Mo'Nique Reveals Why She Still Wants a Public Apology From Oprah Winfrey

Mo’Nique and Oprah Winfrey
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic/Robin Marchant/Getty Images

The women have been in a feud since working on the 2009 film 'Precious' together.

Mo'Nique is opening up about her high-profile feuds. In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, the 55-year-old comedian discusses both the origins and current standings of her public feuds with Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry.

Everything started in 2004 when she met Daniels. The following year, she appeared in his directorial debut, Shadowboxer. From there, Mo'Nique says, she and Daniels "never stopped communicating," all the way up to her starring role in the 2009 film Precious.

The film quickly earned critical praise and was part of the awards season discussion, something that Daniels, along with producers Winfrey and Perry, wanted to capitalize on. Mo'Nique declined to go on a press tour without being compensated for her time, and thus the rift began. 

When Mo'Nique refused to get on a flight to attend the Cannes Film Festival in support of the movie, she claims Daniels told her in a phone call, "Mama, I agree with what you're saying. I just don't think it's going to play out good for you."

"And that was a problem," she explains. "The problem of 'How could this fat Black woman say no to the powers that be in Hollywood?'"

As for why she didn't want to fly to France to promote her critically acclaimed film, Mo'Nique tells THR the same thing she told Winfrey at the time.

"I said, 'Oprah, I'm doing a talk show. I'm doing a comedy tour. I have a husband and I have babies,'" Mo'Nique recalls. "'I have a little bit of downtime and I'm going to take advantage of it. So I'm not going anywhere because I'm not obligated to go anywhere. I’ve done my part.' So we mutually agreed to disagree. That was it."

Per Mo'Nique, "Next thing I know, I am considered 'difficult' and 'hard to work with,'" adding that she feels she was "blackballed" in Hollywood as a result of the situation.

Still, Mo'Nique -- who shares 17-year-old twin sons with her husband, Sidney Hicks, and is also mom to Shalon, 32, from a previous relationship -- stands behind her actions.

"It was my third marriage. My second round of children. So I understood by then that when you sacrifice everything for a place called Hollywood, you wind up being by yourself," she explains. "I know the history before me. I know those stories. And not only did those women die broke, they died brokenhearted. They died lonely because they gave everything to a business -- and in the end it gave them nothing."

Though she largely refused to participate in Precious' Oscars campaign, Mo'Nique won the award for Best Supporting Actress. In her acceptance speech, she thanked both Winfrey and Perry by name, but not Daniels.

Things with Winfrey went downhill from there, when, a month after the awards show, Winfrey hosted Mo'Nique's family, but not the comedian herself, on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show.

Winfrey called Mo'Nique before taping the episode, revealing that her brother, Gerald Imes, had reached out wanting to apologize to her for molesting her when they were children. Mo'Nique told Winfrey she wanted "no part" in the episode, but gave her OK for the taping to go forward.

When it aired, though, the episode not only featured Mo'Nique's brother, but also her mother, father and other brother, all of whom "downplayed the abuse" Mo'Nique suffered, per THR. Mo'Nique was especially hurt by the episode because, she says Winfrey knew she was "not on good terms" with her mother and would not have signed off on her appearing on the talk show.

"We weren't even speaking," she says of her mother. "Then I see the show and I can tell that my mother is trying to make a dollar. I know my family." 

When Mo'Nique tried to get in touch with Winfrey to discuss the situation, she was unsuccessful. "I reached out to everybody I could to try to get to Oprah. No. Nothing. It just went dead," she says.

Fast forward to 2014 when, after years of radio silence, Mo'Nique and Winfrey wound up at the same event. After trying to pull Winfrey for a private conversation, Mo'Nique decided to address the elephant in the room in front of all the event's attendees.

"I said, 'Since you didn't want to return my calls, for whatever reason, I'm going to say this right here,'" Mo'Nique recalls, sharing that she then questioned Winfrey on her parents' involvement in the episode. According to Mo'Nique, Winfrey, who declined to comment on THR's story, said that they tagged along with her brother to the studio, unbeknownst to her.

Mo'Nique then claims Winfrey told her, "I'm going to look into your mother and father being on the show, because I didn't know anything about that," before adding something like, "If I've done anything to offend you, I apologize.'"

As for Daniels, per THR, the actress and director "had a brief, stilted conversation" the morning after the Oscars. Months later, he offered her a role in his 2013 film, The Butler, but that part ultimately went to Winfrey, who put up financing for the film. Mo'Nique and Daniels didn't speak for several years, but he eventually reached out, as he wanted her to star on Empire. The role ultimately went to Taraji P. Henson.

Things didn't thaw between them until years later when, unbeknownst to Mo'Nique, Daniels agreed to help edit The Reading, the comedian's 2023 thriller, at the request of its director, Courtney Glaude.

"In that footage I saw the woman that I worked with some 13 years ago," Daniels says. "But I realized how much I loved her. And I realized how talented she was."

When Mo'Nique saw the cut of the film that Daniels had contributed to, she found it to be "incredible." Daniels called her shortly thereafter to reveal his role in the movie.

"Not only did I want to reach out to her, but I realized I wanted to work with her again," he says. "It's crazy, sometimes, how life is."

Mo'Nique was moved by Daniels' gesture. "For five months he edited the film. And he says to me and my husband that night, 'Guys, I don't want anything for it. Mo, I'm just glad I could do it. And I'm proud for the performance that you did.'"

"He did not have to edit this film, so we asked Lee if he would take a producer credit and give him a percentage of the film," she says. "Because what he did was beautiful. I think that speaks volumes. It really does." 

While on the phone, Daniels offered Mo'Nique a role in his upcoming horror flick, The Deliverance. Mo'Nique, however, replied, "Lee, we can’t talk about a part until we talk." What followed was a "real conversation" between the pair.

"That was the moment that he said, 'I'm going to apologize to you and your family for anything I've done to hurt y'all,'" she recalls. "And what I said to him was, 'I appreciate that and we are grateful for the apology. But because it happened publicly, you have got to apologize publicly.' And you know what he says? 'Tell me when and where.'" 

That public apology ended up happening a few days later at a concert date on Staten Island. 

"I don't know if it’s ever been done in history -- that a big Hollywood director came out and apologized to an actress for a wrongdoing," Mo'Nique notes, with Daniels adding, "I'm just happy to have my friend back."

While Mo'Nique says her life is in "a chapter of forgiveness" now, that doesn't mean she's ready to forget. Like she got from Daniels, Mo'Nique "still demands and expects public apologies from Winfrey and Perry," THR reports. 

Despite all the ups and downs, Mo'Nique is content today, not because of her latest career opportunities -- a soon-to-be-released Netflix special and Daniels' The Deliverance -- but thanks to her family.

"When you are good on the inside, I believe it shows up on the outside. It's a new chapter, but not because of Hollywood," she says. "It's a new chapter because my babies are graduating high school. It's a new chapter because my grandson will be going to kindergarten next year, and my granddaughter to the fifth grade. Those things, for me, are the priority."