FROM V85 FALL 2013
PHOTOGRAPHY PHILIPPE VOGELENZANG
FASHION BRANDON MAXWELL
TEXT PATRIK SANDBERG
WITH AN OSCAR NOD AND A HANDFUL OF ATYPICAL ROLES IN THE BAG, V’S POPULAR COVER GIRL AVOIDS CLICHÉS AND CARRIES ON AS A REAL-LIFE MOVIE STAR
“That was a lot of my face,” deadpans Gabourey Sidibe, referencing her 2010 Spring Preview V cover. The now famous Size Issue, starring Sidibe and Dakota Fanning, by Inez & Vinoodh, went on to be one of the bestselling editions of this magazine to date. “Every time I start a new project, when I first walk in for a read-through it’s always up on the storyboard. I have it hanging in my apartment!”
At a West Village restaurant on a rainy afternoon, Gabourey—or Gabby, as she likes to be called—sits unassumingly in the front corner window, ignoring the gawkers drifting through the room. “I’ve sort of been on vacation,” she says in disbelief. The Academy Award nominee has recently wrapped The Big C (the critically-acclaimed Showtime series that took its final bow this spring) and Gregg Araki’s White Bird in a Blizzard (out later this year). Since she and V last sat down to talk, the breakout star has been holding her own with a string of diverse yet memorable roles in indie films and Hollywood tentpoles alike. In addition to White Bird, she’ll next be seen in a picture called Gravy and take to the small screen for the third season of runaway FX hit American Horror Story.
“I was talking to the wardrobe stylist and she was like, I need this color shirt because there’s going to be BLOOD EVERYWHERE,” she says of Gravy, which mixes horror and comedy. She also mentions an Alan Ball-penned script called What’s the Matter with Margie? which she hopes to film soon, a project that’s been circling her for a while. “I never really have enough time to get scared and think, Oh no, I’m never going to work again!” she says with a laugh. “There’s always something there as soon as I need it to be, so it works out perfectly.”
This isn’t exactly surprising, given her powerful debut in 2009’s Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire, which earned her an Oscar nomination for Best Actress—a monumental achievement for a first-timer who had never aspired to perform. “I didn’t get to make the choice to be an actor, but I got to make the choice to stay an actor,” she explains. “Seeing the process of how the story changes three times—once in writing, another way in production, and then again in editing—that really fascinates me. I knew immediately I wanted to stay in the business. I’m going to start writing. I find that aspect the most interesting.”
Though she admits that due to being recognized she now feels nervous riding the subway or making trips to the drugstore, Sidibe isn’t too phased by her crash course in fame. “It hasn’t changed me in the way people think it will change you, like that you have an entourage with you all the time or that you’re always late or nasty to people,” she says. “I think it’s made me grow up in a certain way. But I still have my goofy sense of humor. My favorite movies are The Hangover and Bridesmaids, I’m pretty normal in that way.” Another personal indulgence? RuPaul’s Drag Race. “You know when you’re alone and you talk to yourself? When I do that, the voice I use is a drag queen’s. Oh no she done didn’t!”
She also still gets starstruck like everyone else. When she arrived on set for Araki’s White Bird, she found herself caught off-guard by her company. “I walked into the makeup trailer and I was like, She looks like Angela Bassett, who’s she? Then I got closer and it was fucking Angela Bassett. Now, I live for Angela Bassett. Are you kidding me?” Sidibe says she connected to the film’s script, which centers on a girl (played by Shailene Woodley) who spends years searching for her missing mother. “I play her best friend,” she explains. “The costumes are New Wave, because it takes place in the late ’80s. I got to be punk in it—we spent a lot of time in goth clubs and things like that. It was so amazing!”
In the future, Sidibe hopes to work with more icons. “I want to work with Viola [Davis]. I want to be her,” she sighs. She also cites Meryl Streep, and she feels a special reverence for Beyoncé: “She doesn’t walk, she levitates. If I could just touch the hem of her weave, I know I would be changed!” In fact the actress is so smitten with the superstar that for her thirtieth birthday in May, she went on a trip to Milan to see her idol perform. Though the two have not yet met, Gabby has a plan to make it happen soon—top secret, of course. Perhaps her first screenplay should have a role for Queen B. “Maybe we’re COPS!” she screams, enthralled by the idea. “Oh my God, I think I got it…We’re cops, and we’re always saying things like, ‘GOT YOU, SUCKA!’” With that, she doubles over in hysterics—a fitting pose for a girl who’s still getting the last laugh.