After years of standing her ground regarding the value of her art and receiving backlash for not taking anything less than what she believes she is worth monetarily, comedian Mo’Nique has finally released a special on Netflix.
Her steadfastness did not come without scars, but it built a $9 million empire for the Academy Award winner and produced the 2023 comedic offering, “My Name is Mo’Nique.” Essence magazine called the special “A Ray of Hope for Other Undervalued Black Women.”
Tables Have Changed in Five Short Years
In 2018, when Mo’Nique and her husband Sidney Hicks asked the Black community to boycott Netflix, the notion shook the system. The streaming giant had only offered her $500,000 for an original stand-up comedy special when it had presented other comedians like Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Jerry Seinfeld and Amy Schumer millions.
In addition to the opening deal offer allegedly being 26 times less than that of her peers, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the streaming service allegedly would have had complete control over the one-hour project, including copyright and retaining all audio-only rights.
According to the comedian, her white female counterpart Amy Schumer received a $13 million offer for her special, and Seinfeld, Rock and Chappelle were offered $20 million for their shows. She asked the executives at Netflix, “Why was there such a pay disparity?”
Many instantly mocked the entertainer, questioning how she could compare herself to those A-listers. Despite being the only one with the highest Hollywood accolade, the Oscar and a solid fan base, the ridicule came, from her perspective, in harsh and border-lined disrespect.
One person tweeted, “Yeah, that’s not going to happen, You got paid what you are worth & to be honest, that was pretty damn generous amount.”
Mo’Nique claimed her race and gender played a major role in why her offer was so low. However, her complaints were viewed as whiny and spoiled by many.
“Wow. Not getting paid half a million dollars is racism now,” @iamalexiadaley tweeted.
Vaughn Fry chimed in, posting, “I’ll take that $500,000 deal. — Every White Male Road Comic Today.”
In addition to those who tell her just to take what many considered a lucrative offer, old conversations emerged of Mo’Nique being blackballed because she was difficult and not willing to play ball with Black Hollywood players like Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry, and Lee Daniels.
Still, the noise did not sway the Maryland native or her manager.
A Voice For Black Women
They received support from millions of fans, some of her peers, and especially Black women, encouraging her not to give up and reminding her that her outcry for equity was real.
Wanda Sykes tweeted, “@moworldwide , thank you for speaking out. @netflix offered me less than half of your $500k. I was offended but found another home. #EPIX.”
Mo’Nique’s stance on financial equity in 2018 represented what many Black women in many other workspaces felt.
The 2020 Lean In report titled “The State of Black Women in Corporate America” found a little less than half of the Black women surveyed believe their race or ethnicity is a barrier for them when it comes to advocating for a raise, promotion, or growth within their industry.
This percentage dwarfs that of white women. The research shows only 3 percent of that demographic feel that their race holds them back.
The Lawsuit that Changed Everything
Instead of just lashing out about the pay inequity, Mo’Nique filed a lawsuit against Netflix, claiming the company not only discriminated against her, but retaliated against her by discontinuing to engage in good-faith negotiations with her and her husband.
In response to the lawsuit, Netflix said in a statement, “We believe our opening offer to Mo’Nique was fair — which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit.”
But the fight came to an end when a federal judge agreed with Mo’Nique’s claim and stated the company failed to negotiate “in good faith with her and increased her offer, consistent with its customary practice in dealing with talent in the entertainment industry.” The decision resulted in Netflix settling with the comedian in 2022.
The settling of the lawsuit opened up the doors for her current multi-million-dollar comedy special to be produced.
A Triumphant Debut: Make Them Say Her Name
Since the Tuesday, April 4 Netflix release of “My Name is Mo’Nique,” the production has received rave reviews from Black and white critics alike.
She punctuated the journey with one of the closing lines in the show, “When motherf—as told me, ‘You’re no Dave Chappelle.’ ‘You’re no Amy Schumer.’ ‘You’re no Chris Rock.’ Them motherf—as was right, because my name is Mo’Nique.”