Now that Charm School‘s in session, it’s time to talk with the Flavor of Love girls’ leader on this show: comedian, actress and all-around responsible adult Mo’Nique. In our exclusive interview with Mo, she dishes the dirt on what it was like to lead 13 young women known for their unruliness, what she thinks of New York and what we can expect from Charm School. The bell rings after the jump…
So, what’s the official story: did you come up with the idea for Charm School?
No. I would love to take the credit, but that would make me a liar, and I don’t lie good. I had a general meeting with VH1 one day and we got on the general subject of Flavor of Love. We were just discussing general opinions and views and they asked me about the idea for Charm School. And I thought it was absolutely brilliant.
During the first episode of Charm School, you mention that you watched Flavor of Love. Did you enjoy it?
The first episode that I watched, I was in shock. And then, you’d hear the talk of this show all around the country. I don’t care where I was, people were talking about Flavor of Love. It was disappointing at times. I got to the point where I had to turn it off.
When you’re facing a group of girls with personalities that are so bold, did you feel like you had to assert your dominance?
No. I think I have a dominant personality. I didn’t have to turn it on, like, "Action!" OK, let me turn on my dominance! It’s not that I try to be, it’s just what it is.
You’re sort of the headmistress of these girls, but on the flip, did you learn anything from your Charm School experience?
I told the exec producers of Charm School not to make me the expert. I do not want these women or America to believe that Mo’Nique knows all the answers, because I don’t. There are things that I needed to learn and the major thing was patience. It’s easy to lose your patience, especially with someone when you feel like, "Why aren’t you getting this?" But then, I had to look at myself and say, Wait a minute Mo’Nique: there are people who are really patient with you. How could you not be patient with somebody else?
These girls like to call each other "bitch." Like, a lot. What are your feelings about that word?
I use it too, I won’t lie. If I’m around with my girlfriends and we laughin’ and jokin’ I will say, "Oh, bitch, you crazy." Nobody looks at it and goes, "(gasp) Oh my God!" It’s almost a term of endearment. Now, if I say, "Bitch, I’mma whip your ass," it’s a different thing. It’s all about context.
But at the same time, you don’t call these girls "bitch." You often call them "queen."
For some of these women, life has beat the hell out of them. You sit down and hear their stories and you’re like, "Oh my God." So for me to say, "Hey, my queen," it’s like, let me give you whatever I can to build your esteem up. Let me give you whatever I can to try to make you walk easier, if only for today. It’s so funny, I can be in the supermarket and a woman will come up to me and she’ll hug me and say, "You changed my life." And I’ll say, "Thank you, queen," and you see her body language change. ‘Cause somebody did it for me, and I know how it made me feel, so let me give you a piece of this sweet cake I been chewing.
Some of the girls seem more refined coming into the show than others. Goldie, for example, was relatively peaceful on Flavor of Love, while people like Bootz or Saaphyri are known for their attitudes. Do the girls who acted out less on Flavor have more of an advantage on Charm School?
I wouldn’t say that any of the women had an advantage or disadvantage. When they came in, the slate was clean. We didn’t say, "Well, this one here is college-educated and that one there dropped out in the 6th grade." No. Everybody came in that door equal and it’s what they did once they got behind that door.
Can you think of any celebrities you’d put through Charm School?
I’mma start with me. Every woman on the face of this earth could go to Charm School. We had an etiquette lesson. Who eats like that? I just eat with the fork that can pick up that damn piece of steak. You got three forks on the table? Sugar, that’s too much concentration. I only care about the fork can hold a good piece of steak with these sautéed mushrooms and onions.
But other celebrities?
Celebrities are nothing but people. We put so much into it. I won’t do that to those women. If they say, "I wanna go to Charm School," then, come on, baby. But I won’t start naming women because who am I do to that.
What are your feelings on New York?
You know what I said to New York when I met her? I said, "What’s next? What legacy will you leave? When your grandchildren watch your show in syndication, how do you think they’ll feel about their grandmother?" I also said to her, "Baby, I wish you’d find happiness in your heart." When you have happiness in your heart, you won’t put yourself through that.
What was her reaction?
I won’t say she cried, but her eyes teared up and she said, "I know."
What about Flav? What’s your opinion on him?
I love Flav. Flav did nothing that those women didn’t allow. And here’s the thing, if you notice: he wasn’t really in the show. It’s called Flavor of Love, but he’s more of a supporting character. I’ve heard a few people say, "I can’t believe he did that…" Well, tell me what he did!
Besides patience, can you point to anything else that was a challenge for you while doing this show? Or what the show a challenge at all?
You know, it wasn’t. I was so into it that it wasn’t a challenge. It was a triumph. I knew that if one of these women walked out of that house different, it would be incredible. But several of them walked out different. Several of them walked out transformed, it’s like, oh my God. How beautiful is this?
The angle of Charm School is very positive, but you can see the comedy that comes from these girls’ bad behavior, right?
Oh yeah. We have to be able to laugh at ourselves. Then you realize it ain’t that heavy.
Are you concerned about whether or not people will take to a show that’s maybe not as wild as Flavor of Love?
We are at a sad place when we want to see hatred. That is a sad state. But, the brilliance of Charm School is that these people are in their natural state. They are who they are. It’s interesting to watch people be who they are. And you’ll see a woman who was a fighter explain why she was a fighter, and then you’re not so quick to judge. Now, you still may see some fighting. You’re gonna see some t******. You’re gonna see some ass. You’re gonna see some cussin’. But through it all, you’re gonna see that thing called love. It’s gonna give you that, "Bitch, I’ll whip your ass!" It’s gonna give you, "Oh my God, I can’t believe I did that. Can I say I’m sorry?" Charm School gives it all to you.