The Oscar-nominated Precious star and Empire actress delivers a much-awaited memoir—wise, complex, smart, funny—that is different from anything we’ve read
Gabourey Sidibe—“Gabby” to her legion of fans—skyrocketed to international fame in 2009 when she played the leading role in Lee Daniels’s acclaimed movie Precious. In This is Just My Face, she shares a one-of-a-kind life story in a voice as fresh and challenging as many of the unique characters she’s played onscreen. With full-throttle honesty, Sidibe paints her Bed-Stuy/Harlem family life with a polygamous father and a gifted mother who supports her two children by singing in the subway. Sidibe tells the engrossing, inspiring story of her first job as a phone sex “talker.” And she shares her unconventional (of course!) rise to fame as a movie star, alongside “a superstar cast of rich people who lived in mansions and had their own private islands and amazing careers while I lived in my mom’s apartment.”
Sidibe’s memoir hits hard with self-knowing dispatches on friendship, depression, celebrity, haters, fashion, race, and weight (“If I could just get the world to see me the way I see myself,” she writes, “would my body still be a thing you walked away thinking about?”). Irreverent, hilarious, and untraditional, This Is Just My Face takes its place and fills a void on the shelf of writers from Mindy Kaling to David Sedaris to Lena Dunham.
Autobiographies are a real ball-ache to review because it always feels that if you don’t enjoy it, you’re casting a judgement on the person’s life.
Thankfully I get to sidestep that minefield this time because I loved the book. Gabourey Sidibe is hilarious and so honest it hurts – about her childhood, her mental health, her career and pretty much anything else she feels like being honest about.
I picked up this book after seeing her acting in American Horror Story, one of my all time favourite shows (the first few series anyways) and I fell in love with her confidence. I don’t think I’ve ever used the expression ‘fierce’ before to describe a person because I’m very, very British and modern slang scares me, but this woman is FIERCE.
Reading this has just reinforced that for me, she’s built her successful career with her confidence, charisma and sarcastic sense of humour as well as some very lucky twists of fate (we’ve all had them, sometimes the stars have to align for you to achieve your dreams). More than that though, she’s still coming to terms with being an adult and having financial success, she hasn’t just *ping* turned into a well-adjusted grownup. This just highlights the fact that SHE’S A HUMAN BEING, which apparently people forget from time to time, and also makes me hopeful that there’ll be another book from her when she reaches the next chapter of her life.
This book is all about Gabourey’s personal life rather than her career, so be aware of that if you’re looking for juicy tidbits about her life on set (there aren’t any, I checked!) but you do get to read about all the casual (and…. Formal?) racism she has to deal with as well as unnecessary opinions about her weight that everyone feels the need to share with her.
My favourite of all chapters was the one about her hair – recounting all the terrible things she’s done to it in the quest to find her style. I giggled when she wrote about the bleaching episode because it reminded me of my 14-year-old self, two friends, a sleepover and a pack of home hair dye that ended in the invention of the colour ‘plorange’ that I’ve never fully recovered from.
So, pick this book up if you’re looking for something funny, entertaining and ‘real’ to keep you company.
**Thank you NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest and unbiased review**