By Winston Gieseke
Originally published on Advocate.com May 13 2011 9:00 AM ET
Actress and comedienne Mo’Nique is no stranger to achievement awards. For her riveting portrayal of Mary Jones in 2009’s Precious, she won not only an Oscar, but a BAFTA, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and prestigious critic prizes at festivals from San Francisco to Stockholm. She’s also best-selling author, prolific stand-up comedy hostess, and thanks to her self-titled BET talk show, her Oxygen special Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance, and a five-year stint on UPN’s The Parkers, she has more NAACP Image Awards than she can hold.
Tomorrow night, the outspoken gay rights supporter will be honored with an Ally For Equity Award at the Human Rights Campaign’s gala dinner and auction in Atlanta, where The Mo’Nique Show is filmed. And while she’s extremely grateful for the recognition, she admits to having been initially thrown by the concept of receiving an award simply for standing up on behalf of equality.
The Advocate: Congratulations on your HRC award.
Mo'Nique: Thank you, baby!
Last year, your accolades were about Precious. How does it feel to be honored this year for your humanitarianism?
It makes me go, “Really?” Because I never set out for that honor. It was just a matter of treating people the way I wanted to be treated and doing what I know is right. So, when a community of people says “We want to honor you” — just for doing it the way it’s supposed to be done, it makes me go, “Wow.” I’m really grateful. You know what I mean?
Yes, you’re getting an award for something you didn’t realize was award-worthy.
Right! I think we should all be that way. We should all be getting that type of award.
What was your first experience with gay people?
When I was about 16, I had a really good friend named Rodney. And he would take me to gay clubs. And the first time I went to a gay club, I didn’t know that I was going to a gay club and this woman asked me to dance — and they had to escort me out of there that night, because I didn’t know what was going on, baby! I was young! I really didn’t know.
But by now you know that gay folks dig you, right?
Yes, there’s a mutual affection there. There’s something very special about the connection between a gay man and a fat black woman. I think that because we’ve both been the underdog — or we’ve both been in this place of trying to be accepted and loved — that we gravitated to each other.
What is your relationship with the gay community in Atlanta?
Baby, they’re my children! They are my babies. And not just the Atlanta gay community, but every community. We should all be embracing each other. But as for my brothers and sisters that happen to be gay, I embrace them as they’ve embraced me. With no judgment.My only knowledge of gay people in Atlanta comes from the Real Housewives. Do you watch that show?
Sometimes I’ll catch it.
There’s Dwight, NeNe’s gay boyfriend.
Yes, honey! Yes, I love him!
Have you gotten any negative response from the African-American community because of your gay-friendliness?
Not at all. And if they've been negative, I haven’t heard anything about it. Not at all.
I have to ask: Is this "down-low" phenomenon real? Or just something people talk about?
I think we would be very foolish to ignore it. I think it’s real — on both ends, with men and with women. Because we live in a society where people cannot be free to be who they were made to be. So, we’ll hide and we’ll stay in the closet and we’ll go through life with this grand secret because we’re just afraid of what the next person may think. My husband said to me one time, “Something that puzzles me about people is: If God gave us free will, why do we let man just take it away?”
What’s your answer to that?
You don’t let man take it away. You be who you were made to be. I don’t believe the universe has made one mistake. Everything is supposed to be the way that it is. I believe in that.
Have you seen RuPaul’s Drag Race and Stacy Layne Matthews’ impersonation of you in Precious?
Oh my goodness, no! I have not seen that. But I have seen a gentleman here in Atlanta named Ivy who did Mo’Nique from The Queens of Comedy and also Mary Jones from Precious. He was amazing. I went to see him with my best friend from the 6th grade. And as we were leaving, she said, “Wow, Mo’Nique, when they impersonate people, they only impersonate big stars.” And then she stopped and looked at me and said, “I guess you’re a big star!” And we both were just screaming and hollering. Because in my opinion, that’s one of the biggest honors you can receive, when somebody has taken out the time to study you. That’s such an honor.
How has your life changed since you won the Academy Award?
You know, I get asked that question all the time...
I’m sorry for asking you such a tired question…
[Laughs] Not at all, baby! But the best way I can answer that? My life was absolutely amazing before I got that award, and my life continued to be amazing after that award. It allowed me to say to the universe, “Wow, dreams do come true. Thank you once again.”
What’s the next thing you want to accomplish?
Tomorrow. If I start telling you about five years from now or ten years, I think the universe will say, “Really? You think you have control over that?” But today is amazing because I’m able to be in it. And if I can get to tomorrow, I’m grateful.
Is there anything special you’re going to say tomorrow at the HRC event?
I love you. That’s as special as it gets. [Laughs]