Gabourey Sidibe was probably sent to earth to show the rest of us how to live a truly authentic life. Her physical appearance is, to most people, the thing most remarkable about her. It is antithetical to everything our culture has trained us to value. Obese and dark skinned, she has nevertheless carved out a stellar career in an industry that celebrates thinness and fairness – especially for women.
Yet here came Gabourey. She stumbled into the title role in the 2009 film Precious, a devastating tale of an abused teen who struggles against all odds to claw her way up from society’s depths. The performance won Gabourey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress, launching her career right out of the gate. If you are tempted to confuse the actress, Gabourey, with the character, Precious, be warned: do not. She has a bedrock of self-confidence often remarked upon, given her race, her gender, her looks. Defying all predictions, she has been cast in a plethora of subsequent roles, and won a ton more awards. She is currently cast in the hit series Empire.
This month her memoir, This is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare, has hit the shelves. The reviews indicate another home run for Gabourey. Those who have not followed her meteoric career will be introduced to a poignantly funny, lighthearted young woman who has faced very ordinary American-girl challenges: her weight (since age six), on-and-off depression, and the sort of self-doubt that haunts most young lives. She dishes about casual slights suffered in Hollywood and, these days, being alternately ignored and mistreated at high-end retail shops, if she is not at first recognized. The child of educated, accomplished parents, she is massively well read, as revealed in this interview in The New York Times. Followers on social media know her to be spontaneously witty and authentically hilarious. The book reveals a sophistication that belies her 33 years.
But, as the title of the book makes clear, she is defiantly herself. Humor has clearly played a role in keeping her grounded and able to keep her own circumstances – not an easy life by any measure – in perspective. The book is published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Find Gabourey’s upcoming book tour dates here.