She’s funny. She’s fearless. She’s fabulous. She’s one of our favorite Empire starlets. She’s Gabourey Sidibe! Join us as we celebrate her as our EGL Chick of the Week.
Not long ago, Gabby, as Sidibe is affectionately known, was one of the countless faces in the sea of hopeful actors living in New York City hoping to get their big break. But sometimes dreams do come true, as in the case of Gabourey Sidibe who went from a working college student to star of Fox Network’s television series Empire.
Sidibe’s ascension to stardom wasn’t exactly meteoric, rather the materialization of a mother’s artistry mixed with a father’s hard work ethic, culminating in a mixture from which a star was born. Sidibe’s mother was not only a teacher but also a noted singer; while her father, a city cabdriver. In her youth, Sidibe performed on the playground for money. As she matured, she attended community college while juggling odd jobs. However, she never let go her aspirations to become a performer. In 2007, Sidibe’s dream came true. She landed the role that projected her onto the big screen as lead character in Lee Daniels film Precious adapted from the novel Push by Sapphire. Her outstanding performance as an abused 350-pound teenager earned her an Oscar nomination.
Once a star is born, it has to shine. And Ms. Sidibe is doing just that. She will not be known as the one-hit-wonder. The actress, who has gone on to perform in a slew of television and film projects, was once allegedly told by prominent actress Joan Cusack that she should quit the business based on her looks. In an interview on Watch What Happens, Sidibe shares the tale that could’ve ended her career before it really even started. Here’s what Sidibe said occurred at an industry event prior to her star-turning role to fame.
Cusack asked her if she was an actress and when she said yes Cusack said, “Oh, honey, you should really quit the business. It’s so image-conscious.” Sidibe maintains that Cusack meant it in a good way.
In spite of such soul wrenching advise, Gabourey persevered and has been flexing her acting chops weekly on Fox’s hit television musical drama Empire for the past two seasons. She has proved that quitting was never an option.
As Sidibe’s popularity and success continue to rise, she’s come to deal with the issues linked to being a star. Last year, she was asked to be the face of the body acceptance movement. Although she was honored at the request, she maintains that it wasn’t a responsibility she wanted to have. In her commonly quirky manner regularly voiced on Twitter, this is what she had to say:
“I don’t want any responsibility ever. I’d prefer to pretend to be a 4-year-old. I’m not purposely trying to be the face of anything,” she said. “This week has been very strange because I did one love scene, and I said one paragraph about it, and now my Twitter has been blowing up for the last five days. That’s a lot of responsibility!”
This exaltation came on the heels of Sidibe’s brief skin-filled onscreen sex scene as her Empire character Becky “gets it in” with her boyfriend. This steamy scene spawned the trending hashtag #MyFatSexyStory, scoring Sidibe major points in particular within the plus-sized community. Sidibe went on to explain her position on it all.
“I don’t necessarily do it on purpose, but the thing is I can’t ever decide to be anything other than a plus-sized, dark skinned black actress. There are no other options … Being the face of this also isn’t an option for me. It’s just what comes along with it.
Enough said. Or maybe not. It’s been publicized that not only will you get to enjoy the outspoken and often comedic commentary of Gabby Sidibe on screen and via social media, but in 2017 you can read it in a published memoir. Sidibe has plans to add the title of author to her long list of talents. The memoir for Houghton Mifflin Harcourt is set to be published in 2017. According to Entertainment Weekly, the yet untitled book will feature stories from Sidibe’s life, spanning from style and fame to depression and family, using the wit and honesty we’ve come to expect from her.
“I’ve been writing since I was a child, and have always had so many stories to tell that are too long, shady, and impolite to share in interviews,” Sidibe said in a release. “It brings me much joy to add Published Writer to my resume of Actor and part-time Foot Model.”
EGL looks forward to all the greatness that Gabourey Sidibe has in store for the future. Kudos Gabby for allowing your star quality to shine and be an inspiration for us all.
Written By: Tawana C. Coleman