Gabourey Sidibe Speaks Out: “Depression Is A Real Thing For All Of Us”

Gabourey Sidibe

Gabourey speaks in Chicago/Photo: Ben Gonzales

Gabourey Sidibe burst on the scene in 2009 as the titular star of Lee Daniels’ Precious, a film based on the 1996 novel Push by Sapphire. As a then unknown actress, she commanded the screen with the ease of a seasoned pro, so much so, she was rewarded with an Academy Award nomination for her big screen debut.

In that film, Sidibe’s character, Claireece “Precious” Jones, lived a very troubled life mired in physical and sexual abuse; however, it was the emotional abuse her character endured that exemplified art imitating life, particularly where her size is concerned. Despite moving on to films like Tower Heist (opposite Ben Stiller and Eddie Murphy) and landing small screen roles in television series including “The Big C,” “American Horror Story” and her current role on the FOX hit “Empire,” her frame is still often a focal point, resulting in merciless teasing, including still being mockingly referred to as “Precious.”

In her new (and first) book, This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare, Gabourey Sidibe discusses her life growing up in New York and her rise to fame as a movie and television star. While the book does show off her humorous side, including stories about her first job as a phone sex operator, she also gets deeply personal when she shares her experiences with “celebrity, haters, fashion, race, and weight,” her struggles with bulimia, and having undergone weight loss surgery.

Gabourey Sidibe book

Gabourey Sidibe/Photo: Jemal Countess/Getty Images

Recently, as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, the award-winning actress was in the Windy City to chat about the book; the session, moderated by Chicago-based writer Britt Julious, was Sidibe at her best: interactive, engaging, and witty.

When she decided to write the book, she didn’t initially plan to take a biographical approach. “When I started writing it, I didn’t intend on it being a memoir at all; I really thought it was going to be a collection of essays,” she told the Chicago crowd. “I decided to write what mattered to me.”