INTERVIEW with Gabourey Sidibe
EMMA ROBERTS: I’m obsessed with your book literally. I have to say all this so I remember exactly what to say.
GABBY SIDIBE: Remember that you’re obsessed with my book.
EMMA: Yes I’ll try to remember. Literally we started Belletrist and we asked for all these books, and yours was one of our top requests. We got sent the galley and, first of all, from the cover I was already obsessed… AND the title. I didn’t know what to expect. Is it a comedy book? Is it darker? Is it short stories? Is it a memoir? What is it? I started reading it and it’s just so you and so genuine.
GABBY: You happen to know me.
EMMA: I do happen to know you and I was just blown away by how real it was but also how funny, and articulate, and honest you were…
GABBY: Thank you. I mostly wrote it for bragging rights.
EMMA: We’ve worked together obviously on Coven [American Horror Story: Coven] and I didn’t know you to be a writer. Have you always wanted to write? When did all this start happening? Have you always kept a journal?
GABBY: I’m really bad at keeping journals but I did something slightly creepier than a journal. When I was a teenager I wrote a TV show. This is so stupid but I wrote a TV show basically. It was a soap opera and here’s how it worked though. This is so annoying. I’m very embarrassed to admit this but I had seven characters, five of those characters were the members of NSYNC.
Shut up. Don’t you dare. Shut up.
EMMA: No, it’s amazing.
GABBY: Five of those characters were the members of NSYNC and the other two characters of the seven were me and my best friend. Now here’s what happened, each of these shows ran for six months. They would run … It was so creepy, oh my god. They ran between March 5th and September 3rd, and then September 4th was a day off. Then September 5th I would start an entirely different storyline with the same seven characters.
EMMA: You created American Horror Story.
GABBY: American Horror Story. I know. Exactly.
EMMA: You were a show-runner at 16.
That’s what I did as a teenager. I’m not going to admit how old I was when I stopped doing it but let’s just say I got too busy being an actress. I would have really bad days and I would just write myself a new day. I would write myself a better day and it made me feel … I mean that’s what I did when I couldn’t afford therapy, and not that I believed any of that stuff and I didn’t it was just for fun.
KARAH PREISS: I was always like, who’s the girl who’s going to emerge and be like “I’m a JC girl”?
GABBY: Oh my god, I’m such a JC girl, shit.
KARAH: JC was …
GABBY: He was the true lead singer of the group.
GABBY: He was so soulful.
EMMA: He was soulful.
KARAH: I’m pro-NSYNC.
GABBY: Yeah, the line in the sand.
EMMA: I was Backstreet Boys.
GABBY: Were you?
EMMA: I was.
GABBY: Honestly, I started writing it when I was like 16 and sometimes we were in performing arts high-schools and sometimes we were all grownups. It was always a challenge of how we were all going to meet each other. There was a season where … this is so stupid. There was a season where some of us were mythical creatures like mermaids and succubi, things like that. Also there was a season where everybody was a prostitute. Yeah, shit got weird. When I became a phone sex operator things got sexier, but when I was 16 I was writing about sex and I was fully a virgin. Like I was a smooth ass virgin trying to describe sex in a dumb way. It was stupid, and cute, and little.
EMMA: That’s amazing. Well, I love that. You’ve been a writer for a long time is basically what you’re telling me. When did you start writing this book or when did the idea of you writing a book that was kind of your story and not a soap opera start?
GABBY: Actually it has to do with Kathy Najimy and Gloria Steinem. Gloria Steinem I think it was her 80th birthday party. I’m going to feel horrible if she just turned 80.
It was, in fact, Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday celebration and the event was The Gloria Awards in 2014. We checked.
EMMA: She [Kathy Najimy] inspired me to want to write too. Isn’t she amazing?
GABBY: Exactly. She’s so amazing. She’s so dope. I love the shit out of her. She was like, “Just write anything you want. Whatever you like. Whatever you like.” I had no idea and we set a date that was like two months out. She was like, “Write something and we’ll talk about it in two months.” The day of the date I got up at 6 in the morning and I quickly wrote this eight page story about how when I was in the fourth grade I baked cookies for my class for like Christmas, for a Christmas party. I completely neglected the fact that nobody in my class liked me, that I actually didn’t have any friends in fourth grade and truly everybody hated me. One kid took cookies, the first kid I offered; because you have to go around and give out cookies. He took it and then he saw that nobody else was taking it and he came back, caught up with me, and gave the cookie back
This is really … it’s a round-about way it’s really about confidence because I get asked about my confidence a lot in this way that’s like, “How can you be so confident?” Not “So what makes you confident?” They don’t ask men where they get their confidence, they don’t ask classically beautifully girls where they get their confidence from, they’re asking me because they don’t understand it. I really told this story about how sometimes when the entire class is against you, you just have to get up and have a good time anyway, and that that’s how I found my confidence. I delivered it in front of the party and Vulture [New York Magazine] was recording, the same way you are, and they made the story public in a way that I wasn’t intending.
GABBY: I thought it was just for the room. After that all of these publishing companies were like, “I think you have a book in you.” I didn’t think that there was but I went with my book agent, David Kuhn. We went to dinner and he was just asking questions, really just getting to know me and he wrote about 20 or 30 things down. The next day he was like, “So I want a story about this” and I was talking about everything. About how much I hate dinosaurs. I hate dinosaurs. Talking about hair, and talking about what it’s like to get dressed for a red carpet, and all these things.
EMMA: I loved that.
GABBY: That shit is real okay. It’s stressful but it’s like no matter what you wear, even if you wear something cute somebody’s going to have something to say about it and you can’t help it. Turns out I had a book in me after all.
EMMA: Yeah. I feel like there’s five more probably. No seriously. It’s amazing. You started structuring it, which I love all the titles by the way I was laughing out loud; and I have to say that I loved when I texted you telling you I wanted to talk to you about the book you asked if I got to the part about me. When you said it was in the obituary section I was slightly panicked.
KARAH: She texted me.
GABBY: Like here are the list of celebrities I want dead, starting with …
EMMA: I was just like “What?” I was getting hives. I texted her because she [pointing to Karah] had the copies.
KARAH: I texted her, I was like, “You won’t fucking believe what she wrote.” Then I scanned it to send to her because it was just the most … I think for a number of reasons was the most ideal thing that someone could write about Emma.
GABBY: Especially right now.
EMMA: It was weird. You’re a witch literally.
GABBY: Did you get to the chapter where my friend is like, “I think you’re a psychic but also I think you’re a little bit psycho”?
EMMA: Yeah. I circled that because everyone says that about me too. I feel like the way that you talk about how it is to be in the public eye, and the good part about it and then the bad part about it, I feel like you wrote about it with so much humor but also so much realness. That is what it’s really like. It is totally amazing sometimes and then other times you just want to hide in the house and never go anywhere because you don’t want anyone to comment.
GABBY: In the same hour.
GABBY: In the same hour. It’s almost 50/50. For me I didn’t know what I was going to be when I grew up. I thought I would be a therapist, I thought I’d be a psychologist. I didn’t intend on being an actress at all. Turns out I like it. For me it just way too easy to become it. I tripped and fell into one audition, and I do really love what I do. There’s the thing where you’re both introverted and extroverted at the same time.
GABBY: I really love what I get to do but I also just want to go to Walgreens at 3 in the morning with zit cream on my face and not worry about it. The other day, this is so stupid, I threw out my back on Thursday because I was at the gym doing some weird stuff and my trainer had me deadlift like 80 pounds or something stupid. I went to work, my back was all messed up, and I was like “I’m going to get a massage after.” That’s a mistake. I got the massage, made my back even worse, and then I couldn’t put on my panties, or my bra, or any clothes after.
GABBY: I’m literally in the bathroom leaning against a wall trying not to cry with one leg in a legging, because leggings are so hard to put on if your back is messed up. It took me like-
EMMA: And post massage.
GABBY: I truly could not move, and I had to call a Lyft, and it was raining really hard. I had to lay down in the back of the Lyft and I was like, “Holy shit I hope there’s not paparazzi outside…” I really, really hope because I’m crying. There’s tears streaming down my face, I don’t have a bra on, it’s raining, and I truly can’t move and I’m Frankenstein-ing. I get worried all the time. Like I’ve cut myself while cooking, almost cut my finger off, and couldn’t go to the hospital across the street because I hate the idea of sitting … I’ve definitely been in the hospital where people, “Can I get a picture?”
KARAH: That’s savage.
GABBY: The worst was going to the lady doctor.
GABBY: This woman, this doctor-
EMMA: We both go hmmm.
GABBY: She had her hand in my vagina and was like, “You look like that girl from that movie Precious.” I’m like, “I kind of just don’t want to think about what I do for a living. I just want your hand out of my-
KARAH: Your doctor?
EMMA: Yeah. That happened to me when I was getting a shot in my ass one time. I had to get a steroid shot because my glands were so swollen and I was sick.
GABBY: Oh hun.
EMMA: I went from set, they took me to the doctor to get a steroid shot to go back to work. My pants were down and my ass was out, and the girl stuck me and then put a piece of paper in front of me and asked for my autograph.
EMMA: I feel like you wrote it in a way that people can understand, because I feel like so many times people write about what that experience is like and it doesn’t come across for people to understand who aren’t in it, and I feel like you laid it out in such a way that-
GABBY: I try.
EMMA: When you were writing this book did you think about other people reading it? Did you worry about other people reading it while you were writing? Because it is very personal and you do name people by name. I guess people who are in it but also people in general, like were you writing for a particular audience?
GABBY: No I wasn’t. You know what John Gray told me? Our friend John Gray [writer/producer of American Horror Story] for those of you who don’t know. When I first was being approached by different publishing companies and book agents I said, "I don’t know.” He was like, “You know what, you could write the book and then not sell it. You could just write it, see how you feel.”
EMMA: That’s interesting.
GABBY: I was like, oh okay yeah; because that is an option.
GABBY: I wrote some stuff that I had to write, that I got out that I’d been feeling but that didn’t end up in the book because it was too much. Every time I throw up this truth and I’m as honest as I possibly can be I have to go to my therapist to put that shit back or to figure out where to put it, where to file it because it’s out here in the open. I might be feeling rage, and I might be feeling hurt, and I don’t know how to go on. I don’t know how to reconcile my 33-year-old self against my six year old self who ended up in foster care. I didn’t even remember that it was three weeks.
EMMA: That’s a long time.
GABBY: It’s a long time but when you’re six you don’t have a real sense of time or space or any of that. My therapist definitely deserved the last shout-out.
EMMA: Loved that. How would you go about putting everything down? Would you type at your computer, or would you write it down, or did you have a lot of notes? How did you-
GABBY: Like some Beautiful Mind wall?
EMMA: I make a Beautiful Mind wall of magazine cutouts and quotes when I’m doing certain things because I am obsessed with scrapbooking but that’s another story.
GABBY: I have my laptop. Here’s how I worked; usually my editor would be like “Hey so when do you think we can have the next story?” I’m like “Friday.” Meanwhile it’s Wednesday and she knows I’m lying. We all know I’m lying. I’m like, “Girl I got you Friday. By Monday morning girl.” She’s like, “Do you know what you’re going to write about?” I’m like, “Yeah. Maybe I’ll write about lamp.” Then what happens is two weeks go by where I’m dicking around on the internet not doing anything and then usually I’ll take a shower and something will bug me. I’ll go, ooh. I just think of like one sentence because I don’t like to start a story from the beginning. That’s easy. The second I hear something in my brain and I’m like, that’s what I’m going to write about. Then I have to figure out the way into the story, that takes about two days. Then I can sit down and write a story in about six hours. I just have to do it.
EMMA: My mind is literally blown at something as simple and as complicated as you don’t have to start at the beginning but that’s amazing because I wouldn’t even think like that. My brain thinks like, first sentence, what is it?
KARAH: That’s what we’re taught to do. Did you ever take a writing class or is this just something that you …
GABBY: I was bomb in English that’s it. Even in elementary school I remember I’ve always been nerdy, and weird, and creative because my mom’s a singer so I think that watch her be creative helped me to be creative. I remember when I was in the 4th grade we had to write a commercial for anything. That’s all the assignment was, two or three sentences about a commercial. I decided to make a product that gives you hair for bald heads, it’s a hair growth product. I called it MaLingair Hair Growth. MaLingair is my middle name. I literally took a bottle of oil sheen or something, I drew up a label, put it on the label, and then I went to my mom and I said, “Listen I need you to record a jingle for me.”
KARAH: You were a one stop shop: brand and content.
GABBY: I wasn’t fucking around in 4th grade. I made her record the jingle. We did it on the little tape recorder and she thanked it three times to triple it for harmonies, obviously, because my mom also wasn’t fucking around. I refused to write anything, because you’re supposed to present it in front of your class. I got up in front of my class and I said, “Kids, are you tired of spit shining your dad’s bald head?” I just fucking riffed while playing the song. I just riffed until the end of the song.
GABBY: So you know. My mom, I describe her as a goddamn star. My mom is like Bette Davis, she’s like Whitney Houston she’s got to have all the attention. I think that a lot of it is like, “Me too. Me too. What about me?” I think a lot of it has been trying to be like, “I’m also here. I’m also here.”
KARAH: You became an actress so there you go.
GABBY: By accident but yes.
EMMA: What I loved about this book is two things. Number one is it made me feel good. Even when you were talking about stuff that is sad and stuff that is uncomfortable sometimes I had a smile on my face after every story that I read and was just in a good mood and wanted to read more of it.
EMMA: Because I feel like what you were saying earlier about when people ask you about confidence and stuff like that; confidence is not something that’s about any kind of physicality. Confidence is literally about how you live your life. You saying you live your life for you, that to me is what this book is about and why I loved it so much. That’s I feel like what you’re saying with this.
GABBY: I’m trying to. I’m really trying to. I think being a woman how much trouble do you have around saying the word no. You know what I mean?
EMMA: Yeah. All my friends will say, they go, “You always ask if people are mad at you.” I go “Yeah because I’m used to being in an industry where if I say no people are mad at me.” My friends will be like, “We’re not mad at you if you want to go home and go to bed instead of meeting up with us for dinner.” I’m like “Really? Okay.”
GABBY: That’s like being a woman in general but it’s also being in this industry where they’ll forget about you like that, kid. That’s what it is so I don’t think that we as women are allowed to be happy or to do anything for ourselves. Everything is like you have to do this for your family; you have to do this for the man that you love or the woman you love; and you have to do this for your kids. It’s like, hold on I ain’t got no kids and nobody else is around here making sure I’m happy. Like raise your hand if you want to make sure that I fucking sleep good at night. Nobody? Me? Then I got to do it, I have to do it. Then you have to do it. What I’m really saying is: I don’t particularly want people to walk away with anything from this book. In a strange way I fucking wrote that book for me. I wrote it because I had all of these things going on in my head, and going on in my heart and my soul, and my life and I needed to figure out a way to file them and that’s what I did with this. If you figure out a way to do it for yourself too while reading this book that is so dope, but I’m not here to tell you what to do.
EMMA: You’re like for Gabby by Gabby.
GABBY: For Gabby by Gabby.
EMMA: Also, it was such a cherry on top that you mentioned me….
No, no, no that came out wrong.
GABBY: Right back to Emma, God!
EMMA: No, no, no because I wanted to say something about Twitter. What I was going to say is that when I saw that I was also laughing because I just have this same relationship with Twitter. I don’t really Tweet. I just Retweet now, I don’t even really Tweet that much because literally I would Tweet something that couldn’t have been more of a nothing Tweet and people would say all of these horrible things, as you know, and a chapter in your book is dedicated to it. I was laughing that it was in reference to us and-
GABBY: That’s why I got Twitter for real.
EMMA: To defend our feud.
GABBY: It really is. Do you remember I didn’t have Twitter before that?
EMMA: I remember that. Also what you said you were really going to Tweet me which was “You got beef Emma? Meet me at the playground at 3:00 and we’ll settle this. P.S. your momma.” I wish that we could all talk to each other like that and obviously know it’s a joke.
GABBY: Yeah. You and I both know it’s a joke. I’ll see you on set girl, like I’ll catch you
EMMA: What are you reading right now?
GABBY: Right now I’m reading Difficult Women by Roxanne Gay. Oh my God you would love. She’s a fucking rock star.
EMMA: I have to get that. One of your favorite books from growing up.
GABBY: One of my favorite books … and I have to do these dumb lists all the time…
GABBY: No I’m saying the one thing I didn’t list is my favorite books were the Sideways Kids from Wayside High. Do you know any-
EMMA: Oh I feel like I do. Wait.
GABBY: It’s the elementary school that was on its side or something like that.
GABBY: There were all these amazing kids. There was like BB Gun and her brother was Ray Gun.
EMMA: I do remember that.
GABBY: Wayside School is Falling Down or something like that. That’s what it is.
KARAH: Sideways Kids from Wayside High?
GABBY: I think it’s Wayside School is Falling Down. There’s the 13th floor but it’s not real.
EMMA: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes.
GABBY: I love that book, I was obsessed with Clue. I really like short stories. I love a long … I love a traditional ass novel but I love a bunch of short stories because it feels like I get 20 stories for the price of one, for the price of one book. I love that stuff.
EMMA: Me too.
Because we [Belletrist] talk about beauty also…
GABBY: You’re so excited to talk about beauty.
EMMA: No I mean I am, but what can you not live without? What are your favorite beauty products? Tell us.
GABBY: I really like Fresh sugar lip balm.
EMMA: I feel like don’t you love makeup like me? Did I make that up?
GABBY: I like to have it done. Yeah, I kind of do.
EMMA: You do.
GABBY: I love it when I’m trying to “thirst trap” on Instagram.
EMMA: You’re going to what?
GABBY: When I’m trying to thirst trap on Instagram.
EMMA: Wait. What’d you say?
GABBY: I’m teaching you so many weird words. Do you know what thirst trapping is?
EMMA: When you like someone?
GABBY: It’s not …
GABBY: It’s like when you … I’ll show you my latest thirst trap. I didn’t actually do it.
GABBY: There’s a guy you like.
EMMA: Oh okay.
GABBY: It’s like … Hold on this is my latest thirst trap that I took earlier today. I didn’t post it.
Gabby shows a photo of herself looking hot.
KARAH: True. True. True.
GABBY: I didn’t post it but I’m probably gonna later.
EMMA: You look amazing.
GABBY: This is the actual … I actually thirst trap with that because the bra is too much.
EMMA: You’re gorgeous.
GABBY: I lost a little weight and all of a sudden I just like, “T-shirt and some heels right?” It’s like, no bitch put on pants. I’m out here in these streets trying to … I’m the weight that I was when I entered high-school. This is the smallest I’ve been as an adult so I’m going through that weird … you know when you’re a teenager and you finally get a little bit of titties and some hips and you’re like-
GABBY: You have titties. Look at you.
EMMA: I’m waiting for them to fully come in.
GABBY: That bra’s so pretty.
EMMA: I did get this for my boobs for spring.
EMMA: Do you want to write more books?
GABBY: My book agent wants me to write more books that’s for sure.
KARAH: You should write short stories … not that I’m telling you what to write but.
GABBY: He was like, “I think you have a fiction in you.”
EMMA: I know me too.
GABBY: I was just like chill.
KARAH: I think you have a fiction in you.
GABBY: I was just saying today that I’m so creepy sexually I just really want to write an erotica fucking thing but it’s really just me being a creep.
EMMA: You should start an anonymous column.
GABBY: I should.
EMMA: I love an anonymous column.
KARAH: Our friend did it as a Twitter. She had an anonymous Twitter.
GABBY: Ooh what is it?
KARAH: I mean it’s not anonymous anymore, she outed herself but she was anonymous for two years.
GABBY: So Sad Today. I’m on it.
EMMA: We could get a group of actresses together and do an anonymous column.
GABBY: That would be so funny.
After we stopped recording our interview with Gabby, we were packing up to leave and making small talk and all of the sudden she whips two crystals out of her bra. Emma stopped dead in her tracks. Emma loves crystals.
EMMA: So you just whipped two rose quartz out of your bra, one out of each side, out of each boob.
GABBY: Each side. Correct. The heart one, over the heart. The heart’s on the left. Yeah?
EMMA: I can’t believe you just did that. That just made my life.
Okay, I just want to say, do you think that our love of crystals and the fact that we were on Coven is a coincidence?
GABBY: No, I think we definitely … Remember Papa Legba and how he attacked my mouth?
EMMA: I do remember that.
GABBY: I’m not taking any chances.
EMMA: Tell me which crystals we got. What’s this one? I wouldn’t do something as amateur as touch your crystals.
GABBY: Oh my God, yes, you know the rule, but even if you did, I got some liquid sage, squish, squish.
EMMA: Oh, liquid sage?
GABBY: Yeah, I got it on Amazon.
KARAH: You know, this is like a thing. This is like …
EMMA: She’ll come over, and I have my crystal sitting in my lap, and I’m at the computer like half naked, just like this.
GABBY: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
KARAH: I came to her house, she had …
EMMA: I took an amethyst bath.
GABBY: Bitch, yes. I just bought a $200 amethyst thing as a doorstop.
KARAH: Do you bathe yours in the moonlight?
GABBY: I try to, but I never really know when the moonlight is happening.
EMMA: I’ll text you.