Gabourey Sidibe’s Oscar-nominated status can’t shield her from racism while shopping, but that doesn’t mean the actress won’t ever visit such stores again.
Sidibe recalled a time she visited the Chanel store near her Chicago apartment in a Lenny Letter article and described the sales assistant who decided it was impossible for the “Empire” star to afford any items there.
“‘We don’t have any,’ “Sidibe remembered the woman saying to her when Sidibe asked to see the store’s eyeglasses selection. “‘We only have shades. There’s a store across the street that sells eyeglasses.’ ”
Sidibe said she was confused by the woman trying to get her not to buy from them, despite the fact that Sidibe was carrying a vintage Chanel purse.
“I’d love to pretend she was being polite, and I’m sure she would love to pretend she was polite, but she was actually condescending,” Sidibe said. “Explaining to me how exactly I should get across the street and out of her sight line as if I were in kindergarten. I was trying to purchase glasses, and she was trying to get the interaction with me over as soon as possible. …
“I knew what she was doing. She had decided after a single look at me that I wasn’t there to spend any money. Even though I was carrying a Chanel bag, she decided I wasn’t a Chanel customer and so not worth her time and energy.”
Sidibe explained she has faced racist storekeepers all her life, from the time she was followed in her hometown beauty supply store to looking at lip gloss at a Dior booth in St. Maarten when “the saleswoman literally took a gloss out of my hand and put it back down in the display case.”
The actress ultimately did buy some sunglasses and a pair of sandals as requested by her “Empire” co-star Taraji P. Henson.
“No matter how dressed up I get, I’m never going to be able to dress up my skin color to look like what certain people perceive to be an actual customer,” Sidibe said. “Depending on the store, I either look like a thief or a waste of time.
“There doesn’t seem to be a middle ground between no attention and too much attention.”
Sidibe acknowledged she wasn’t sure if she faced discrimination due to her weight or her race but decided she wouldn’t stop buying from stores who treated her unfairly.
“Honestly, if I walked out of every store where someone was rude to me, I’d never have anything nice,” she said. “So yes. I spent my hard-earned money on the things I wanted from Chanel.”