Gabourey Sidibe is the actress we need right now.
The 34-year-old rose to fame as the protagonist in Precious and has appeared in a string of hits since that role in 2009. She was in three seasons of American Horror Story, and she has a reoccurring role on Fox’s Empire.
With fame, however, comes attention, and Sidibe has not always gotten the right kind of attention. Critics feel free to talk about her body and her skin tone in ways that are definitely unwarranted; in a recent interview with Refinery29, Sidibe explained how she handles the haters and dropped some wisdom she wishes she knew when she was a teenager.
“I think what really pushed me to think differently is just exhaustion,” Sidibe said. “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.”
But Sidibe wasn’t content to accept other people’s judgments about her.
“I really sat down and made a list of all the things I liked about me: My personality, my face, my body,” Sidibe said. “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.”
The conversation surrounding Sidibe has picked up recently. That’s because the actress chose to have bariatric surgery for weight loss. It’s not that she wanted to change her body to satisfy other people, she said. It’s just that her health has been suffering from her weight. Needless to say, she hasn’t been thrilled with the comments people have been making since she began losing weight.
“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,” Sidibe said. “It just annoys me because I’m just like, don’t congratulate me on that.”
Sidibe’s body belongs to her and to her only, is the point.
“If you’re going to congratulate me on my weight loss, also congratulate me every time I pee,” Sidibe said. “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.”
At one point in the Refinery29 interview, Sesali Bowen asked Sidibe what advice she would give the young version of herself.
Her response is something every young person should hear.
“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,'” Sidibe said. “‘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.’”
Sidibe also wishes she could tell her young self to focus on her passions.
Sidibe is another example of a great performer saved by her art. How many other kids are looking for something to save them? The theater probably isn’t a bad bet for those kids.