Skip to main content

Many celebrities have become increasingly open about their mental health and the toll that being in the spotlight has taken on them. For actor Gabourey Sidibe, staying positive and fighting back the darker thoughts has sometimes been a struggle. The star has repeatedly faced criticism and media scrutiny of her body. What’s worse, even some of her favorite fellow stars have told her that she should leave Hollywood because she didn’t have the look to fit into the narrow requirements of the industry. 

Gabourey Sidibe has had a successful film and TV career

gabourey sidibe
Gabourey Sidibe attends the 2018 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Oscars Luncheon at Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel on March 1, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Leon Bennett/Getty Images for Essence)

Sidibe’s path to fame has not been an easy one. She was a breakout star in the 2009 drama Precious, taking on the film’s titular role and earning accolades for portraying such an emotional character with heart and talent. At the same time, the film — which co-starred Mo’Nique and Mariah Carey — typecast Sidibe. The character’s body size was a significant part of the plot, and the film’s dark storyline created a narrative of tragedy and pity that followed Sidibe and made it challenging to land roles with a wider range. 

Despite receiving an Oscar nomination for the role in Precious, Sidibe’s IMDb filmography shows that the actor hasn’t had much luck landing major gigs. Recurring roles on TV shows like The Big CDifficult People, and American Horror Story helped her establish herself beyond the typecast part of a troubled child. 

Fat shaming has been a feature of Gabourey Sidibe’s public existence

It’s no secret that Hollywood beauty standards are often unkind — especially to women. For Sidibe, however, they have been especially harsh. It’s difficult to find any media coverage of the actor that doesn’t put her weight front and center in the conversation. And she’s opened up about what a challenge it has been to be taken seriously when even those nominally supportive find it challenging to see past her size. 

Speaking with Cosmopolitan, Sidibe opened up about how Joan Cusack — one of her favorite actors — told her she should leave Hollywood because she didn’t have the look to withstand the scrutiny. Sidibe recalled, “I met Joan Cusack, who is my favorite, favorite — I love her — but it was before I became [famous] or whatever. I was at some industry party, and she says, ‘Are you an actress?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ And she says, ‘Oh honey, you should really quit the business, it’s so image-conscious.’ I think she really, really meant it in a good way… but I was like, ‘Oh, please don’t tell me to quit my job!'”

At least Cusack’s comments — however misguided — came across as kind at their core. Many other celebrities were excessively harsh. Howard Stern ranted about how Sidibe’s career was doomed because of her size. Personal trainer Susan Powter used Sidibe’s fame as a platform to fat shame the actor and promote her own brand. 

Gabourey Sidibe has stood firm in her worth and her goals


Gabourey Sidibe Still Feels Bad About Shading Porsha Williams From ‘RHOA’: ‘I Think About It All the Time’

Despite the struggles to be taken seriously and to have her evident talent appreciated without caveats, Sidibe has continued to work steadily and with commitment. American Horror Story, in particular, offered Sidibe the chance to play a character with more range and depth. Speaking with Parade about that work and some viewers’ hateful comments about her size, Sidibe showed resilience. “I’m also less and less concerned with fitting in,” she said. “I was born to stand out. I don’t care whether or not people will find me attractive on screen. That’s not why I became an actor. I know that more and more with each new role.”

Recently, Sidibe has been doing steady voice and podcast work and took on a part in an episode of American Horror Stories