Gabourey Sidibe Memoir Reveals Mental Health Struggles, Life Before Fame, Blocking Negativity

Gabourey Sidibe’s memoir This Is Just My Face: Try Not to Stare is just a few days old and it is already garnering praises for the actress’ honest account of her life as a financially struggling Brooklyn local, a heavy-set woman who wants others to stop paying attention to her body, and a regular person battling her own personal demons.

In her memoir, the Precious actress reveals that she once struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts, had worked as a phone sex worker to support her education, and has a habit of blocking people on Twitter to keep negativity out of her life.

The Daily Mail reports that Sidibe struggled with depression and bulimia, and sought the help of a shrink who put her on antidepressants and therapy. Sidibe writes in her book that often in the past, she would go on for days without eating anything, and if she did, she would only throw it up later on. The actress recounts that she would fall into a cycle in which she would feel very sad and use food to punish herself. To calm her nerves, she would eat a slice of bread and drink a glass of water, then force herself to vomit.

Gabourey knew better and consulted a doctor to help her deal with her issues. When the doctor asked her if she wanted to kill herself, she answered in the negative. It was seemingly no cause for alarm, but when she relayed to her doctor that she wouldn’t think twice on pressing a hypothetical button to “erase her existence from earth,” her shrink confirmed that she was having suicidal thoughts.


But Gabourey makes light of the situation as she always does. She explains that she also got into therapy because there were things she couldn’t talk about with her mother, such as her “hoe phase.” Her acerbic humor comes through in her book, such as when she reflects on the need for a special font to convey sarcasm in a text, or the number of psychics needed to make a “sad little girl realize that she can be more than what the world is telling her she is.”

Gabourey was studying at Mercy College when she was cast as the titular lead in Precious. Director Lee Daniels recalled that he was blown away by Gabourey’s humor, so he offered her the part. According to the New York Times, Daniels asked the actress if she had a boyfriend on the night he cast her, to which she replied, “No. But now that I’m going to be a movie star, I’m going to get pregnant by a basketball player and lock down that child support.”

Back then, the actress was trying to make ends meet, and was working as a phone sex operator to pay for college. According to Sidibe, almost half of what she earned in 2009, the year she was tapped to star in the film, was from the phone sex work. Sidibe credits her stint as a phone sex call center agent as pivotal to her training as an actress.

Following the success of the film, Gabourey continued to struggle financially, with parents to support and relatives asking favors. “Wouldn’t it be nice if money bought love? But it doesn’t. It buys resentment,” she writes in her book, according to the Times.

It’s all good for Gabourey though, and negativity doesn’t have a place in her life. In a listicle compiling the best nuggets of wisdom from the book, Cosmopolitan reports that the outspoken actress has expressed her love and hate relationship with Twitter, which she says she needs, but “systematically” interferes with her “health and sanity.” Gabourey explains in the next quote that she keeps negativity at bay by blocking people on Twitter “all the time.”

“Honestly, I block people [on Twitter] all the time … I prefer my world to smell like strawberries and look like rainbows, and at least on Twitter I can block negative comments, fighting, and opinions about what I should be doing in my life. I am compulsive about keeping those dark clouds out of my life. Choose your tweets wisely.”

Sidibe is currently doing a promotional tour for her book. The actress is set to meet her fans in Washington, D.C., today and recently appeared on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Gabourey will next be seen at the Brooklyn Voices Series at St. Joseph’s College with Girls actress Lena Dunham on Friday night.

[Featured Image by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP Images]