Don’t look so perplexed; Gabourey’s father Ibnou Sidibe hails from Senegal, Africa and from where I sit, that makes her 100% African.
Born May 6, 1983, to her aforementioned father who was a cab-driver, and her mother, a teacher-cum-singer, Gabourey was raised in Harlem, New York. She studied Psychology at Mercy College, New York, attended The City College of New York and the Borough of Manhattan Community College whose most famous alumnus is Queen Latifah.
Gabourey’s parents were divorced while she was young and the unfortunate incident had a ripple effect on her choices and career path. As a first-hand witness of her mother’s financial struggles, Gabourey was deeply needful of the security that lay in a good education and a white collar job. Indeed, as she revealed in an interview with Wendy Williams, she had no interest in acting although she was cast in school plays as a child and bit parts in local theatre.
Gabourey worked at the Fresh Air Fund’s office as a receptionist concurrently studying until her break out role and magna opus eponymous character in the movie, ‘Precious’ in 2009. The film won numerous awards, including two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe Award and Sundance Film Festival Grand Jury Award. Gabourey was nominated for a Golden Globe in the category of Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture Drama and received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She also received a string of awards from various bodies including the Chicago International Film Festival Award for Best Breakthrough Performance, Chlotrudis Award for Best Actress, the Detroit Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress, the Florida Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress, the Hollywood Film Award for Rising Star Award, the Independent Spirit Award for Best Lead Female, the Las Vegas Film Critics Society Award for Best Actress and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture. The list is not exhaustive.
Her filmography: Yelling to the Sky and Tower Heist, 2011; Seven Psychopaths 2012; White Bird in a Blizzard and Gravy 2013; and a yet to be released 2014 film, Life Partners.
From 2010-2013, Gabourey starred in a television drama, ‘The Big C’, and in April, 2013, she was cast in ‘The American Horror Story,’ a television series.
Gabourey Sidibe is one of only ten African-American actresses to be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar. The others in chronological order are: Dorothy Dandridge, Diana Ross, Cicely Tyson, Diahann Carroll, Whoopi Goldberg, Angela Bassett, Halle Berry, Viola Davis, and Quvenzhané Wallis.
In May, 2013, Gabourey was named amongst the Women; Entrepreneurship and Inspiration [WIE]60 Power Influencers in Africa alongside Eva Muraya, Magatte Wade, Isha Sesay, Chimamanda Adichie, Yvonne Chaka Chaka, Liya Kebede, Genevieve Nnaji, Ory Okolloh, Isis Nyongo, and Bethlehem Tilahun Alemu.
For the 30-year old who was once told to “quit the business [of entertainment]” by an A-list Hollywood actress, -no less-, Gabourey has every reason to stand as an icon of sheer determination and talent.
For our women-folk in entertainment, there is a lesson in this narrative; read it, decipher it, and copy genius.