We All Need To Hear Gabby Sidibe's Advice To Her Younger Self

Photo: Chelsea Lauren/Variety/REX/Shutterstock.
Gabourey Sidibe has had a lot of conversations about her body a lot lately, especially in the wake of opening up about her bariatric surgery and the weight loss she's experienced as a result. Mostly, she’s been addressing her desire not to talk about her body as much. She has also extended an invitation to critics, the press, and screenwriters to do the same. Sidibe says she finds comfort in the fact that her body is no one else's but her own.
This was not always the case. I was lucky enough to chat with Sidibe about her relationship to her own body, the people who have something to say about it, and the advice she would give her younger self. And she has an important lesson that we all need to hear.
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Here at Refinery29, we have a yearly campaign called Take Back the Beach, which is all about body positivity during a time of year where everyone insists that you can only have one kind of body.
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Everyone has gotten SOME kind of comment about their body, but celebrities — especially those who are active on social media — seem to be subject to body commentary all the time. How do you handle it?
“Right now I’m doing pretty good. No one is really saying anything about my body because there’s so much other stuff going on.
"What had been happening is, since I’ve been losing weight over the past year, people have been saying, ‘Congratulations on your weight loss!’ It doesn’t rock me. It just annoys me because I’m just like, don’t congratulate me on that. If you’re going to congratulate me on my weight loss, also congratulate me every time I pee. Congratulate me every time I’m burping. Because my body actually has nothing to do with you, and I don’t really need your support for it. It seems ill-placed. I don’t need your support. That’s weird to me because my body will always be my body and always had been, and you have nothing to do with it and you’re kind of a stranger. But the way it works is that this is just my body. In the same way that this is just my face, this is just mine.
"You will say something about it because you have an opinion. And the worst thing about Twitter is that everyone thinks their opinion is really important. And you’re 100% free to say something about it. I have to know myself and I have to know my own boundaries and take in what I need. And what I don’t need I don’t take in. That’s how it’s gotta be with my body. That’s how it has to be with my hairstyle choice, my clothing choice. I take in what I want.”
What advice would you give to your younger self about how to respond when people make comments about your body?
“I ponder this question a bit. It’s always really hard to answer because I know that my younger self was a bitch who wouldn’t listen and is hard-headed. And she’s really sensitive, and panicked all the time, and always feeling like the end of the world is just minutes away. I think the best advice I can give her — because I know she can’t hear me right now — is to ‘just hold on baby girl. You’re okay. There’s something on the other side. There’s a whole life, a whole world waiting for you on the other side of high school graduation. If you could just make it there and make it through that. If you feel like you need help, get it. And don’t listen to anyone else who tells you you don’t need it. You listen to yourself when someone is making fun of you. Listen to yourself when someone is telling you what kind of clothes you wear on your body.’
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"I took different classes when I was a kid. I think I would tell young girls to do exactly what I did. Find an activity that you really love and do it, because that will build self esteem. If you’re doing your favorite activity, and you find that you keep getting better at it when you’re practicing, and it’s giving you joy, it’ll be harder to tear you down.”
Was there anything you did or that happened in your life that significantly changed the way you feel about your body?
“As a teenager, no. I think what really pushed me to think differently is just exhaustion. Exhaustion from feeling bad that somebody else thought I was too fat, or thought I was too Black. I was exhausted with how other people felt about me and that’s what helped me change. I really sat down and made a list of all the things I liked about me: My personality, my face, my body. The world will hand me a hate list. And I just sat down and I developed a love list for myself. And I tell people of all ages to do that. You have to list the things you love about yourself. So when someone says your nose is too big, you can say my nose is cute. It’s like a button and it’s sickening.”
It's your body. It's your summer. Enjoy them both. Check out more #TakeBackTheBeach here.
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