'Phat Girlz': Mo'Nique on the Big Screen

Ed Gordon talks with comic actress Mo'Nique, whose new movie Phat Girlz is in theaters nationwide.

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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Comic and TV star Mo'Nique has a new big-screen feature out called Phat Girlz. She plays a plus-sized aspiring fashion designer who's struggling with her weight and with love.

In real life, the Baltimore native is riding a personal and professional high. She spoke earlier with Ed Gordon about marrying the love of her life and celebrating her latest Hollywood role.

ED GORDON, host:

Ms. Mo'Nique, welcome to the program.

Ms. MO'NIQUE (Actor): Thank you, Mr. Ed Gordon.

GORDON: always good to talk to you, young lady.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Thank you, baby.

GORDON: Talk to me about why you wanted to take this movie? There are those who would say, perhaps, that at first glance that this is something you didn't want to do, that you wanted to go away from. But really, your whole career, you've turned what many see in this country, unfortunately, as a negative into a positive.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Yeah, and, you know, I was very honored when Nnegest Likke sent me that script, because it's the real story. It's the true story of a fat girl's walk. And we've been beaten up for so long and made invisible that it was never a negative thing for me.

GORDON: Talk to us a little bit about the movie. Give us a thumbnail sketch of what the movie is.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: It's a comedic love story. And it's about these two women who are fat girls, and you watch them go from a self-hatred to a self-acceptance, and then a self-love. And you go on a roller coaster ride with them. You watch them find love that they've never, ever imagined was possible for them.

UNIDENTIFED MAN: (Character in “Phat Girlz”) In Africa, a woman's body size is a reflection of her social status. The thicker she is, the richer she's presumed to be.

Ms. MO'NIQUE (Actor): (As Jazmin Biltmore) Well, hell, I'm living in the wrong country. I want to live where they like the fat girls.

Unidentified Man: Oh, but we don't call it fat. The term is thick madam.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: (As Jazmin Biltmore) Thick madam?

Unidentified Man: Mm-hmm.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: (As Jazmin Biltmore) I like it.

Unidentified Man: I must sound extremely shallow, saying that. On a scale of one to ten, you are the perfect 20.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: (As Jazmin Biltmore) Wait a minute. This is too good to be true. You need a green card or something?

Ms. MO'NIQUE: So, it's a really good, thick, fat, juicy story.

GORDON: There's a great scene in the movie, and in the trailer, where the doctor, who is in the pool--who's getting out of the pool, and you and two of your girlfriends are standing around, and they say, Oh my God, look at him, he's getting out of the pool! And he starts to walk towards you, and there's this young lady clad in a bikini who--she just assumes this doctor's coming to talk to her.

Unidentified Man: I did not know they made bodies that beautiful here in America.

Unidentified Woman #1: I'm actually a world-renowned aerobics instructor.

Unidentified Man: Actually, I was talking about your beautiful, plump friend here.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: (As Jazmin Biltmore) Me?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: Her?

Unidentified Man: Yes, her. What is your name?

Ms. MO'NIQUE: (As Jazmin Biltmore) Sweet Jesus, what the hell is my name?

Unidentified Woman #2: Excuse her. Her name is Jazmin.

Unidentified Man: It is a pleasure to meet you, Jazmin.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: (As Jazmin Biltmore) Oh no, baby, the pleasure is all mine.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: It throws everybody off. Because again, America says, well he couldn't, you know, be coming to talk to you, because you're fat! He has to be talking to the girl that's in the bikini, in the thong. He says, no, I'm talking to your plump friend.

GORDON: Is there ever a time you want to make sure that you don't typecast yourself so much so that everything is attached to fat?

Ms. MO'NIQUE: I don't think that I have, nor do I think that they can. Because, I am a fat girl, and when the movie shadowboxed, it's so funny that when Lee Daniels, who was the director, took the movie out, people were saying, oh the movie's great, but no one would believe that that gorgeous white man would be attracted to that fat black woman. So whether I say it or not, it's always there.

GORDON: We should note that Lee Daniels is the man--the producer behind Monster's Ball and The Woodsman, and he's really brought some interesting stories to Hollywood and the big screen.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Yes, he has.

GORDON: Let me take you to your personal life. You know, you've always tried to reach a balance between having a family life and having a growing career. But right now, I would suspect, young lady, that this has to be one of the happiest times for you. Because you and what has been deemed your soul mate, a friend from high school who you've known forever and ever and ever, finally hooked up.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Yeah. Yeah. It's a really good time right now, Ed. With Sydney and I, we've been best friends since I was 14. So here's a man that truly, truly knows me in and out. So now, for this person to become my husband, and I have kids with this person, I'm like, God, thank you for looking out.

GORDON: Not only kids, but twins.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Two of them, Ed.

GORDON: What's it like being mama to two at the same time?

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Baby, it makes me giggle. I'm still giggling. I look at them and go, wow!

GORDON: May I ask you this? If you were, and had been most of your life, 120 pounds, 130 pounds, do you think you'd be the same success you are today?

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Wow, that's a great question, Ed.

GORDON: Mm-hmm. Gotcha.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: You do! You really do! Because there's so many women in Hollywood that are 120 pounds, that are 130 pounds, that are extremely talented. But unfortunately, a lot of times, we're all fighting for the same part. Because it's not--there's not a lot out there for us. So I'm not sure. I'm really not sure. And that's why I tell people I dig my category. Because it's me.

GORDON: You said at one point that you wanted to “thank ya'll,” being the audience, “for saving me some money, because I'm not going to lie on a therapists couch and give him $5,000 dollars an hour. I'll just go right onstage and talk about my issues.” You really have been able to utilize what you've lived and turn it into comedy. It was all so cathartic for you then.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Yes. Yes. I mean, when, you know, oftentimes people will come up to me and say, Oh my God, Mo'Nique, you saved my life, and Oh, my God, and it's like, Ya'll don't know how many times you've saved mine. You know, when I walk out on that stage its like, Let me tell ya'll what's happening. Because if I can laugh at this and ya'll can laugh with me, then it ain't that bad.

GORDON: So much buzz about this movie. You've been ridiculously successful on t.v. with The Parkers, and, you know, you've had the fat beauty pageant on Oxygen. What's there left that you haven't been able to do that you want to make sure that you do at the end of the game?

Ms. MO'NIQUE: I would love to do a fat beauty pageant for teenagers. Like when we did Mo'Nique's Fat Chance, most of those women were, I'd say 25 and older. And the stories that they told me, Ed, and the tears and the pain, and the struggles that they've gone through. And we're grown women. But if we can catch them when they're 12 and 13, their fight won't be the same when they look in the mirror.

See, there was oftentimes nobody was there to fight for us. So, right now, if I can catch those babies while they're young, we can make a difference. We can make a change.

GORDON: Well, there's no question that through your career and through your image you've been catching them early on and giving them a new pride.

Mo'Nique, the movie is Phat Girlz, and we look forward to the dramatic role that you told us about, that should be coming up, Lee Daniels, again, a man who's making noise in Hollywood. And kiss those babies for me, girl.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: I will do that, Ed.

GORDON: Thanks so much, Mo'Nique.

Ms. MO'NIQUE: Thanks, baby.

CHIDEYA: That interview, by NPR's Ed Gordon.

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