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'Saturday Night Live' Doesn't Think Gabourey Sidibe Is Too Fat

by Jason Hughes, posted Apr 1st 2010 8:02PM
Gabourey SidibeIt's interesting that in E! Online's announcement about 'Precious' star Gabourey Sidibe being asked to host an upcoming episode of 'Saturday Night Live,' their writer referenced a couple of disrespectful quotes Howard Stern had made about Sidibe in early March. Stern makes a living by saying things that push the envelope of good taste, but these words seem to have resonated a bit more than usual.

"There's the most enormous, fat black chick I've ever seen," he said. "She is enormous. Everyone's pretending she's a part of show business and she's never going to be in another movie." He even took on Oprah Winfrey, who's certainly no stranger to weight struggles or lasting success. "Oprah's another liar, a filthy liar. She's telling an enormous woman the size of a planet that she's going to have a career."

Jorge GarciaThe traditional views on women in Hollywood dictated that they be thin and beautiful! But those views aren't holding as much weight as they used to. Sidibe is a more accurate representation of the average American these days than Angelina Jolie or Evangeline Lilly will ever hope to be. Two years ago Sidibe was an average American.

You won't hear Howard Stern or anyone else saying Jonah Hill or 'Lost's' Jorge Garcia are going to have a hard time finding work in Hollywood because of their size. It's a gender-specific double-standard that has been around for a long time in Tinseltown, but just as we finally saw beyond color to elect a black president, we're at a place now as a society where we're finally allowing women to simply be who they are, rather than who the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue says they're supposed to be.


"YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, NO MATTER WHAT THEY SAY"

Regardless of her physical size, anyone who has watched Gabourey Sidibe on any of her recent slew of talk show appearances has seen that she's witty, fun and just sparkling with joy and personality. And she is beautiful, by the way. Her eyes light up a room, and she has one of those smiles that can infect everyone around her.

'Roseanne'There are people out there who are beautiful and there are people out there who are ugly, regardless of the size of their bodies. Sidibe lucked into being one of the pretty ones. In that regard, I guess, she's more Hollywood than average America. I've seen everyone who's interviewed her fall completely in love with her by the end of their time together.


"YOU ARE NOT ALONE"

Gabourey Sidibe is certainly not unprecedented as a large woman in entertainment, either. Nell Carter, of 'Gimme a Break' fame, was one of the most beloved entertainers in America throughout her career, and she was every bit as big as Sidibe.

Roseanne Barr very intentionally cast herself and John Goodman as the leads in her groundbreaking late-'80s sitcom 'Roseanne' because they were both heavier people, and neither were the traditional Hollywood image of beauty. Barr was fighting a Hollywood that perpetuated thinness to the point of creating eating disorders among female television stars who gained even ten pounds, like 'Growing Pains'' Tracey Gold.

Nikki Blonsky, 'Hairspray'More recently, Melissa McCarthy shined both in 'Gilmore Girls' and on ABC's 'Samantha Who?' as a beautifully funny plus-sized woman. In fact, her size had absolutely nothing to do with her character on the latter show; she was accepted for exactly who she was.

While size was a factor for Nikki Blonsky's casting in 'Hairspray,' her figure hasn't kept her from continuing to find work. Many television roles do reflect the physical appearance of their characters, like America Ferrera's role in 'Ugly Betty,' but even so, these roles were always seen as exceptions to the unwritten rules about celebrity women.


"THE TIMES THEY ARE A-CHANGING"

Just as Hollywood is learning to accept that women are still as beautiful and relevant in their older years, like Betty White, as they are when they're young and modeling those Sports Illustrated bikinis, we're learning to accept women of all shapes and sizes. The entertainment capital of the world may have taken a little longer to figure it out than the rest of us, but words like Howard Stern's only exacerbate old stereotypes, and paint him as behind the times.

Ironically, ABC Family was forced to reach out in a nationwide talent search to fill out the cast of their Nikki Blonsky-fronted new series 'Huge.' We've reached a dynamic shift where plus-sized actors and actresses are being sought in larger numbers than they can be found working as waiters and waitresses in California.

Gabourey SidibeThe importance of this shift is that it can help each beautiful and talented young woman across this country realize that her worth isn't tied to her dress size. What's there to be afraid of when she has big, beautiful women like Gabourey Sidibe showing her that nothing need stand in the way of her dreams? Not the size of her figure, nor the words of a radio personality who's only interested in inciting conflict to boost ratings.

Sidibe continues to receive offers. Aside from the hosting gig on 'Saturday Night Live,' she's been cast in a recurring role on Showtime's forthcoming Laura Linney-led comedy 'The C Word.' The sky is the limit for Gabourey Sidibe, because her size is no limit at all.

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Maggie

Sure Gabby has a career ahead of her as long as she doesn't mind being typecast as an obese, lower income, black woman. She will not be the leading lady that gets the guy EVER. While I don't agree with Hollywoods standards...let's stop trying to be so politically correct and trying to avoid hurting feelings when we all know the truth. She is a beautiful girl...without a doubt...but comparing her to Roseanne and the few that are obese and made it, is absurd. They are 1 in several million obese women that made a career in Hollywood. Lets keep it real for everyones sake so as not to be disappointed when she's an unknown in 3 years from now.

April 25 2010 at 10:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
nancy

I wonder how many of the positive responses to Gabourey's weight are overweight themselves. Overweight, like Nikki Blonsky, not such a problem. OBESE like Gab---I think she is a fascintaion, but Howard hit the nail on the head. P. S. I have to watch my eating habits, or I could end up quite porky!

April 07 2010 at 8:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Kate

Go Gabby! She's fuckin' awesome! :D

April 03 2010 at 10:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Matt

I'm going to second what a lot of people have already said, because I'm not sure if I've seen such a wrong-headed blog post in all my life. Let me count the ways:

1) As has been stated, all the overweight women mentioned above have essentially had one noteworthy role, and no more.

2) You bash Howard Stern, but then you make almost the exact same point he was making by saying "You won't hear Howard Stern or anyone else saying Jonah Hill or 'Lost's' Jorge Garcia are going to have a hard time finding work in Hollywood because of their size. It's a gender-specific double-standard that has been around for a long time in Tinseltown [...] "

Howard has been pointing out the reality for actresses today. You call it a "double standard," but you acknowledge that same reality.

3) None of the actresses people are pointing to as having these supposedly prolific careers comes anywhere near Sidibe's level of obesity. She's not just fat, she's ENORMOUS. While she's suited for a role like Precious, she is uncomfortable and, frankly, a bit repulsive to look at.

There is a spectrum of overweight and obese actresses, and Sidibe is at an extreme end of that.

4) Not to sound overly dramatic, but this whole "fat is beautiful" attitude is DANGEROUS. Obesity and overweight recently overtook cigarette smoking as the No. 1 cause of death -- as many as 365,000 excess deaths per year in the United States alone. Hypertension, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, liver disease, arthritis -- obesity is a major contributor to ALL of these.

Morbid obesity like Sidibe's is estimated to reduce lifespan by at least 10 years. And women with a BMI of 32 and above have DOUBLE the mortality rate of thinner women.

Further, the obesity rate went up a staggering 37 percent between 1998 and 2006. So fat acceptance and this warped notion of "beauty" are killing millions of people!

Then there is the economic damage. The medical costs attributable to obesity in the U.S. are currently $147 billion, or 9.1 percent of ALL medical expenditures. In other words, you and I are paying for someone else's right to be fat and "beautiful" via higher health insurance premiums, Medicare, Medicaid and the like.

It is absurd that we're even having a debate over this!

5) And finally, you say "[t]he traditional views on women in Hollywood dictated that they be thin and beautiful! But those views aren't holding as much weight as they used to." Was that pun intentional or merely Freudian? :-)

By the way, where is your evidence to back that up? Hattie McDaniel was fat, and she won an Oscar 70 years ago, for goodness' sake. It's MORE acceptable now than it was then?

People should be thanking Howard Stern for contributing to the debate, regardless of his tone or choice of words. It's an issue that needs more than a little frankness.

April 02 2010 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Matt's comment
nancy

So true.

April 07 2010 at 8:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
jffm

The double standard isn't going anywhere quite yet. And it has nothing to do with her being unhealthy. For the most part, audiences like pretty people, certain niches aside.

But for now at least, she'll get work; perhaps more than some might expect.

There will be some unspoken peer pressure and self-consciousness in Hollywood to not let her be seen as a flash in the pan star of a piece of limousine liberal 'poverty porn'. So she'll be cast in a few serious roles so the film making community can feel good about itself.

It will also help her cause that she's an overweight Black woman. The beauty barrier for Black women is just a little more permeable. Overweight Black women have that added touch of non-threateningness that let's a segment of the White female audience feel comfortable.

My guess is that somewhere down the road, if she manages not to become discouraged, she'll get fed up with only getting calls for the sassy Black friend, or the take no jive Black earth mother or one of the other cliches, and hop on the diet train or join the gastric band brigade and maybe things will open up a little more for her.

Of course she'll still have to work her way around the 'paper bag test', another albatross still not entirely expunged from popular culture, but that's another subject altogether.

April 02 2010 at 1:41 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Aaron

She is unhealthy. What Stern was saying if you had listened and not just posted the sound bite, was that for people to say her weight is okay is as bad as telling a heroin addict it okay because it makes them a better actor. It's not okay to be obese, it's an epidemic in this country, and to say "you are beautiful, no matter what they say" is no better than telling an anorexic that she is beautiful.

You should be ashamed of yourself for continuing to promote an unhealthy lifestyle To
make you look accepting.

April 02 2010 at 11:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
j0phus

While I, of course, agree with you, I don't think that is reality. You speak of how things should be, but Stern was talking about how they are. I don't see her getting another role unless it was written specifically for her, and that is a shame for all the reasons you listed above.

April 02 2010 at 1:52 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
JER

This article is a knee jerk response to a comment out of context. You want Stern to be wrong, and you came up with poorly reasoned arguments and laughable examples. Jason... I could use your exact same examples in an article called "Stern is rude but right". What an amazing pantheon of hall of famers you listed. Nell Carter? She died an early obscure death. Rosanne was a gifted stand up comic, and still has not worked in almost a decade now. Do you honestly think that Sidibe and Holly Berry will ever audition for the same parts? Stop letting your emotions cloud your judgment. The problem is not with Sidibe, who is a gifted actress, nor is it with Hollywood. It is with the audience. No one wants to go see a romantic comedy with an overweight actress in it. If they did, profit hungry Hollywood would be pumping them out. Stop blaming the messenger and start looking at reality. You want to change the industry, than demand more overweight leads. However, do not be surprised when the movie is a horrible flop.

April 02 2010 at 1:20 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Paul

Others have already touched on it....this article is nice and all but realistically, Stern is right.

Of course she's receiving offers now, Precious is still riding high. Let's see how her career is looking 5 years from now.

"While size was a factor for Nikki Blonsky's casting in 'Hairspray,' her figure hasn't kept her from continuing to find work"

You might want to conduct some more research...have a look at Blonsky's IMDB page - not exactly booming considering she was nominated for a golden globe just two years ago.

Sidibe was tailor-made for this one role, simple as that. To pretend that Hollywood has suddenly opened their eyes and that she'll have a long and fruitful career is a joke. How many great films has Jennifer Hudson been in lately?

April 02 2010 at 1:11 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
YouFaceTheTick

He's right. People saying otherwise are just living in fantastyland. And not a healthy one. Is america so delusional now that we're embracing someone even more obese than 1/3rd of the population? guess next to her 2/3rds of Americans don't appear overweight?

April 02 2010 at 1:05 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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