Gabourey Sidibe adds au­thor to her re­sume

The Hamilton Spectator - - A & E - LAU­REN LA ROSE TORONTO —

Gabourey Sidibe had a storybook rise to star­dom with her Os­car-nom­i­nated de­but in “Pre­cious,” but the ac­tress found fame was no shield for the on­slaught of vi­cious in­sults ridi­cul­ing her phys­i­cal ap­pear­ance.

In her mem­oir “This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare” (Harper Av­enue), the 34-year-old shares de­tails about her re­cent weight-loss surgery, but also goes back to child­hood to ex­plore her long­time strug­gle with the scale.

She de­scribes ex­treme mea­sures em­ployed in an ef­fort to shed pounds, from fad di­ets to bu­limia, and is also can­did in talk­ing about her men­tal health, deal­ing with de­pres­sion and panic at­tacks.

Sidibe earned wide­spread ac­claim and an Os­car nom­i­na­tion for her por­trayal of the ti­tle char­ac­ter in 2009’s “Pre­cious,” as an over­weight, il­lit­er­ate, preg­nant teen mother sub­jected to hor­ri­fy­ing abuse.

Off­screen, Sidibe’s bub­bly per­son­al­ity, quick wit and sar­casm have been both a source of pro­tec­tion and a tool to bat­tle back against at­tacks. But her ar­mour isn’t im­pen­e­tra­ble, par­tic­u­larly when it comes to the sting­ing in­sults and racially tinged slurs that have been lev­elled her way.

“The thing about writ­ing (is) I had all the space and time in the world to get re­ally, re­ally deep and think about things that I wouldn’t nor­mally think about — which was re­ally great,” the “Em­pire” star said re­cently in Toronto.

“While writ­ing the first sen­tence of all of these chap­ters, I was re­ally up­set about some­thing ... But by the end, by the last sen­tence of the chap­ter, I felt re­lieved and al­le­vi­ated of the pain or what­ever, the an­noy­ance — all of it. It was like I could breathe,” she added.

The New York-born ac­tress writes about her pre-fame stint as a phone sex “talker,” and how in­dulging in caller fan­tasies of­fered un­ex­pected train­ing for her act­ing ca­reer.

“On my first film, ‘Pre­cious,’ I re­mem­ber that a lot of di­a­logue was improv — a lot of it. And I was re­ally good at it at the time be­cause ev­ery sin­gle call was com­pletely improv.

“There might be ba­sic things that you say, like I have to say my name, ‘Hi, I’m Melody.’ Or you know, ‘I’m a col­lege girl’ or ‘I’m a horny housewife,’” she added, laugh­ing as she tem­po­rar­ily trans­formed into her high-pitched talker per­sona.

“An au­di­tion ... is walk­ing into a room and con­vinc­ing them not only to like you, but to like you more than the last per­son they saw and more than the next per­son they’ll see. It’s all about like­abil­ity. And be­ing on the phones, that’s what it was.”

Sidibe had high praise for “Pre­cious” di­rec­tor and “Em­pire” cocre­ator Lee Daniels, who has in­spired the ac­tress in her own foray be­hind the cam­era.

“There are so many things that I take away from him with­out try­ing to copy him — be­cause he knows what he wants,” said Sidibe, who di­rected her first film “The Tale of Four” last sum­mer.

“He might not know how to get there ... but (you say): ‘This is what I want.’ So, it helped me to ex­plain to my (di­rec­tor of pho­tog­ra­phy) or my as­sis­tant di­rec­tor: ‘This is what I’m try­ing to achieve: tell me how to get there.’ I learned col­lab­o­ra­tion from Lee and all of the di­rec­tors I’ve ever worked with.”

Sidibe said she didn’t truly rec­og­nize her ca­pa­bil­i­ties and worth as a writer prior to her mem­oir — even though she had em­braced the craft since child­hood.

“Af­ter writ­ing my book, I re­al­ize ev­ery­thing was valu­able. Even though it was my point of view, it’s just as valid as any­body else’s.

JEMAL COUNT­ESS, GETTY IM­AGES

Ac­tress Gabourey Sidibe’s new book "This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare" gave her the space and time to "think about things that I wouldn’t nor­mally think about."

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