Friday, December 18, 2009

On Humility, or an Open Letter to Mo'Nique

Dear Mo'Nique:

I heard about your recent refusal to appear at all these award shows coming up, even though you are nominated.

You stomp and scream and cry, demanding that you didn't get paid enough for the film, and if you have to traipse to all these things, you wanna get paid for it. And you know, it's an understandable request.

But let me just school you for a minute in the way things work in Hollywood, since you don't really seem to get it. And, in the spirit of your character in Precious (and no, I'm not adding the damn pretentious title after it), let me be straight-up and honest about it. Brutally honest.

Here's what it is. You may think, as an actress, that the goal is the work, to get a deeply moving role, blah blah. That may be true. However, the reality is also that in the overall scheme of things, NOTHING and I mean NOTHING, that you do: no talk show, no other role, no stage work, no nothing will help your career and image in the industry as much as winning an Academy Award.

This should be obvious, apparently it isn't to you.

Every time after that, in every ad, every magazine article, every everything, it's going to say: Oscar-winning actress Mo'Nique in big, bold letters. Just let that sink into your brain for awhile.

Because here's the thing. Here's the reason I'm writing this letter to you. THAT IS within your grasp. Right now, with this role in Precious, you nearly have the gold plate inscribed. I promise you.

BUT to get from here to there, there are a lot of steps along the way. And tantrumy diva behaviour might hold up, even for this role. Might. Right now, from where I stand, it looks like you're on a crash course to self-destruction.

So maybe you don't really get the Hollywood scene. Trust me with this too, this is the closest you are ever gonna get to this gold. People have a once-in-a-lifetime shot at this usually, and this is yours. So listen well.

You may've previously played the actress game, which involves auditioning, and getting roles, and doing those roles. Etc. This awards-show circuit is a whole other side of the Hollywood machinery.

Here is how it is properly played, for those skilled and in the know. And you can choose to ignore this advice, but trust me, sister, this right now is your shot. I'm saving you years of learning.

With a powerhouse role like this, the award accolades start coming in early. You get nominated at everything from the New York Critics Circle to the Golden Globes, if you're lucky. The BAFTAs. The LA Critics. And the more of these you choose to go to, and smile and nod, and accept your award, the more a part of the industry you will appear. Those IN the industry will say to themselves, she's not a crazy diva actress. She's a respected actress and we want to give her an Oscar for that, because she is playing our game. And further down the line, they will HIRE you because they remember that you were the one winning all the awards.

All those uphill battles you've been fighting as an actress go away because you become a known quantity in their minds. Now, you may jump up and down, screaming about what a great actress you already are, and while that may be true, Terrence Howard had it exactly right. You may have won over your friends, family and fans. Those aren't the people who get you JOBS.

Right now, just the bad press you have already have about this matter may have derailed any respect you might've had in the industry (talk show be damned; this fiasco is the PR version of Britney shaving her head). It may just be too late. I don't think so. I think you still have time to salvage it, if you suck it up and start acting with some humility going forward.

Here's what you have to do, immediately, if not sooner. Get your publicist all over the Internet putting out this fire. Saying instead, Oh no, Mo'Nique would love to appear at your awards event. Go there, say not one word about money, smile, nod, pick up your award. Rinse, repeat. Over and over. Like it's one of those magic walkways they have at airports. The momentum in place will just push you through it.

And if you keep doing it, I promise you, there is an Oscar at the other end. Did you know that an actress's fee goes up significantly if she has won an Oscar? And the FIRST role you do after winning an Oscar you can pretty much cherry pick? That is there waiting for you.

Having lots of money may be your goal. It may be your only goal. You may not care about "the art." You may not care about the respect of your peers. But if you do, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP right now, and do this. Without complaint. Without requests for additional payment. The payment comes in the roles you get later. And the doors that will be opened for you. When in the future, it's between you and another actress for a role, you'll ALWAYS have the "well, she won an Oscar" card to play.

You seem like a smart woman, Mo'Nique. Fix this PR travesty right now. Do the awards circuit. And if, for whatever reason, you choose not to, I sure hope that Academy voters remember Samantha Morton's name as an alternative. At least SHE gets it.