It may be trending news already replaced and forgotten on social media but the facts undergirding the recent onscreen brouhaha between Steve Harvey and Mo’Nique are reminiscent of a truth that has existed since the dawn of modern civilization: when unbridled power and caches of money are at stake, the lofty goal of maintaining one’s integrity, while sounding good, has a better chance of landing you in the poor house than evoking change in the minds of those who hold the purse strings.
That’s what the often, far-too vocal Mo’Nique realized in the shellacking she received from Steve Harvey on the significance of money versus integrity during her appearance on his daytime talk show “Steve” which aired Feb. 13. Mo’Nique asserted that she’d been blackballed by Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Lee Daniels, among others, for speaking her mind on changes that have been long overdue in regard to equal pay for women in the entertainment industry.
What seemed most painful for Mo’Nique, well-known for being hard to work with and prone to allowing her temper to get the best of her, remains how those who agreed with her premise and demands in private, refuted her views when queried in public, also criticizing the actions she took when inviting her fans to both weigh in and support the solutions she sought for change.
Harvey told her the game is all about money: “When you tell the truth, you have to deal with the repercussions of the truth. We’re in the money game and you cannot sacrifice yourself. The best thing you can do for poor people is not be one of them. You cannot help them.”
Mo’Nique replied that integrity is more important than money, only to hear Harvey tear down her opinion, saying he could not, for the sake of integrity, “let everybody that’s counting on me crumble so I can make a statement.”
Ironically, but not surprising, Harvey has made his fortune as a “guidance counselor”— a so-called adviser on how to make your dreams come true, armed with a TV show and bestselling-books like “Act Like a Success — Think Like a Success” in which he purports to share the keys to discovering our gifts and the way to life’s riches.
For the record, I’ve only had one encounter with Harvey in my previous stead years ago as the senior editor for The Miami Times. I was sorely disappointed. Harvey had agreed to a sit-down interview, then cancelled our meeting but not before I’d arrived at the agreed upon location. As he signed books, safely ensconced within a 10-foot perimeter, I was met by a team of burly brothers surrounding him, adorned in long black coats, black hats, black suits and black shades who kept me, or anyone else, from getting too close. They reminded me of “goon squads” that I’d encountered back in my hometown of Detroit during the early 80s shortly after college and in Chicago a few years later where on-the-job training helped me survive the streets as a young, beat reporter.
Harvey notwithstanding, it seems more reasonable to seek the advice of any number of experts who bring at least a modicum of the requisite qualifications. Who goes to “homeboy-made-good” for support or life-changing solutions to our unresolved challenges when more “bona fide, certified and (upon whose skills have been) testified” psychologists, psychiatrists and counselors are just a text message away?
Consider for comparison, I’ve followed, supported and encouraged Wendy Williams over 20 years after she first answered my call, volunteering her time, talents and treasures to a fundraiser for Blacks in Chicago impacted by HIV/AIDS. No matter what, I’ve got Wendy’s back. But I have no intentions of calling on her, frantic and forlorn, to follow her quips directed from the couch. I’ll look in different directions for more erstwhile soothsayers.
Mo’Nique was, in the words of Malcolm X, “bamboozled.” She believed her “friends” had her back and could not fathom how they’d all so easily thrown under the bus. Where have you been sister?
In the days when bell bottoms, afros, eight tracks and pagers were all the rage, I remember my dad, resolutely claiming to be “just a simple country boy from Alabama,” often sitting me down to share his insights. Decades later, I continue to recognize his wisdom — advice more valuable than silver and gold.
He once advised, before becoming entangled in a fight, assess its importance, relevance and potential impact on my goals and dreams for that day or the future. Some fights, he told me, might not be worth the costs and consequences of winning. Did I listen to him? Sometimes. More often and simply to spite him, I would move in the opposite direction. One day, like a bolt from the sky, I understood that some lessons would have to be learned the hard way.
But don’t believe me — just ask Mo’Nique.