Sidibe is quick to insist, though, that the last thing she wants is pity. “For a long time, my father was dead to me,” she says. She spent about three years writing her memoir, and toward the end of the process began seeing him in a more sympathetic light. “I didn’t want to justify his actions, but it’s interesting to see what’s behind them,” she says. “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. He beat me, but we have all been through shit.” It’s an emotional thing to process, but she’s not embarrassed to speak out. “I thought I would be,” she says. “A lot of people will write a book and pretend that whatever they are writing about they are done with, and now they are perfect. I’m not perfect. I am just as fucked up. I am who I am, and all of this shit in my life will be a struggle forever…but I’m fine. Well, I’m becoming fine.”
Sidibe had only acted in four plays—one in junior high and three in college—when her Precious audition tape landed on director Lee Daniels’s desk. Regardless, he offered her the role on the spot. “I knew I struck gold,” he says. “I had never seen anything like her. We were down to the wire, shooting in three weeks. The casting process was unique, because we put other girls through a Precious boot camp, but when I saw her tape, I knew she was the girl. Gabby was such an enlightened soul, and she didn’t let her physicality block her light. She was smart and not damaged. That liberated the cast and crew to do better work.”
Before the film was released, Daniels invited Sidibe over to his apartment. She recounts in her memoir overhearing a speakerphone conversation between the director and a prominent fashion magazine editor about having her on the periodical’s cover. From behind a door, she listened to the editor say that she was too overweight and dark to be the cover girl.