Gabourey Sidibe Talks Image Consciousness in Entertainment

The 'Precious' star, speaking with THR senior film writer Tatiana Siegel at the Nantucket Film Festival following a screening of her short-film directorial debut, also opened up about being targeted on Twitter.

At the 2009 New York Film Festival, Joan Cusack advised Gabourey Sidibe, who had just told Cusack she was an actress, to quit the business because, as Cusack said, it's too “image-conscious.”

“I think that she has probably dealt with exactly what this industry is, which is image-conscious,” Sidibe said as she recounted the incident to The Hollywood Reporter senior film writer Tatiana Siegel at the Nantucket Film Festival over the weekend.

The Precious actress, who participated in an "Afternoon Tea Talk" following the screening of her directorial debut short film, went on to describe how daunting the industry can be if you’re not “blonde and tall and leggy."

“Unless you’re Jennifer Lawrence," Sidibe added. "But it’s harder out here for those of us who are not Jennifer Lawrence."

The actress-director believes Cusack was only reflecting on her own time in the industry and trying to save Sidibe from that, not being “horrible,” as she said some people would assume.

Image issues don’t only target those women who do not fit the svelte stereotype Sidibe mentioned in the interview. She is often targeted because of her race and her position in society.   

“As a young black woman who has a Twitter account … if I say anything at all about your current president or just what’s going on, I get a thousand eggs calling me, frankly, a ‘fat n—er who needs to shut the f— up,’” she said.

Sidibe admitted that she found it scary and difficult to speak up. And she recognizes that this is an uncomfortable conversation to have, but she finds it is all she can talk about, partly because of how terrifying it is to discuss these matters.  

“I am so uncomfortable that it is the only thing I can talk about,” Sidibe said.

The actress-director went on to reflect on her first audition, for Precious, a movie she later starred in that dealt with difficult topics such as poverty and sexual abuse.

“[Precious] has given me the opportunity to not want to stay silent,” Sidibe said. 

Siegel interviewed Sidibe following a screening of her directorial debut, The Tale of Four, which will premiere on Refinery29 this fall as part of their Shatterbox Anthology short series. The short film, inspired by Nina Simone's "Four Women," spans a day in the life of four different women, connected through their search for love, agency and redemption.