Mo'Nique: Feisty Soul Sister of "Soul Plane"


She lights up a room. Plus sized, big hearted comedic actress Mo'Nique does a dynamite stage stand-up act, is the host of "Showtime at the Apollo" and the star of the NAACP award-winning "The Parkers" on t.v. You can also catch her as Jamiqua, a feisty airport security guard who can't wait to frisk some cute male passenger bootie in the wacky comedy Soul Plane in which she co-stars with Snoop Dogg and Tom Arnold.

Mo'Nique calls everybody "baby" as a term of friendly endearment. As in "you were hilarious in this film". "Well, thank you, baby". The actress has strong opinions about the labeling of urban films in Hollywood. She's one of the funniest things in Soul Plane and was a delight to chat with. She also wrote a best selling book called "Skinny Women are Evil" but explains that it's just a grabber title. She's supportive of women of all sizes and shapes but she doesn't like DVD bootleggers. It's a funny interview. You go, gurl!

TeenHollywood: The first time you went on stage was on a dare from your brother?

Monique: Yes. My brother was my manager and was trying to be a comedian and was horrible. Baby was drunk as a skunk and nothing was funny. So I teased him really bad and he dared me to go the following week to do it. And I did it and got a standing ovation and now it's 17 years later.

TeenHollywood : You kiss actor Tom Arnold in Soul Plane. What was that like?

Monique: It was wonderful. It was the most passionate kiss I've ever had in my life. No! (laughing). Tom is a sweetie. It was cool.

TeenHollywood: How was the atmosphere on set? Was every day a laugh riot?

Monique: Well, the movie is not serious so there was never a day when we could be serious. You can't be serious. The days were really fun. They were long but it was a lot of fun. Kevin Hart, (stars in the film) poor baby, I would chase him around all day. Everybody worked really hard but we had a good time.

TeenHollywood: You mean in character, chasing him around trying to grab his bootie?

Monique: No. I was trying to knock him down. He doesn't have a bootie. He's too small, honey. But he pays me no mind. He gets his licks in. That's why I had to chase him but he can't catch me. Um humm.

TeenHollywood: We hear you have a crush on Denzel. Does he know?

Monique: Yeah, yeah. Unfortunately, so does Pauletta (his wife) so it's not gonna work out.

TeenHollywood: Are you still hosting "Showtime at the Apollo"?

Monique: Still hosting. We're going back for our third season. When I first come out I do a monologue for about five minutes then we go into the show.

TeenHollywood: Spike Lee says he finds this film offensive. What do you say to that?

Monique: I respect Spike and I understand Spike's position but my job is to make you laugh and for people to say 'oh, I'm offended', then this is not the movie for you. I respect his position but I make no apologies for what we've done with Soul Plane. It's a funny movie. We get in such a space where we're 'oh, they made a black joke. Oh, they made a white joke, oh, they made a gay joke'. Well, it's a comedy and if we can not laugh at ourselves then who can we laugh at? It suddenly becomes serious and we're already too serious.

TeenHollywood: There are a lot of bootleg DVD's of this film already floating around. Do you have one?

Monique: No, indeed and they are floating! I've actually had people say to me, 'oh my God, your movie is so funny' because they don't realize the damage that it's creating. I've had to stop and educate people all over the country why not to do that. If I was not attached to this business, to be very honest, I would probably do it too because I would not know the damaging effect that it has. They don't understand. All they know is, 'we got something for five dollars and we're gonna ask some people over and watch it'. They don't understand that it's a rolling effect. There was one guy selling t-shirts with my face on it and I made him close it up too.

TeenHollywood: Are you going to get really mad like Jay-Z?

Monique: Oh, no, baby, I'm not going to stab or shoot. I might just holler real loud or say a couple of cuss words. That's as far as I'm going to go.

TeenHollywood: Soul Plane is one wild airline. What are your traveling or flying experiences been like?

Monique: I'm a stand-up comedian so I'm in the air 80 percent of the month. And I normally don't have a hard time. I think one of the biggest things that irritate me is because I fly first class. When I'm in the line there could be a white man and an Arab guy, a white man and a Chinese woman and me and she says 'next, next' and then when it comes to me, 'this is first class'. Because I guess she thinks I can't read very well. I still experience that but now I understand that it's just ignorant and I no longer get upset, I educate them. 'Don't do that. When you do that and you have an African American woman or any other woman other than a white American person and say 'well, this is first class', then we know. You don't have to make an announcement. We understand this line is really short. There's reason for that. Most people don't fly first class. There's a line of a hundred people and a line of three people. We're in the right line.

TeenHollywood: What's the best thing about flying first class?

Monique: The first time I flew first class I didn't know why they passed out those hand towels. I didn't know why she gave it to me. I'm looking around like 'what am I supposed to do with this towel?'. There was this wonderful gentleman next to me and he could tell that I didn't know what to do. Well, do I stink or something? He said, 'Just wipe your hands and face if you want to'. And I said, 'thank you so much, baby' because I didn't know but I love all of it. I love when they say 'Miss Imes. Can we get you something to drink'? 'Yes, baby you can'. I love that.

TeenHollywood: You frisk a male passenger and it gets pretty raunchy. Did that need a lot of rehearsal?

Monique: (laughing) Yes, indeed. I needed a lot of rehearsal. I needed to feel what I was doing. I'm a method actress. I need to feel it, get into it. Richard was such a sweetheart.

TeenHollywood: You hosted the BET (Black Entertainment Television) awards, right? What do you add to a ceremony like that?

Monique: I don't have a special formula or deep secrets. I just bring me. And when I go out I say 'God, walk out here with me and when I open my mouth, come on through'. That's it. There is no special thing. Last year I had a really good time and that's what I do. I have a good time and look at it like 'wow, I'm hosting the BET Awards!' It's still exciting for me. I still pinch myself. Is this for real?

TeenHollywood: Did you ever have a really bad audience for your stand-up?

Monique: Yes. I was a brand new comedian and I did a show at a nightclub. When you think nightclub, you think pool hall, you think dancing. You do not think church convention! It was a church convention at a night club. When I first started doing comedy, I mean I was doin' it baby. And they were like 'my god! Oh, well, my God!' And I was like 'what is wrong'? I had to learn how to adjust. I've done a show for Indians who spoke no English and got a standing ovation. You learn how to adjust. That's why I love the stage. T.V. and movies can make a comedian lazy. Because it's cut and re-take. That stage makes you do it in the moment, right then, right now. It keeps you sharp and fresh.

TeenHollywood: Do you rehearse or is it all just off the top of your head when you're on stage?

Monique: Anything you want to know about Mo'Nique, watch my stand-up. Everything about my life is on stage. I don't have to rehearse it. I know it. I don't do jokey jokes, 'why did the dog cross the street?' No. I tell you about my divorces and my kids and my family and having money and not having money and getting a house for the first time and being single and trying to have sex. Anything you want to know about me, come to a show.

TeenHollywood: It's great when you host "Showtime at the Apollo" because at the end you invite everybody to come up on the stage with you.

Monique: The Apollo is such an audience-driven show that that's my way of saying thank you to them because those people stood out there in the cold, in a blizzard, in a snowstorm and you can go anywhere in the world and they know about that Apollo audience. So how dare me take all of the credit and accolades. No, guys, I can't do this without y'all. It's a party. Come on. Thank you. That's why I do it every single time.

TeenHollywood: Are you going to write a sequel to your book "Skinny Women are Evil"?

Monique: Actually, "Skinny Women are Evil" is becoming a one woman Broadway play. It's just me, Mo'Nique and we're trying to figure out when we can make my schedule fit to Broadway. I going to do three months first and see if I can tour on my schedule but, if I can't, then I will bring someone else in. I love Loni Love, the sister who was in the movie.

TeenHollywood: Can you tell us a bit about the story of the book?

Monique: It's actually a girl power play. "Skinny Women are Evil" was a very creative title. It was a business decision. It made you pick up that book because you wanted to know why are skinny women evil. Once you started reading the book you realize 'oh, this is just about how women can have self-esteem and feel good about themselves in a size 2 or 22. The title was a money-maker. Small women say 'do you hate us'? No, baby. It was a joke and it made me have a New York Times Best Seller. So, yes, do I want to write "Skinny Women are Evil Part 2"? Yes, indeed.

TeenHollywood: Every woman can relate to it. Are you tired of movies being labeled a "black" film?

Monique: Once we do that it stops a whole audience from enjoying something that could be brilliant because we say 'it's a black show'. If I say it's a 'black show" to the average white American you automatically think you can't relate. Soul Plane is a movie that has black people in it. Do we say that Troy is a white movie? Denzel has become colorless because now, Man on Fire was just a great movie. It has a black star. Did you say Man on Fire was a black movie? You can't because he's a brilliant actor so I won't allow anyone to say to me "it's a black movie". It's just a movie that happens to have black people.

TeenHollywood: But you must bump into typecasting in Hollywood all the time.

Monique: You do but it's because people don't know any better and nobody is willing to stand up and say 'don't do that. Don't give me that title. Don't give me 'a black actress'. I'm an actress who happens to be black. I did a sitcom where we happened to be black people but it was a brilliant sitcom. We never, ever said "Friends" was a white sitcom. It was just a sitcom. Why do we allow ourselves to do that? We keep making it separate. I let people know that I won't allow you to give me that title.

TeenHollywood: Did you start your fashion line?

Monique: Not yet but it's coming.

TeenHollywood: Who do you think is funny?

Monique: Dave Chapelle, Ellen Degeneres. Ellen Degeneres has a slow delivery but you follow it and it's simple. Dave Chapelle is right there in your face.

TeenHollywood: What if the t.v. and film didn't work? Would you be happy with your life just on stage?

Monique: I was happy with my life when I worked at Popeye's Chicken at the drive-through window. This doesn't determine my worth. Money doesn't determine my worth nor does the movies, nor does the stage. Nothing determines my worth but Mo'Nique. So anyone who would answer that question 'no. I wouldn't be happy'. Then they're still not happy because they are allowing stuff to determine who they are. I can't let you guys (press) determine who I am. I can't let the movie or "The Parkers" or the books, because once I do that, I am so not in tune to who I am and you're telling me who I am and what's funny and what's not funny. I can't do that so I'm happy, by the grace of God, every day.

***

Lynn Barker is a Hollywood-based entertainment journalist and produced screenwriter.




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