At the 2010 Academy Awards, Gabourey Sidibe stood out noticeably amid the sea of other actors and actresses walking the red carpet.
For one thing, whereas most of the other stars are seasoned pros in the movie industry, Sidibe’s acting credits prior to her turn as the title role in the film “Precious” are limited to two small roles in college theater.
But secondly, and more obvious, is the fact that Sidibe weighs easily 2 or 3 times more than the typical Hollywood starlet. And yet interestingly, in various photo galleries from the red carpet, comments such as “Stunning!” and “She’s gorgeous!” on photos of Sidibe seemed to far surpass similar comments on photos of her skinnier counterparts.
Sidibe’s numerous nominations (not to mention wins) for acting honors during awards season are proof that Hollywood knows she has some serious acting chops. Photo feedback seems to indicate that the average American sees her as beautiful. Leave it to Howard Stern, however, to spark a debate over whether Sidibe’s career actually stands a chance.
“What movie could she play in?” the shock jock asked on his March 8th show.
Columnist and blogger Jeffrey Wells added, “…the hard fact is she’s way, way too fat… I don’t want Gabby to not work, but the only roles she’ll have a shot at playing will be down-market moms and hard-luck girls working at Wal-Mart.”
Both Wells and Stern also remarked on the likely toll of Sidibe’s obesity on her health, which is a perfectly fair concern — not only for Sidibe’s own wellbeing, but for her potential status as a role model. While, as I mentioned in an earlier post, the ultra-slender actresses and models who generally serve as a paragon of beauty in our culture often create an unhealthy ideal for women of all ages, Sidibe is hardly a better alternative. While I think it’s extraordinarily encouraging that so many people consider her beautiful despite her contradiction of the typical Hollywood mold, there’s also a danger in seeing her as so beautiful that we forget the health risks of obesity. I hope that Sidibe serves as a demonstration for young women that beauty is not limited to a size 2, but not so far as to make obesity feel “safe.” Sidibe herself says that she’s perfectly happy in her own skin, which is both commendable and a cause for concern.
On the other hand, of course, Sidibe is remarkably talented, and her talent has already earned her two more roles on Showtime’s “The Big C” and in the forthcoming indie flick “Yelling to the Sky.” I, for one, truly hope that we’ll continue to see more of Sidibe, and that she’ll prompt Hollywood to realize that talent, true talent, doesn’t have to be a generic brand.