Gabby Speech

“Go ask Rihanna asshole?” Is the response you’ll get from Gabourey Sidibe when she’s asked “How are you so confident?” In her moving speech at the Ms. Foundation for Women Gloria Awards and Gala on May 1st, Gabourey discusses why that question angers her and how she is able to be happy and secure with herself despite how other people feel about her.

If you haven’t read Gabourey’s speech, the full speech can be found here. But in the meantime, here’s a summary.

Ms. Sidibe began her speech with a story about a 10 year old version of herself who wanted to make gingerbread cookies for her class holiday party. The night before the party, Gabourey lovingly made Christmas tree and bell shaped cookies for her class and “carefully put the cookies in a Ziplocked bag.” The cookies tasted awful. But when it was time to start the party, Gabourey proudly walked around her class offering her homemade gingerbread cookies to her classmates. But no one wanted any of her cookies. Why? Because they didn’t like her because in her words, she was “an asshole.” Gabourey states:

I wasn’t surprised. I just forgot for a moment that my entire class hated me. I had zero friends from the fourth grade to the sixth grade. Who the hell was I baking cookies for? I really got so excited to bake that I had forgotten that everyone hated my guts. Why didn’t they like me? I was fat, yes. I had darker skin and weird hair, yes. But the truth is, this isn’t a story about bullying, or color, or weight. They hated me because… I was an asshole!…Yep. I was a bossy, bossy asshole.

She goes on to describe how she not only thought she was smarter, funnier and wittier than the kids in her class, but she reminded them of this every day. She cut them off in class by talking over them. She made fun of their ignorance by telling them to read a book whenever they didn’t understand her sarcasm or knowledge. When asked if she was adopted by white people because she “sounded more like a Valley Girl than a Brooklyn girl,” She responded “No. Both my parents went to college” knowing that majority of her classmates’ parents never had the opportunity to attend college.

Yeah – she was an asshole alright.

In the rest of the speech, Gabourey explains that she developed this confidence because she had to think highly of herself since no one else did. Although her parents loved her, they didn’t always express their love in the best way. Her parents made comments about her weight because they thought it would motivate her to lose it, but instead it sent her straight to the box of cookies.

Comments about her weight only got worse once she stepped into the Hollywood spotlight. People couldn’t understand how a woman of her size could so confident. In an industry that can be very damaging if you don’t have a strong sense of self, Gabourey took all the negativity and rejection and used it to motivate her.

 

Here are three things that we can learn from Gabourey Sidibe.

1. Find a Positive Role Model  

Sometimes we need support. Find someone in your life who will be your cheerleader, honest sounding board and support system.

Power Fist

After moving in with her aunt, Dorothy Pittman Hughes, Gabourey began to gain strength from a photo of her aunt and Gloria Steinem with their fists held high in the air. This photo radiated power and confidence, and seeing it every day gave her the strength to “march off into battle” and face the day. Her aunt became her positive role model during a difficult time.

2. Don’t Dim Your Light So That Others Can Shine

Although she wasn’t always very nice to her classmates, Gabourey learned at an early age to not shrink back so that other people can feel better or more secure. In her speech, she describes how despite what other people may think and feel, she puts on her dress and goes to the red carpet events. She refuses to sit at home because that’s what people think that she should do.

It’s my good time, and my good life, despite what you think of me. I live my life, because I dare. I dare to show up when everyone else might hide their faces and hide their bodies in shame. I show up because I’m an asshole, and I want to have a good time.

 

3. Use Negativity For Your Good

Gabourey faced negativity at school and at home, and although she didn’t always handle it the best way by eating cookies, she seemed to learn over time to take people’s negativity and use it as motivation. In her speech she states:

 

I’m grateful to them, and to my fifth grade class, because if they hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now…If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable.

 

When people respond to you negatively, instead of internalizing it and giving their words power, use it to motivate you. Use the negative to not only prove them wrong, but to show yourself that you are more than that.

 

I Want to Hear From You: 

What are your thoughts about Gabourey’s speech?