Mo'Nique was born on December 11, 1967 in Baltimore, Maryland. She started in stand-up comedy on a dare and was soon appearing on It's Showtime at the Apollo and Def Comedy Jam. She made appearances on Moesha and The Bernie Mac Show before landing a starring role on The Parkers. In 2009, Mo'Nique won an Academy Award for her performance in Precious, a film based on the novel Push by Sapphire.
Comedian, actress. Born Monique Imes on December 11, 1967, in Baltimore, Maryland. One of three children born to Steven Imes Jr. and his wife Alice, Mo'Nique has parlayed an extremely successful stand-up profession into a career that's seen her become an actress, author, clothing designer, and even the host of her own late night talk show.
Mo'Nique got her start as a young college student when, on a dare from her brother Steven, she took the stage one night during an open mic session at the Comedy Factory Outlet in Baltimore. The audience loved her, and the club owners offered her the chance to host her own show at a local beauty parlor the following week for $25.
Soon, Mo'Nique was taking the stage every chance she could. When she was offered the chance by her employer to relocate to Atlanta, Mo'Nique jumped at it, believing she'd catch more breaks and find more opportunities in the South to pursue her comedy.
It proved to be a smart move. Just two years after that initial dare from her brother, Mo'Nique had earned enough stand-up work that she could pursue comedy full-time. Known for her less-than-svelte size, Mo'Nique celebrated her girth and her womanhood in a way comedy fans adored. Soon, she was on the music circuit, her brand of comedy tapped to open up for musicians like Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown.
In 1989, Mo'Nique got her first significant break when she was selected to appear on It's Showtime at the Apollo. Other big-ticket appearances soon followed, including Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam and BET's Comic View.
After a handful of appearances on the UPN comedy Moesha, and several other television spots, including an appearance on The Bernie Mac Show, Mo'Nique was launched full-time in the living rooms of American homes in 1999 with a starring role in the UPN sitcom, The Parkers.
In the show, the comedian played the rather outlandish mother, Nikki Parker, who attends college with her daughter and can't quite straighten out her love life. The comedy ran five seasons, and garnered Mo'Nique three NAACP Image Awards for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
Even while keeping up with the rigors of a full-time television series, Mo'Nique made sure her stand-up career didn't suffer.
"Stand-up keeps you on your toes because it's instant," she told reporters. "With TV and movies you have to wait for the numbers to come in to see what happened at the box office. With stand-up, it's right there, that night, in your face."
To help stay atop her game, Mo'Nique headlined the 2001 smash hit Queens of Comedy, the successful female version of The Original Kings of Comedy tour. The album produced from those Queens shows, which also featured Adele Givens, Laura Hayes, and Sommore, earned a 2002 Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Comedy Album. From there, Mo'Nique returned to the Apollo, this time as host of the program, It's Showtime at the Apollo, the first female comedian to ever hold that title.
In 2003, Mo'Nique added author to her expanding resume when she penned the riotous Skinny Women Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World. A second title, Skinny Cooks Can't Be Trusted was published in 2006.
Despite her lack of any kind of formal training, Mo'Nique's acting started landing her movie work around the same time The Parkers run was coming to a close. A year before the sitcom's cancellation, the actress was cast alongside Danny Glover and Whoopi Goldberg in the Showtime film, Good Fences (2003).
Her comedy was also the focus of smaller roles in Soul Plane (2004) and Hair Show (2004). In addition she co-starred with Vivica A. Fox in Two Can Play That Game(2001), which earned her an NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture.
In 2005, Mo'Nique returned to television to host the Oxygen Network's Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance, a beauty contest featuring all plus-sized women. In 2006, the comedian's extra pounds were at the center ofPhat Girlz, a film about an overweight fashion designer in search of love.
That same year, Mo'Nique stepped into her meatiest role yet in Shadowboxer (2006). Starring Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr., and directed by Lee Daniels, the film cast the actress as a drug-ravaged woman, a role that turned the heads of critics and audiences who had grown accustomed to Mo'Nique's loud-and-proud brand of comedy.
But not everyone was surprised by the performance. Least of all the film's director, who had first met Mo'Nique a few years before and raved to her about her acting abilities. So, it was no surprise he tapped the actress again for his next project, Precious (2009), a film based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Daniels cast Mo'Nique as Mary Jones, an angry and abusive mother.
It was an ugly role, but one Mo'Nique knew how to play. As a child, she herself had been molested by her oldest brother, Gerald, and she says she drew on that experience to play the part.
"He was a monster to me so when [Lee] said 'action' I became a monster," she said on The Ellen Show.
It's a performance, too, that's proven to be cathartic for Mo'Nique, helping her deal with her brother, whom she has not spoken to in years. "It allowed me not to hate him," she said. "It allowed me not to be angry. It allowed me not to be the victim anymore."
It also delivered plenty of Oscar buzz, from critics and audiences who couldn't get enough of the comedian's transformation and performance, which resulted in the actresses first Academy Award win. And it's put her on a path for other, meatier roles. Already on tap is another Lee Daniels production, a biopic about Hattie McDaniel, the first African-American to win an Oscar for her role in Gone with the Wind (1939).
That's not to suggest, however, that Mo'Nique has turned her back on the laughs. BET forked over the most money it ever has to a performer for her to host her own late night talk show, The Mo'Nique Show, which debuted in the fall of 2009. And there's sure to be more stand-up and more comedy for her in the future.
"I'm gonna play this game the way I want to," she has said. "It might be serious, it might be a comedy, it might be a dramedy, it might be variety, it might be a talk show, whatever. There's no box."
But there is a little less of her. After tipping the scales at 262 pounds, Mo'Nique cut out red meat and started working out when her husband, Sidney Hicks, asked her to place more attention on her health. By the time Precious had debuted in November 2009, she'd lost more than 40 pounds.
Mo'Nique and Sydney are the parents of twin boys. The comedian and actress also has a son from a previous marriage.