Howard Stern vs. Gabourey Sidibe: Too Fat For Hollywood?
I dedicate this article Gabriella Ilisco for one reason. She is a “Gabby” who is hot enough for Hollywood!
In my opinion, the film “Precious” was the best film of 2009 and one of the best films of the decade. I believe that the performances of Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe, Mo’Nique, and Paula Patton were outstanding. When it comes to the performance of Gabourey Sidibe, it is clear that she was a new actress. At certain points, I felt that I was either watching someone who was hired for being a non-professional, or someone who was channeling Marlon Brando as a method actor.
Recently, Howard Stern made the argument that Gabourey is too fat to have a career in Hollywood. He said, “There’s the most enormous, fat black chick I’ve ever seen. She is enormous. Everyone’s pretending she’s a part of show business and she’s never going to be in another movie. She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?”
Basically, what he is saying is that Gabourey is too fat to get movie roles in Hollywood.
As someone who has decided to write about this issue, I have to give Howard Stern some credit, but point out where he may be incorrect. Gabourey has already received another role in the film industry, called “Yelling to the Sky.” Then again, I don’t know how big this film will be. Will it be in theaters or go straight to DVD? I don’t know. So just because Gabourey received another film role does not mean that she will have a career in Hollywood.
Before people wonder ask if I’m being mean to Gabourey Sidibe (which I’m not), let me explain my reasoning. First, there have been other performers in Hollywood who had something so unique about their physical appearance that they could not have a long career after giving a great performance. In 1946, Harold Russell played the role of a WWII veteran who lost both of his arms in the war. The truth is that he really did lose both of his arms in WWII. Not only did he win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but received a special Oscar for how his performance honored the WWII soldiers. This made him the only actor to receive two Oscars for one performance (one competitive and one honorary). Harold Russell proved that he could act and that he was a very talented actor, but without arms, there were no more roles for him. He did not act again until 1980, which was 34 years after his Oscar winning performance.
Second, Gabourey Sidibe is does not have an irreversible condition like Harold Russell had, but her unique shape may limit the roles that she can enter. Looking at the last 20 years of film, I’m trying to think of how many film roles went to overweight women. Kathy Bates has had a few roles that were not based on her looks, but she also played characters that were usually in their 40s or above in age and white. Her role in Misery won her an Oscar. She starred as the unsinkable Molly Brown in James Cameron’s Titanic. She also was up for an Oscar for playing the mother of the groom in About Schmidt. But her film roles were different than those that could be filled by Gabourey Sidibe. The character Annie Wilkes in Misery was too old of a character for Gabourey to play. Molly Brown in Titanic was white, which Gabourey is not. The mother of the groom in About Schmidt was also too old for Gabourey to play. The top performances of Kathy Bates’ career could not have been filled by Gabourey.
So let’s look at roles in film that were played by women who are younger, over-weight, and African-American. The two actresses that come to mind who have filled these roles in recent years have been Queen Latifa and Mo’Nique. Queen Latifa was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for Chicago, only to lose to her co-star, Catherine Zeta-Jones. Mo’Nique, who was Gabourey’s co-star in Precious, actually won Best Supporting Actress for the film. But unlike Gabourey Sidibe, her competition have shown talent in other fields. Queen Latifa is a famous rapper with years of acting experience. Mo’Nique is a famous comedian who has been in many films, television shows, and currently hosts her own show. The fact that both Queen Latifa and Mo’Nique are multi-talented actresses will give them advantages when going after different film roles.
Is Gabourey Sidibe too fat to work as an actress? No, but she cannot go after many of the typical roles available in Hollywood. Being unique, as a very overweight young woman, I believe that her best bet is to be on a television show. Gabourey reminds me of Parminder Nagra, the star of 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham. Her co-star, Keira Knightley, was a thin blond, Natalie Portman look-a-like. Keira was exactly what Hollywood typically looks for in an actress, which is she has had a very successful acting career. Parminder Nagra, a British actress of Indian heritage, was not the typical Hollywood actress. So what did she do? She got a job on the television show ER. On television shows, it is easier to add new characters of any different group than in a film, where the characters are already written into the story. When it comes to television, it would be a lot easier to fit someone like Gabourey Sidibe into a show.
Was Howard Stern wrong for pointing out that Gabourey Sidibe’s weight would hurt her ability to make a career as an actress? No, but he did not realize that there are other areas where she could act. Let’s face it… there is nothing wrong with being on television. Oscar Winner Whoopie Goldberg is on The View. I hope that Gabourey Sidibe can continue to act, because I’d rather see her in movies than people like Lindsay Lohan.
If Lindsay Lohan is reading this, I just said that I’d rather see Gabourey in films than see you, and I did not say why. I haven’t actually insulted you, so you won’t find grounds to sue me for $100 Million.