Among the speakers at last night’s Gloria Awards and Gala in New York, hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women, was actress Gabourey Sidibe, who we last saw dropping the mic on fat-shamers on Twitter. Sidibe, as you may or may not know, does not have the appearance of a stereotypical actress. From this there are a lot of things she’s learned, which she shared in a humorous, moving, and dare I say inspiring speech. Here is an excerpt of the speech below Read the rest via Vulture.
I’m so excited to be here. Really, really excited. Okay, I’ll get to it. Hi. One of the first things people usually ask me is, “Gabourey, how are you so confident?” I hate that. I always wonder if that’s the first thing they ask Rihanna when they meet her. “RiRi! How are you so confident?” Nope. No. No. But me? They ask me with that same incredulous disbelief every single time. “You seem so confident! How is that?”
When I was ten years, in the fifth grade, my teacher, Miss Lowe had announced that my class would be having a holiday party right before the Christmas break. She asked if we all could all bring snacks or soda or juice to the class party. She also said we had the option of cooking something, if we like. I was so excited. I immediately decided that I would make gingerbread cookies, and that everyone would love them. I told my mom my plan, and I asked her for money to go buy the ingredients. She thought I should just buy store-bought cookies, but I told her, “Those cookies didn’t have enough love in them!” I had to make the cookies. So I bought the mix, and I bought cookie cutters in the shape of Christmas trees and bells, and I made a practice batch of cookies that went horribly wrong. Good thing they were a practice batch. They were awful. And then the night before the party, I made another batch of cookies. And they were also awful, but they looked a lot better. I carefully put the cookies in a Ziplock bag, so I could take them to school the next day. When I got to school that morning, I could not wait until that party. And I was so proud of those cookies, and all the effort I put into making them, I started to think that maybe I wouldn’t just be the first woman black President — maybe I would also be a celebrity chef! I mean, why limit myself?
The party was set to take place during the last hour of school, and I waited excitedly for it all day long. Finally, it was party time. My teacher asked what everyone brought, and I proudly announced that I had baked cookies for the class. I think I felt prouder knowing that everyone else just bought stuff. I was the only one who made anything, because clearly, I’m a little more clever than anyone else. So as the party starts up, I walk around the class, proudly offering cookies to everyone. No one took a cookie. No one. No one except Nicholas, who was the first person I offered one to. But after a few of our other classmates set him straight, he actually caught up with me as I walked around the class, and gave the cookie back. I walked around the class trying to hand out cookies to my class, until I ended up back at my desk with the same amount of cookies that I started with. I sat at my desk alone, eating those gross gingerbread cookies that took hours to make, all by myself. I put chocolate chips in them, that’s why they were gross. I wasn’t surprised. I just forgot for a moment that my entire class hated me. I had zero friends from the fourth grade to the sixth grade. Who the hell was I baking cookies for? I really got so excited to bake that I had forgotten that everyone hated my guts. Why didn’t they like me? I was fat, yes. I had darker skin and weird hair, yes. But the truth is, this isn’t a story about bulling, or color, or weight. They hated me because… I was an asshole!
Yep. I was a bossy, bossy asshole. See, remember when I said that I thought I was more clever than everyone else? Well, I did! And I told them that — every single day! Those kids couldn’t get a word in edgewise, without me cutting them off to remind them that I was smarter, funnier, and all around wittier than them. I was always sarcastic — I called it my birth defect. And let’s face it, kids don’t get sarcasm. They don’t appreciate it. They never knew what I was talking about. And when they would say, “Wait… huh?” I would say, “My God, Alicia, read a book!” I know. I spoke differently than them, I just did. I sounded more like a Valley Girl than a Brooklyn girl. My classmates always asked me if I was adopted by white people. I’d say, “No. Both my parents went to college.” I know that was rude, but I’m still really proud of that. To be fair, in my neighborhood, not everyone’s parents had the opportunity to go to college. Most of my classmates’ parents were teens when they had them. My parents had me at age 30. My father was born in Senegal. His father was the mayor of the capital city, Dakar, and my dad often took my brother and I back home with him to visit Africa, while most of my classmates had never stepped out of the Lower East Side. My mother was a teacher in high school, that’s why I went there, but my mom also had a voice, so when I was nine, she quit her teaching job to go sing in the subway. She actually made more money as a singer for tips than she made as a teacher! I know! And she was quickly becoming the underground version of Whitney Houston. She was the strongest, smartest, and most talented person I had ever known. Even today, I don’t want to grow up to be anyone as much as I want to grow up to be her. I know!