In 1987, obese, illiterate, 16-year-old Clarice Precious Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) lives in the New York City ghetto of Harlem with her dysfunctional and abusive mother, Mary (Mo'Nique). She has been raped by her father, Carl (Rodney "Bear" Jackson), resulting in two pregnancies. She suffers long-term physical and mental abuse from her unemployed mother. The family resides in a Section 8 tenement and survives on welfare. Her first child, known as "Mongo", short for Mongoloid, has Down syndrome and is being cared for by Precious' grandmother, though Mary forces the family to pretend Mongo lives with her and Precious so she can receive extra money from the government.. Her high school principal arranges to have her attend an alternative school, which she hopes can help Precious change her life's direction. Precious finds a way out of her traumatic daily existence through imagination and fantasy. In her mind, there is another world where she is loved and appreciated.