updated 11/05/2009 AT 6:00 PM ET
•originally published 11/07/2009 AT 4:25 PM ET
While Mo’Nique may be known for her sassy stand-up comedy and larger-than-life personality, at her home just outside of Atlanta she is simply “Mommy.”
“When we’re at home it ain’t ‘action and cut’,” says the mom of 4-year-old twins, Jonathan and David, and a 19-year-old son, Shalon. “It’s just like a playground in our house – nothing but fun and love.”
But when she took on the role of an abusive mother in the film Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire, the actress set her current contentment aside and recalled a much harder time in her life. In this week’s issue of PEOPLE, Mo’Nique opens up about the sexual abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her eldest brother – and how she channeled that experience onscreen.
“Coming from being molested as a child, when [director Lee Daniels] said, ‘I need you to be this monster,’ well [I] knew who that monster was,” she says.
Now, critics are pegging Mo’Nique, 41, as a possible Oscar nominee, but that doesn’t phase her. “Any buzz I’m appreciative of,” she says simply.
But her new late-night talk show on BET, The Mo’Nique Show, gets her smiling. “When that curtain opens, I’m a kid that has no limit on all the candy she can have.”
The candy, of course, is just theoretical. Since late 2007, the star has sworn off junk food (sort of: “I still love those damn Doritos, baby!”), red meat and fried foods.
“Big is still beautiful,” says Mo’Nique, who went from a size 20 to a size 14. “Big healthy people are beautiful.”
For much more on Mo’Nique – including her story of surviving abuse, how she juggles motherhood and Hollywood, and how she’s losing the weight – pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday