Gabourey Sidibe says she's read scripts where her character was literally referred to as 'hippo'


It's no secret that Hollywood isn't kind to plus-size characters—especially female ones. But Gabourey Sidibe just said something at Glamour's Powered by Women panel at SXSW that even shocked me, a plus-size person who, at this point, is pretty numb to Tinsel Town's incessant fat-shaming. The actress revealed that a part was created for her where the character was literally referred to as a "hippo" and an "elephant." Let's break this down for a second: Imagine you're an actress. Then, imagine that a big-shot screenwriter tells you they've written a role specifically for you. Exciting, right? Now imagine reading this script and realizing your character is called a "hippo" on the first page. Yeah, it sucks.

"I get a lot of scripts and offers where someone has to make mention of my body immediately," Sidibe said at the panel. "Someone wrote a script with me in mind, and the first time someone other than my character was talking about my character, they say 'this hippo' or 'this elephant.'"

She continued, "I'm like, 'Are you serious? You wrote something for me, and you're calling me a hippo?' This is my body. This has been my body my entire life, and in my life my friends and my colleagues are not constantly talking about my body. But in most of my roles, somebody has to make mention of it."

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AUSTIN, TX - MARCH 11: Actor Gabourey Sidibe attends 'The Female Lens: Creating Change Beyond the Bubbley' during 2017 SXSW Conference and Festivals at Austin Convention Center on March 11, 2017 in Austin, Texas. (Photo by Nicola Gell/Getty Images for SXSW)
PASADENA, CA - FEBRUARY 11: Actress Gabourey Sidibe attends the 48th NAACP Image Awards at Pasadena Civic Auditorium on February 11, 2017 in Pasadena, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic)
Actress Gabourey Sidibe attends 2016 the Glamour Women Of The Year Awards in Hollywood, California, on November 14, 2016. / AFP / VALERIE MACON (Photo credit should read VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 14: (L-R) Actress/writer Lena Dunham, actress Gabourey Sidibe, and host Tracee Ellis Ross pose in the green room at Glamour Women Of The Year 2016 at NeueHouse Hollywood on November 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jeff Vespa/Getty Images for Glamour)
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 30: Gabourey Sidibe attends the 54th New York Film Festival - Opening Night Party at Tavern On The Green on September 30, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE -- Pictured (l-r): Andy Cohen and Gabourey Sidibe -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 20: Harry Connick Jr. and Gabourey Sidibe participate in a tricycle race for 'Harry' show taping September 20, 2016 in New York City. The show will air Tuesday, September 27th, 2016. (Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images for 'Harry')
EMPIRE: Gabourey Sidibe in the 'Chimes at Midnight' episode of EMPIRE airing Wednesday, Nov. 9 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. (Photo by FOX via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11: (L-R) Shakina Nayfack, Cole Escola, Derrick Baskin, Amy Poehler, Julie Klausner, Billy Eichner, Andrea Martin, Gabourey Sidibe, and Scott King attend the 'Difficult People' New York premiere at The Metrograph on July 11, 2016 in New York City. (Photo by D Dipasupil/FilmMagic)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02: Gabourey Sidibe attends Refinery29's NewFronts presentation on May 02, 2016 in New York, New York. (Photo by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Refinery 29)
BEVERLY HILLS, CA - APRIL 28: Actress Gabourey Sidibe attends the 1st Annual Alliance of Women Directors awards and benefit at the Paley Center for Media on April 28, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Tasia Wells/Getty Images)
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This is horrible, but, unfortunately, not that surprising. Hollywood still hasn't wrapped its head around the fact that plus-size people are human beings—not punchlines, slapstick vehicles, or, ya know, animals.

But the dial is moving along slowly. We have Kate on This Is Us, a plus-size character who hasn't been subjected to any reductive, fat-person humor; still, her character is obsessed with losing weight, which is problematic. Plus-size people are completely capable of loving their bodies as they are. Shocking, I know.

One of the ways to solve this problem is to talk about it—to shed light on these gross incidents of discrimination and hate. Gabourey Sidibe is a total boss for opening up. Hopefully, screenwriters realize just how disrespectful this is and start depicting plus-size people the right way: as people.

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