Can you believe it? Something said on the Howard Stern Show created a controversy.
We were talking about how Precious star Gabourey Sidibe’s weight will negatively affect her health and career. I guess by stating the obvious we hit a nerve because the mainstream media went wild calling us mean. The reaction of the African American community has been even more confounding, calling Howard racist and me a sellout and a House Negro. What no one wanted to confront was the validity of our argument.
To say there won’t be a lot of leading roles in the future for Gabourey is hardly some kind of giant, racist leap. Precious is not your average film. The filmmakers had to go out and find an actress who looked the part. Most working actors start out thin and contort themselves to fit a role. Robert De Niro won acclaim for gaining weight to play Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull, but quickly slimmed down again so he could continue to qualify for the many different parts he would be offered. The same can be said for actresses Rene Zellwegger and Charlize Theron.
But what about when an actor is already overweight? When was the last time you saw Kirstie Alley in a movie? Once a leading lady, she is now hounded by paparazzi trying to catch her shoving something into her mouth and doing show after show about her efforts to slim down so she can work again. Oh, but, our critics point out, look at Kathy Bates and Queen Latifah. Let’s be real: both these women have gained and lost weight over the years. They continue to struggle to lose weight because they know it’s important to their careers, and while neither of them will ever be Zoe Saldano, they are not Gabourey Sidibe either.
I wonder why nobody except me and Howard Stern are willing to say that Gabourey needs help. She is not just overweight, she is dangerously obese. I understand that she was discovered this way, but after the film someone should have said, “Hey Gabby, it would be great if you slimmed down so that you can capitalize on the opportunities that will be coming your way.”
When you’re in the public eye, like it or not, you become a role model. Precious is the kind of film that speaks to people. I, for one, am afraid of what is being said to African American girls about the movie’s star by the media. Is it really okay for Gabourey to be looking forward to another fast food orgy at the Chick fil-A? Does she really look great on the red carpet? Is she really a part of Hollywood, or just its latest victim?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 50% of black women are obese. Obesity is a risk factor for every major disease including heart disease, stroke and diabetes. Two of Gabourey’s co-stars in Precious have openly talked about struggling to control their weight now that they have been diagnosed as diabetic–and neither was ever the size of Gabourey.
We can’t be for Gabourey continuing to eat out of control and for the First Lady’s campaign to stamp out childhood obesity at the same time. We have to start being honest about how deadly this health crisis is, particularly in the black community. We have to be able to say that Gabourey is fat.
I know the deal; I’ve been there. I was clinically obese. I never thought it was cool, nor did I want anyone encouraging me to eat more. I was devastated by the way I felt and the way I looked. I feared that because no one commented on my condition people thought I wanted to look that way. Everyone says Gabourey has a good attitude. Well, what is she suppose to do? When I was going through it I didn’t say anything either. I even stopped talking about dieting because I was tired of failing publicly.
I never gave up though, and I eventually found my way back to sanity around food. As a result of all I’ve learned, I believe we need a Food Bill of Rights in the Constitution to help us make informed choices about what we eat and how our food got to our plates. This is a right as much as clean, drinkable water. I’m going to let you know how my food bill progresses and I want your input. We’re all in this health crisis together and it will take all of us to get out. The first step in solving any problem is being able to identify it. Let’s start telling each other the truth about weight. It’s killing us.