Mo'Nique talks full-figured pride

New teen book series addresses weight

NEW YORK -- From phone sex operator, to comedian, to large size campaigner, to teen author with a voice for girls struggling to come to terms with their weight.

Mo'Nique Imes Jackson, 40, who is known by her stage name Mo'Nique, has enjoyed a varied career, starring in various TV shows, hosting the BET awards, and penning two books "Skinny Women Are Evil" and the cookbook "Skinny Cooks Can't Be Trusted."

Now twice-married Mo'Nique, who recently launched an online clothing range called Fat Gurl, has branched out into teen fiction with a coming-of-age novel "Beacon Hills High" which she co-wrote with Sherri McGee McCovey.

The novel is about a 13-year-old F.A.T. (Fabulous and Thick) girl who happens to share her last name -- Eboni Michelle Imes.

Mo'Nique, who has four children from her two marriages, spoke to Reuters about her latest venture -- and why fat-ism is wrong:

Q: Why did you decide to go into teen fiction?

A: "I think there are so many issues in college that were not as threatening when we were young and it's helpful to have a coming-of-age book that is real and helps kids understand what is going on."

Q: What type of issues do you mean?

A: "I think race is a huge issue, sexuality, and character and integrity. You normally find those things are handled in cartoons like Elmo and Blue's Clues but there is nothing that is really informative or geared for 13-year-olds."

Q: The lead character of "Beacon Hills High" has your name. Is she you?

A: "Yes. It is based on my years in college and she is learning to be comfortable in her own her skin. But when we were teenagers in school there wasn't so much focus on material things and how much things cost and names. We got excitement over the simple things so Ebony is changed for the times."

Q: Does it deal with weight issues?

A: "Yes, in the book there is a boy who is the superstar footballer and who has a crush on Ebony who is not the typical girl you'd think he would be attracted to. She is a big girl. He's is a bit nervous in letting his friends know about this. We also address weight with a character Deb who has become anorexic. The message is that you can be any size but you must be healthy."

Q: You've always been vocal about size. What is your view?

A: "I have always said I don't care what size you are but be as healthy as you can and love you. I have never said it is fine to be obese. But you are made to feel that if you are fat you have committed the worst sin. I've had crying sessions with women who won't wear short sleeved blouses or short shirts because they are imprisoned by what society says -- that you can't be sexy or have high self esteem if you are big. We want rid of the myths."

Q: Will you continue in teen fiction?

A: "Yes, this is a four-book series. I am also thinking about going into adult fiction with a line of books catering for full figured women. People don't think we have these incredible lives and wonderful sex lives and families but we do."

Q: Have you found yourself discriminated against due to size?

A: "When I first came to Hollywood I thought everyone looked the same. I didn't want to look like every else but to be who I am. I have lost almost 20 pounds (nine kilos) after having two new babies and I want to be as healthy as can be. I want to get to 200 pounds even. Now I'm 240. Some people would still consider that obese but it's fine for me."
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