Home The Op-Eds How Dare You, Fat Black Chick, Treat Me This Way?!

How Dare You, Fat Black Chick, Treat Me This Way?!

by Erika Nicole Kendall

I’m sorry… but this is epic ranting. Consider yourself forewarned.

You know, I just knew up and down that I wouldn’t have to write about Gabourey Sidibe again. I just knew that she’d ride off into the sunset, preparing for her next upcoming role.

I just knew it.

Of course, I was wrong. (Hey, it happens.) HappyAboutThis found these remarkable little snippets – you should check out the link yourself, but I’m going to paste the important part, beneath:

“When asked for a picture, the less-than-enthused newbie star could barely crack a smile. One photo-seeking fan said jokingly, “that’s all you’re going to give me,” to the pouty Precious. Gabby responded, “you’ll get what I give you.”” – Source: Gabby Sidibe: Not So Precious – FishbowlDC

“I was thrilled to spot her at a table laughing uproariously with the man sitting to her right. “I know you’re having a good time and I’m sorry to interrupt,” I began. My next sentence didn’t come out because Sidibe shouted over the din, “Yeah, come back in five minutes!” Thinking she was joking, I laughed and pretended to walk away. When I noticed that the look in her eyes meant she was serious, I walked back to her and said, “I just wanted to congratulate you on your nomination. I thought your performance was spectacular. I even wrote a column about it.” After wishing her good luck, I rejoined my friends.”

Back at the table, I sheepishly related the incident to my colleague Jo-Ann Armao. “Oh! She’s horrible,” Armao said in her wonderfully blunt way. She told me that she saw Sidibe at the pre-cocktails and told her that she’d seen “Precious” three times (an amazing emotional feat that only adds to my awe of Armao) and that she thought Sidibe’s performance was “incandescent.” What was Sidibe’s response? “I guess I should say, ‘Thank you.'”

At the MSNBC after party, the partner of a “Countdown with Keith Olbermann” producer said to me, “Look! There’s Gabby Sidibe. I’m going to ask her to take a picture with me.” I warned him, “She’s mean.” To which he said, “I don’t care. I just want a picture.” I didn’t see what went down, but the dejected fan came back and said incredulously, “She said no.” – Source: Precious Little Time – Or Grace – For Fans – Washington Post

You know, I don’t love the fact that Gabby is essentially peeing in her own chair, to be crass – no one else has to sit there, but you… so why go out of your way to make it unpleasant? Can you effectively use the media to your advantage? Of course. Is that the better move for you? Absolutely. However. Neither they, nor you, are entitled to or guaranteed anything. Ever.

And I know I’m late, but I needed time to really think about what made me angriest about all of this before I wrote.

So having said that, can we break down the media’s response to Miss Sidibe’s alleged attitude?

First of all, let’s face it – nobody was checking for Precious. The media didn’t give a quarter-damn about the movie until all the awards started springing up. An Oscar-nominated film with plus-sized dark-skinned African American women playing the leads?

“OMG WTF!!!!1111!!11 That’s not gonna sell on the cover! System overload!”

An Oscar nod forced them to pay attention. So, please. Anyone who thinks the media didn’t originally begrudingly give them shine… is foolin’.

Secondly, I feel like I’ve been seeing articles like this far too often, where people cannot separate Sidibe from her character. She’s got to shuck and jive to get y’all to see that she ain’t Precious. Is Hollywood and its ilk sooooooo far removed from Black women – plus-sized Black women at that – that they cannot understand that Gabby (and any other woman who may resemble her) is NOT Precious? That she is NOT the young girl with this forlorn past of painful trauma? That she’s not “the girl hiding from her life in a bucket of chicken she stole from a KFC?” Or is it that people subconsciously are trying to excuse her “weight problem” (because, let’s face it – Hollywood doesn’t love excess… or hell, any weight on anyone) by assuming she must be the girl hiding from her life in a bucket of KFC?

C’mon, son.

Can someone tell me what they expected from Sidibe? Why it’s so easy for Capeheart and crew to write such gossipy drivel? “Ohhh, how dare she? After I went out of my way to laud and support her and that movie-that-no-one-supported? After I went out of my way to come up to her and tell her how awesome I think she is?” Entitled much?

News flash: Plenty of plus-sized Black chicks do awesome things and have their own sensible level of self-esteem and value of self because of it. They don’t need anyone running up behind them to tell them how good they are… and they certainly don’t need to be “thankful that someone else noticed” their amazingness.

Would proper etiquette dictate that Sidibe should’ve been as sweet as honey in response? Yes. Is she the first Oscar-nominated actress to choose to not be as sweet as honey? Doubtful. Were they so shocked that the “fat Black chick” (sorry, blame Howard Stern for that quote) wasn’t the happy, jovial Black friend that we just can’t get enough of in movies lately? I’d suppose so. Were they offended that this…. less than… would dare ignore the power of ME? The all-powerful media writer who can destroy small careers with a single keystroke? Does she not know how many people I can reach out and touch with my little website? Does she not feeeeeeeeel… my POWER??!?!

Seriously, they need to get over themselves. Once I realized that Capeheart is the dude I watch on Morning Joe every now and again, I was even more disgusted. Blow enough smoke up a writer’s behind, and they start feeling like someone owes them something.

Why am I so cynical about the media and their treatment of the Precious crew? Again, from HappyAboutThis:

Obviously these reports of Gabby being ridiculously unkind for no reason are disturbing. But what stuck out to me was the fact that both posts carried some sort of strange reference to Gabby’s weight.

The first line of the first Media Bistro post was “So, who was the weekend’s biggest (no pun intended) disappointment so far?”

The first line of 2nd Media Bistro post was: “Wow! FishbowlDC wasn’t alone when we gave “Precious” star Gabby Sidibe a GIGANTIC (no pun intended…okay, that’s a lie) thumbs down.”

No, really. So not only did you begrudingly pay attention to her at all, but when you did and realized you wouldn’t be fawned all over and granted favor for doing so… you run to your website to whine as payback? And to top it all off, you sneak in fat jokes? That was what you were waiting on all along, right?

What kind of spiteful, petty, narcissistic, mean-spirited, cruel and insensitive people are we dealing with, here?

Then, the cream on your coffee – Capeheart compares this instance to his time spent sitting next to Queen Latifah… because it totally makes sense comparing someone with 20 years in the game to someone 26 years old.

Oh, wait – they’re both “fat Black chicks who should be grateful for media attention.” My bad, I forgot.

Don’t take my lack of comment on Sidibe’s alleged behavior as condoning it. I’m a firm believer in positive energy and karma (I am a hippie, after all) and I think people should be mindful of that. I’m simply still not convinced that we’re getting the whole story – that there isn’t a little yellow journalism going on as an excuse to finally call a “fat Black chick” exactly what [they think] she is. Just like the video clip of her supposedly handing back flowers to some dude? He gave them to her as he asked her, “Should I call you Gabby or Precious?” Seriously?

In my mind, I’m giving Hollywood the finger. All the amazing Black actresses that get no shine, no love and no support. So many of the popular mainstream movies with primarily Black characters usually include some Black dude in a chick suit. You get one that you’re outright forced to pay attention to, and when she’s not grateful for your attention… you repay her by slipping fat jokes into your self-important drivel? No love.

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Therese May 14, 2010 - 10:41 AM

If you are fat, you are not allowed to be angry, tired, annoyed or just hassled and in a bad mood. Ever. You have to be the sweetest person alive every moment of everyday. The public image bar for niceness is set much higher. All in, I would rather spend an evening with Gabourey Sidibe than Gweneth Paltrow. According to Kathy Griffin, Gweneth is a real bitch.

Benee May 14, 2010 - 11:08 AM

Ok first, I agree with you on some points. I think that the references to her weight are unnecessary and usually mean. But that’s Hollywood. I don’t think it’s simply race specific in this case, as exemplified by the positive references to Latifah. Anyone over a size 4 is considered a fat cow. If anything, I think Black women get more leeway with being bigger because we’re expected to be (insert stereotype here).

You wrote:
“Is Hollywood and its ilk sooooooo far removed from Black women – plus-sized Black women at that – that they cannot understand that Gabby (and any other woman who may resemble her) is NOT Precious?”

I don’t necessarily agree about the “Precious” references being about Black women, or plus-sized women. MANY actors, of all races, backgrounds, sizes, sexes, and ages are often unable to disassociated themselves from characters they became famous for. Tyler Lautner is not “Jacob”, despite the insistence of ‘tweens… nor is Gary Coleman orphaned “Arnold”, Keshia Pulliam “Rudy”, or Henry Winkler “The Fonz”. But, some people simply can’t shake the character association, so that is to be expected to a great extent. Her problem is that the two roles she has taken since then are the SAME character– a troubled, ugly, fat teen. She is asking to be “Precious” for the rest of her career.

I’m also not sure that their responses to her attitude have much to do with her being fat, or the assumption that she should be nice and jolly because she is fat. I think people are shocked and appalled by the fact that she IS so rude, considering she is a very new “star”. One thing people love to tear apart are diva-ish antics of Hollywood folks. And if you are new, and seem like you traded in humilty for the act of smelling yourself, yeah, people are going to respond. And they will insult, because hurt/offended people will hurt and offend people. The easiest target is her weight, but I think that comes in after the fact. It’s like how I get approached by men who say all these complimentary things to me, and when I say “Not interested”, I become all kinds of Fat so-and-so.

I’m *personally* bothered by her behavior (and these sources arent the only ones Ive read mentioning her attitude issues) because she IS a fat Black woman and unfortunately, we all get lumped in together. Our representation in Hollywood is limited to Monique, Latifah, and Tyler Perry. The last thing we need is for her to be the “Fat Black B*tch”, if that makes sense. I’m not saying she has to bow down or change just to suit people, but humility, respect, and integrity go a long way not just in Hollywood but in life. She is now a role model for SO many young women who would normally be considered ugly and undesirable. I think a certain level of personal responsibility comes with that, especially since she chose to play the role and go through the media circuits. She’s put herself out there, now she has to positively embrace what that means.

This makes no excuse for people attacking her weight. But, people do that all of the time. It makes no excuse for people saying she is ugly. But, people do that all of the time. I’m not quite sure why she should be sheltered or barred from receiving the same type of critique and scrutiny about her personal behavior even the skinnest, whitest of celebrity starlets get.

Erika May 14, 2010 - 12:09 PM


You said:

“I’m *personally* bothered by her behavior (and these sources arent the only ones Ive read mentioning her attitude issues) because she IS a fat Black woman and unfortunately, we all get lumped in together.”

…which, I’m not entirely certain is that far from what I said, which was:

“Is Hollywood and its ilk sooooooo far removed from Black women – plus-sized Black women at that – that they cannot understand that Gabby (and any other woman who may resemble her) is NOT Precious?”

I think it’s a problem when we cannot be separated from “the rest” – regardless of whatever the “rest” might consist of – and chastised for our behavior without the petty pot-shots or empty comparisons, many of which only came AFTER said writer was “snubbed” by Sidibe. There are plenty of individuals that attacked her prior to this. We know that – I’ve written about it before. This reeked of “I praised you… you played me.. now you gon’ pay!” I find that unacceptable.. especially from someone like Johnathan Capeheart. I just expected so much more from him.

With all the amazing Black talent out there, how often do we hear about them? If I even compared the percentage of cinema they contribute to what comes out in a year to the percentage of coverage they get in the mags… I’m pretty sure that math would come out failin’ strong.

You’ve got awesome points in there, though. Thank you for bringin’ em to the table! 🙂

Laura May 14, 2010 - 11:49 AM

Unfortunately it seems Hollywood and the media underestimate or totally ignore the wonderfulness of Black actresses. We’re always the background, the best friend swooping in to save the day or to be a shoulder to cry on with some quick, catchy quips to make their white counterpart feel good. But when we steal the show or finally get a role with some depth and meat to it, and they realize that once again they’ve underestimated yet another great Black female talent, then they want them to be grateful that they finally paid attention by jumping for joy that they mentioned them in their column or op-ed.

If what is being said about Gabby is true, I do believe that she should be more gracious when people come to speak to her or get a picture with her, but I’m sure it’s hard since she’s had to deal with so many off-color remarks and “puns”.

Erika May 14, 2010 - 12:16 PM

I agree. I look forward to the day when Black actresses are taken more seriously and given the attention and credit they deserve.

Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

Faith May 14, 2010 - 1:23 PM

I saw some of those posts complaining about Gabby. There’s a few things going on here. The role that she was rewarded for is one of extreme dysfunction. So already there is built in animosity and a lack of respect from others. It seems the people who worked on that film have yeht to acknowledge how negative a movie it was and how it drags the image of black women through the mud. The focus on skin shade is absolutely one of the main components stemming from black self-hate and the hypocritical way black males demean black women. I’m not even going to get into Mo’Nique’s numerous issues surrounding the sexual abuse she endured. There’s a progression from say the size of Jennifer Hudson to Queen Latifah to Gabby. The size issue is one of extreme limitation even for the white actresses let alone allowing someone who is medically categorized as morbidly obese – not just “plus-size” to be held up as a symbol to emulate. It ain’t gonna happen. The focus on the racist-fueled sexism misses the fact it was blacks who elevated the dysfunction to begin with. If Gabby doesn’t already realize these dynamics and that she has a unique opportunity to capitalize on, no one else will care whether she succeeds or fails. Of course they’re ready to tear her down. It’s great that she exudes confidence but that doesn’t mean she can’t ignore the environment she’s in and make the proper adjustments. Of course men don’t have to deal with a lot of these issues but life isn’t equitable.

Erika May 14, 2010 - 1:37 PM

Now, I tried to avoid going down this path because, quite frankly, THIS is why I didn’t want to see the movie. There’s something in the message of “Precious is an award-winning film” that I cannot get behind… and because I still question whether or not I should feel some kind of guilt for (or, conversely, obligation to) feel some kinda way about that, I’m not riding down that road, today. LOL!

Just know that I see where you’re coming from, and where you’re going with that – thank you for being the one to bring it up. 🙂

HalleBerry November 23, 2010 - 8:41 PM

So you want to complain about the ‘demeaning’ of black women by black men but NOT by white men WTF?!! We don’t know if she ahs a dive attitude or not but many of white males in the emdia especially entertainment media are snide,whiny,jealous,bitter,self-absorbed,snobby,foolish,childish,racist hipster assholes who use their profession to wield their obnoxiousness and toxicity the way a child weilds a toy. So don’t let them off the hook either!

Erika November 23, 2010 - 8:50 PM

Had Capeheart’s post been written by a white man, I would’ve went in on him, too. His write-up just happened to be a whiny, sniveling little rant of “She took my toy, and I’m gonna make sure the whole world knows about it!” and it rang extra loud in my ears.

I write about race a lot on this site, but in THIS instance? Doesn’t apply.

Ashley D May 14, 2010 - 5:46 PM

Man, I have nothing to say . Ya’ll have covered it and then some! I agree with everything! LOL

Barbara Albin May 14, 2010 - 7:28 PM

We all knew this would happen. She is young and new to the business, that can love you one day and stab you in the back the very next. Whoever wrote about size 4, I really think you have to be somewhere between and 0 and 2, but you are right. How come I never see a picture of Jill Scott in a magazine (Essence doesn’t count). Usually if I do hear about her, there is some size comment with it instead of there walks a BEAUTIFUL talented woman. Oh, she isn’t a size 2, well most of us aren’t. Even Jennifer Hudson did the diet thing to be accepted. I have to agree, I think you said it all!

PixelFish May 15, 2010 - 2:07 PM

Actually, I posted a comment to Mr. Capeheart’s column when it first came out, since I felt he was expecting Gabourey to be performing constantly. He interrupted a conversation, presumably with another fan of hers, and said (essentially) sorry to interrupt, yadda yadda, and she took him at his word and said, “Yep, you are interrupting. Mind coming back in five minutes.” He doesn’t come back in five minutes….instead he says he can tell by the look in her eyes (as opposed to, you know, the stuff she actually said) that she’s a big ol’ meanie, but he’s gotta have the last word so he slips in what he wants to say ANYWAY and then runs off to compare Gab-hating notes with his friends.

It’s what I call the fake apology/solicitude–he felt entitled to her time, as long as he jumped through certain hoops.

Honestly, Gabourey may be inexperienced. She may be brusque. She wasn’t precisely rude here though–she was openly stating what she could give him, and he wasn’t willing to take it.

(Note: I haven’t seen Precious, nor have I ever met Ms. Sidibe. But I’m kinda aggro about entitled folks who police the behavioural standards of others, especially women, as not being appropriately demures or submissive, and who would write off behaviours for one class of people while berating others for standing up for themselves.)

Erika May 15, 2010 - 2:15 PM

*does the touchdown dance all across my loft*

YESSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!! *passes out*

Mildrena March 30, 2011 - 9:03 AM

I love it!

Scott Koon May 15, 2010 - 4:27 PM

Also realize that we’ve only heard a single side of the story. People being people, how many times have you heard someone say “I’m sorry but no.” to another person and then heard the “mistreated” person rail on an exaggerate about what was actually said to them? It probably happens double to celebrities. She might have said, “I’m sorry but can you come back in five minutes”. But when he related the story layer I’m sure that, according to him, her head was bobbing and her finger was waggling.

But a lot of media folks have that cranial-rectal insertion problem.

Erika May 16, 2010 - 3:36 PM

Yup – I feel like there’s more to the story, but little more to the situation than hurt feelings and bruised ego. Alas, we’ll never know.

…but shoutout to the cranial-rectal insertion problem! Consider that stolen! *yoink*

Benee May 16, 2010 - 2:20 PM

@ Faith

You wrote: “The role that she was rewarded for is one of extreme dysfunction. So already there is built in animosity and a lack of respect from others.”

I think what’s interesting is that no one is calling Monique “Mary Jones”. The only complaints we’ve heard about her is that she was charging for appearances during the awards season and that she has an open marriage. Her character was far more unsettling and made people far more uncomfortable than “Precious”. Yet, she is the one who won all of the awards… because people recognized her talent and honored her for it. Monique, another big, Black, sassy, loud, profane woman came in, tackled the role of the reprehensible Mary Jones, and was shown a great deal of respect. I’m not sure the role Gabby played had much to do with people being disrespectful.

Fiqah May 16, 2010 - 3:15 PM

Okay, so can we just discuss how much I loved this post? My buddy Joe did a great piece about Hollywood, nostalgia, and the conscious reinforcement of race normatives: http://bit.ly/dqjnEk

What I thought was interesting was Sidibe’s reaction to not being a part of the “New Hollywood” pictorial:

Sidibe responded to her exclusion from the pictorial gracefully, saying, “At first I thought, ‘Hmm, should I be there?’ Then I very quickly got over it.

Maybe the media should try some of that…

Erika May 16, 2010 - 4:02 PM

I’m sure you know you’re right about that “get over it” mentality…so I’m not gon’ tell you. Just know that.. you’re right. 😛

Oh, and I checked your link, but it only took me back to my site, LOL!

Marie Denee May 16, 2010 - 8:43 PM

I came across your site through Afrobella… I read the above comments on the above site, and I was saddened by this…

However, I think that you hit the nail on the head! Thank you for this!

bigtab May 16, 2010 - 9:26 PM

I guess I always have to be the voice of dissent wherever I go. I’m with Angel. While I agree that the media picks on her for her weight, I have to respectfully point out that this is the one area that the media focuses in on across racial boundaries-when new moms in Hollywood fail to lose the baby weight five hours after giving birth, they’re made a fool of. When an actress is above a size 2, they have the audacity to refer to her as “curvy” (the media’s slick new euphemism for fat), so I don’t think the jokes that she’s had to endure are any less ridiculous than those that Rosie O’Donnell and Kirstie Alley have had to endure. As for Sidibe being rude-that’s just an obvious lack of a quality upbringing. I know that she’s probably in that stage where she’s missing her privacy and starting to become annoyed with being approached, but there’s no excuse for the level of nastiness being reported. Where on earth is her mama? Grandmama? Auntie? Daddy? Homegirl needs to check her attitude-being an Oscar nominee doesn’t give you the right to be rude to ANYONE, least of all people that are trying to give you praise. I’m sorry, but it’s wrong for sistahs to complain about never getting our due and then barking at someone in a restaurant when they actually try to give us well-deserved praise. That’s ignorant. (Dissertation ends)

Greta November 14, 2010 - 3:44 PM

OMG I love your rants. It’s all true. All of it. Just digesting it all. It’s gross that they made fat jokes. How OLD are they?

Lyn December 20, 2010 - 1:16 PM

Black women in general are seen as the donkeys of the world. We dont have the right to any emotion, just serve serve serve. We are supposed to smile where were told, accept unwanted sexual attention, take care of other peoples kids, be great cooks and hairdressers, and dont get me started on the perception of the silent churchgoing ever obedient church going stepford baby mama. If we deviate from any of these roles there is hell to pay. If we dont fulfill the fantasy of us we are quicky ostrasized (sp?) and made to feel like we have committed some crime and personally I could care less, I wont participate. I am who I am, deal with it.

black butterfly71 January 21, 2011 - 12:11 PM

You know having been sexually abused for over 14 years. It was very difficult for me to sit through this movie. But I did, twice. I was brought to tears by this young womans performance, and also was inspired to write about my own experiances. I Think that maybe this young woman who has been thrown into a life she was not prepared to live has just lost her way and some how need to find her way back to herself.

Lorrie February 2, 2011 - 8:07 PM

Thats classic and funny too. I have seen it too often to be mad and to add insult to injury the writer is a black man…lol. It doesnt get any better than that..lol

Natasha April 1, 2013 - 1:26 PM

Of course, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know how she acted. I’m tired of every black woman being painted as an “angry black woman.” So, I have to take things with a grain of salt.

Ceej April 1, 2013 - 9:20 PM

If Gabby really wanted to pee in someone’s tea, she’d talk about the scores of people who come up to her and “concern troll” her about her weight. She’d mention the scores of people who tell her how much the like her work BUT they wish she’d “make an effort” to lose weight. “Aren’t you worried you are sending the wrong message, Gabby?” She’s also mention the paparazzi who hurl weight-related insults at her just so they can catch her reacting to their word with anger or tears.

But no, they’d rather focus on the fact that the fat black lady was kinda mean to them.

teetee September 15, 2014 - 6:01 PM

Sadly in Hollywood there needs to be a story and if you’re not going to give them one by being nice, cordial and cheerful (all the time) then they’ll find something to talk about that they don’t have to dig up any info on and that’s her weight. I compare this to Melissa McCarthy, who perhaps is older and had more time in the game but still gives interviews and smiles when she can and received awards and praise and you hardly hear as much about her weight as you do her talent. Perhaps Gabby just needs more time out there. I agree with the poster who wishes Gabby would get a role that isn’t just another Precious, but then again that’s Hollywood not willing to give her another chance… and sadly with columns alluding to her attitude she probably won’t.

sarah October 8, 2014 - 1:35 AM

Is it bad that one of the reasons I want to be skinny is because society is just easier on you? There’s always somehow less sympathy/empathy for someone with a large amount of weight – or maybe that’s just me projecting what I struggle with (i.e. empathising with obese people, which i do empathise etc. but just being upfront its not always the first thing that pops into my mind, as in ‘fat person has problem X, my thought is ‘that person is fat’ before ‘how awful that they have to deal with problem X'”)

Erika Nicole Kendall October 9, 2014 - 9:44 PM

Unfortunately, it’s a reality…so I’d say no, it isn’t bad. I think one of the best things many of us can do is get the benefit of people listening to us and respecting us, and then using it to dismantle the systems that believe it’s acceptable to devalue/demean others because of their size.

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