Photo: BEImages/Henry Lamb/Photowire.
Gabourey Sidibe hates when she's asked about her confidence. She doesn't mind telling you about walking past a framed picture of her aunt with Gloria Steinem every day as a child and how it gave her strength. But, it's the subtext of the confidence question that bothers her so much. To her, what someone's really asking is how she manages to be confident despite being plus-size.
So, Sidibe chose to tackle the body-image issue at last night's Gloria Awards and Gala, hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women at Cipriani 42nd Street. "This is what I deal with every time I put on a dress. This is what I deal with every time someone takes a picture of me. Sometimes when I'm being interviewed by a fashion reporter, I can see it in her eyes, 'How is she going to get away with this? Why is she so confident? How does she deal with that body? Oh my God, I'm going to catch fat!'" she said at last night's event, speaking to her relationship with the media.
While the event also saw incredible speeches from Chelsea Handler and Amy Schumer, Sidibe's speech was particularly remarkable.
The actor's discussion of her childhood is at once heartbreaking and inspiring. Candidly, she admits her weight wasn't the reason her schoolmates didn't like her. Rather, she says it's because she was kind of a snob. As she so bluntly put it, "I was an a**hole." She knew she was smart and funny and all the wonderful things we know her to be, but when you're in the fifth grade, advertising that doesn't make you popular. Of course, that didn't make her struggle any easier. At home, she says, her parents didn't praise her for being talented, choosing to criticize her weight instead. "[My mother] never said to me, 'You are smart.' What she did say was, 'You are too fat.' I got the message that I wasn't pretty, and I probably wasn't normal, but I was smart!" she told the audience at Cipriani last night. Her father, too, would say, "You need to lose weight so I can be proud of you."
You'd think that, in light of these accounts, Sidibe would have grown to resent her mother, father, and even her fifth-grade class. Instead, she's thankful for them. "If I hadn't been told I was garbage, I wouldn't have learned how to show people I'm talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn't have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn't told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn't tried to break me down, I wouldn't know that I'm unbreakable," she said towards the close of her speech, after literally giving the middle finger to the idea that if she doesn't diet, she'll die.