February 6, 2011: Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe, the star of the movie Precious (2009), was born in Bedford-Stuyvesant, May 6, 1983.
Her mother was a former special education teacher who gave up her career and became a street performer, while her father, from Senegal, worked as a cab driver. Her parents divorced when she was young, and Sidibe moved to Harlem with her mother.
Though she was cast in school plays as a child, Sidibe initially had no interest in acting. She witnessed her mother's financial struggles as a street singer and wanted the security that an education and a desk job would give her.
After attending local colleges, Gabby pursued a degree in psychology at Mercy College. She was in the middle of preparing for an exam when a friend phoned her about an audition for the newest effort from Lee Daniels, Precious.
Instead of attending class, she ended up being cast in the title role as Claireece "Precious" Jones, a taciturn, unattractive, overweight, sixteen year-old who is pregnant for the second time after being raped by her father. In the movie, Precious also is on the receiving end of constant physical abuse by her mother.
As grim as the subject matter is, Precious became a huge success and a source of inspiration for many. While her co-stars, Mo'Nique and Mariah Carey both received a great deal of critical attention, it is Gabby’s character and her unforgiving despair that moved the audience, evoked the most gut-wrenching emotion and earned her an Oscar nomination for “Best Actress.”
Sidibe is one of seven other African-American actresses nominated for the “Best Actress” Oscar. The others are: Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett and Halle Berry.
But off-screen, critics in entertainment scoffed at Sidibe, questioning her longevity as a serious actress and claiming her weight would typecast her and likely limit her future roles.
But for the real-life Sidibe, if you’re expecting a damaged young woman with no self-esteem, you’re in for a surprise.
“I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don't like myself, there's no reason to even live the life,” Sidibe said. “I love the way I look. I'm fine with it. And if my body changes, I'll be fine with that.”
Sibide hopes that her success in the film will motivate others to chase their dreams, but she has even bigger plans for herself as an actress.
Sidibe has a recurring role on “The Big C,” a Showtime series, where she plays the character “Andrea.” Also, recently, Sidibe, completed shooting Yelling to the Sky (2011), a project from the Sundance Lab that also stars Zoe Kravitz
Currently, she is filming “Tower Heist,” a film by Brett Ratner and also starring Ben Stiller, Zachary Levi, Casey Affleck, Matthew Broderick and Eddie Murphy.
Sidibe truly is an example of someone who is paving her own way, despite whatever perceived barriers others believe exist in her career. The 27-year-old actress has defined her own self-worth, her own success, her very own life story. And there is little doubt she will have many more successful stories left to tell.
Gabourey Sidibe, we acknowledge your talent and perseverance, and we honor your contributions.
Black Reel Award for Best Actress Black Reel Award for Best Breakthrough Performance Chlotrudis Award for Best Actress Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress Hollywood Film Award for Rising Star Award Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Female Iowa Film Critics Award for Best Actress Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture National Board of Review Breakthrough Performance Female Satellite Award for Outstanding New Talent Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
Nominated—Academy Award for Best Actress Nominated—Alliance of Woman Film Journalists Award for Best Actress Nominated—BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role Nominated — Black Reel Award for Best Ensemble Nominated — Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress Nominated—Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress Nominated—Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Nominated—Houston Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress Nominated— MTV Movie Award for Best Breakout Star Nominated—Satellite Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Nominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Nominated—St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress Nominated—Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association for Best Actress Nominated—Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association for Best Ensemble
About this column:
Every day, throughout the month of February, we will celebrate Black History Month by profiling Black historymakers, past and present, who either were born, raised or currently reside in the neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn.