sidibe

When Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe walks the red carpet Sunday night, all will judge how she looks in whatever she’s chosen to wear to the Oscars. People will stare, comment, smile and be polite – in public. We will hear commentators talk about her Precious role and sudden fame, maybe her mother, maybe something about the cast.

What you will not hear is any mention of the obvious: Her size.

Not out loud, anyway. The comments on live blogs, on Twitter and in chat rooms will definitely focus on her size, and if true to form, they’ll be plenty vicious.

All this reminds me of the famous scene in Austin Powers in Goldmember where Powers (Mike Myers) is warned not to mention the huge mole on the face of an undercover agent, aptly named The Mole (Fred Savage):

Austin Powers: Nice to mole you … meet you. Nice to meet you, Mole.
[to Foxxy as Basil & The Mole leave]
Austin Powers: Don’t say mole.
Foxxy Cleopatra: Now stop.
Austin Powers: I said mole.
Foxxy Cleopatra: Stop.
[Basil gestures him to hush]

Number Three:
Bye.
Austin Powers: Mole.
[Basil & the Mole try again to leave]
Austin Powers: Mole.
[Basil warns him again to hush]
Austin Powers: Mole.
Basil Exposition: Oh, shut up!
Austin Powers: [Basil and The Mole walk out and Austin lets loose] Moley, moley, moley, moley, moley!

Sidibe’s role in Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, was that of a 350-pound teen, but unlike The Mole’s mole, her weight is no special effect. But hey, she’s up for an Oscar, and should be treated with the same respect as all other nominees, right?

Tell that to Vanity Fair, which included Sidibe in their “Young Hollywood” March issue – but not on the cover. No, that was reserved for nine, stick-thin actresses – none of whom landed a Best Actress Oscar nod, as did Sidibe.

What’s happening here is that Sidibe is being defined by her weight.

No sense complaining about it. It’s human nature, this need to categorize people by their appearance. It’s necessary so that the brain can make sense of what the eyes see. For example, if you’re walking down a deserted street and see a pit bull racing toward you, growling and barking, how would you react? Your reaction is based on what you know about pit bulls.

Now, what if it were a dachshund?

You get the idea. Doesn’t matter what’s true or not. As humans, we absolutely must categorize and process what’s in front of us, and that informs our reaction: Pit bull? Say your prayers. Dachshund? Drop back into punt formation. (Just kidding. I love me some dachshunds.)

First impressions. Snap judgments. Call it what you will, but before the movie made her famous, what words would come to mind if you saw Sidibe walking toward you on the street?

The problem with putting people in categories is that they’re often wrong. The few times I’ve seen her interviewed, Sidibe just sparkled. She’s witty and bright with a magical smile, always well-dressed. But how could that be? Shouldn’t she be inarticulate and slovenly with a bad weave and a bad attitude?

How dare she be so smart and so fat at the same time?

Do I believe she’s as comfortable in her skin as she says? Nope. However, I do believe that she has accepted herself the way she is. For now.

Clearly, though, Sidibe makes other people uncomfortable. She just doesn’t fit the stereotype.

Good.

Assumption is the mother of the screw-up. ~ Angelo Donghia

Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.