Today is the day that actress Gabourey Sidibe’s book, This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare, hits book shelves. In preparation for her publication date, Sidibe did interviews about some of the stories in it. We know that she used to be a phone sex operator named Becky, we know that she talks a lot about her weight and weight loss as well, but two new pieces of information used for stories in her book raised an eyebrow.
In an interview with NPR, Sidibe discussed her thoughts on being identified as “Precious” years after starring as the character in the Lee Daniel’s film of the same name (2009).
Considering she’s had a variety of roles since that time and, you know, has an actual name, Sidibe said it was indeed irritating at times to still be called “Precious.” But she also found it endearing after a while when she found so many young women and even men identified with the character’s struggles.
“Having people call me Precious and having people confuse me for this character was both really scary, frustrating, but also really endearing and powerful,” she said. “People would see the film and then come up to me and say, you know, ‘I was Precious and I was abused by my parents,’ and ‘I was abused by this family member,’ or, you know, ‘I’ve dealt with these issues.’ And these people were 70-year-old white men and [Asian teenagers], just like so many different people from all over the scope of the world. So many different people connected to this struggle because it’s not about race, it’s not about gender, it’s not about sexuality, it’s not about age — it’s not about any of that. It’s about humanity.”
She continued, “And people would say, even when they couldn’t see me as a different person from this character, they would say, ‘This happened to me the same way it happened to you.’ And I didn’t feel like I could say, ‘This didn’t happen to me. This is a character.’ All I could do was give sympathy and push forth strength, in a way. Say, ‘She made it and you can make it too.’”
One very interesting story she also shared in her chat with NPR pertaining to the book is the time Precious director (and Empire creator) Lee Daniels and Vogue’s former editor-at-large, André Leon Talley, were overheard by the star calling her a “fat b—h.” They didn’t seem to mean it maliciously, but it had quite an impact on Sidibe.
“I know that Lee himself has struggled with his weight throughout his entire life,” Sidibe said. “Lee is always on my side. But he also is very much a part of Hollywood, and Hollywood in general is not on my body’s side, you know. And he’s a part of that. Everyone I work with is a part of that.”
She said the comment came during a phone call between Talley and Daniels, both overweight at the time themselves, and they were celebrating the exposure she was receiving not only because of her work but also her size. It’s that kind of attention, being labeled as a spokesperson or such for plus-size women and men, that she hasn’t been crazy about for quite some time.
“I was listening in on the phone call where André Leon Talley was saying that he was going to get my fat black a– on the cover of the magazine, and Lee was excited about it. You know André Leon Talley is fat and black, and Lee was at that time, too, and I think that they saw me as this thing that was closer to them than I was to Hollywood, and they were celebrating that. And it hurt my feelings. It hurt my feelings. But it also was a lesson in this is what they think and this is what they will always think, and there’s no way of being too talented or too pretty or too confident around it. People will still have their opinions.”
“I never got that cover,” she added. “I’m not sure I want it.”
Check out the rest of her interview with NPR, including tidbits about not being able to afford clothes like her co-stars during promo for Precious, as well as why she’s sending the message to people in her book to MYOB: Mind Your Own Body.