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Straight No Chaser: Is Mo’Nique Tripping?

Op/Ed By Gloria Winston Al-Sarag


gloria_winston_al-sarag2When actress/comedienne Mo’Nique recently made public claims she was supposed to play “Cookie” on the hit TV series, “Empire,” was I the only one who thought she might be on drugs?

I really don’t know what the feud between she and Director Lee Daniels has been all about, but I am stuck on the fact that she really wants us to believe she could have been close to delivering the performance, or the look, that Taraji P. Henson has given us. Come on Mo’Nique, I am not a hater, but the only part I could imagine you being offered is the one as Lucious’ secretary. Did Mo’Nique misinterpret the script she allegedly had been given by Lee Daniels? Or, has this all just been wishful thinking on her part? Mo’Nique claims Mr. Daniels is the one who has had a problem with her, because she did not mention his name when she received her Oscar. Well, if there has been any truth to that, why should the man who fed you continue to feed you, when you had the opportunity to publicly THANK him, and chose not to, in your arrogance?

None of us have arrived anywhere on our own. It has been rumored Mo’Nique is more than difficult to work with, as well. And, although being difficult is seemingly one of the criteria for stardom, I think she may have gotten a little full of herself, a little too soon. One good movie, much like a one-hit recording artist, does not mean you have “arrived.”

Yes, I have noticed she’s been missing from the Hollywood scene, since her show was canceled. However, personally, I haven’t missed her any more than I would miss Wendy Williams, Sheryl Underwood, or Sherri Shepherd. I keep telling folks that everyone my color, is not my kind. I am very particular about who represents me. I am more than happy my sisters have found some resemblance of success, but, to me, they are “Mammies.” They depict the stereotypes of negro buffoons; those who have been paid to make white folks laugh, much like the ones who had attended minstrel shows. We should be beyond that. There may have been a time when there were those who had to be uncomfortable in the selling of their souls in order to create opportunities for blacks in the film industry, but; come on, this is 2015.

Black women don’t have to be clowns, or wear bandanas, anymore. They no longer have to make sure you can count every tooth in their mouths when they grin. They no longer have to practice being GHETTO, and producing fake Southern drawls, in order to appear to be funny.

Like I said, I’ve respected what my sisters have managed to accomplish, but I shudder to think they may believe they are representing me. They do not. Women with class may represent me, but not buffoons. Yes, I can legitimately use the word “buffoon,” when attempting to describe how degrading I have found some of their actions to be.

Then, you have those who have criticized the powerful acting talents of Taraji P. Henson. I have recently read, with interest, that some feel “Empire” has been loosely based on a recording studio, and label, which used to be in Englewood, NY called Platinum Records. The record label was owned by Sylvia Robinson, who also had been a recording artist of “Mickey and Sylvia” fame.

Though Sylvia’s label never rivaled Motown or Philly Sounds, it was home to original hip-hop artists like the Sugar Hill Gang, and The Moments. I had met Sylvia on a few occasion, and the character “Cookie” truly puts me in the mind of her. She was brash, attractive, sexy, and took no wooden nickels. She was a shot-caller, and had she not been a woman, may have received the same notoriety as did Barry Gordy, and other male record label icons.

I really don’t know much about Sylvia’s life, but every time I’ve watched “Empire,” she has come directly to mind. What has also come to mind is, how “Empire” has been the epitome of “art” reflecting real life. It’s a real story, with real characters, much like how the now-defunct series, “The Wire” had been.

Blame it on my experiences. Because I have managed many single artists and bands, I have had more than one occasion to encounter, and deal with, the politics of the music arena. Empire is REAL. I can associate a real name to every character. I have seen sides of the industry from a Jazz, Blues, Reggae, R&B and Gospel perspective. It is GANGSTA! GANGSTA, and street life, is a culture of its own that many would like to pretend does not exist in the real world.

Does this mean I condone the lifestyle of those who have thrown stones at the penitentiary? No, but I DO understand it.

The music industry, in particular, has been ridden more with who you know, than what you know, controlling who passes through the door to success. Like Eisenhower said in 1952, even in the music industry, “Politics is everything, and everything is politics!”

If anyone believes Jay Z, Sean “Puffy” Combs, or others with record labels have just walked into their positions, they are far removed from reality. Associating “Empire” with “buffoonery” only lets me know the critics know nothing about music, or the street.

Those critics may be confusing “buffoonery” with REALITY. Empire has reflected the experiences of many trying to survive in that world. Cookie is pure street. She is typical “ride or die,” for those who might be familiar with the term, and she has the personality that goes with it. These women exist. I know my share of O.G.’s, and Cookie and Lucious have been totally representative of the dog-eat-dog music industry.

Those who have associated “Empire,” and the entire series, with “buffoonery” may be tripping, and likely have been among those who believe Mo’Nique was ever considered to play the role of Cookie. Not a chance!