I am one of those gay men that actually like women, though, you know, not like that. I like strong powerful women with a voice; women who stand up for themselves, and for others. I like women like my mother, who was open and honest and loving of all her children, even the gay one, and who learned while being married to my Dad for 50+ years until she passed away, that she wasn't defined by her gender. I like women like my sister who was never afraid to stand up for herself, and who, in turn, raised four daughters who feel the same way.
Strong women; powerful women; loving women.
And one of those is actress Gabourey Sidibe, who spoke at this past weekend’s Gloria Awards and Gala, hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women. The event doubled as a public 80th birthday party for Gloria Steinem and as an award ceremony to honor Marissa Nuncio, director Cathy Raphael,
I'm so excited to be here. Really, really excited. Okay, I'll get to it. Hi. One of the first things people usually ask me is, "Gabourey, how are you so confident?" I hate that. I always wonder if that's the first thing they ask Rihanna when they meet her. "RiRi! How are you so confident?" Nope. No. No. But me? They ask me with that same incredulous disbelief every single time. "You seem so confident! How is that?"
See, remember when I said that I thought I was more clever than everyone else? Well, I did! And I told them that — every single day! Those kids couldn't get a word in edgewise, without me cutting them off to remind them that I was smarter, funnier, and all around wittier than them. I was always sarcastic — I called it my birth defect. And let's face it, kids don't get sarcasm. They don't appreciate it. They never knew what I was talking about. And when they would say, "Wait... huh?" I would say, "My God, Alicia, read a book!"
I know. I spoke differently than them, I just did. I sounded more like a Valley Girl than a Brooklyn girl. My classmates always asked me if I was adopted by white people. I'd say, "No. Both my parents went to college." I know that was rude, but I'm still really proud of that.
To be fair, in my neighborhood, not everyone's parents had the opportunity to go to college. Most of my classmates' parents were teens when they had them. My parents had me at age 30. My father was born in Senegal. His father was the mayor of the capital city, Dakar, and my dad often took my brother and I back home with him to visit Africa, while most of my classmates had never stepped out of the Lower East Side.
My mother was a teacher in high school, that's why I went there, but my mom also had a voice, so when I was nine, she quit her teaching job to go sing in the subway. She actually made more money as a singer for tips than she made as a teacher! I know! And she was quickly becoming the underground version of Whitney Houston. She was the strongest, smartest, and most talented person I had ever known. Even today, I don't want to grow up to be anyone as much as I want to grow up to be her. I know!
[She gives the finger to that]
[She starts crying]
[She pulls a tissue from her cleavage and dabs her eyes]
That’s a role model, just like her mother, her aunt, and Gloria. Like my mother and my sister and most women I know. I wouldn't dare call them assholes, but I get what Gabby means: being yourself, accepting yourself, loving yourself, and recognizing the journey it took to be who you are today.