Winning An Oscar For 'Precious' Nearly Destroyed Mo'Nique's Career

There have been many amazing performances over the years from supporting actors in film, and Mo'Nique's role in Precious stands out because it was so powerful. But Precious almost destroyed Mo'Nique's career — her treatment at the hands of Hollywood insiders and her refusal to back down have undeniably stalled her success.

So, what's the real story here? What exactly happened to Mo'Nique's career? The answer is complex, touching upon issues of money and power, race and class, and the politics of show business.

  • She Said Her Stalled Career Is Due To The Fact She Didn't "Play The Game" During Oscar Season


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    The controversy began after Mo'Nique landed an Oscar nomination for Precious. It was hardly a surprise—she had won practically every major award for her performance, and she was a shoo-in for an Oscar nom. But in the lead up to awards season, actors are expected to take part in extensive publicity campaigns, spearheaded by the movie studio, to increase their chances of receiving recognition from the Academy.

    Mo'Nique declined to join the campaign. She said that Lionsgate, the studio that produced Precious, asked her to go to the Cannes Film Festival to promote the movie. She politely refused because she wanted to spend time with her family, and that's what got her into trouble. "People were saying, 'Someone needs to teach Mo'Nique a lesson because she's not playing the game,'" the actress reported.

  • She Said Oprah Had A Hand In Stalling Her Career

    Oprah Winfrey was one of the producers on Precious, and she was one of the primary forces responsible for bringing the film to a larger audience. But Mo'Nique has largely cast blame on Winfrey for blackballing her from Hollywood. The two stars were originally friends, but Mo'Nique says Oprah attempted to exploit a family tragedy.

    Mo'Nique was molested as a child by her brother, and Oprah wanted to have both of them, as well as their aging parents, on her show. Mo'Nique said her discomfort with the situation bothered Winfrey, and Mo'Nique claimed Winfrey retaliated by curbing her career. "Thank you, Ms. Oprah Winfrey," Mo'Nique later said in her standup act. "Y'all can suck my d*ck, if I had one."

  • She Claimed Lee Daniels Had Her Blackballed From Hollywood

    She Claimed Lee Daniels Had Her Blackballed From Hollywood
    Photo: Frazer Harrison/Staff / Getty Images Entertainment

    Because she refused to play the industry game, Mo'Nique alleged Precious director Lee Daniels had her blackballed from Hollywood. Actually, she called it "whiteballed." "I was whiteballed by some black d*cks who have no balls," she said years after the fact.

    Daniels responded to the original claim by saying Mo'Nique "soured her relationship with the Hollywood community" all on her own, and her "demands through Precious were not always in line with the campaign." The actress and her onetime director have engaged in a war of words ever since, and it's only grown uglier over the years.

  • She Claimed Tyler Perry Was Instrumental In Her Downfall

    She Claimed Tyler Perry Was Instrumental In Her Downfall
    Photo: Kevin Winter/Staff / Getty Images Entertainment

    Tyler Perry, another producer on Precious, has also wandered into Mo'Nique's crosshairs. She said he was one of the principal players in her Hollywood blacklisting, stemming from the fact she declined to promote Precious in the lead up to awards season.

    Perry has not given much of a public response to Mo'Nique's allegations, but she said that he called her to apologize. She asserted he didn't want to address the issue publicly because he had a new movie coming out and feared backlash. Since Perry has not issued any sort of official comment, however, many of the allegations boil down to a he-said-she-said situation.

  • Whoopi Goldberg Got Involved As Well


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    In a 2018 appearance on The View, Whoopi Goldberg inserted herself into the drama surrounding Mo'Nique's career. "When you make a movie, regardless of who you sign the deal with, your job is to go and promote said movie," Goldberg told Mo'Nique during the show. "When they wanted you to come, and we've had this conversation, I said, 'If you had called me, I could have schooled you on what was expected.'"

    Mo'Nique, never one to back down, alleged that after the show, Goldberg took her aside and blamed Mo'Nique's manager and husband for her career troubles. Mo'Nique responded to Whoopi, "You're making statements that you really don’t know what you’re talking about."

  • Her Oscar Win Actually Hurt Her Career


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    After winning an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role in Precious, Mo'Nique should have skyrocketed to fame and landed higher-profile roles, especially because her performance was lauded as so raw, real, and indisputably courageous. There's no logical explanation as to why the actress hasn't attained the level of stardom of previous supporting-actress winners. In fact, quite the opposite has happened, which is why Mo'Nique's claims about being blackballed ring true.

    There's a racial component to Mo'Nique's Hollywood blackballing as well. As author Morgan Jerkins wrote in The Guardian, "We often label women, especially women of color, as 'difficult' when they are astute enough to know not to get fooled into accepting anything beneath them."