As far as starlets go—a young woman in possession of that rare ability to walk into a room, command head-turns, and make her own fun wherever she goes—Gabourey Sidibe is not a usual suspect. She doesn’t come armed with a name carved in stone on the sides of hotels; she was born in Bed-Stuy and raised in Harlem by a father who’s a cabdriver and a mother who’s been singing on subway platforms for twenty years. She’s not one of those interchangeably emaciated model-actresses; her claim to fame is playing an obese, illiterate teenager twice impregnated by her father and beaten by her mother in the movie Precious. And unlike the many socialites on the scene, our Gabby has an actual job, on Showtime’s The Big C.
What she is armed with is an unshakable confidence. At the National Board of Review Awards, she called out from the stage, “George Clooney, let’s get a drink!” And she told this magazine, regarding Precious, “People say I got this role and now I’m awesome, but the truth is I’ve always been awesome.” Which only added to the realness of her appeal.
“She charms people,” says Andrew Saffir, who invites her to his mover-and-shaker-stocked movie screenings for the Cinema Society. “When actors see her, they literally run for her. ”
There Gabby is, getting photographed with a Gossip Girl cast member at the New York premiere of I Love You Phillip Morris, or with the Winklevoss twins at a screening of The Social Network. There she is, dining with Terry Richardson at an American Patrons of Tate fund-raiser, or meeting Robert Morgenthau at a Fresh Air Fund benefit. She rolls to movie premieres and parties with a posse of childhood friends. They take over couches, throw on welcoming smiles, and giggle with abandon. “She defies all prejudices of mass-market stardom,” says Village Voice columnist Michael Musto. “No one ever looks or talks to her and says, ‘Who’s that again?’ ”