It’s only March, but Mo’Nique is indeed the frontrunner for the Best Year Ever Award. In a little less than a week, the self-proclaimed queen of comedy and Golden Globe (and Screen Actors Guild) Award winner, will probably win an Oscar for her work in Precious, despite her reluctance to “campaign” for the little gold statue.
Talk about a come up.
Before her turn as Mary Jones, monstrous mommy of Precious Jones, Mo’Nique wasn’t one of the more highly sought after comedic actors. I doubt Oscar voters had seen her work in films like Soul Plane, Phat Girlz, and Hair Show. Yet with the critical acclaim and support she’s received since her role in Precious, Mo’Nique not only has the opportunity to shout out George Clooney in her acceptance speech should she see fit (see: Mafia, Three-Six) and excitedly jump on Oprah’s couch (see: Cruise, Tom), but the late-night talk show host not named Conan or Leno has the opportunity to go where very few black women have gone before her: the Oscar winners party. Sorry, Gabby Sidibe, but I don’t think you’ll be on that guest list.
Not that the awards are everything, or that they mean much. Last year’s token nominee, Taraji Henson, may be homies with Brad Pitt, but she’s still starring in Tyler Perry movies; her upcoming roles include The Karate Kid III–classy. The Academy practically gift-wrapped that Best Actress Oscar for Halle “Red Gumball” Berry, but since then all we’ve received from her is roles in forgettable films such as Catwoman and Gothika. (I will never forgive her for that horrible portrayal of Hurston’s heroine, Janie Starks, in the Oprah version of Their Eyes Were Watching God.) Now, it seems that the only press Berry receives involves Revlon or her baby.
Oscar or not, Mo’Nique’s acting career will probably crescendo on March 7, 2010, before returning to its native region of crappy, black movies and a mediocre late-night talk show only worthy of your viewership if you enjoy watching a gang of black folks do the Electric Slide and have no access to youtube. But at least she has some place to go, and hardware to show off when she returns. If things go “well,” Mo’Nique will always be introduced as an Academy Award Nominee–or better yet Winner–which translates into more money for film roles–if they come–a standing invitation to the awards ceremony, and major goodies in that swag bag. Yet as Gabby Sidibe glides across that same red carpet during a late Los Angeles afternoon, her watch will probably read 11:59, those fifteen minutes having begun around 11:45, and she just might end up trophy-less. I’m afraid Sidibe’s time is nearly over, and I haven’t seen a glass slipper anywhere, not even in or around Harpo Studios.
Unless Gabby has a stirring rendition of “And I’m Telling You” hidden somewhere, she’s going to have to tell jokes or something to stay relevant in the entertainment business. That or go on that Jennifer Hudson diet, or end up with a Jennifer Holliday career. As the Oscar-winning duo Three-Six Mafia reminded us, it’s hard out here for a pimp. It’s even harder out here for a fat dark-skinned black actress. All Gabby has to do is ask her co-star, Mo’Nique, who, although she had initially put food on the table by encouraging overweight women to love themselves and hate on their skinny counterparts, has lost a significant amount of weight–for “health” reasons, of course.
Unfortunately for Sidibe, her fifteen minutes didn’t consist of auditioning for or turning down movie roles (according to her wiki entry, she has one, yes one, film in post-production), but rather fielding questions about whether or not she thought she was beautiful and pretending to enjoy sitting between Sherri Shepard and Barbara Walters. Sidibe’s tenure as Oprah and Tyler Perry’s mascot Hollywood’s It Girl seemed to only cultivate an interest in her–and her self-esteem–that borderlined on spectacle (“Wow! She actually likes herself and she looks like that?); few of us openly questioned the need to diversify our matinees idols. Vanity Fair surely understands Sidibe’s and Mo’Nique’s mainstream fame as a mere blip on our popular culture EKG. Yet the magazine only reflects the whiteness of our television and movie screens. How mad can the Hollywood establishment be at Mo’Nique if she’d rather embark on a comedy tour than toil to become a poor man’s Queen Latifah at best? If roles don’t come quickly for thinner, lighter black actresses, they hardly come at all for the likes of Mo’Nique and Sidibe, who has a greater chance of becoming the answer to a trivia question than even being typecast as Precious Jones.
As much as some folks would like to self-congratulate for supporting Precious both in the theater and during awards ceremonies, it seems that this exception merely reiterates the rule. Problematic portraits of black women show up on our movieplex screens, then the women who portray them kindly go away. Mo’Nique–or even Sidibe–winning an Oscar on Sunday, like the black women who have won before them, signifies nothing more than a spread in next month’s Ebony, and a permanent spot on Elton John’s guest list. By the ides of March, all of us will be back to our regularly scheduled programming. Black actresses, (continue to) beware.