The comedienne talks big about her latest movie
It's been a good few years for Mo'Nique; last year, she got engaged, she got pregnant, had twins, and she's getting married in May. But there's something she's been struggling withfor her entire life - weight. But, even as a kid she's been able to accept exactly who she is.
In her latest film, Phat Girlz, she plays a wanna-be fashion designer, only she's working in a department store. She never fully believed in her self and never had the chance to show off her talents. But she got that chance when she wins a trip to Palm Springs where she meets the man of her dreams - a Nigerian doctor; he accepts her for who she is.
I sat down with Mo'Nique to talk about the film and to talk about how she feels about the issues of weight still facing the world today. Here's what we talked about:
That breakdown scene had me broke down. I was like, 'No, she didn't go there.' Where did you pull that from?
Mo'Nique: I think we have all had that scene in our life. I think we have all experienced that scene for one reason or another; I pulled it from a lot of different places cause I experienced that scene in my life. So, that came from quite a few different places for me.
Was this script written specifically for you?
Mo'Nique: Yes, you know what, normally when Hollywood does a fat girl story it's a different kind of story; it's not the true story, it's just the story of we're being made fun of and the jokes are so like 'Ugh, you couldn't get more creative than that?' So, I think this movie is going to do that for most people they are going to see.
What is the message you want people to walk away from?
Mo'Nique: To dig the skin they are in; that's it. There is no special formula or hidden secret, just dig you, because if you dig you, then you'll dig me. But often times, we live in such a society where you ain't so much that you want to make me hate me so you have nothing kind and nice to say to me. So, I'm am hoping that when people walk away from the movie, fat girls, skinny girls, white girls, black girls, white men - we all walk away with a little more kindness in our hearts, that we all leave with a lot of kindness in our heart, that we all want to deal with people a little differently.
Was this something that you couldn't do painful to do that you had them take out?
Mo'Nique: No, no, everything that she put in the movie I think needed to be said, everything that she envisioned needed to come to life because often times we are so concerned with being politically correct that we don't really tell the truth, because we don't want to offend or put somebody on front street. Well this movie is putting American on the front lines saying, 'Look at what you are doing, look at what you have done.' Like in this country, you can discriminate against black you can get a lawsuit against you, or if you discriminate against Indians or anything else, but fat is such an excepted discrimination; it's accepted and nobody stands up and says 'Time out, I'm not going to pay for two tickets on this plane, I'm not going to do that. You're not going to humiliate me.' When I go to a spa -there is a particular spa I go to, and I go quite often, and they are rather pricey, and I tip very well; They have never had a robe to fit me; I always have to get a man's robe. Why, why does that happen? Because they totally make the fat woman invisible; we are non-existent in this country, but we are 60% of the country.
At what point in your life did you come to terms with your skin?
Mo'Nique: I have incredible parents and I had incredible parents. I didn't know there was anything wrong with being fat, not in my home. My dad said I was the prettiest girl in the world so I didn't know that there was this bad thing about me having a big stomach, because at home it wasn't a bad thing. So, when I got out to the world it was like 'I have a big stomach. So, what, I'm pretty because my daddy said I was the prettiest girl in the world.' That was never my issue; I have had my other issues, but being a big girl was never a big issue.
Do African men really prefer bigger women?
Mo'Nique: I've been to Africa; that's as true as it comes. When I got off of that plane, they were whistling, they were calling out my name; they love thick women. And now here is the thing, so do American men, but they have bought into to some foolishness, that they have to appease other people's eyes, especially black men. They like thick women, because they come over to our house at 3, 4 o'clock in the morning when they are done with small girl. Am I lying? We want to go see the movie during the daytime, not the last show. Am I lying? They will ring our bell at 3 o'clock in the morning because they want that that fat love baby -fat love honey, yes.
Now, the thing that really turned me on this movie was that it could appeal to the hip-hop generation, but has none of that negativity.
Mo'Nique: I can't take the credit, honey; that's Nnegest (Likke, writer). That is that sister's vision, those are her words, those are her things. But, I am also very proud of the hip-hop generation, too. We have all different kind of stories and different walks. Unfortunately, what sells to Hollywood is the hip hop/ghetto story, but we have all different type of stories. We had the Bill Cosby story who was the doctor and the lawyer. We had The Parkers story who was the single mom going to college with her daughter. We had the Living Single story, we have all different types of stories, but I celebrate all different ones because they belong to us, they are ours.
Were there any things you needed to work through and did this movie help you?
Mo'Nique: Yeah, patience; this movie helped me really develop that word called patience because that sister was new to it, a new director and a lot of people on the set where very new to the game. I remember when I first came to the game there was someone who was very patient with me; I had to develop patience, then once I did I understood it. There were times when we would be like on take 43 and I was like, 'What the hell? What's happened? I said it 43 different ways.' I had to understand that when I was new, Dorien Wilson allowed me to do a million different takes to get it right. So, patience was something I really had to come to grips with.
Do you think that the public will say enough of the fat angle from the projects that you do?
Mo'Nique: Skinny women are evil, here is what makes me chuckle about that. Have we ever said that to a supermodel? Have we ever said that to any other movie actress? Have we ever said, 'Enough of you being beautiful and feeling good about you.' No we haven't, so I don't care if they say enough. This is Mo'Nique; what you think doesn't determine me, I can't give you that kind of power, because if I do, I loose me. So if you say, 'Enough of the fat thing!' Then don't you watch it, that's all. Will I stop? No, I'm a fat girl till I die, I promise you. So, am I going to stop? Not until G-d says 'Come on home.'
What was the most challenging scene?
Mo'Nique: Did you see when he got out the pool? I don't need to answer that question no further. The most challenging was that I found out that I was pregnant on the set and I think the moment I found out I was pregnant, my mental kicked in. I said, 'I'm tired, I'm hungry, I had morning sickness, my feet hurt, my back hurt.' So, that was challenging for me, because there was time in the movie where I got very physical and I said to Nnegest, 'I'm pregnant.' And she said, 'You're what?' 'The rabbit died, that's what happened; it's gone.' So that was kind of challenging, and like I said, a lot of us being first timers we were being educated while we were filming. That was challenging, because when you come from a place that everybody gets it, every body knows, and then you come to a place where people are learning as they go, that was a challenge, that was where my patience had to kick in. It was like, 'Mo'Nique, you didn't always know, you didn't always walk on a set and know how to catch you at the right angle.'
Where do you get your clothes and do you design your own things?
Mo'Nique: A wonderful designer named Linda Stokes played a big part in that, some designers named Tom and Lynda Platt. I got the clothes from out of my closet, but they were clothes that I designed or they designed and I said, 'Please make that happen.' Because often times for big women, they pull things for us, it's not that sexy - 'why would you think I want to look like that, why would you think I want to look like a box? I don't want to hide my curves; I want to show my curves.' So, my stylist, Rhonda Bell, went and just pulled it together; she made it hot and made it beautiful.
What was your favorite outfit?
Mo'Nique: The bathing suit at the pool because it showed everything.
Were you ever laughing so much it was getting in the way of the shoot?
Mo'Nique: Of course, there were times when I had to say, 'Stop playing, cut! Stop it! We're sorry! It's three o'clock in the morning, we're sleepy.'
How are you balancing your life?
Mo'Nique: One day at a time and every morning I get up I say, 'Thank you G-d!' Let the chips fall where they are going to fall. I don't want people to show me a schedule, just come on with me and walk me through it and we'll get it done.
What is your schedule like in New York for shooting The Apollo?
Mo'Nique: We do September and February - 11 shows in four days. But it's the best gig ever, because once you're done and you're done.
What's happening with F.A.T. Chance?
Mo'Nique:Monique's F.A.T. Chance is coming back for a second year; it will air July 15th. I'm very proud of that; that is my baby.
How did the Farce of the Penguins come about?
Mo'Nique: Bob Saget called and I've been a fan of Bob Saget's forever. Hhe said, 'We would love to have her do this.' I said, 'Sign me up.' It was a lot of fun.
Would you ever go back to series TV?
Mo'Nique: Yes, I think TV stars are much bigger than movie stars; TV stars do their homework, they make love with you, they wash dishes with you. TV stars go through your every day life with you and you know them, because they are right here and you are right here with them; you go through every experience with them. I love that thing called television.
You can check out Mo'Nique in Phat Girlz when it hits theaters April 7th; it's rated PG-13.