Gabourey Sidibe, nicknamed Gabby, is an Academy Award nominated actress who made her acting debut in 2009. She was born on May 6, 1983 in Brooklyn, New York. Her mother, Alice Tan Ridley, is a special education teacher turned R&B singer who performed on the television show “America’s Got Talent” in 2010. He father, Ibnou Sidibe, works as a taxi driver and hails from Senegal. Her parents divorced when she was quite young, and she moved to Harlem with her mother. It is also noted that Gabourey briefly lived with her aunt Dorothy Pitman Hughes, who is a noted feminist. Her mother Alice gained some measure of local fame as a subway gospel singer. Young Gabourey was inspired by her mother’s talent, and would often sing and perform in productions at school and the local theatre such as “Peter Pan” and “The Wiz”.
After high school, Gabourey attended Borough of Manhattan Community College, City College of New York, and Mercy College. Before pursuing a career in acting, she was working as an office assistant. She was preparing for an exam at college when her friend called her to inform her about the upcoming audition for the film “Precious” by Lee Daniels and Gabourey successfully auditioned for the part. In the film, she plays the character of an illiterate 16 year old named Claireece “Precious” Jones who has two children, both as the result of being sexually abused by her father. She tries to escape from the frequent physical abuse by her mother. The film also starred the singers Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravtiz as well as the actress Mo’Nique who played her mother.
Gabourey’s performance left everyone speechless and turned the then unknown actress into an overnight success. Although the subject matter of the film was controversial, it received critical acclaim from critics and fans alike and grossed over $63 milllion at the box office. She had the honor of being nominated for both a Golden Globe as well as an Oscar for her debut role. Gabourey recalls that she was a huge fan of the 1990s pop band N’Sync as a teenager and was very excited to have her award nomination announced by Justin Timberlake (lead singer of N’Sync) at the Golden Globes. The film was co-produced by Gary Magness, Sarah Siegel-Magness, Oprah Winfrey, Tom Heller and Tyler Perry. It is based on the novel “Push” by the author Ramona Lofton, written under the pen name Sapphire.
Gabourey’s other roles include the films “Yelling to the Sky” with Zoe Kravitz and “Tower Heist” as well as the role of Queenie in Season 3 of the television show “American Horror Story” and the role of Regina Ross in Season 4 of the same show. She also appeared on the music video for the song “Don’t Stop (Color on the Walls)” by the band Foster the People. She also voiced a character on Season 7 of the television show “American Dad!” and appeared in the television series “The Big C”.
During an interview for the film Precious, Gabourey mentioned that the actress Joan Cusack had tried to discourage her and told her to reconsider her choice of career as an actress, as the entertainment industry was very image conscious and Gabourey’s physical appearance would deter her from gaining much success. Gabourey Sidibe has been nominated for and won several other awards including Best Breakthrough Performance at Chicago International Film Festival, Best Actress at Detroit Film Critics Society Awards, Best Young Actress at Women Film Critics Circle Awards and Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role at the Screen Actors Guild Awards. The 31 year old actress currently lives and works in New York.