(Hollywood Reporter) – At the 2010 Academy Awards, Mo’Nique wore white gardenias in her hair — just as Hattie McDaniel had in 1940 when she became the first African-American actress to win an Oscar. The Precious star later thanked McDaniel in her best supporting actress acceptance speech “for enduring all that she had to, so that I would not have to.”
As The Hollywood Reporter recognizes the 75th anniversary of McDaniel’s historic win, we speak at length with Mo’Nique about her debt to her movie-star idol, her memories of her own Oscar night and the dramatic turn her career has taken in the five years since. As director Lee Daniels put it to her in a recent phone call, “Mo’Nique, you’ve been blackballed.”
How do you respond to those who criticize Hattie McDaniel for only taking maid roles?
If they knew who this woman really was, they would say, “Let me shut my mouth.” If they really understood the fights behind the scenes, the conversations we’ll never have the opportunity to hear. And then you say to those people, “Well, tell me what other roles were available.” Because what she was was an actress — and at that time, she wasn’t getting the roles that her white counterparts were getting. She was saying, “I’m an actress. When you say ‘cut,’ I’m not [a maid anymore].” So I say to those people: know that woman in full before you judge.