Meditations on Gabourey Sidibe Hosting Saturday Night Live

Lynne Murray says:

Gabourey Sidibe, the brilliant, fat, African-American actress nominated for the 2009 Academy Award for Best Actress, hosted Saturday Night Live last Saturday night (April 24).

Although Sidibe, who is 26 years old, did not win the 2009 Oscar, she won several awards for her role as the title character in the movie Precious: Based on the Novel “Push” by Sapphire.

Another big, beautiful, African-American actress, Mo’Nique, won the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for the same movie, in which she played Sidibe’s mother. Her Oscar acceptance speech was a moving tribute to pioneer, African-American movie actress, Hattie McDaniel.

When I heard that Sidibe was going to host Saturday Night Live, I knew I was going to want to post about it because she impresses me so much. Only 26, Sidibe is amazingly poised and playful in the public eye.

The example I liked best was an Academy Awards red carpet moment with where an interviewer called her attention to current sex symbol, Gerard Butler, standing nearby. Sidibe responded, “He’s kinda sexy…. I’d hit that.” The interviewer took the opportunity to wave Butler over and ask Sidibe to repeat the remark, which she laughed and did, prompting Butler to remark that he was single and available. Sidibe concluded, “I like where this is going, maybe we should get a bottle of champagne and see where the night takes us.”

The particular charm of Sidibe’s brashness, so totally appropriate to a young woman in the full bloom of youth, and so rare, was her light-hearted confidence that she could choose who to look at and how and what to do about it if the mood struck her. Her approach was the kind of breath of fresh air that makes you realize how polluted with self-doubt the air usually is.

I was so taken with Sidibe’s charm that I immediately started worrying for her. Fortunately, all accounts suggest that she has solid foundation in family and friends to keep her on an even keel.

I hope for a better future for her than we have seen for some young, fat actresses in the toxic atmosphere of Hollywood, where professional sharks like Howard Stern circle the waters snapping their teeth in hope of drawing blood. The ghosts of other young, fat performers live in memory, first applauded as unique, then battered by public opinion into enlisting in the weight loss armies. I could name them, but it’s too depressing to remember their scramble to offer up interviews on their weight loss dramas in hopes of winning back the spotlight. Some sell body and soul to become spokeswomen for some branch of the weight loss industry. The sad irony is that becoming a poster child for weight loss and shilling for a diet company can only lead to more gigs doing the same–until they lose novelty appeal and are tossed aside.

I worried less about Sidibe’s future after seeing her on Saturday Night Live. She can do comedy. I laughed twice, which is a lot for me watching the latest incarnation of SNL (which has matured into a 35-year-old institution, now rarely able to explosively shock into uncontrollable laughter an increasingly unshockable audience).

Sidibe’s SNL appearance brought home to me how much of what she offers is sorely lacking on the large screen as well as the small. She’s a smart, witty, exuberantly happy, physically supple, casually confident, young fat woman. To see that is medicine for any fat woman’s soul and desperately needed as a role model for young women of all sizes and races.

One thing that shocked me (in a good way) about Sidibe hosting SNL, was that there was not one fat joke all evening. Watching to see if SNL’s writers would descend to that level, as they do on occasion, I guess I was waiting to exhale–LOL!–which I did, “Whew!” when the show had ended without a fat joke.

A pleasant contrast to the murky swamp of fat jokes we’ve been wading through when watching comedy and variety shows in recent years. Although I’m a confirmed night owl, I now avoid late-night talk shows such as Leno and Letterman, because they appear to have an ironclad nightly quota of fat jokes to meet. Every single night there are one or two. If a diner predictably sprinkled a little bit of gravel on your cherry pie a la mode, you’d stop going there, wouldn’t you? I have.

I will, however, stand in line to see what Gabourey Sidibe does next.