Gabourey Sidibe is My New Heroine! (Commentary on Diversity in Hollywood)

I do not think I have ever chosen anyone who is younger than I am as a hero(ine) in my life, but Gabourey Sidibe, best known for playing the title character in “Precious,” is my new heroine for how she responded to trolls who insulted her physical appearance because (to alter the text below to more show my POV) she has the nerve to be famous without looking like the skinny, blonde actresses she shares entertainment award stages with.

I do not find myself hideous, but I, also, do not think anyone has ever helped me with something because he/she liked my looks, given me a job because they want to have sex with me. Whatever I have accomplished in life or will accomplish, whatever traits I have that ascended me towards those accomplishments — talent, tenacity or whatever else, what I look like has never helped me with any of it.

And, as many of my readers know, I live in Los Angeles, which provides only a more opaque view to what all of the Anglosphere seems to use as a measure of attractiveness — that to be attractive means to look like Ken and Barbie Dolls. Of course, there are exceptions to  this rule, with people who do not look like them being allowed to feel attractive to a small demographic, those who have something about them that is fetishized. The fetishes people have come up with include everything from one’s ethnic heritage to playing a guitar to gang membership and urban crime sprees to an obese, unhealthy level of body fat. (There are chubby chasers out there, like gays were in the ’80s, hiding their true desires.)  Through fetishization, more people have a chance to feel attractive, specifically people who do not fit the mold of Mattel products.

Far too often, those in minority groups, including the physically-challenged, or just people who do not look like girls’ dolls, are not included in our films and TV show, as if the culture we see reflected back to us in scenes on screens, they have been erased. Or, perhaps, a better way of looking at it would be they have been marginalized so far from sight, they seem to not exist. 

I do not care how many Oscar-nominated films have female producers (about 2/3 of them) or the ratio of men to women in the writing room of “The Daily Show” or what goes on between Michael Bey and Megan Fox. I want to see more non-white people in my films and TV shows. And fat people. And people with wheelchairs. And dwarfs, who are just playing real people who happen to have dwarfism, not Hobbits or characters in surreal dreams. And Wiccans and Orthodox Jews and Satanists and Fundamentalist Christians and Buddhists and Hindus and Muslims, who do not want to destroy America or blow up buildings, but who take limousines to night clubs where they order expensive champagne and throw parties in their mansions and have sex with porn models and actresses, like the real Muslims you meet in L.A. 

WEDNESDAY, JAN 15, 2014 07:49 AM PST

Gabourey Sidibe shuts down the trolls

A flawless response to the haters wins Twitter

TOPICS: GABOUREY SIDIBEGOLDEN GLOBESGOLDEN GLOBES 2014AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVENBODY WARS

Gabourey Sidibe shuts down the trollsGabourey Sidibe (Credit: AP/Steffi Loos)

Take that, haters! Gabourey Sidibe would like you to know she’s doing just fine.

The 30-year-old costar of “American Horror Story: Coven” received a typical amount of crap on Twitter after her Sunday appearance at the Golden Globes, for committing the crime of appearing in public while not being thin. But after the brilliant wits of the Internet were done riffing on how she “looked like the GLOBE at the Golden Globes” and “ate the Golden Globes,”Sidibe got in a comment of her own. “To people making mean comments about my GG pics,”she tweeted, “I mos def cried about it on that private jet on my way to my dream job last night. #JK” And, nearly 27,000 retweets later, game point Sidibe.

Us magazine promptly called Sidibe’s response “amazing,” while CNN declared her the winner of the “best comeback” award. And she was. She fully acknowledged the utter meanness of the commenters’ body snarking on her appearance, but she didn’t turn it into a pity party. Instead, she simply got the last laugh. She later added on Twitter, “Yay! Everyone is so wonderful and supportive of my shade! This might be a problem down the line. Thank you! #notmyjetthough #imnotthatfancy”

Sidibe has had a long time to prepare for just such a cool reaction. She’s never been just a talented actress. She’s been an overweight, dark-skinned actress – exactly the sort of person, asthis year’s blond-tastic Golden Globes oh so conspicuously proved, who does not fit comfortably in the public perception of what a star looks like. More shockingly, as Kate Harding noted four years ago, when Sidibe’s stardom was on the ascent for her breakthrough role in “Precious,” she is a woman openly not struggling “with debilitating body-related shame and anxiety.” How infuriating for those who believe fat equals misery.



The world is chock-full of pathetic bullies whose chief pastime is picking apart people who are different. You can be Miss America – literally, one of the most conventionally beautiful women in the world – and they will tear you down because of the color of your skin. So Sidibe is a whole trifecta of opportunity for trolls – overweight, black and female.

Very few people who are mercilessly picked on the way Sidibe routinely is have her clout. Most people who are bullied, unfortunately, don’t have a snappy comeback about how awesome their lives are. I may be wrong, but the list of Oscar-nominated overweight African-American women who are on hit TV shows is, by my count, one. That’s why her comment went viral. That’s why it was perfection. Because while Sidibe’s happy circumstances are unique, she was making a statement for all the other picked on and put down out there. She was saying, “You are mean and hurtful and I am better than you.” And while it’s nice to have a private jet and a dream job to back that statement up, sometimes it’s enough for someone to call out the haters, to acknowledge their existence and to make them look as small and stupid as they truly are. Sidibe did just that, with wit and class. She told the world, that if you want to fat-shame a lady, don’t be surprised if she shames you right back, flawlessly.

Mary Elizabeth Williams

Mary Elizabeth Williams is a staff writer for Salon and the author of “Gimme Shelter: My Three Years Searching for the American Dream.” Follow her on Twitter: @embeedub.MORE MARY ELIZABETH WILLIAMS.

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