C Letter Book Club: Gabourey Sidibe's "This Is Just My Face"
It is the credible fear of every actor to give a performance so deliberate and effective that they are reduced to their character for all eternity. For Sarah Jessica Parker it was all about Carrie Bradshaw and for a while Taraji P. Henson had the pressure of portraying the quintessential baby mama. These characters were so unforgettable that for a long time they overshadowed the bodies of the actresses portraying them. That was never a possibility with the lead role in “Precious”.
Cast explicitly because of her body Gabourey Sidibe has failed to publicly escape the tragic shadow of the character she depicted in the 2009 independent film "Precious". Nearly a decade later gossip bloggers and social media trolls still refer to her by character’s name as if it were her own. There is no overshadowing, her body's image has been publicly consumed.
But outside of the spotlight she has continued to live a life filled with meaningful friendships,endless humor, and unexpected family dynamics that makes for a fantastic read in the memoir “This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare.”
With the help of therapy, writing as self-care, and an impressive level of self-awareness Sidibe tells her story with well timed jokes and unvarnished honesty. She knows who she is and she knows what you think of her. But the draw here is what she thinks of herself. She details shortcomings, including occasional unkindness, that have absolutely nothing to do with her dress size with endearing sarcasm. She has no misgivings about her appearance and she makes no apologies for it either. This book is about the woman inside of the plus-size body and that woman is funny as hell. I haven’t myself laughing so loud at a book in public since someone on the Path tapped my shoulder to talk about Phoebe Robinson’s “Don’t Touch My Hair”.
Unlike Robinson Sidibe’s humor isn't performative it's pejorative she is violently dismantling society’s casting of her as a victim even as she imparts stories of her personal tragedies.
Her childhood is filled with unjust coincidences and the adults charged with her care make some truly bewildering choices. What keeps this from becoming a sob story is that she’s able to approach the discomfort of being forced to share a bed with her father's mistress & her aversion to James Franco's general annoyingness with the same tone.
She notes the irony in her not being blonde, thin, or a size eight with her time spent as a phone sex operator and the reader can totally see why she killed it. With so much wit and whimsey on constant display who would ever need to see her face?
Check out the behind the scenes of her cover shoot below! Sidebar: Gotta love a girl who rocks Chuck Taylors instead of heels!
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