public image continued to recover, Mo'Nique's private life unfortunately took a turn as she and her son, Shalon Jackson, began an online feud. While the details are murky, the actor also spoke on the "Club Shay Shay" podcast in February 2024 about becoming estranged from Jackson because of their complicated past. "We're still very much separated. ... It's one of those things where you have to pray to the universe and say, 'Let time do the healing,'" she explained.

Jackson responded in a TikTok video to Mo'Nique's claims that she wished to reconcile their relationship, saying, "I would like to free her from having to continue telling that lie. Faith without work is dead, and neither one of us cares to put forth any effort to reconcile with the other. We are separate, as she put it, because she doesn't care to be my mother anymore than I care to be her son." Jackson's response set off a chain of back-and-forth posts between himself and Mo'Nique, including a video in which the actor and her husband defended their parenting style.

The next day, the "Precious" star shared several screenshots of text messages between herself and Jackson, dating back years. Her son responded with another TikTok video, claiming Mo'Nique used the messages as "an attempt to validate a false narrative." Their public bickering seems to have subsided for now, but it doesn't seem like they'll be making up anytime soon.