About Mo’Nique, Pay Inequality and Her Asking Us to Boycott Netflix
A lot of people do not like Mo’Nique. I’m not President of her fan club myself, being one of those who falls in the “skinny bitches” category that she made a comedy career out of roasting. But I respect her longevity in the humor game, and tip my hat to the OG. But Mo’Nique has also made a lot of (powerful) enemies (Oprah, Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry).
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why people have dismissed the latest incident as “here goes Mo’Nique again.” She is asking folks to boycott NetFlix because she was offered $500,000 for a comedy special. In an Instagram post, she compares her offer to the payment Amy Schumer got for hers: $13 million. She is accusing NetFlix of racism and sexism with this pay gap.
And people laughed at her. I almost did myself because you will pry my NetFlix binge watch sessions from my cold, dead hands. That’s a bold ask. However, her larger point is right. There IS pay inequity for women, and it is especially severe for Black women. Although I don’t fully agree with some of her arguments or the way she’s fighting this (asking for a boycott), it is important to note that her tactic here doesn’t nullify the very valid point she’s making. It seems that NetFlix is playing bald-headed games and engaging in some shady pay practices that are worth calling out, and we see that in the numbers we now know.
First, Deray Davis comments on Instagram to say he got paid $5 million for his NetFlix special. And then Wanda Sykes tweeted that NetFlix offered her less than $250,000 to do one.
These two gave it more context that warrant chin-stroking.
I wouldn’t expect Mo’Nique and Amy Schumer to be paid the same thing for their specials. Popularity, demand, social currency and recent profitable movies puts Amy’s current earning power over Mo’Nique right now. Amy is comedy’s IT girl (even if you don’t find her funny), so her $13 million payday wasn’t going to be Mo’Nique’s. HOWEVER, the $12.5 million pay gap is excessive. I could see Mo’Nique getting paid 25% of that. But she got offered less than 4% what Amy got. That’s cold-blooded. FOUR PERCENT, yall. Is Mo’Nique’s comedy really worth this little? She got lowballed.
That is confirmed when you compare Mo’Nique’s offer to Deray Davis’ pay. You might have seen the name “Deray Davis” and went “who?” That’s fine. Google him. The fact that you might not know who he is proves a point. How is he paid 10 times what an Academy Award-winning actress and comedian is being paid to do the same thing?
And yes, I know Mo’Nique’s Oscar was for a drama (Precious) not a comedy, but still. Awards bring prestige to your whole name/brand, not just in the niche you got them in. And THAT is Hollywood’s biggest award. She’s hosted award shows, been in the game for like 30 years AND has an Oscar but got offered a fraction of what the guy who may be the 2nd most known Deray got paid. AT THE MINIMUM, she should be paid exactly or more than him. $500,000 is a joke. It’s like pennies being thrown at her feet.
And then when Wanda’s piece is thrown in, you realize that NETFLIX IS TRULY BUGGING. Wanda Sykes is currently bigger than both DeRay AND Mo’Nique put together. She has a recurring role on TV’s biggest comedy (Black-ish), still does amazing stand-up AND has crossover appeal (aka white folks love her). She’s also an OG in this comedy game, with a long ass resumé and her name garners respect. The woman is brilliant and always on point! LOVE me some Wanda! For NetFlix to offer her less than $250,000 is a supreme insult and THAT is what proves to me that they are engaging in bullshit. Wanda should get paid nothing less than double whatever Deray got.
$250,000 for a Wanda Sykes comedy special. There is no justification for it and it’s completely ridiculous. That’s some serious disrespect right there, and if after all she’s done, she still gets this treatment? It lets you know sometimes our success isn’t enough. It gives validity to what Mo’Nique is saying, and NetFlix got some explaining to do.
Some people are reading this, shaking their head and disagreeing because they’re thinking “but Mo’Nique keeps letting her mouth get her in trouble. Maybe if she was a nicer person, she’d get paid more.” I challenge that. There are a lot of assholes who are THRIVING in Hollywood. Even if everything people have said about Mo’Nique is true, that must be noted. Douchebag behavior makes you hard to work with but it seems only time it gets you blackballed is when you’re Black and woman. Shit, Jim Carrey should never work in Hollywood again, just based on how much of a clusterfuck he caused on the set of his Andy Kaufman biopic.
When have men lost money from “not being nice?” There are men who have literally assaulted people on set, who get to be in blockbusters every year. People always make room and excuses for them.
And people only seem to wanna fight for saints. The ones without blemishes. If the only times we can stand up for people is when they’re faultless in life, or when they speak up in the exact way we want them to, then we’ll forever be sitting. But notice that we even needed Wanda to speak up before we could believe Mo’Nique.
Do I think Mo’Nique needs a better team around her? FOR SURE. I think she’s surrounded by people who are not good at their jobs. Who negotiates her deals? Who is her publicist? Where is her brand manager? Could she consult with a crisis communications team? She does a bad job at framing and her positioning has tanked. She’s too widely regarded as a nuisance, so it is her team’s job to help her figure out how to get her messaging right. And as we all know, positioning is everything, and hers is currently so bad that she cannot command the compensation that someone of her caliber should.
But terrible team and strategy aside, what Mo’Nique is fighting for is worth it. Speaking up about this cannot be easy, and her words made Wanda speak up so they matter. Black women are constantly being underpaid, underappreciated and overworked. We see people get promoted over us all the time. We deal with people being awarded over us constantly.
And we just have to sit there and wait our turn. And we need to be supported when we stand up about it. Yes, we can just go to where we are paid correctly but we can also choose to say when we are being cheated.
Now. Me and NetFlix parting ways ain’t happening. I love NetFlix for keeping us entertained for hours and days and weeks with their programming. But most importantly, they also give people of color a platform in ways other networks didn’t before. I don’t plan on boycotting them, because there are a lot of Black creatives working because of them. However, clearly they also need to do better, and they can be called to the carpet to do so. It’s not just “good brands” and “bad brands.” It’s companies that do well in one way and suck in others, and we can no longer be silent when they do the things that suck.
You don’t have to like Mo’Nique to admit that this situation is wack, she got lowballed, and that it seems comediennes of color are being underpaid for their work. It’s not just an entertainment problem and we shouldn’t be so quick to laugh at it. Folks gotta give us our coins.
P.S. If you are a Wandy Sykes fan, according to this tweet, her comedy special is now streaming on Hulu and Amazon Video.
Have you bought my NYTimes-bestselling debut book I’M JUDGING YOU: The Do-Better Manual? Haven’t ordered it yet? Now’s your chance. You’ll love it. Amazon. Barnes & Nobles. iBooks. Audible (I narrated the audiobook myself). Kobo. Books-A-Million.