BALTIMORE – Monique Imes grew up a self-described “fat girl from Baltimore” whose grandmother used to tell her, “you’re pretty, you’re special.” Now a Hollywood star known simply as Mo’Nique, she came home Wednesday to the cheers of over 1,100 similarly built women chanting her name, to tell them that they, too, can be successful and comfortable with themselves.
The occasion was an open casting call at an East Baltimore motel to recruit people for the second season of Mo’Nique’s hit reality show, “Mo’Nique’s F.A.T. Chance.”
The program chooses women who will travel to Los Angeles and appear on the program to go through a “beauty boot camp,” and compete for the title Ms. F.A.T. – fabulous and thick.
The show will have its season premier on the Oxygen network this July.
On the second stop of her five-city search for Miss F.A.T., Mo’Nique took the podium in tears after walking through the crowd of women auditioning to be on her show. The search has already been to Miami, and will make stops in Seattle, Los Angeles and New York.
Mo’Nique introduced her grandmother, Lillian “Mammie” Easley, who still lives in the Baltimore area, to a crowd full of women who were screaming, crying and chanting the star’s name.
“As a little girl she would say to me, ‘you’re pretty, you’re special,'” the comedian recalled her grandmother telling her.
She mentioned that few full-figured women have that type of support growing up. “Being a fat girl from Baltimore, there aren’t a lot of people behind you saying, ‘go, go, go, go, go!'” she said in an interview. “Go be a sex symbol!”
So why did Mo’Nique originally create this show, which in its first season was the highest rated original program in Oxygen’s history?
“There was no one on there that looked like me [on television]. And when they did have someone that looked like me it was the ‘Biggest Loser,’ ‘Celebrity Fit Club,’ and it was done in such a way that it was hurtful, and it was mean,” she said.
“So, I said you know what? We can put fat girls on television and look good and have a good time. And let the world know, we’re worthy, we’re valuable and we’re sexy and we’re glamorous and we’re gorgeous.”
Sheba Major, a 30-year-old realtor from Washington, D.C., was among those waiting in the holding room for her chance to go before show producers and prove to them why she deserved to be picked. She said that it took her a while to “love what God created, and that’s what Mo’Nique’s show is about.”
Angela Trotter, 21, had already made it through the first round and was waiting for 3 p.m. to come so she could have her second shot at the producers. The retail manager traveled from Portsmouth, Va., said she was excited to be able to represent women who don’t look like most women that are seen on television.
“I’m just here to represent everyone who is not a Barbie,” she said, “and to show people that it’s okay to be pretty and big.”
That was a sentiment echoed by many of the women at the Best Western Hotel and Conference Center. Tracy Douglas of Waldorf said it all comes down to being comfortable in your skin.
“For me personally, I know that I’m fat,” she said. “For somebody else to say it to me, it’s not going to hurt my feelings, and therefore it’s not going to bring me down.”
Mo’Nique, who said she’s always been comfortable with her weight, urged women to learn to accept who they are. “Once you say, ‘I don’t care what you think of me, I’m okay with me,’ then guess what? They’re going to get okay with you,” she said.