Mo’Nique, the big-boned costar of UPN television’s The Parkers, is a comic natural. “When my family members and friends watch the show, they say, ‘All they did is change your name,’” Mo ‘Nique was quoted as saying in the Newark (NJ) Star-Ledger. “I think that’s why I don’t consider myself an actress because I’m just being me, and they just change my name on Monday nights.” Her inborn sense of humor didn’t take Mo’Nique to network tele vision right away, though. She worked her way to the top through all stages of the infrastructure of modern African-American comedy.
A native of Baltimore County, Maryland, Mo’Nique Imes was born on December 11, 1967. She told the Star-Ledger, “I was a fat baby coming out, and I’m going to be a fat baby leaving. I’ve always been comfortable with that.” She was the youngest of four children, and wit ran in the family. “My Aunt Bessie, Uncle Whip and my Aunt Tina are the funniest people I know,” she told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. “Bessie is the best cusser in the United States. She does combos you wouldn’t believe.” By age three Mo’Nique had decided to be a performer, and her father, a hospital supervisor, wasn’t surprised by her eventual success. “She was always an aggressive individual who seemed to carry out everything that she started,” he told the Baltimore Sun.
Before she found her way to a performing career, Mo’Nique graduated from Baltimore County’s Milford Mill High School and attended Morgan State University. She married and had a son, Shalon, and her only performing activity came from occasional modeling jobs. Her first stage appearance came in 1991 when she and her brother, Steve, attended an open-mike night at Baltimore’s Comedy Factory. The idea was that Steve Imes would perform, but “he bombed!” Mo’Nique told the Baltimore Sun. “They cut the mike off on him but he kept right on talking. Then they cut the lights off!” Mo’Nique claimed that she could do better, and her brother dared her to try. She did, and after her set she was offered $25 to perform at a local hair salon.
Her brother, her manager ever since, talked the salon up to $30, and that kicked off several years of appearances in small comedy clubs. Mo’Nique performed on
At a Glance…
Born Mo’Nique Imes, December 11, 1967, in Baltimore County, MD; father a hospital supervisor; married Mark Jackson (second husband); children: Shalon. Education: Graduated from Milford Mill High School, Baltimore County, MD; attended Morgan State University.
Career: Worked as sales representative, MCI telecommunications, and as telephone-sex business supervisor; performed at open-mike night and was hired for other performances, 1991; moved to Atlanta, CA, and performed in various southern venues, mid-1990s; (with brother) opened comedy club, Mo’Nique’s, in Baltimore, mid-1990s; performed on Showtime at the Apollo, Def Comedy Jam, and Comic View television programs; performed at Montreal Comedy Festival, 1997; made television series debut in The Parkers, 1999; performed on Queens of Comedy tour, 2001; appeared in films 3 Strikes, Baby Boy and Two Can Play at That Game.
Addresses: Management —Big City Artist Management, 6047 Tampa Ave., Suite 302, Tarzana, CA 91356.
weekends for a time, sticking with a series of day jobs that included one as supervisor for a telephone-sex enterprise: “I monitored the calls to see if the girls were doing their jobs right,” she told the Tampa Tribune. “I was like quality control.” Later, working as a sales representative for the MCI telecommunications firm, Mo’Nique had a chance to transfer to Atlanta and took it, hoping to find new comedy opportunities. “I played everything from red, redneck barnyards to deep and dank places where the people were so drunk they didn’t even know I was there, to playing concert halls. Wherever there was a show, I would go. I was out there by myself and I was saying prayers all across the country.”
After a year of working days and performing nights, Mo’Nique made the leap to becoming a full-time comedienne. When she was offered an appearance on the syndicated Showtime at the Apollo television show, she and her brother drove to New York and spent her brother’s rent money on a new performing outfit. The investment turned out to be a wise one. Mo’Nique was invited back to the Apollo, and that led to appearances on the HBO cable channel’s Def Comedy Jam and on BET’s Comic View. Her abusive first marriage—an experience that would find its way into her “Totally About Mo’Nique” standup act—fell apart, and she headed back to Baltimore.
By the mid-1990s Mo’Nique was something of a local celebrity in Baltimore. She undertook a second marriage, to Mark Jackson, and she and her brother opened their own comedy club, Mo’Nique’s. It proved a hit with the city’s black professional community, and Mo’Nique, who a few years earlier had been driving herself in the dead of night between small Southern towns for barroom appearances, now was chauffeured to work in a limousine. She landed a co-host slot on Baltimore’s WWIN radio station, and her standup career continued to develop. In 1997 she appeared in Canada at the Montreal Comedy Festival, a key venue frequented by national network talent scouts, and by the summer of 1999 Mo’Nique was filming her network series debut, The Parkers.
That show, a spinoff of the 1990s hit comedy Moesha, featured Mo’Nique opposite actress Countess Vaughn as a mother-and-daughter pair of California college freshmen, Nikki and Kim Parker. Both women were maximally flirtatious, and some of the show’s routines revolved around Mo’Nique’s unsuccessful pursuit of Professor Stanley Oglevee (Dorien Wilson). The Parkers took some criticism for what People called its “awfully broad” comedy, and it came to exemplify the divide between the television viewing habits of black and white Americans—at various times during its run it ranked first among all prime-time shows in African-American households and last among white viewers.
Still, the show was a success by any standard. It continued to flourish with black audiences, and in a Jet interview Mo’Nique pointed to the widely publicized dearth of black-oriented programs. “I can’t stress enough to people to continue supporting Black shows,” she said. “There are so few on television and the ones that are, we need to support.” She felt that The Parkers was a comic success on its own terms. “When I first made this show I wanted to make everybody happy,” she told the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. “And I can’t. For those that I can’t, sorry. If white America never catches on, they never catch on. I’m not going to do a jig to make them catch on.”
Mo’Nique plunged forward with her career at full speed after establishing herself on The Parkers. The show’s success landed her on the Queens of Comedy tour, a four-comedienne counterpart to the wildly successful Kings of Comedy, who sold out concert halls across the country and demonstrated the economic power of African-American consumers. Mo’Nique appeared in three movies: 3 Strikes, Baby Boy, and Two Can Play That Game. “Even after The Parkers ends, I will keep on ticking. You can count on that!,” she told Variety. Mo’Nique showed her confidence in her own future with the purchase of a $l-million, 4, 200-square-foot home in Tarzana, California.
Mo’Nique had started her own full-size clothing line. Her Queens of Comedy set sometimes featured material too outrageous for prime-time television, but still focused mainly on her own personality and experiences. “I’m not the typical joke teller,” she explained to the Atlanta Journal and Constitution. “I don’t tell why the dog crossed the street. I just talk about my life. I talk about being a big woman, being married, having kids. Just everything that every day affects Mo’Nique.” Keeping it real in this way, Mo’Nique has emerged as one of black America’s top entertainers.
Atlanta Journal and Constitution, September 2, 2001, p. L1.
Baltimore Sun, November 19, 1994, p. D1; April 21, 1999, p. E3; August 30, 1999, p. E1.
Jet, October 23, 2000, p. 60.
Los Angeles Times, December 30, 2001, p. K1.
People, November 8, 1999, p. 31.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 10, 2000, p. D4.
Seattle Times, April 11, 2000, p. E4.
Star-Ledger (Newark, NJ), April 29, 2001, p. 5; August 18, 2001, p. 3.
Tampa Tribune, August 30, 1999, p. Baylife-3.
Variety, May 27, 2002, p. S8.
Washington Post, May 2, 2000, p. C14.
—James M. Manheim
Imes-Jackson, Mo'Nique 1967–
IMES-JACKSON, Mo'Nique 1967–
(Mo'Nique Imes, Mo'Nique)
Original name, Monique Imes; born December 11, 1967, in Baltimore, MD; married Mark Jackson, December 25, 1997 (divorced); children: Mark, Jr., Shalon.
Addresses: Agent—William Morris Agency, 151 El Camino Dr., Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Manager—Big City Artists Management, 6047 Tampa Ave., Suite 302, Tarzana, CA 91356.
Career: Actress and writer. Performed stand–up comedy; Mo'Nique's Big Beautiful and Loving It (clothing line), designer and founder, 2000–02; WHUR Radio, Washington, DC, cohost of morning show, ?–2002; appeared in television commercial for Pepsi, 2004. Sometimes credited as Mo'Nique Imes.
Awards, Honors: Image Award, outstanding actress in a comedy series, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, 2001, 2002, 2004, Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a comedy series, 2003, all for The Parkers; Image Award nomination, outstanding supporting actress in a motion picture, 2002, for Two Can Play That Game; Image Award nomination, outstanding actress in a TV movie, miniseries, or dramatic special, and Black Reel Award, television: best supporting actress, 2004, both for Good Fences.
(As Mo'Nique) Dahlia, 3 Strikes, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2000.
Patrice, Baby Boy, Columbia, 2001.
(As Mo'Nique) Diedre, Two Can Play that Game, Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2001.
(As Mo'Nique) Herself, The Queens of Comedy, Latham Entertainment, 2001.
(As Mo'Nique) Twitch's girl, Half Past Dead (also known as Halb tot), Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2002.
(As Mo'Nique) Jamiqua, Soul Plane, Metro–Goldwyn–Mayer, 2004.
Peaches, Beauty Shop, 2004.
Television Appearances; Series:
(As Mo'Nique) Nicole "Nikki" Parker, The Parkers, UPN, 1999—.
(As Mo'Nique) Host, It's Showtime at the Apollo (also known as Showtime at the Apollo), syndicated, 2002—.
(As Mo'Nique) Herself (celebrity talent scout), Last Comic Standing (also known as Last Comic Standing: The Search for the Funniest Person in America), NBC, 2003.
Television Appearances; Movies:
(As Mo'Nique) Ruth Crisp, Good Fences, Showtime, 2003.
Television Appearances; Specials:
The 68th Annual Hollywood Christmas Parade, UPN and syndicated, 1999.
Host, The Source Hip–Hop Music Awards 2000, UPN, 2000.
The Queens of Comedy, Showtime, 2001.
The 7th Annual Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, syndicated, 2001.
Presenter, The 32nd NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2001.
The First Annual BET Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2001.
Instant Classic Bloopers, ABC, 2002.
(As Mo'Nique) Herself, Intimate Portrait: Isabel Sanford (documentary), Lifetime, 2003.
Host, The 3rd Annual BET Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2003.
Herself, Intimate Portrait: Mo'Nique (documentary), Lifetime, 2003.
The 34th NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2003.
The 2003 Essence Music Festival, UPN, 2003.
The 2003 Essence Awards, Fox, 2003.
Host, Queen for Just One Day, Lifetime, 2004.
(As Mo'Nique) Herself, Apollo at 70: A Hot Night in Harlem, 2004.
Commentator, Mouthing Off: 51 Greatest Smartasses, Comedy Central, 2004.
Presenter, Apollo at 70: A Hot Night in Harlem, NBC, 2004.
An Evening of Stars 25th Anniversary: Tribute to Lou Rawls, NBC, 2004.
Performer, The 35th Annual NAACP Image Awards, Fox, 2004.
Host, 2004 BET Awards, Black Entertainment Television, 2004.
Television Appearances; Episodic:
Asia, "Old Green Teeth/The Elephant Who Couldn't Say No," Jungle Cubs, 1996.
Asia, "Kasaba Ball/Trunks for the Memories," Jungle Cubs, 1997.
Sin City Spectacular, F/X, 1998.
Nikki Parker, "It Takes Two," Moesha, UPN, 1999.
Nikki Parker, "I Studied Twelve Years for This?," Moesha, UPN, 1999.
Panelist, "Icy the Burmese Python," You Lie Like a Dog, Animal Planet, 2000.
Panelist, "Crisse the Westie," You Lie Like a Dog, Animal Planet, 2000.
Nikki Parker, "The Candidate," Moesha, UPN and syndicated, 2000.
(As Mo'Nique) Nikki Parker, "Forty Acres and a Fool," The Hughleys, ABC, 2001.
(As Mo'Nique) Herself, "Comedians #2 Special," Weakest Link, NBC, 2001.
Voice of Boonnetta, "Behind Family Lines," The Proud Family (animated), 2002.
(As Mo'Nique) Herself, Sharon, 2003.
Herself, Ellen: The Ellen DeGeneres Show, syndicated, 2003.
The Early Show, CBS, 2003.
(As Mo'Nique) Herself, Sharon, 2003, 2004.
Herself, The Tavis Smiley Show, PBS, 2004.
Guest cohost, Sharon, 2004.
Lynette, "Who's That Lady?," The Bernie Mac Show, Fox, 2004.
Also appeared in BET's ComicView, Black Entertainment Television.
Appeared in "Pass the Courvoisier" by Busta Rhymes, 2002; "The Truth" by Truth Hurts.
Appeared on a skit on Eve's Scorpion.
Television Writing; Episodic:
Wrote Nikki's stand–up routine, The Parkers, UPN.
Skinny Women Are Evil, 2003.
Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 35, Gale, 2003.
Entertainment Weekly, May 2, 2003, p. 34.
Variety, May 27, 2002, p. S8.