Do you remember the movie Precious? It was based on the novel Push by Sapphire. Crazy to think it’s already been more than eight years since the 2009 film was released. It was groundbreaking in a lot of ways. It’s the movie that won Mo'Nique an Academy Award for best supporting actress. It’s the movie that showed the world Mariah Carey could kind of, sort of act. But, most of all, it’s the movie that thrust Gabourey Sidibe into the spotlight. And thank God for that, because we love Gabourey Sidibe very much.
Push is about an obese teen, and rather than fit an actor with a fat suit, the Precious filmmakers cast Sidibe, an unknown actress who looked the part. Despite her undeniably talent and charm, she’s undergone plenty of fat-shaming since she became famous.
On Watch What Happens Live, Sidibe talked about an unpleasant encounter with actress Joan Cusack that happened before Precious made Sidibe famous. Sidibe said Cusack told her, “Oh, honey, you should really quit the business. It’s so image-conscious.”
Well, Joan Cusack can eat a bag of dogs---. Because Sidibe’s list of credits has only grown consistently longer in the nearly 10 years since Cusack told her to quit. She’s earned her star profile in plenty of high-profile roles in movies and on TV.
Sidibe has also been a model. In 2016, she appeared in Lane Bryant’s #ThisBody Was Made To Shine campaign. “I'm STILL not over this,” she tweeted with a photo of the ads that featured her. “Who knows how many subway posters I walked by hoping to one day feel as beautiful as the faces I passed.”
Sidibe has spoken about the continued criticism she has indeed received even after achieving fame. “It really devastated me,” she said. “I guess I thought that going from literally nothing to the lead in the movie would show people that I wouldn’t be just fat anymore, or at least ... that wouldn’t be part of my narrative anymore, but it was.”
In 2017, Sidibe made the decision to have weight-loss surgery. Regardless of the extent to which she was accepting of her body the way it was, she chose the surgery for health reasons. She revealed in March of 2017 that doctors diagnosed her with type II diabetes.
“My surgeon said they’d cut my stomach in half," Sidibe wrote in her book, This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare. "This would limit my hunger and capacity to eat. My brain chemistry would change and I’d want to eat healthier. I’ll take it! My lifelong relationship with food had to change."
“I just didn’t want to worry,” Sidibe told People magazine. “I truly didn’t want to worry about all the effects that go along with diabetes. I genuinely [would] worry all the time about losing my toes.”
Even after she elected to have the surgery, Sidibe worried about how changing her body would affect the career she’d built. But, she wrote in her book, “the inconvenience of my morphing body would be outweighed by the pride they’d feel for my handling my own s--- and getting healthy by any means necessary.”
Of course, weight-loss surgery, or even weight loss itself, isn’t an instant cure for the body or the mind, as Sidibe reminded in her interview with People, “I still obsess about eating, and I obsess about weight, and I obsess about my body just as much as I did before,” she said. “I still am remembering to have faith over fear because my decision is my decision, and it really only affects me.”
Make no mistake: You don’t need to congratulate Sidibe on her weight loss. Because no matter what she weighs or how she looks, it’s no one’s business but hers. “If you’re going to congratulate me on my weight loss, also congratulate me every time I pee,” Sidibe said in an interview with Refinery 29. “That’s weird to me because my body will always be my body and always had been, and you have nothing to do with it “
Sidibe isn’t resting just because she had weight-loss surgery. There’s still a lot of work involved in maintaining her health. “I work out with my trainer three to four days a week,” she told People. “If I’m not working out with a trainer, I get up, and I go swim.”
She’s been improving her eating habits too, and consistently working toward sustained, sensible weight loss. “In terms of goals: I have a goal right now, and I’m almost there,” she said. “And then once I’ve got it, I’ll set another goal — I’m just going to do it goal-by-goal.”