“Stay out of grown folks business.”
A phrase I’m sure many of us have heard before, either from parents, relatives or people throughout our community. There are many times I remember my mom paying for something and I would ask, “How much did that cost,” to which she replied, “Don’t worry about it” or “stay out of grown folks business.”
Though the phrase might bring back funny childhood memories, it can take on a deeper meaning as an adult when it comes to the actual “business” of making money, especially for Black people or women of color. Mo’Nique has made this abundantly clear now that she’s brought about conversations on the detriments of staying out of the “business.”
Back in January 2018, Mo’Nique left people divided when she called for folks to boycott Netflix for gender bias and racial bias because she argued that she wasn’t getting paid as much as her White or male peers. Some people thought she was crazy for taking on such a big streaming and entertainment platform. She even notoriously received “Donkey of the Day” from Charlamagne tha God on The Breakfast Club. Meanwhile, other folks thought she had a point, including Chance the Rapper, Jada Pinkett Smith and fellow comedian Wanda Sykes who initially tweeted, “@moworldwide,thank you for speaking out. @netflix offered me less than half of your $500k. I was offended but found another home. #EPIX”
Eventually, Mo’Nique released email documents of her Netflix offer and they showed that Mo’Nique’s deal was actually pretty bad. According to Salon:
“For the two years after the premiere of her special, Netflix asked that ‘Mo’Nique not perform or use the material from our special in any recorded program (audio-only or audio-visual work), then we ask for a first negotiation/first refusal right after the 24 months in the event that she does want to use the material elsewhere.’ More or less, Netflix wouldn’t have just had possession of the produced show, but the content therein, forcing her to develop entirely new material for touring, which is the lifeblood of any working comedian. Here, Netflix is essentially proposing to own the comedian and her jokes for the next two years for $500,000 — a very bad deal.”
With Mo’Nique calling out Netflix and then releasing the alleged documents to their deal, for once, it felt like a Black veteran was letting the community into “grown folks business.”
This is an important moment because, historically, Black people have continually been cut off from wealth-building, whether it be in the housing market, the job arena, or even with reparations for past harms done to Black folks.
If anyone should be talking about money publicly, it’s Black people….especially Black women who are typically paid 61 cents to White men’s dollar, according to the American Association of University Women.
Mo’Nique has continually said in interviews that she’s taking up her cause for the young Black girls who are coming behind her. A young Black female comedian could easily be watching Mo’Nique and thinking twice on how she handles business. Mo’Nique is letting this future star into grown folks business.
Now one might argue Mo’Nique didn’t have to go as far as to boycott Netflix, or she could’ve just taken the Netflix offer for now, then demanded more if her special did numbers. However, this is a strategy that doesn’t necessarily bring money-talk to the larger public, at least at the same force Mo’Nique has brought it to the public. By being so extreme, Mo’Nique said we’re going to have this conversation now and we’re going to involve everyone — the big streaming sites, the studios and, of course, Black people.
Mo’Nique has even opened up conversations about Black people’s buying power in the first place. Is it possible folks like Amy Schumer and Chris Rock are getting offered more money because they have a larger White audience, one that Mo’Nique hasn’t necessarily acquired? If most of Mo’Nique’s audience is Black, how many of us have the buying power to support her so that Netflix can witness the numbers. Sure, there’s rich Black people, or Black people with good jobs who can easily pay for a Mo’Nique show or a simple Netflix subscription. But again, considering the large wealth gap between Black people and White people, and Black people’s slimmer access to capital, is it hard to believe that our Black heroes might fair better getting White dollars rather than Black dollars.
This is a serious problem that grown folks need to discuss, especially now that Black money-talk has reached this year’s presidential campaigns.
Now granted, some of the points Mo’Nique makes can only be taken as speculation. Although she’s released emails of her alleged Netflix dealings, we might not have every single document from their interaction, and we definitely haven’t seen receipts from her past business talks. For example, it would be great to have the emails and phone conversations she had with Lionsgate, Lee Daniels, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry — another group that seemed to chastise Mo’Nique for her financial demands. Only with more documentation can we learn who was getting paid what, how money was being handled in relation to a project’s budget, and how the nitty-gritty details of a deal might’ve play into Mo’Nique’s career.
However, what we can determine from Mo’Nique is that she unequivocally forced us to talk about money and in a way that included Black people and Black women. This is something to be praised because how can we as a people anticipate a healthy future if we’re not financially stable or given what we’re owed. I’m glad Mo’Nique let us into grown folks business publicly and hopefully, the conversation will continue.
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