Back in 2009, Gabourey Sidibe took the world by storm when she appeared in the movie Precious. That award-winning, critically acclaimed film even won the fledgling star an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. But in the years since that achievement, Sidibe has changed quite a lot. And as we’ll find out, she’s transformed herself in more ways than one – and to jaw-dropping effect.
Sidibe has done very well for herself professionally since Precious, mind you. She’s been in a host of movies in the interim, for instance, including Yelling to the Sky, Seven Psychopaths and The Brothers Grimsby. She’s also had major roles in the popular TV shows American Horror Story and Empire. And the good news is that there are even more gigs ahead for the still-young actress.
But Sidibe had to go through a lot of pain before she ever experienced a taste of fame. Like her character in Precious, she suffered abuse as a child; her father allegedly hit her. Members of her family would also call Sidibe “Fatso” because of her weight, and, incredibly, she was put on a diet regime at the age of six.
In 2017 Sidibe spoke about how her past had affected her relationship with her dad, telling Nylon, “For a long time, my father was dead to me.” Fortunately, though, she seemed to be coming to terms with her childhood. The star went on, “The six-year-old in me is still pissed, but I don’t think I am a victim. I don’t want people to shed tears for me. [My father] beat me, but we have all been through s**t.”
And in the same interview, Sidibe revealed how she had felt judged by her appearance even after she had appeared in a hit movie. She explained, “I guess I thought that going from literally nothing to the lead in the movie would show people that I wouldn’t be just fat anymore. Or at least that’s not the first thing people would think of me – that I’m not too fat or too black or ghetto or nappy. That wouldn’t be part of my narrative anymore, but it was.”
A seasoned performer even apparently warned Sidibe away from becoming an actress in the first place. In 2012 Sidibe revealed on Watch What Happens Live that before Precious, she had run into Joan Cusack. And, unbelievably, on that occasion, Cusack had told her, “Oh honey, you should really quit the business. It’s so image-conscious.”
Furthermore, in 2010 the actress told Harper’s Bazaar that she had grown annoyed when descriptions of Precious had commented on her appearance. Pointing one such article out, she said, “Look, I am black. I’m also overweight, but that’s not the point of the story. The point is the abuse and [Precious’] bravery. This stuff happens to skinny people, to white people, to so many different people that they’ve missed the point if they say it’s about a fat girl.”
Nevertheless, Sidibe added that the post-Precious attention and acclaim she had received had “[justified] that little girl who cried because she didn’t think she could be in front of the camera.” She continued, “And it’s for other girls who feel like they can’t do this or that and feel like they’re not pretty and not worthy of having their photo taken.”
The actress went on to explain to Harper’s Bazaar, “People always ask me, ‘You have so much confidence. Where did that come from?’ It came from me. One day I decided that I was beautiful, and so I carried out my life as if I was a beautiful girl. I wear colors that I really like, I wear makeup that makes me feel pretty, and it really helps. It doesn’t have anything to do with how the world perceives you.”
Meanwhile, in a 2010 talk with Collider, the interviewer asked Sidibe, “Is it important to you to be a pioneer or make way for other plus size women?” To this, the star answered, “It’s not something I can stop myself from doing. It just comes with the body and the image and all this. When I was younger, it was important for me to see girls like me… It’s hard to think that I might be that person for someone else, but I know that it was important to me.”
Yet the Collider piece also brought up some cruel comments that Howard Stern had made about the New Yorker earlier that year. The shock jock had labeled Sidibe “the most enormous, fat black chick [he’s] ever seen,” adding, “She should have gotten the Best Actress award because she’s never going to have another shot. What movie is she gonna be in?”
Well, Sidibe had of course had the last laugh by appearing in plenty of movies and TV shows after Precious. And of those remarks, she told Collider, “Everyone makes rude comments. It’s not the first rude comment I’ve ever heard in my whole life. With people outside of my life, it doesn’t matter what they say because they have no idea what’s in my life. Other people have made rude comments, and [Stern’s] don’t mean any more than anyone else’s.”
Furthermore, when Collider told Sidibe that she seemed to have “such a positive attitude,” the actress said in response, “The positive attitude doesn’t have anything to do with the success of any movie because it’s only been nine months or so, and I’m sure I wouldn’t be this far in the industry without a positive attitude. But it’s something that I had to develop.”
And Sidibe cultivated this outlook on life even after actively battling mental illness when she was younger. The star spoke about this troubled period in her 2017 memoir This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare – as well as the difficulties that she experienced with her health and an eating disorder.
This book also included a passage that Sidibe wrote about trying to open up to her mother as a child. “When I was sad about something, [my mom] told me to ‘get a thicker skin,’” she explained. “When I was upset, she told me to ‘Stop nitpicking.’ My mom has always had faith that things would be okay, but saying ‘Tomorrow will be a better day’ wasn’t enough for me.”
The New York native continued, “When I first told [my mom that] I was depressed, she laughed at me. Literally. Not because she’s a terrible person, but because she thought it was a joke. How could I not be able to feel better on my own – like her, like her friends, like normal people? So I just kept thinking my sad thoughts – thoughts about dying.”
So, when Sidibe was in college, she experienced panic attacks. Then she developed an eating disorder. The actress added in her memoir, “Often, when I was too sad to stop crying, I drank a glass of water and ate a slice of bread, and then I threw it up. After I did, I wasn’t as sad anymore; I finally relaxed.”
“So I never ate anything until I wanted to throw up – and only when I did could I distract myself from whatever thought was swirling around my head,” Sidibe continued. Finally, though, she was able to seek professional help, after which she was told that she had both depression and bulimia. And from there, the young woman started going to therapy.
Recalling the time when she had revealed her troubles to a medical professional, Sidibe said in her book, “The doctor asked me if I wanted to kill myself. I said, ‘Meh, not yet. But when I do, I know how I’ll do it.’ I wasn’t afraid to die, and if there was a button I could’ve pushed to erase my existence from Earth, I would have pushed it because it would have been easier and less messy than offing myself. According to the doctor, that was enough.”
Now, though, the actress carefully manages her mental health. In a 2017 interview with People, she explained, “When [a situation’s] too big for me to just turn around on my own, I see a therapist. I see a therapist anyway. We all should see a therapist – if only for the hour a week that you can talk about yourself and not worry about monopolizing the conversation. F**king do it; it’s worth it!”
Regarding her bulimia, Sidibe added, “I have to eat every day. I have to eat several times a day, forever. I have a nutritionist that I really like. I haven’t felt like purposely going to throw up. For years, I have not felt that way. But if I ever do, I just have to remember to do the things that make me feel good as opposed to the things that make me feel bad.”
What’s more, the New Yorker used her memoir to speak about something on which she had previously kept quiet: weight-loss surgery. Yes, after both she and her older brother had been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, Sidibe decided that it was time for a procedure. This had essentially been the last resort, however, as for over ten years she had tried to lose weight.
In This Is Just My Face: Try Not To Stare, Sidibe wrote, “My surgeon said they’d cut my stomach in half. This would limit my hunger and capacity to eat. My brain chemistry would change, and I’d want to eat healthier. I’ll take it! My lifelong relationship with food had to change.”
And before long, Sidibe found herself shedding the pounds. Nearly a year after the operation, she explained in her 2017 chat with People, “I have a goal right now, and I’m almost there. And then once I’ve got it, I’ll set another. But my starting weight and my goal weight – they’re personal. If too many people are involved, I’ll shut down.”
Plus, as the actress wrote in her book, the decision to go under the knife was made for health reasons rather than aesthetic ones. She explained, “It has taken me years to realize that what I was born with is all beautiful. I did not get this surgery to be beautiful. I did it so I can walk around comfortably in heels. I want to do a cartwheel. I want not to be in pain every time I walk up a flight of stairs.”
Sidibe went on, “I know I’m beautiful in my current face and my current body. What I don’t know about is the next body. I admit it; I hope to God I don’t get skinny. If I could lose enough to just be a little chubby, I’ll be over the moon! Will I still be beautiful then? S**t. Probably. My beauty doesn’t come from a mirror. It never will.”
Sidibe’s body positivity has won her plenty of praise, too – as well as many compliments on Instagram. However, she’s actually not that keen on people congratulating her for losing weight, as she revealed in a 2017 interview with Refinery29.
Sidibe explained, “What had been happening is, since I’ve been losing weight over the past year, people have been saying, ‘Congratulations on your weight loss!’ It doesn’t rock me. It just annoys me because I’m just, like, ‘Don’t congratulate me on that.’” And the New Yorker appeared to infer that the weight loss wasn’t anyone’s business but hers.
As Sidibe went on to explain to Refinery29, “If you’re going to congratulate me on my weight loss, also congratulate me every time I pee. Congratulate me every time I’m burping. Because my body actually has nothing to do with you, and I don’t really need your support for it. It seems ill-placed. I don’t need your support.”
Sidibe added, “The worst thing about Twitter is that everyone thinks their opinion is really important, and you’re 100 percent free to say something about it. I have to know myself, and I have to know my own boundaries and take in what I need. And what I don’t need, I don’t take in. That’s how it’s gotta be with my body.”
So, Refinery29 asked Sidibe, “What advice would you give to your younger self about how to respond when people make comments about your body?” And she gave a long answer, saying at the end, “I think the best advice I can give her… is to ‘Just hold on, baby girl. You’re okay. There’s something on the other side. You listen to yourself when someone is making fun of you. Listen to yourself when someone is telling you what kind of clothes you wear on your body.’”
Later on in the interview, Sidibe revealed, “I think what really pushed me to think differently is just exhaustion. Exhaustion from feeling bad that somebody else thought I was too fat or thought I was too black. I was exhausted with how other people felt about me, and that’s what helped me change. I really sat down and made a list of all the things I liked about me: my personality, my face, my body.” But that’s not all.
“The world will hand me a hate list. And I just sat down, and I developed a love list for myself,” the star went on. “And I tell people of all ages to do that. You have to list the things you love about yourself. So when someone says your nose is too big, you can say my nose is cute. It’s like a button, and it’s sickening.”
Meanwhile, in September 2018, Sidibe appeared at an event called theCURVYcon. And while there, she revealed that there had been a time when designers hadn’t given her clothes because she was “too fat” – even before the edition of the Cannes Film Festival when Precious was being screened. Sidibe added, “Even though we are moving towards more visibility for plus-size people, there is a lot of pushback. So it’s important to keep fighting and to keep being visible until the conversation changes.”
At theCURVYcon, Sidibe also revealed that at one point she’d run into none other than Beyoncé. And according to the actress, the superstar singer had told her, “I’m really excited for you and really proud of everything you’re doing.” Perhaps surprisingly, though, Sidibe had felt unable to truly accept the well-intentioned compliment.
Sidibe explained, “I struggle with accepting love, with accepting praise [and] with accepting help.” But she was also beginning to consider the concept that “love comes in many forms.” The star went on, “I’m trying to be open and open and open, because the more love that I accept, the more love we get.”
The New Yorker has also continued her journey to better health by exercising more and eating carefully – taking part in “meatless Mondays,” for example, as well as working out with a personal trainer. And this regime has seemingly led to yet more weight loss if the selfies that she posts to her Instagram page are anything to go by.
What’s more, a number of Sidibe’s 1.5 million Instagram followers often comment positively on those photos. In October 2019, for example, the actress posted a picture of herself looking stunning alongside the jokey comment, “So sorry to hear of your great-granddaddy’s passing… Might I have a copy of the certificate? I need it for the policy I took out on him…”
Many of the responses to that photo spoke not just about Sidibe’s slimmer body, but also about her as a person. One read, “I absolutely love that you are sooo unapologetically YOU.” Another commenter touchingly said, “After watching your performance in Precious, I was inspired by you to obtain my GED and enroll in school. You changed my life forever!”
And, of course, Sidibe’s development as an actress has also been fantastic to watch. Naturally, she has more projects in the pipeline, too, including horror film Antebellum in 2020. Perhaps, though, her work as a force for body positivity is even more remarkable. Indeed, at theCURVYcon she commented, “I’m not my body. I’m a whole person” – and amen to that.
But what of other inspiring Hollywood transformations? Take Anna Kendrick, for instance, who landed her breakout role in the Twilight Saga series and has regularly graced our screens ever since. And much like her fellow star Sidibe, the Oscar-nominated actress has evolved a great deal.
Nowadays, Kendrick is known for her versatility; she’s an actress, a singer and even a writer, having penned her own autobiography, Scrappy Little Nobody, in 2016. And she showed off some of those skills in 2018, when she starred alongside Blake Lively in comedy-thriller A Simple Favor. In that movie, we see her nail not only the light, humorous moments for which she’s become renowned, but also tensely thrilling ones, too.
By that point, moreover, Kendrick had already proved herself to be a comedic powerhouse. Mostly notably, she honed her talent through the smash hit Pitch Perfect, which sees her character, Beca Mitchell, join the ranks of competitive college a cappella group The Barden Bellas. And the actress impressed critics with both her vocals and her sharp one-liners.
And as it happens, Pitch Perfect established Kendrick as a huge box-office draw. With a budget of $17 million, the movie – which also stars Brittany Snow and Rebel Wilson – ended up raking in nearly $100 million over that amount. What’s more, Pitch Perfect 2 was an even bigger hitter, pulling in as much in the first five days of its release as its prequel made overall. In fact, it’s the highest-earning comedy musical ever made.
Yet while Kendrick is certainly appreciated for her on-screen prowess, she’s also amassed a devoted following thanks to her off-camera persona. As The Guardian’s Sanjiv Bhattacharya described her in 2016, “She’s affable, down to earth, one of the girls.” Not only that, but she also apparently “drives a pre-owned Prius… she does her own shopping… and she flies economy.” Why, then, has the star remained so seemingly grounded in the face of fame?
Well, Kendrick’s reputation as somewhat being “normal” for a celebrity can perhaps be traced back to her humble beginnings. Born in Portland, Maine, in 1985, she was raised by an accountant mother and a dad who taught history. At just six years old, however, Kendrick had her first foray into acting. And according to the star’s autobiography, it had been her childhood dance teacher who had encouraged her to audition for a local theater production of the musical Annie.
Kendrick recalled her artistic beginnings, too, when speaking to pop-culture site FanBolt in 2015. “I danced when I was a little kid and sang all of the time, too, and I was just one of those kids [who] wanted to perform and wanted to be on stage. And when you’re six, you just want to jump around,” she said.
Perhaps, then, it was Kendrick’s affinity for performing from such a young age that helped her nab the role of Tessie in Annie, thus setting her on the career path she’d follow into adulthood. “Doing the show [Annie] was the best,” Kendrick added in her memoir. “Being tiny was a good thing; being loud was a good thing. In everything else I’d done in my six years on earth, I’d been told I had too much energy. But here, I had somewhere to channel it all.”
Then, after that, Kendrick leapt from local productions to statewide shows, with a role as Baby June in the the Maine State Musical Theater’s version of Gypsy. And by the time she was ten, Kendrick had taken her hobby to yet another level; specifically, she was trekking back and forth between Portland and New York City for TV commercial auditions. The little actress appeared to have more than her fair share of confidence, too.
“At ten, I stood in a modest office in Manhattan and sang ‘Tomorrow’ from Annie,” Kendrick said in her book. “At that age, I didn’t have a big resume, and I wasn’t expected to… I had a big voice that stood in exponential contrast to my size. I could learn a melody, [and] I didn’t sound like a dying cat.”
As it turned out, though, commercials weren’t right for Kendrick. With that in mind, then, her agent made the decision to switch gears and send the ten-year-old exclusively to theater castings. And as Kendrick has recalled in her book, she was elated by the change – not least because it meant that she frequently got to travel to New York City for try-outs.
Interestingly, however, Kendrick’s enthusiasm for Broadway didn’t necessarily come from personal experience. Indeed, at that point, she had never seen a show that had directly inspired her to jump up on stage. “It wasn’t as though I went to New York and saw a Broadway show and thought, ‘That’s what I wanted to do,’” she told FanBolt. “It was more of an idea – just the idea of being on stage in front of real theater fans.”
And Kendrick’s dream came to fruition in 1998, when she appeared in a Broadway musical. Furthermore, as Dinah Lord in High Society, she made a big impression on theatergoers and critics alike. At just 12 years old, in fact, Kendrick was nominated for a Tony Award; she also bagged a Theater World Award and earned a Drama Desk Awards nod for her supporting role.
Plus, although High Society didn’t exactly line Kendrick’s pockets – she earned just $250 for her time – the preteen nevertheless took a lot away from the Broadway production. “It wasn’t a financial win, but the experience was incredible,” she has recalled in Scrappy Little Nobody.
After that, Kendrick made the leap from the stage to the screen with a role in 2003 musical comedy Camp. And the then-17-year-old’s performance as Fritzi Wagner – a nerd seeking the approval of her summer camp’s most popular girl – ultimately earned her an Independent Spirit Awards nomination.
What’s more, Kendrick’s film debut in Camp gave her the chance to meet one of her idols: Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim, who makes a brief appearance in the movie. The eight-time Tony Award winner actually remembered his first interaction with Kendrick, too, when she was working on his Broadway musical A Little Night Music. And needless to say, the moment gave her a much-needed boost of confidence.
“I did A Little Night Music on Broadway, and I was feeling intimidated,” Kendrick told Biography in 2016. “That’s a big show, a difficult show, and you’re doing it in Sondheim’s backyard – on the Broadway stage. But Sondheim came up to me on the first day of rehearsals – in front of the whole cast. And he said, ‘Hello, it’s so nice to see you again.’”
“I don’t think I’ve ever felt cooler in my entire life than I did in that moment,” Kendrick continued. “I was 17 and terrified, [and] I had just moved to New York by myself.” She added, “I was surrounded by these incredible actors, and it was, like, ‘Yeah, Sondheim knows me – just so you’re all aware.’”
Eventually, though, Kendrick was ready to make another big move on her own – one that would prove to be career-changing. After leaving New York behind for Hollywood, you see, she landed a part in a TV series’ pilot episode. Yet although the show never came to fruition, it did provide the actress with some welcome breathing room. “[The job] gave me enough money to stay in LA and keep auditioning for better jobs… I’ve always been really lucky. It’s strange,” she later told Biography.
But Kendrick’s luck didn’t end there, of course. In fact, one of the first roles that she landed after touching down in LA ended up producing the big break that the actress had been hoping for. Specifically, she nabbed the part of Jessica Stanley in 2008 phenomenon Twilight. That movie – which is based on the book of the same title by Stephenie Meyer – was a box-office sensation, too, raking in nearly $400 million internationally. And while the vampire romance isn’t necessarily considered an acclaimed piece of cinema, it was nevertheless an invaluable opportunity for Kendrick.
You see, Kendrick’s paychecks for the Twilight movies – in which she appears in four out of five of the series – gave her the freedom to take on other projects that came with smaller cash rewards. “The series kept me in room and board while I did other movies for no money. It was like the world’s most ridiculous day job,” she revealed in her autobiography.
And on top of that, Kendrick’s supporting role in The Twilight Saga meant that she got her foot in the door in Hollywood. She achieved this, moreover, while largely avoiding the intense media scrutiny to which a number of her co-stars fell victim. She’s grateful, in fact, not to have reached the same level of “creepy super-fame” during that time as the franchise’s leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson.
One of the opportunities that came Kendrick’s way as a result of Twlight, for example, was the chance to star alongside George Clooney. Yes, just a year after the release of the series’ first movie, she appeared in dramedy Up in the Air. There, her character, twentysomething Natalie Keener, joins forces with Ryan Bingham – played by Clooney – to lay off companies’ employees. And acclaim duly came the actress’ way; Rolling Stone, for example, called her “a revelation” in her role.
It’s worth noting, too, that the part felt particularly special to Kendrick. Speaking to Time Out in 2009 about Up in the Air, she explained, “I’ve played high school kids my whole life. This time, I felt like I was sitting at the grown-ups’ table.” Plus, of course, she got to work with Hollywood legend Clooney. But while acting alongside such a bona fide big name could very well have made Kendrick anxious, the veteran star had a simple way of helping her feel comfortable on set.
During a 2014 interview on podcast WTF with Marc Maron, Kendrick revealed, in fact, that Clooney had made a confession during filming. Specifically, he admitted that he, too, gets nervous sometimes. And this revelation made a real impact on the actress, it seems. “It was the smallest thing, but it, like, opened up my world,” Kendrick said. “Just a couple of words from [Clooney], and you’re like, ‘Oh, my God, he’s a person! I’m a person. We’re the same!”
In addition, once awards season rolled around, Kendrick would find another thing in common with her co-star. She and Clooney both earned themselves Oscar nominations for Up in the Air as well as nods at the Golden Globe Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Awards and the BAFTAs.
And Kendrick’s career continued to take off after Up in the Air. Between 2009 and 2011, for instance, she reprised her role as Jessica Stanley in three more Twilight installments. During that period, she also appeared in 2010 cult classic Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and 2011 dramedy 50/50. And in 2012 she could be seen in pregnancy-centric ensemble flick What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
Then, of course, Kendrick starred in Pitch Perfect – the first of the three-part series that truly launched her to superstardom. And when Pitch Perfect 3, the last movie of the musical franchise, hit movie theaters in 2017, Kendrick reflected on her experience of portraying Beca Mitchell when speaking to Elle.
“I just feel so proud,” Kendrick told the magazine. She also admitted that she and the rest of the Pitch Perfect cast wished the series didn’t have to come to an end, adding, “There’s definitely part of all of us that’s like, ‘We will do more,’ in tiny whisper voices.” No matter what the future holds, though, Kendrick seems to have cherished her time in the franchise.
And it also appears that Kendrick hopes to continue taking on roles that represent multifaceted women. “I’m definitely drawn to strong, female characters, but those characters wouldn’t be interesting or real if they didn’t have vulnerable sides, too,” she told Biography, adding that she connects with “characters who feel a little bit lost.”
Kendrick went on, “Maybe the interesting part of that job would be finding that character’s strength. That would, no doubt, be a reflection of what I’m going through in my life right now.” And thanks to her down-to-earth approach to life and the hard work that has brought her success, she presumably has plenty of strength to tap into as an actress.
Still, with all Kendrick’s success, she makes sure to step back and reevaluate from time to time. “It’s interesting to be in a place where I’m doing exactly what I want to do, and it’s all going better than I could have ever dreamed. And now I have to look at all of these other aspects of my life and figure out what it is I really want,” she said.
For instance, post-Pitch Perfect 3, Kendrick has only accepted a handful of roles. Perhaps, then, this suggests that the actress is now more discerning when it comes to the opportunities that are presented to her. In 2018, in fact, she only had one movie in theaters: the aforementioned A Simple Favor.
And, incidentally, it seems that A Simple Favor was a perfect opportunity for Kendrick. In 2018, moreover, the movie’s director, Paul Feig, told the Los Angeles Times that she had been the first woman envisioned to play the part of Stephanie. “[Stephanie] is a very hard role, because you need a great actress who’s great with comedy but who can [also] bring all these shades to it,” Feig explained.
But Kendrick proved that she was up for the challenge. And in accepting the role of Stephanie, she successfully continued her quest to play complex, real characters. According to Feig, too, it was important that the part was portrayed in a multifaceted manner. He added to the Los Angeles Times, “A movie like [A Simple Favor] can spin off the rails so fast if you don’t have people who face even the craziest stuff [by] finding the reality in it.”
Presumably, then, Kendrick will show similar skill in the four movies that she has in the pipeline as of early 2019. First up is Christopher Morris’ comedy thriller The Day Shall Come. Kendrick plays an FBI agent in the film, which ridicules the bureau’s undercover operations.
Next, Kendrick takes the lead in Noelle, which is also set to hit theaters in 2019. She stars as the titular character, Noelle Claus, who just so happens to be the daughter of Santa. Shirley MacLaine, Bill Hader and Billy Eichner are also part of the holiday-themed flick.
And Kendrick also has plans to lend her voice to a second installment of the animated movie series Trolls, which is lined up for a 2020 release. It’s fair to say, then, that the next few years look set to be busy for the star. Still, even if Kendrick’s career appears to be going from strength to strength, the actress herself remains humble.
In fact, when speaking to Biography, Kendrick said, “The world is everyone’s for the asking and the taking. I don’t have anything up on anybody.” But the Twilight star’s talent and versatility is undeniable, and her future certainly looks bright – wherever she finds herself. In fact, her next move may well see her stepping away from the big screen.
Kendrick told FanBolt, for example, “I want to do [stage] again. It just gets scarier the more time you spend away from it. But also I love film. I love the medium, and I’m having fun doing it.” And in true Kendrick fashion, she concluded that she’d make sure to find the right projects to further her career – just as she has done since childhood. “I’ll figure it out,” she explained.