Also Credited As:Monique Imes, Mo'Nique Imes Jackson, Monique Imes, Mo'Nique
|Monique Imes on December 11, 1967 in Woodlawn, Maryland, USA|
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Born Monique Imes on Dec. 11, 1967, in Baltimore, MD, the young girl who added a dramatic break to her name to "boost her fabulousness" was entertaining everyone who came into contact with from an early age. While attending college, her career got its start at comedy club open mic night when her brother bet her she would not get on stage. She won the bet and was booked to entertain at a beauty parlor the following week; consequently, her brother became her manager for handling the negotiations. Mo'Nique immediately got serious about comedy, honing her frank, observational stand-up act and energetic stage persona through countless comedy club performances. She was also working at a telecommunications company during the day, and when that job led to an opportunity in Atlanta, GA, she happily relocated with an eye on landing work at comedy clubs throughout the South. She received such positive responses that in a year she had quit her job to become a full-time comic. She moved up to opening for touring R&B musicians like Keith Sweat and Bobby Brown and received her big break when she was chosen to appear on the infamous "Showtime at the Apollo" (syndicated, 1987- ) talent showcase.
Her television debut led to stand-up performances on "Russell Simmons' Def Comedy Jam" (HBO, 1992-97) and BET's "Comic View" (1992- ), after which point, with a failing first marriage and increasing comedy success, she returned to her hometown. Now a local celebrity, Mo'Nique opened her own comedy club and landed a co-hosting slot on a local radio station. Her 1997 performance at the Montreal Comedy Festival marked another huge career leap, including national touring and acting offers. After a recurring guest appearance on "Moesha" (UPN, 1996-2001), she was cast on "The Parkers" as a strong-willed single mother and fellow college freshman classmate of her teen daughter (Countess Vaughn). Mo'Nique's sarcastic wit, flirtatiousness and likable personality translated well onto the small screen, and despite her lack of formal acting training, she capably handled the role and helped make the "Moesha" spin-off of a success. During its five years on the air, the new television star was recognized with five Outstanding Actress in a Comedy Series wins at the NAACP Image Awards.
While holding down a weekly television shooting schedule, the tireless comedienne simultaneously branched out into feature films, landing supporting roles in John Singleton's urban drama "Baby Boy" (2001) and the popular battle of the sexes comedy, "Two Can Play That Game" (2001), starring Morris Chestnut, Vivica A. Fox and Anthony Anderson. She earned an Image Award nomination for her supporting role and returned to the stand-up stage in "The Queens of Comedy" (2002), a concert film spin-off of the successful "Kings of Comedy" franchise that featured stand-up sets from Laura Hayes, Adele Givens, Sommore, and Mo'Nique. The CD version of the concert went on earn a Grammy Nomination for Best Spoken Word album, and subsequently, Mo'Nique was tapped to perform with the first all-African American production of Eve Ensler's "Vagina Monologues." Returning to the perennial favorite "Showtime at the Apollo," Mo'Nique became the show's first female host. Meanwhile, she continued to rack up acting accolades with a Black Reel Award and an Image Award nomination for "Good Fences" (2003) - a 1970s-set comedy starring Whoopi Goldberg and Danny Glover, which debuted at the Sundance Film Festival prior to airing on Showtime.
Mo'Nique added the title of "best-selling author" to her growing list of career hyphenates with the success of her 2003 humor book, Skinny Girls Are Evil: Notes of a Big Girl in a Small-Minded World. As "The Parkers" came to a close in 2004, Mo'Nique's film career heated up with a role as a tough-talking airport security guard in the tasteless comedy "Soul Plane" (2004) and the lead role of a Baltimore hairstylist on the run from the IRS in "Hair Show" (2004), which earned the actress a nomination from the BET Comedy Awards. In 2005, Mo'Nique made a hilarious cameo in the Tony Scott bounty hunter thriller, "Domino," and returned to television as host and executive producer of "Mo'Nique's F.A.T. Chance" (Oxygen, 2005- ), a plus-sized beauty contest which became the Oxygen network's top rated show. The plus-sized role model delivered to her niche audience again with "Phat Girlz" (2006), a comedy about an aspiring plus-size fashion designer struggling to find love and acceptance, which unfortunately met with a resounding critical and box office thud.
Mo'Nique began to show another side of her acting talent with her small but impacting role as a drug addict in Lee Daniels' indie thriller "Shadowboxer" (2006), starring Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding, Jr. However far more people watched her that year as host and producer of VH1's "Charm School Starring Mo'Nique" (2007- ), in which she humorously coached contestants vying for the affection of former hip-hop star Flavor Flav in one of the network's top-rated offerings. A second book, the memoir-laced cook book Skinny Cooks Can't Be Trusted, hit bookstores in 2006 and the actress surfaced again on the movie screen in the low-brow comedy "Beerfest" (2006) and the animated spoof "Farce of the Penguins" (2007). Taking a more hard-hitting turn, Mo'Nique produced the documentary "Mo'Nique Behind Bars" (Showtime, 2007), in which she uncovered the stories and struggles of incarcerated women by interviewing them in a theater-like prison setting.
From guest spots on "Nip/Tuck" (FX, 2003- ), "The Boondocks" (Adult Swim, 2005- ) and "Ugly Betty" (ABC, 2006- ), Mo'Nique went on to score a leading role in the comedy "Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins" (2008), starring Martin Lawrence as a celebrity who returns to his humble Southern roots. In 2008, she hit the radio airwaves as host of the syndicated "The Mo'Nique Show," and early the following year earned some of the strongest dramatic reviews of her career, including a Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, for her portrait of an abusive parent in "Precious" (2009), a family drama based on the novel by Sapphire. In the fall of 2009 - amidst buzz of a possible onslaught of acting awards for her work in "Precious" - the rarely serious Mo'Nique joined the late night television schedule as host of BET's "The Mo'Nique Show." Closing out a productive year, the actress did indeed earn award recognition for her work in "Precious," including an Independent Spirit Award and an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, as well as Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe wins for the same category.