Mo'Nique sues Netflix for racial, gender discrimination over comedy special: 'I chose to stand up'

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
Mo'Nique attends the premiere of Almost Christmas at the Regency Village theatre in Westwood, California on November 3, 2016. / AFP / CHRIS DELMAS        (Photo credit should read CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)
Mo'Nique, at a 2016 premiere, is suing Netflix claiming they pay more money to white comedians. (Photo: CHRIS DELMAS/AFP via Getty Images)

Mo'Nique has filed a racial and gender discrimination lawsuit against Netflix.

The Oscar-winning actress and comedian confirmed the news on Thursday.

She shared the reasoning behind her decision, writing, “I had a choice to make: I could accept what I felt was pay discrimination or I could stand up for those who came before me and those who will come after me. I chose to stand up.”

The Precious star’s social media post ended by saying she has no further comment, but appreciates the “support and love” of her fans.

A Netflix spokesperson tells Yahoo Entertainment, “We care deeply about inclusion, equity and diversity and take any accusations of discrimination very seriously. We believe our opening offer to Mo'Nique was fair — which is why we will be fighting this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in L.A., accuses the streaming service of offering Mo'Nique a significantly lower salary for a stand-up comedy special — $500,000 — compared to what white comedians were paid. It alleges that the company has a history of racial discrimination.

Video: ‘The Talk’ Hosts Discuss Mo’Nique Lawsuit

Mo'Nique, who seeks unspecified damages, claims a “biased, discriminatory” offer was made to her for a one-hour comedy special in 2017. It said the “lowball offer” was “a fraction of what Netflix paid other (non-Black female) comedians.”

The lawsuit listed other comedians who reportedly were paid more: Jerry Seinfeld getting $100 million in 2017 for two specials and an interview series, Dave Chappelle being paid $60 million in 2016 for three specials, Chris Rock getting $40 million for two specials in 2016, Ricky Gervais being offered $40 million in 2016 for a two-show deal and Amy Schumer getting $13 million in 2017 for one special.

“Netflix’s offer to Mo’Nique perpetuates the drastic wage gap forced upon Black women in America’s workforce,” the lawsuit stated.

It also claimed that there’s a lack of diversity among the leaders of the company and, as a result, a blind eye is turned on racial discrimination. It claimed the beleaguered Kevin Spacey repeatedly made racist remarks, including using the N-word, on the set of House of Cards. Those claims first surfaced in 2018, amid his takedown for #MeToo allegations. Spacey’s spokesperson has not yet commented to Yahoo Entertainment about being cited in the lawsuit.

It also referenced the company’s communications chief being fired in 2018 for using the N-word.

The filing also highlighted the gender pay disparity between actors The Crown co-stars Claire Foy and Matt Smith, which made headlines in 2018 and for which producers later apologized.

Last year, Mo'Nique publicly called out Netflix over the $500,000 offer, asking her fans to boycott the company “for gender and color bias.”

After she did, fellow comedian Wanda Sykes said she had previously been “offended” by a low offer from the streaming business, which she turned down. Sykes later did a special with Netflix and explained that they “moved that comma,” leading her to change her mind about working with them.

In February, Mo'Nique addressed the Netflix boycott on the Steve Harvey Show. When the host scolded her for going “about it wrong” by calling a boycott, she defended herself.

“Inequality is devastating and it’s extreme,” she replied. “And when people said, ‘Mo’Nique, do you think calling a boycott was extreme,’ you’re damn right. But isn’t inequality extreme? So we’ve got to get to a place where we’re unafraid to say it out loud.”

The actress also addressed how her career imploded after 1999’s Precious. She maintained that she was blackballed in Hollywood and labeled “difficult” by the film’s director Lee Daniels, and producers Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, after she refused to campaign for the award-winning film. The conflict stemmed over Mo'Nique wanting additional money to promote the film. She infamously said on stage during a stand-up comedy show that the trio could “suck her d***” — and stood by that in her interview with Harvey.

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