Gabourey Sidibe is a magnet for faux concern. When she comes up in conversations it’s never for her magnetic performance in Precious, her scene-stealing turn as a cafe owner in Difficult People, or the levity and deft with which she plays Becky in Empire. It’s often about her weight. How it will restrict her from getting ahead in the industry — as though she hasn’t been consistently working since her 2009 debut. How it’s not healthy — as though the hushed conversations or nasty online comments will somehow combine and infuse into her body, magically rendering it more healthy. As though it’s any of our fucking business.
Let’s be clear: Gabourey Sidibe is a *working* actress. Not a Nene Leakes ‘got a few roles back in 2012’ actress. Not a Stacey Dash ‘Fox News destroyed my career’ actress. But a consistently working actress who inhabits her characters and translates them effortlessly on screen. And I don’t make this distinction to throw shade at Leakes or Dash (okay, well maybe at Dash…), but to make clear that she is already doing the thing people faux-fear her weight will prevent her from doing.
The hissed calls for Sidibe to ‘just lose some weight’ are a demand that she justify her existence to her industry and to the world. As though lost weight is the fare she must pay the public to be well-regarded, or at least left alone. To some people she — a dark-skinned and heavyset woman of direct African lineage — should not exist in the public eye at all, much less as a celebrated thespian. If she won’t lose the weight, she is expected to at least self-flagellate or poke fun at her fatness. For a long time she flabbergasted folks by refusing to do either.
Recently Sidibe has lost weight. She revealed to People Magazine today that she got laproscopic bariatric surgery in May 2016 after a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
“I just didn’t want to worry… I truly didn’t want to worry about all the effects that go along with diabetes. I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes.”
And with that a slew of editorials were unleashed, crafting the narrative writers have always wanted about Sidibe — that she is fat, has known it all along and is finally doing something about it.
To me it makes no difference. Sidibe has always been what I desire in an actress; a skilled and intuitive artist who shines in both comedic and dramatic performances. She consistently selects roles that debunk the ‘black mammy’ stereotype many try to project on her, picking characters that make use of her wide range. Off screen the Bed Stuy, Brooklyn native is funny, smart and witty.
If Sidibe is happy for her weight loss, then I’m happy for her. But when it comes to her weight, she owes me not a damn pound.