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Mo’Nique Explains Why Taraji P. Henson Was the Better “Messenger” for Hollywood Pay Inequality Discourse

Mo’Nique praised fellow actress Taraji P. Henson this week for raising awareness about Hollywood’s pay inequality for Black women but also recalled her own attempts to shed light on the issue over a decade ago.

“It was painful to watch,” Mo’Nique told Club Shay Shay host Shannon Sharpe of Henson’s December interview with Gayle King.

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“I’m just tired of working so hard, being gracious at what I do [and] getting paid a fraction of the cost,” a tearful Henson said in an interview that dominated headlines. “I’m tired of hearing my sisters say the same thing over and over.”

Mo’Nique said this week she sympathized with Henson’s words but noted they weren’t unfamiliar. “Taraji and I had a conversation over a decade ago in my trailer when I was doing The Mo’Nique Show.”

She went on to detail her previous talk with Henson, saying the Color Purple actress told her 10 years ago, “You gotta keep on getting it until your turn comes.” Mo’Nique replied: “Taraji, most of us die before our turn comes. We gotta ask for it right now.”

Mo’Nique has, over the years, openly criticized Hollywood’s treatment of Black women, even within Black communities. Last year, she told The Hollywood Reporter that she feels “blackballed” by her industry, specifically regarding feuds with Oprah Winfrey, Lee Daniels and Tyler Perry.

Disagreements among the major Hollywood figures boiled over in 2009, when Mo’Nique refused to join the Precious press tour without being compensated.

“I said, ‘Oprah, I’m doing a talk show. I’m doing a comedy tour. I have a husband, and I have babies,'” Mo’Nique said last year. “‘I have a little bit of downtime, and I’m going to take advantage of it. So, I’m not going anywhere because I’m not obligated to go anywhere. I’ve done my part.’ So we mutually agreed to disagree. That was it.”

When Sharpe asked Mo’Nique why her comments didn’t seem to make as much noise as Henson’s last month, she said, “It was the messenger. I should just be grateful I got invited to the party. ‘You’re a big, fat Black woman. How dare you be the one.’”

She added, “‘And then on top of that, you’re saying names. You’re saying Oprah’s name out loud. You’re saying [Perry’s] name out loud. You’re saying [Daniels‘] name out loud. You’re saying Lionsgate out loud. That’s not what we do — we say ‘they,’ we say ‘the people,’ we say ‘the studio,’ we say ‘the producers.’ ‘How dare you say our heroes’ names? These are our heroes. How could you say their names out loud?’ Because they’re the ones that did it. And if I don’t say it out loud, now you see a woman that is swallowing that pain, that is so stressed out. Then, you see our sister Taraji P. Henson sit on that platform.”

She clarified, “I love that baby because she’s a beautiful spirit,” but added that she appeared “broken” during that King interview.

“We have a hard time seeing a strong Black woman with her back straight and her chin up and a strong Black man standing by her side. We have a hard time accepting that. But we can accept seeing a Black woman broken,” Mo’Nique added.

She also told Sharpe she believed Henson and Winfrey were both lying when they said there was no tension between them.

“We wanted to act like we didn’t see how Oprah Winfrey treated Taraji,” she said of an instance during the Color Purple press tour when the two women were seen standing awkwardly together.

“In my humble opinion, when you saw her walk up, you saw that there was tension,” Mo’Nique said. “You saw that there was something happening. And then when you see Taraji write her a love letter [Henson penned a heartfelt thank you to Winfrey on Instagram], it’s like, ‘Listen, we gotta stand tall and stand strong on what we know.'”

She continued, “We know you were mistreated. We know it wasn’t right. We know it was unfair. And then you turned around and say, ‘Oh, but Lady O handled it.’ I have a problem with that. That allows Lady O to keep doing what she’s doing, and we’re in a position of, ‘I don’t want to say nothing because we saw how Mo’Nique got whooped.'”

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