While Loving Lupita, Don’t Forget Gabourey

12919511684_468d93bc53_oLike most people who have souls, I teared up listening to Lupita Nyong’o's acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress during Sunday night’s Oscar telecast. I admire Lupita not only for her obvious talent, but for her honesty and willingness to defend black beauty. Her inspirational speech on the intersection of race and beauty at Essence‘s Black Women in Hollywood luncheon reminded me of a time when schoolyard taunts made me insecure about my own complexion, and I had to smile at the thought of Nyong’o emboldening young girls just as dark-skinned supermodel Alek Wek had emboldened her.

As elated as I was for Nyong’o's Oscar win for 12 Years a Slave and her democratization of beauty, I was unable to ignore the stark contrast between her and another actor who, despite her talent, receives only a fraction of Nyong’o's fanfare.

When Gabourey Sibide first gained acclaim (and an Oscar nomination) for her role in Precious, she generated buzz in Hollywood for her acting chops, but never became the woman that paparazzi were angling for on the red carpet. Nyong’o, on the other hand, instantly became a media darling. It seemed like I couldn’t go a day without seeing her, draped in designer gowns, and it wasn’t long before Vogue—which never invited Sidibe to grace its pages—named Nyong’o to its 10 Rising Style Stars of 2014. The media was quick to bestow on Nyong’o the story of the underdog, the dreamer who made it despite all the odds, and though these compliments ring true, they were also true for Sidibe.

4102704009_ddfd07804dBut obviously there’s a marked difference between who is allowed to represent “black beauty” and who isn’t. It’s apparently become okay to have black features like Nyong’o, but you still have to come in the right shape. You still have to be able to squeeze into sample sizes and look at home in a magazine photo shoot. You need to be dainty and petite, soft and feminine. Though Nyong’o's ubiquity will do much for elevating the acceptance of black women, it’s difficult to imagine Sidibe would ever have been put in the same position.

A vicious undertone of fat phobia shadows pop culture conversations about Sidibe. Whenever she appears at an awards ceremony, the emphasis seems to be on her weight and rarely on the acting accomplishments that got her there. While she looked radiant in a magenta gown at the Oscars Sunday, the vast majority of tweets and comments were jokes about her size, and the same thing happened after her Golden Globes appearance a few weeks ago. Not that any of that seems to slow down Sidibe, though. She constantly brims with self-confidence and should have been given a Golden Globe for her Twitter retort alone:

Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 8.24.55 PM

It’s also possible that the disparity in Sidibe’s and Nyong’o's reception was partially due to the roles they played. Nyong’o was essentially rewarded by the Academy for playing a long-ago slave, which Hollywood always recognizes. America seems to be galvanized by slave narratives, since they portray racism as something unfortunate that happened centuries ago, while narratives of present-day oppression, like the one in Precious, are deemed too unsettling to watch. I can’t count how many friends balked at seeing Precious a few years ago, but then practically sprinted to the theater to see 12 Years a Slave.

Celebrating black women who are only a certain size and only portray a certain narrative is problematic. Though I’m glad that there are black women and girls who now will walk a little bit taller because of what Nyong’o's talent has done for them, Sidibe has been doing the same thing and is still deserving of her own pedestal.

Photo of Lupita Nyong’o (top) at the Oscars, courtesy of Flick user tonirealli; photo of Gabourey Sidibe at Toronto International Film Festival from Flickr user gdcgraphics, both via Creative Commons 2.0.

 

Screen shot 2014-01-22 at 3.56.53 PM

 

Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.

 

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Demandra says:

    Yes, yes, YES, 1,000 times, YES.

    • My thoughts EXACTLY!

    • What is this even about. In the few short years that Gabby has been around her career has eclipsed that of any actress of any size or color for that matter. You are reaching.

      • Elizabeth says:

        It isn’t about what Gabby has accomplished or how well she is doing as an actress at this point in time…it’s what MEAN and nasty people do because of their perception of what constitutes ‘beauty’ today. Girls (of every colour) are required to be stick-thin, in many cases having to become anorexic to please producers, photographers, casting directors, etc. In all honesty, do you REALLY think there will be the same number of roles for Gabby as there will be for Lupita? Gabby might get ‘roles’ while Lupita will shoot to super stardom, is the point. Not that it isn’t deserved–I adored Lupita’s presence and speeches and she’s done wonders for young black girls (and I’m a middle-aged caucasian), but while Gabby’s talent is obvious, some day and at some point some Neanderthal will shut his door in her face and make it obvious it’s purely because of her dress size because he can’t see past it to her inner beauty.

  2. Gooddogandrose says:

    Gabby Sidibe ROCKS: “Your body is your home! You must decorate it!”

  3. You know someone, somewhere would counter that it’s better to publicize the thin women because the fat women “set a bad health example.”

    I have three words to say to that:

    Philip. Seymour. Hoffman.

    That dude was fat AND had bad health habits, and all anyone could do for weeks after his death was mourn the loss of a cinematic genius.

    It’s not difficult to figure out why.

    • TeamGabby says:

      SO TRUE. A fat man in the public eye is less demonized than a fat woman. (Unless the man weighs quite a lot, say 600 pounds or more, and even then, there is still a disparity). Let us not forget the repeated stereotypes that tell us that it’s okay for a man to be fat but never a woman (with the exception of Mike and Molly and Roseanne), The Honeymooners, Still Standing, King of Queens, etc.

    • ShaRall Willis says:

      With all due respect Phillip Seymour Hoffman has a body of work. Gabourey Sidibe has 1 starring role a supporting role and 7 or 8 episodes of a cable TV series. Give her time however, her physical size will severely limit the roles she will be offered. So unless she develops projects for herself she probably destined to minor supporting parts for most of her career.

  4. I find it interesting that I shared those same thoughts on Oscar night. I look forward to the day that a person’s work ethic will speak for itself and that physical appearance won’t play such a huge role..

  5. Alison Slow Loris says:

    Your point about the difference in applause for slave narratives vs. depictions of ugly present-day problems is well taken. Beyond that: this reminds me of the flap about Gabby Douglas’ hairstyle. America has a long way to go before we can applaud the achievements of a person of color without demanding that the person be seen as or behave as a “representative” of his or her –especially HER — race. Nyong’o fits nicely into a Disney Princess frame–which is both her good luck and, at some level, her bad luck. It’s unfair and ridiculous to expect all high-achieving women of color to do so. Gabby Douglas is an athlete, and she gets to scrape her hair back out of the way just like the other gymnasts. Sidibe is the shape that she is, and I love her pride and strength in being herself.

  6. Debbie Gillespie says:

    Brava Ms Little! Thank you for the reminder that beauty and talent come in all
    shapes regardless of color and shame on Vogue for perpetuating the myth of value being proportionate to dress size.

  7. Lois Lein says:

    Keep in mind though, I’m pretty sure fat white actresses aren’t getting the same kind of attention as their thin counterparts either.

    • The point of the article flew right over your head. You had to bring White women into the conversation.

      • What are you talking about? She’s just saying this isn’t a Black-only perspective… ALL actresses are celebrated if they’re a size 0, and the discussion revolves around their size if they’re a 16+. It’s a Hollywood / women’s images problem, not a race-based problem.

        • When a total of six Black actresses have won Oscars for Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress – combined! – since the Oscars began in 1929, and added awards for Best Supporting male and female artists in 1936, I think we can safely say that the definitive Hollywood awards ceremony reflects “a race-based problem.” A total of 84 Best Actress awards out of 85 have gone to white actresses; a total of 73 Best Supporting Actress awards out of 78 have gone to white actresses.

    • I agree with the article completely, and while Lois’ comment seems a little out-of-nowhere, I have a semi-related comment. To me, as a fat woman, I’ve always felt very afraid to put myself in any kind of spotlight. I always wanted to act and sing, but have never pursued it because of my weight. Whenever I mentioned this to anybody, I’d be met with, “What about so-and-so?” Except so-and-so was always a black woman. If anything, society is much more willing to accept a fat black woman than a fat white woman. No doubt stemming from racist bullshit, though. Probably because of the perception that black women weren’t lilting, lovely creatures anyway, so who cares if they’re fat…who knows.. Either way, it’s a tough, cruel world for all fat women, in general. I didn’t mean to derail the conversation. Gaby Sidibe is the shit. I wish I had half of her confidence.

  8. KL Parr says:

    Thank you for writing this. I hope the message reaches far and wide.

  9. We should applaud both women for their work ethic. I think some people do look down upon women who are larger, but Sidibe has had success her weight not withstanding- that is strength. I am happy for Lupita- success is sweet. What most people don’t know is that she is no “under-dog.” Her father is a high ranking Senator in Kenya and she went to some of the most prestigious schools in Kenya; was trained in theatre from an early age…..she is no under dog- well Americans think she is but we Kenyans know she is not. We are proud of her though but she is “royalty” in Kenya. “Despite all odds” is really not true….

  10. TeamGabby says:

    So true.

    I don’t watch T.V., thus, I did not watch the show. However, through Facebook, I saw Gabby, and in my opinion, I felt she was ABSOLUTELY STUNNING in her gown! However, all I kept reading about was Lupita. It seems to go inn mainstream media, when comparing women, fattness and thinness are what’s important, and they always opt for and prop up the thinner version. Now, if it were Gabby who won an award that evening, I would like to think she would get the same kind of buzz, but with the way most people loathe fat people, I’m not so sure. At any rate, GO GABBY!

  11. You know what? It’s natural to focus on physical beauty. We do it with pets/animals, politicians, restaurant staff, clothing store clerks, advertising and everything in between. It’s why we buy sleek, impractical cars and why we turn our heads when good looking people walk by/near. It’s also likely to be linked to human history. I doubt it was easy to compete and survive in hunter/gather times if you were morbidly obese. Modern lifestyles allow people to survive who otherwise would not. It will take time for humans to adjust to new features and acquired values. It’s also undeniable that, despite how common it is, obesity is drastically detrimental to longevity and well-being and to be perfectly honest its also hard on the eyes.

    • Heather says:

      Hard on your eyes.. That’s only your opinion, you do not speak for everyone else..

      • Elizabeth says:

        Thank you, Heather. That was exactly my response but you said it better. :)
        Peter assumes that he knows what beauty means for everyone else–how silly. I recently met an absolutely gorgeous man in his late 40′s who, because of his occupation, lifestyle and looks could have almost any woman he chose but specifically stated (and proved this by showing us photos of his wife), that his personal tastes ran to very full-figured women, especially if their lower halves were bigger. He was constantly being hit on by thin and pretty women but wasn’t interested in them, believing in being faithful to his wife. Beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder–and within all of us. Both Lupita and Gabby Rock!

  12. They both were celebrated for their art and the academy still embraces Sidibe — she was on stage at the Oscars this year — and she did, in fact, do at least one cover shoot. However, the actress whom probably about 95% of the population finds the more attractive of the two is far more celebrated for her looks. I guess that’s not fair on some level but what are we meant to do about it? Am I wrong and sexist if I don’t pretend I find them equally attractive? It’s one thing to actively ridicule someone for their weight or their looks — we should harshly condemn anyone who does that. But articles like this almost seem to be advocating mind control. Like society needs to somehow stamp out any widespread preference or non-preference in looks. I don’t think that’s possible and even if it were, I would not find it preferable. Or maybe the thought is that if Vogue suddenly put women who look like Sidibe on its cover, instead of women who look like Nyong’o, our minds would all magically change about who is more attractive. I think that’s wishful thinking but what do you think?

    If my interpretation of the point the author is attempting to communicate here is off base, well then, please set me straight. I’d love to hear a coherent argument.

    • I believe you have a point. Many people do find features that are not considered attractive in the mainstream to be attractive, so there is that. I have often pondered this question and could not fully resolve it until recently when I saw a music video that had very handsome men dressed scantily and made up like women often are. I found the men to look clownish. So I now have my answer because I don’t find women who are made up that way to look clownish and I can only attribute that to the fact that is what I have been conditioned to find attractive on women.

  13. Thank you for reminding us yet again of how American (and other countries’) media perpetuate a single physique as beautiful. These sadly very much limit the role models our daughters want to emulate. Nyong’o is beautiful and “unhealthily” thin. Sidibe is beautiful and “unhealthily” obese. Yet it is their genetics, lifestyle, and business how they look, not ours! I wish our public could stop judging the worth of others by how their bodies look or function. Thank you, Ms Little and Ms Magazine, for helping to balance media representation of women.

  14. Ifeoma Ikanih says:

    Your Comparison/Contrast Of two Brilliant young women is SPOT ON~! It is sad that we live in a world where weight-ism and size disrimination/bias is the determinant of character and ability at the end of the day!

  15. Christine says:

    Beauty in Hollywood and the world over is generally very shallow. I don’t consider my opinion as an exception to that rule. Its not her size – NO. Does she have talent? Heck yeah. Is she beautiful? Yes, but she isn’t stunning. Lupita IS stunning. They are both talented ladies.

  16. I don’t find the disparity between the treatment and coverage surprising at all. The fact of the matter is no one is celebrating obesity. Obesity isn’t the stuff of magazine covers and fashion spreads. As a society, we are only now opening up to the concept of a “full figured” or “plus size” model, but obesity makes us uncomfortable.

    And comparing an overweight white man to an overweight Black woman is an exercise in futility. A more productive exercise would be to compare Sidibe’s post nomination coverage to that of other overweight white woman nominees. The last time I checked, no one was putting them on the cover of Vogue either.

    I get it. We should be celebrating the accomplishments of all people of all shapes and colors. But that’s when we’re living in a utopian society, not the racist, sexist, male-dominated cesspool we live in today.

  17. Sumegha says:

    Loved the comparison of the different roles Sidibe and Nyong’o played and the acceptance level of each. Sidibe’s was an eye-opener. Nyong’o's was something everyone already knows. Though, each brilliant in her own way!

  18. While I totally agree, I think it’s safe to say that this goes for almost anyone in Hollywood. Whenever I watch “Glee,” a show that’s supposed to be about inclusion and the celebration of being different, with few exceptions (namely, Amber Riley, who is no longer on the show) it seems to be okay to celebrate if you’re black, white, gay, straight, Asian, hispanic, disabled, or otherwise “different,” as long as you’re thin and beautiful.

  19. NYC Lawyer says:

    I am baffled at the premise of this article. Lupita is incredibly stylish and has become a style icon. Many actresses, white or black, do not become style icons. Why select Gabby Sidibe as a focus/contrast? Viola Davis is Oscar-nominated and she wasn’t treated as a style icon…because she isn’t particularly stylish. I find her to be beautiful, but not particularly stylish. Angela Bassett is Oscar-nominated and beautiful, but I don’t think that she focuses on style. That is okay. Everyone’s not going to make the best-dressed list. The fact is that Lupita has. She does the style game well. Slim or plump, not everyone can pull off style.

    There is a conversation to be had about society’s treatment of overweight women, but it is ridiculous to say that we should be thinking about Gabby Sidibe as we celebrate Lupita’s style and beauty. First of all, let Lupita have her moment. Second, I fail to see any connection between the two women beyond them both being talented black actresses. There are lots of talented black actresses that have received Oscar nominations.

    • ShaRall Willis says:

      No there are not lots of Black women who have received Oscar nominations.

      • NYC Lawyer says:

        I see you’ve missed my point. Of course the number of black women nominated (about 29) is significantly fewer than the scores of white women nominated over the years. My point was that of the 29 nominated most of them were not “It” girls. Probably only Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Dihann Carroll and Halle Berry got that kind of attention. The rest didn’t. Everyone -No matter the race– doesn’t make it on the best-dressed list. Some people do. Lupita made it. What is the point of bringing Gabby Sidibe’s name up in connection with Lupita’s being considered a style icon? For example, Viola Davis was nominated twice and she wasn’t selected as the next It Girl and she is quite slender. I find the entire premise of the article above to be illogical and pointless. There’s a great article to be written about Hollywood, society in general and fat-shaming, but I don’t see why it would be linked to Lupita and her success.

        P.S. I think Gabby Sidibe is a fantastic actress and quite poised and funny in interviews, but I think she has a horrible sense of style. I almost always hate her hairstyles and she almost always wars clothing unflattering to her figure. I know and have seen many full-figured women with impeccable style. Gabby is simply not one of them. Just like there are many slim women with terrible style as well.

  20. Victor Lewis says:

    STOP!!!!! No one is keeping Gabourey Sidibe out. Lupita happened at this time when major shifts are happening. Everyone is looking for the angle why this attention is not a good thing. I am here to tell you that it is ALL good. It cannot be bad. As for attempting to eke out out all the references historical, political and tenious to make your point, you forgot to mention that times change and times are changing very fast. And we are in the cycle where a woman’s charisma, talent and yes looks have put her in the forefront of representations of what is deemed beautiful I bet you are surprised that she was chosen to be this ideal. After all you have seen far prettier sisters elsewhere on your travels. I bet even you were surprised that she did not need all the other anachronistic enhancements, like long hair and lighter skin to pass through the beauty gates. The only people holding back and putting limits on the possibilities of the breath of black beauty are some black women. Only some, cos the ones I know have moved on long ago into a world where their skin color is for others to discuss. that is what Lupita stands for in the present Zeitgeist, a point of discussion that has really nothing to do with her

  21. I do agree that the movie going public is much more comfortable with historic narratives on screen (although they shouldn’t be) than they are with confronting modern day issues. However the success of one Black woman should not be played up against that of another Black woman by Black women; I enjoy them both as actors and look forward to many more wonderful performances. Lupita is the “IT” girl, I’ll grant you that, but there are many talented Black women who deserve a light shined upon them just as brightly and we should question an industry that does not allow for that every. moment. of. the. day. But we need to be honest about the primary reason people do not afford the same acceptance to Gabourey- not fat phobia but rather fat shaming. There are rules to this: you can be fat BUT you have to be funny since everyone loves a funny fat girl in life and on screen. You can be fat BUT you absolutely CANNOT be ok with it and must make a public display of your attempts at weight loss, successful or not. After all people have to see that you’re “trying.” You can be fat BUT you cannot be happy, have a romantic life and simply love yourself as Gabourey does. And you most certainly cannot be all of those things AND Black. Major no-no. Is it really such a challenge for people to accept and laud a Black woman from another country who is beautiful with a button nose and thin frame who is the designer sample size as well as an ivy league graduate? Not really. Lupita is easier for people to accept, she is like medicine with a spoonful of sugar- you’re not thrilled to take it but she tastes sweet and goes down easy so it’s ok, you know in the long run it’s good for you (look forward to overhearing in a bar near you “Lupita Nyong’o is my favorite actress!” “Mine too, she is so pretty and SO brave!”). Gabourey is UNAPOLOGETIC about who she is and that bothers people in a way that is stunning/ downright scary to me when I read comments on almost anything that is ever written about her (seriously, youtube comment sections are freaking minefields of vitriol for this woman, it’s insane). May Gabourey continue to be awesome and not give a damn about what I, you or anyone else thinks, and may Lupita continue to be her wonderful self and even learn from Gabourey’s glorious example as her gracious red carpet predecessor. BTW- Gabourey totes invented red carpet photo bombing, now THAT is a legacy! ;)

  22. Dorothy says:

    I adore Gabby! She is beautiful and talented, and her self-confidence is wonderful. I noticed the column calls the reaction to Gabby “fat phobia.” I’m going to go a step further: It’s fat prejudice. And it seems to be the only prejudice that’s still OK — all in the disguise of “healthy.” I thought Dana’s point was on target, too. And the death of James Gandolfini was the same thing — not a word about HIS weight was uttered. Why do “we” feel this need to label/look down on anyone because of how they look?

  23. Noooo! I don’t like this blog entry for so many reasons. Who is pitting Gabourey against Lupita? It hadn’t even entered my head until I read this blog post. Lupita just won an Oscar. Can’t we give imaginary rivalries a rest for at least a week? Who didn’t love Gabourey in American Horror Story: Coven? I am one of the people who did not “sprint” to see either actress’s Oscar caliber movie. Why? Because experiencing injustice beautifully recreated on screen just makes me feel bad. I’ve worked in the criminal justice system for 20 plus years, and I don’t find gross injustice uplifting or entertaining. Movies about the wrongly convicted, the abused, and the enslaved, are not fun. I didn’t see The Green Mile, either. I’ve seen wrongful convictions up close and personal. Shed my tears. Raged at indifferent politicians who allow this crap to go on, in one firm or another, and then deny it’s going on, ad infinitum. Checked into a hospital a day after filing a 700 page brief for someone condemned to death because I was half dead myself. I guess there are some people who need the kind of edification these movies provide. Not me. I need relief. Django Unchained I could handle, because there was going to be a giant catharsis at the end. The wronged parties were going to kick some ass. And I was going to get to enjoy it. How did this become a story about the fat girl versus the skinny girl? And don’t these straw men (or women) trivialize the work being celebrated? Way to stir up controversy.

  24. Oh my goodness, I was literally venting to a friend last night about this very issue. and now I have stumbled on this entry that articulates my feelings so well. Thank you!

    Gabourey has to deal with the double whammy of being big and black in Hollywood. Disconcerting indeed. Blessed be the day when someone her size can be a fashion icon.

  25. I don’t think the discrepancy is in the type of roles, completely. Because the truth is that Black women regardless of appearance get very limited roles. Examine Oscar win characters: Mammy. Magical Negro. Abusive mother. Abusive mother. Background singer. Maid. Enslaved Black woman. Of course they had solid performances; their talent isn’t the question; but the roles do confirm to what an Academy made up of mostly old White men would think Black women should be portrayed as. I do agree that “distant” racism (12 Years A Slave) versus active impact of current poverty (Precious) as discrepancy in their roles matters a bit, but not entirely. Obviously fatphobia is primary here so thanks for pointing that out. But you missed something else. “Black model immigrant.” This impacts the reception of Black people who are not American versus African Americans. Clearly. The way Idris, Chiwetel and Lupita are received differs from Black actors who are American. This is because of the “distance” that Whites feel in terms of the responsibility of racism in their lives versus Black people in America. The idea that Black immigrants are “superior” and “work harder” prevails outside of Hollywood while those who present such stereotypes ignore the impact of a lifetime of racism shaped in America versus other places on Black people in America. The idea that Lupita is “elevated” above American Black women plays a role. Don’t get me wrong now; she is EVERYTHING! Love her! Amazing. But let’s be super clear about all that is in involved here. Great post, thanks for sharing.

    • Great point. This reminds me of the Model Minority myth that was used against Africans Americans . Ironically, Some Asians are finding entertainment work in Asia because of the same very things that is being discussed on here.

  26. David Rego says:

    If Vogue’s readership demographics “fit” (no pun intended) the Sibide image, and Sibide’s image fit the editorial decision making of Vogue, then let me tell ‘ya, she’d have been on the cover of Vogue.

    The best piece I’ve ever read on advertising was by Gloria Steinem. You might want to read it before you start criticizing Vogue’s less than triple bottom line.

    That said, Sibide was on the cover of Elle. I’m not sure if she’s ever been on the cover of Ms., and yet Vogue is evil, Elle is ignored, and Ms. gets a heaping helping of benign neglect.

    In general you make claims about fat-phobia and images of beauty and completely ignore the economics of Hollywood.

    Your blog post betrays an absolute ignorance about the membership of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (a.k.a. the voters who are members of the Academy).

    You assume (or at least this is how I read you) that Sibide did not win an Academy Award because she is overweight. Is this the general opinion of the Academy voter’s who did not vote Sibide the award?

    America did not deny Sibide an Academy Award because America “balks” at “present-day” oppression. The majority of members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences denied her the award because they voted for Sandra Bullock.

    Maybe you should ask the members of the Academy what they balk at before pronouncing the general public guilty as you charge.

    The fact that you missed the Elle cover betrays your good fortune in having the opportunity to write for Ms.

    Don’t squander it, right

  27. “It’s apparently become okay to have black features like Nyong’o, but you still have to come in the right shape.” Dark skin and black features are still stigmatized so why say this? Comparing two dark skin actresses for the sake of discussing fat phobia is intellectually lazy and dishonest. Fat phobia definitely exists so you can discuss that w.o Nyong’o comparisons.

    • Becca thank you. I concur with your comment 100%. Further the attack another commentator for pointing this out using white women as reference was uncalled for as her point is valid. Fat phobia cross racial boundaries, so to write a “black on black” comparative article on it is disingenuous and misguided. It serves to only detract from the gains and accomplishments made by Nyong’o and Sidiby respectively. Would the writer Ann Little prefer that black women not be celebrated for their Natural beauty at all?! I would hope not.

      I also can’t help but wonder if Ms Little would be bemoaning Nyong’o ascension if Nyong’o were ‘Black-American’ as opposed to ‘Black-African’…

  28. I respect this article, but it’s common knowledge that attractiveness plays a major factor in a person’s success. Hollywood is a looks-oriented business (like society in general), it’s obvious that Lupita gets all the attention, while Gabourey does not. Imagine you as the vanity fair editor, would you want Lupita or Gabourey on the cover of the spring issue?

  29. Gabby is def talented and worthy of praise. She has helped so many stand a little taller, smile a little brighter. Nonetheless you can not over look the fact that her weight puts her at risk for so many health issues. Yes full figured women should embrace their curves. I’m not saying you have to be sample size but there is an unhealthy difference between being full figured and obesity. Anorexic model types are just as scary/unhealthy.

  30. Kenneth Moreno says:

    Beautiful article…

  31. I really don’t agree with us pitting the two together. Precious was highly recognised and received by the American (and worldwide) audience and Sidibe has received recognition.
    There are just some people who, no matter their size or skin colour have that je ne sais quois which attracts the massest. It happens in families, and it will happen in the media.
    Lupita happens to attract the masses and she is and deserves all of the wonderful adjectives that we use to describe her. I’ve always found black women graceful and beautiful but this is one of the few breakaways that find their way into the hearts of America. Let’s cherish that and support her.
    This is not to say that there is a fat phobia, but I don’t believe it should be held up to ridicule or diminish Lupita’s success. Allow Lupita to capture her niche and not feel guilty about it. We as black people have to fight against so much in this world already. And I think we should be thankful (but continue to work for) that spectrum of our “blackness” is recognized in the media.
    Lastly, I didn’t run to see either movie. I saw “Precious” almost a year after it was released and not before painstakingly reading the novel. I saw 12 Years a Slave with my German husband (I’m of Caribbean-African decent). We both intermittently left the cinema and swore never to watch another slave movie again. Even now, when the clips of 12 years were played at the award shows, I’ve turned away.

  32. YES! Thank you for writing this. Intersectionality, folks! A lot of really bad, hurtful shit happens where oppressions intersect.

  33. To some extent, a valid observation. The only poiint I would argue is that there is the slender vs full figured component here. Regardless of race, the more slender female actor draws more attention than her fuller figure counterparts.

  34. Tiffany says:

    I think you’ve made a good point about size and color in Hollywood, but using bad evidence.

    I mean, my memory is fuzzy and biased about such things because I pay quite a bit of attention to Sidibe. But I’m pretty sure she was heralded for her performance in “Precious.” She was on ‘Ellen’, ‘Regis & Kelly’, an Elle cover, a V cover, and hosted SNL that year (or soon thereafter).

    What’s more, Sidibe continues to work: “The Big C,” “American Horror Story: Coven,” “Tower Heist,” and guest hosted “Chelsea Lately” just this week. I don’t think anyone has forgotten about her, though the Hollywood Fashion Machine certainly ignores her as they do with most women over a certain size and age. (In other news, can Adepero Oduye get some roles, please? She killed in in “Pariah.”)

  35. Gabourey Sidibe has appeared in Harper’s Bazaar twice, ELLE Magazine in cover/editorials, V Magazine and a few other’s and people still found something to have fake outrage about.

    While folks are trying their best to diminish Lupita’s light, when has Gabby ever appeared on the cover of MS magazine? Miss Sidibe is doing just fine in her career without the writer making comparisons to whom is celebrated by whom. Why can’t we celebrate them both without making it a competition which is based strictly on the superficial?

    We love her and celebrate her beauty, talent and individuality because as she has said before: “She decided that she was beautiful.” If that’s not a woman who is confident in her existence, I don’t know what is and she doesn’t need the writers help at all. Gabourey is celebrated in the white mainstream media more than she is the so called black mainstream and that speaks volumes before we take shots at other’s.

  36. What’s problematic is the idea that one MUST hold someones accomplishment up against someone elses…
    there’s room for more than one person to be celebrated…

    but maybe im wrong & didn’t see your post about the previous “it” girl when Gabby was all the rage

  37. Christie says:

    The differences between Gabby and Lupita go beyond dress size. Gabby is obnoxious. There I said it. Lupita comes off as warm and endearing. Stop enabling Gabby’s unpleasant behavior by defending her.

  38. I am happy for the success and acclaim for both of these talented actresses. Funny how for most of history, beauty was measured by size of the women. Fat women meant wealth. Today beauty is defined as a woman who appears to be starving. I’m curious about how this changed. I suspect it came about as the ancient Goddess religions got wiped out by the male God religions with their focus on domination and control of women and the earth. Much easier to control a little wisp of a woman than a full-bodied one. Please discuss!

  39. I learned about the “traditionally built” figure in the #1 Ladies Detective novels by Alexander McCall. I learned to appreciate and understand that build. If people understood it as a normal body type, they would let it be and not get in the way of appreciating the whole person. I also agree with many of the above comments, especially the insights of Leo. Weight is a touchy subject best left to the individual.

  40. Victoria Thomas says:

    My feeling is that all of this goes beyond the initial markers of ethnicity, complexion tone within a given ethnic background, body size, shape, weight and so on. It goes beyond all of these “-isms”. Human beings have the capacity to project aspects of themSELVES (ourselves) that they –we– disown– onto others. We therefore make these others un-desirable…loathesome. We displace to demonize. Because they represent the aspects of ourselves we refuse to own, acknowledge, love, forgive, embrace, accept, tolerate, integrate, etc. See: xenophobia, Jung’s Shadow. Black people and others (including the Irish!) have been the recipients of this projection / displacement for centuries.

  41. This sets up a false dichotomy–we need to equally embrace size 0 and size (whatever double digit size Gabourey is now). I think Queen Latifah is gorgeous and has beautiful healthy curves. Massive obesity is unhealthy in both men and women. I do not engage in fat shaming, since I know that there are a lot of reasons to be overweight that have nothing at all to do with will power, but I do worry about the quality of life for both anorexics and the massively overweight. I do not see extreme slenderness as healthy, either. I do wish that some of the money that goes into the private jet would go into looking for a healthier lifestyle.

  42. Absolute non-sense. Lupita is in a different category than Sidibe. Sidibe is NOT someone I would encourage my daughters to look up to, her weight is very unhealthy and she wears bad weaves, is she a Yale graduate? Lupita on the other hand IS actually BEAUTIFUL, physically fit, wears her hair natural, has dark complexion and is very well educated. You are not doing anyone any favors writing this drivel, we as black women need positive role models. When is Rosie O Donnell ever compared to Cameron Diaz?

    • Eve West says:

      Please correct me if I’m wrong but it sure seems like you are saying that those who “wear bad weaves, are overweight, and don’t graduate from Yale/prestigious universities ” are not fit to be good role models??? Laughable! Gabourey is not exactly a hood rat. After all, she was nominated for an Oscar and has won numerous other awards for her performances and overall seems to have excellent character. I’m sure her mother is quite proud.

  43. I <3 Gabby she is amazing, she was fantastic in American Horror Story! I think she also deserves major kudos for Precious; while I haven't seen it I am aware of the story and I don't think that's a role that any actress would take on lightly; I imagine it must have been a difficult project and the fact that she obviously gave it her all is amazing. She is an incredible young lady and so talented!

  44. Sharon Nesbitt says:

    This is a ridiculous discussion. Gabrielle was not nominated this year for an Academy Award and Lupita was. The nominees were the main focus.
    Furthermore, Gabrielle is to be commended for her confidence, however, if she does not get her weight problem under control, yes, she has a tremendous weight problem, she is a heart attack, stroke and type 2 diabetic waiting to happen. Gabby is morbidly obese. A very well spoken, intelligent young woman, but morbidly obese.

  45. CF Sista says:

    so sad to see so much fat bashing and fat hate. So my assessment is correct in that if Lupita were Gabby’s size, the press would not have admonished her as they did. TSK, TSK.

    “Free yo’ mind, and the rest will follow…”

  46. Where was this concern when Lauryn Hill was being singled out whilst in the Fugees? Don’t get me wrong I was a 19 year old caught up in the ‘she is raising the status of dark skinned beauty’ but as I have said on a previous conversation, Lauryn Hill was adored by black/white media fashion industry because she was/is a size 8. We as black women did not/were not able to collectively question this contradiction at the time. You speak of Gabby what about Angie Stone? She has one of the best voices ever, yet had to wait a very long time before she was signed. What about Sharon Jones? I know this piece is about Hollywood but I think the discussion goes further than that. Why is Erykah Badu given more prominence than Angie? Complexion, ‘light eyes’ and weight. This is not just about the white media/fashion industry. Its time to question within.

  47. Revolution will not be telivised says:

    This is nonsense and the author is reaching with this one, I 100% agree about fat bashing and putting anybody down because of weight, skin complexion, hair etc, but to put Lupita and Sidebae in the same beauty category is asinine and no one is going to go for this. With all the colorism going on and black womens beauty being undermined we have a beautiful and talented women to grab on to but here we go messing it up with this.

Speak Your Mind

*