5 out of 5 Hollywood Stars
I am now obsessed with Gabourey Sidibe. It’s ok to call her Gabby now, but damn, I love her full name so much. Especially the way she says it. It rolls like poetry. As does this memoir. Not in typical poetry. In Gabby poetry. This is singlehandedly the best memoir I’ve ever listened to – and to listen to it is to be blessed – hearing an author read their own words in their own voice- and this is Gabby’s voice, is a pure treasure and as unique as her name. She says her name is the first gift given to her by her father, a Senegalese man who married her mother for a green card. Her mother wanted to help him, because she thought he was a good man. It took a year for them to fall in love and resulted in a turbulent marriage that lasted 10 years and netted them two children. In a recent interview, Gabby mentioned how she had an immigrant cab driver for a father and a mother who was a subway singer – and that combination could only happen in the city of New York. The city plays a big part of the story, it is her beginning, and then she transitions to California.
She doesn’t hold back for a second, and her performance for the audio book is incredible. The first time I was just enjoying the read and the way her delivery felt like she was a friend talking to you. I immediately listened to it again – and realized the subtle delivery of some of the voices from her life (ok, some aren’t subtle, you know what I mean- the out and about in your face impressions of haters, Lee Daniels, kids in school, those are obvious.) Then there is her mother’s solid no-nonsense tone, her fortune-telling stepmother’s gentle African accent, the quiet disdain of her detractor’s , even the fluctuating expression of her own voice at different ages, she performs the book and brings you up and down with the Gabby-that-was during different times in her life.
She starts with a bang – talking about her body and how she looks and how other people make her feel about how she looks, and how it ain’t none of your damn business anyway. She has a separate chapter called Mind your Own Body about people who are “so concerned for her health….” My ass. It’s misogyny, pure and simple. As she says, no one writes think pieces about whether or not fat men should be in sex scenes on television or talks about why they should lose weight. I’ve also never heard a fat male celebrity called a bad example . In Chapter 2, she goes on to talk about sex, dating, and her mother assuming she was still a virgin at 27. These topics are dealt in a fresh, no-holds-barred, no-shits-given direct tone. Anyone who’s talked about sex with their parents as an adult can relate. I think this is where my obsession with this woman was driven into overdrive.
She also covers that weird inbetween period – where she had been in a hot indie film, soon picked up for distribution by a major studio, and she still isn’t famous. She has a little money but that’s just enough to keep afloat until the movie comes out and she can get other jobs – not enough for makeup artists and fancy gowns and limos – and then she has to stand between Oprah and Mariah Carey at events and premiers in dresses from the mall. She talks about how sometimes she felt like someone who won a contest to go to a snazzy event, rather than someone who belonged there. She’s really honest about fame and how it changed the relationships with the people around her. Her mom baldly tells her that the family knows how much money she has because they Googled it. (As in family, her mom means the aunts that call and ask her to move them to New York and pay for their hair, and the cousins calling asking for “loans” to start this or that venture.) Li’l tip: Google doesn’t always tell you the whole story, just fyi.
In another funny and truthful chapter, she talks about a game she plays called “Is this a date?” Because sometimes, she really can’t tell. Nice men ask her to “link up” and they do it in the flirtiest way possible… and then they show her a script or ask her to be in their documentary. I love how she covers these topics. She mentions things that you as a reader must be thinking, and then how she feels about it. She meets your assumptions head on before you can and often, dismisses them. Her take on things is to lean into it, acknowledge it, and come to terms.
Ok, how have I gotten this far in the review and not talked about the phone ho factory? Yes, she calls it that, once, and yes, she worked at a phone sex center. And yes, I nearly spit my coffee out when she casually referenced her job in this way. Before Precious and in between being able to go to school (as she had lost financial aid) and getting help for her crushing depression, someone suggested she work at a call center type of job. She felt she had no qualifications for anything, and admits when someone said “phone bank” she immediately thought of phone sex. So yes, she went in and auditioned and got a job as a phone sex operator, or talker, as they were called by the company. She tells you just about everything you’d want to know about it, while keeping it pretty pg13. And you know, either she was lucky, or we all have a lot of really wrong conclusions about what those places are like. It’s a fascinating part of the book.
In short, I can’t recommend this enough. I feel that the respect and admiration I have for this funny, smart, outspoken, creative and beautiful woman is well justified. If you read this, you’ll feel the same.