Thursday 27th July 2017,
Televisual

Mo’Nique, Shilling and What An Oscar Means

UPDATE: Mo’Nique has won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, praising the Academy for putting “the performance” over “politics”! Go ahead, girl!

UPDATE: Mo’Nique has addressed the controversy, saying: “Baby, people gonna talk. It comes with the territory. But didn’t they talk about Jesus? Then they killed him. So, what makes me think I’m so special that they’re not gonna talk about me?” [via Bossip]

ORIGINAL: Quick thought: Shadow and Act has a great post about the small controversy around Mo’Nique’s promoting, or rather not promoting, Precious. Mo’Nique, rumors say, has been demanding money for appearances — she has done some, including, apparently, Oprah — and generally snubbing the process of Oscar-schilling. But getting an Oscar nom, S&A points out, takes more than mere merit:

Being a very competitive business it’s not enough to have an Oscar worthy performance. You have to let the voters know that you’re grateful, humbled and most importantly 1) be someone well liked in the business and 2) hustle your ass off the award. You have to campaign for it for months. That’s what Forest Whitaker did for his Oscar for The Last King of Scotland. That guy hustled to get that award schoomzing, going to every lousy Oscar party and reception, glad handing anyone with even the remotest connection to an Oscar voter and practically doing handstands to get that award. (Jennifer Hudson was fortunate enough to have people to guide her to help her do the same thing) And it also helped a lot that Whitaker is extremely well liked in the business, a professional’s professional and considered one of the nicest guys around. In an industry filled with a–holes, that’s something that stands out

This makes sense. Some people I know have argued that Mo’Nique probably doesn’t see an Oscar as very meaningful, and maybe she’s just too busy with her new show. For a plus-size black women who already has a successful career as a comedian, the argument goes, an Academy Award does not mean much.  This may or may not be true. Certainly Oscar noms and wins have not hurt Queen Latifah and Whoopi Goldberg, two of the highest grossing black actresses of all time (based on B.O. grosses). Jennifer Hudson only did Sex and the City and The Secret Life of Bees after her win, but she’s put out an album and weathered a family crisis; besides, I think it’s safe to say she is a singer first, not an actress, and that the Oscar raised her stardom broadly (cover of Vogue much?!).

Most importantly, though, Mo’Nique needs to realize that an Oscar is about more than her career and bank account. It’s about slowly shifting industry standards of what is acceptable, honorable and marketable. It’s about other black girls — with a little extra — who need role models: imagine what it would be like to have both Gabourey Sidibe and Mo’Nique take home awards (presuming they put Mo’Nique in supporting, which they should)?

Of course, having an Oscar in your pocket gives your career extra longevity; producers love slapping “Academy Award winning” before your name. Even if she only wants to do comedy for the rest of her life. It helps her. But more significantly, it helps all black women.

I’m not one to place the burden of representation on any one actress. If Mo’Nique doesn’t want an Oscar and feels she doesn’t need one, that’s her decision. But she should realize it affects more than just her wallet, and it might even affect that too.

Being a very competitive business it’s not enough to have an Oscar worthy performance. You have to let the voters know that you’re grateful, humbled and most importantly 1) be someone well liked in the business and 2) hustle your ass off the award. You have to campaign for it for months. That’s what Forest Whitaker did for his Oscar for The Last King of Scotland. That guy hustled to get that award schoomzing, going to every lousy Oscar party and reception, glad handing anyone with even the remotest connection to an Oscar voter and practically doing handstands to get that award. (Jennifer Hudson was fortunate enough to have people to guide her to help her do the same thing) And it also helped a lot that Whitaker is extremely well liked in the business, a professional’s professional and considered one of the nicest guys around. In an industry filled with a–holes, that’s something that stands out

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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