You can learn a million things from hearing about someone else’s journey, but the most important part is not how long the journey was or the obstacles faced, it’s about what you take away from the experience. It took a little longer than expected, but I finally finished Gabourey Sidibe’s new book, This Is Just My Face, Try Not To Stare, and when I closed it, I sat down and let my thoughts about it marinate.
I remember the day I went to Barnes & Noble to buy a new book, I had no idea she even had one published. I went there looking for another book that was out of stock, but when I saw her cover, I was intrigued. I haven’t seen Gabby in anything other than Precious; of course I knew the other shows and films she was in but I only saw Precious. I’ve seen the jokes online about her and I always thought about how I wish I could know more about her other than the silly things online so when I saw her beautifully posing in her metallic Converses and that gorgeous dress, I didn’t even read the inside flap, I walked straight to the checkout line. Something told me finally I would get to learn about the woman outside of the memes and gifs, and I did.
Reading Gabby’s journey in her own words felt like listening to my best friend on a train ride coming home. I had no clue she was from New York! I had no idea that she wasn’t really trained actor like most stars, and I had no idea she was so damn funny! She even went to a CUNY institution and had to deal with losing financial aid, if that isn’t the most New York thing ever, I don’t know what is. The things she said to how she wrote it, was typical New Yorker banter. Her Conway references, her living situations, her train rides, all resonated with me deeply because it was a vivid detailing of being a young Black girl coming up in this city. When she wrote to her boyfriend in junior high school by sending a note with her friend by saying “It’s dead”, I almost fell out. This was a real thing. I’ve been the note carrier and the sender at some point or the other and it literally made me lol.
What I loved most about the book was her telling every part of her upbringing and journey, all unapologetically. Reading about her dealing with family issues, weight issues, and fame, really gives readers a chance to see Gabourey and not Precious, which I wanted to see for so long. This was not an interview or an Instagram post, no, it was a full book about a girl finding herself in the world that almost wouldn’t see her outside of a role and her weight. Just as I thought, there was so much more to her than those things which I loved.
One part that I found inspiring, was her getting the role of Precious and how she passed on it, only for it to come back to her five years later. There’s a gem in there. As she’s waiting to do her final audition, the one in Lee Daniel’s office, she writes: “I didn’t pray that I would get the role. I prayed, that whatever my life was supposed to be, whatever my path was, I would finally be on it. I was only twenty-four years old, but I was tired of fear. I was tired of running away from something I could see into something I couldn’t. (Chapter 14)”. It’s inspiring because it shows that after she fought against the universe for so long, when she finally accepted things for what they were and how they were happening, it changed her life. She was afraid throughout the book of being put out there and of accepting the things that others saw in her that she couldn’t see herself, that when she stopped swimming against the current and swam with it, things picked up. That’s a lesson a lot of people can learn from. We may want to do something but we’re afraid of it but once we let go of that fear, there’s so many possibilities. I think that was the greatest take away from the book, besides seeing Gabby’s true self, that lesson she learned about timing and fear closed the book out nicely. There are other gems in there such as lessons of acceptance, self- worth, and authenticity that I think will be helpful for anyone. I think it’s in the running for a spot on my top 10 Summer’s Best List. #AGoodRead