INTERVIEW: Mo’Nique won’t say how much Netflix is paying her for special after lawsuit settlement

The Atlanta resident sued Netflix for pay disparities over other comics and after settling, signed on with Netflix
Mo'Nique is starring in a new comedy special on Netflix "My Name is Mo'Nique" out on April 4. NETFLIX



Mo'Nique is starring in a new comedy special on Netflix "My Name is Mo'Nique" out on April 4. NETFLIX

Metro Atlanta comic and Oscar-winning actress Mo’Nique over three-plus decades has not been shy about speaking her mind and proclaiming her worth as a performer.

She has also gotten into public beefs with major Black tastemakers like Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry. Her “difficult” reputation was amplified in 2019 when she sued Netflix, the world’s largest streamer, for race and gender discrimination for not offering her as much money for a comedy special as Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer. She even called for a boycott of Netflix.

At the time, she said she was offered $500,000 compared to $20 million each for Chappelle and Seinfeld and $11 million for Schumer.

But the case was settled last June and within five weeks, she agreed to a Netflix special, which is out now called “My Name is Mo’Nique.”

“We did this thing called mediation and were able to come to a place where everybody walked away satisfied,” said Mo’Nique, 55, a long-time Duluth resident, in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The name of the special was deliberate, more a declaration, not an introduction, she said.

“I just think when you sit into a situation and you hear all that you’re not,” she said. “When you’re going through a battle of a lawsuit. When you are being questioned about your skill set. People are trying to overlook the accomplishments. My name is Mo’Nique! Let me tell 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.”

Mo’Nique in "My Name is Mo’Nique." Cr. John Washington Jr./Netflix © 2022


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The special indeed features Mo’Nique in confessional mode, revealing details about facing discrimination as a child in school and later confessing a secret to her husband and manager Sidney Hicks (who she proudly dubs “Daddy”).

“After these 72 minutes, you’ll know who I am,” she said. “As my husband said to me some years ago, he said, ‘Mama, you’re funny but you haven’t touched it yet.’ I said, ‘What do you mean by that?’ He said, ‘You know why we adore Richard Pryor? Because we know him. We know his pains. We know his triumphs. ... He shared his life with us.’ He said, ‘Let the audience know who you are. Welcome them into who you are for real’.”

She said she’s been refining this material for years, “even through the ‘nos’, even through the ‘we don’t think you’re worth it.’”

The Maryland native recorded the special last October at the Rialto Center for the Arts in downtown Atlanta.

“My comedy career really got started in Atlanta,” she said, more than three decades ago at Buckhead’s Uptown Comedy Corner, alongside everyone from Mike Epps to Steve Harvey to Damon Wayans to Chris Tucker. “I was really getting my feet wet and getting my grounding in Atlanta. Just that Southern love, that Southern kind of love where you don’t get it nowhere else. It felt like home and the Rialto was very intimate.”

Gary Abdo, who helped start the Uptown Comedy Club more than three decades ago and now runs Atlanta Comedy Theatre in Norcross and Underground Atlanta, said Mo’Nique had that “it” factor from day one. He said her comeback “shows how resilient she is as a person. She will always be great at acting and stand up.”

And while she said in the lawsuit she was originally offered $500,000 for a Netflix special, she gave a characteristically feisty non-response when asked how much Netflix actually did end up paying her: “Rodney Ho, you’ve been at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution too long to ask me that question.”

(L to R) Mo’Nique, Sidney Hicks in "My Name is Mo’Nique." Cr. John Washington Jr./Netflix © 2022


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In an interview with the AJC in 2020, she said she would only accept public apologies from Winfrey, Perry and Daniels, executive producer behind shows like “Empire” and “Star” who became angry that she refused to actively promote the film “Precious” in the lead up to the Oscars because the production company wouldn’t pay her to do so. (She ended up winning for best supporting actress for her portrayal of an abusive mother in the movie.)

She and Daniels, who were once super close, didn’t speak for 13 years, according to a recent extensive Hollywood Reporter profile.

But last year, Daniels offered her a role in his upcoming Netflix movie “The Deliverance” with Glenn Close and joined her at one of her comedy shows and publicly apologized to her.

“We’re back on the playground playing,” she said. “We’re back on the see saws! We’re back on the swing arounds! We’re back on the swings and the sliding boards! We’re back in the sandbox!”

She hasn’t resolved her issues with Winfrey or Perry, who she has said privately told her she did nothing wrong but have not publicly apologized for anything they did that might have offended Mo’Nique.

But Mo’Nique soldiers on, hoping her life’s journey inspires a little girl today or in the future.

“One day, she will see this story and I hope it helps that little girl stand taller and prouder,” she said. “If it allows that baby to be fearless. If it allows that baby to hold her chin up even when they tell her to put it down. ... Even when they ask her questions so off the wall, she can look them in the face with pride and honor and speak loudly and unapologetically. That’s what this is for me.”


“My Name is Mo’Nique,” a comedy special available on Netflix