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Taking Up Space: Gabby Sidibe Recaps The Time She Was Turned Away At Chanel

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 30: Gabourey Sidibe attends Hulu Original "Difficult People" Premiere on July 30, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Hulu)

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Who gets to determine the people who deserve fabulousness? According to Gabby Sidibe, the person rockin’ the fabulousness, of course! Simply put: Everyone!

Recently, Gabby Sidibe (Empire) wrote an intimate essay on Lenny Letter about the time she strutted into a Chanel store in Chicago, only to be dismissively brushed off. Was it because she was Black? Was it her weight? Was it both? Gabby dove deep into the many intricacies and intersections of this phenomenon, including the many levels to her feelings surrounding the whole ordeal.

It was a chill day for the actress and author, who decided that she wanted a pair of new eyeglasses. On her way there, Taraji P. Henson called with a request as well: a pair of sandals. So, straight-out of a Pretty Woman Rodeo drive climax scene, she sashayed into the Chanel store (which happened to be conveniently located near her Chicago apartment) with the utmost confidence and style and a Chanel bag in hand.

Then… womp womp womp:

“Can I take a look at your eyeglasses?” I asked.

“We don’t have any,” she answered. “We only have shades. There’s a store across the street that sells eyeglasses.”

“Across the street?” I asked, confused.

“Yes. In the building across the street on the fifth floor.” She gave me the name of a discount frames dealer. I had been at her display for less than a minute, and she was literally directing me to another store.

“But … I want Chanel frames,” I said.

Gabby wanted Chanel frames. She could certainly afford Chanel frames. She should have Chanel frames. But, the saleswoman wasn’t budging. She just knew Gabby must’ve been lost because she didn’t “look” the part. She kept suggesting that she try another store and politely-yet-condescendingly asking her to leave.

But, Gabby remained persistent, remembering Taraji’s request and as she was directed to the shoe section in the back of the store a few Black employees recognized her. Suddenly, gears switched. Now that she was famous, she was deemed worthy of fabulous. Funny, that.

Except not at all.

And therein lies the inner conundrum. Gabby wondered if the saleswoman brushed her off because of her race or her weight. Should she report her? Should she brush it off herself because she was “used to it anyway?”

“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,” Gabby mused. “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.”

In typical Gabby fashion, she did add a little humor, “Even when I was a teenager, I knew it was because of my skin color but also because of the environment. I lived in the hood. Being suspected of stealing is just par for the course. Also, I definitely went through a mini-klepto phase when I was around fifteen, so some of that suspicion was warranted.”

The point is, she grew out of it and even still, her appearance certainly didn’t include a “scarlet thief” painted across her forehead.

Warring with her emotions on whether her past warrants this type of treatment and groaning about this experience being why she prefers to shop online, Gabby Sidibe ended the recap with a brilliant line, “…does it matter whether my waist is wide or if my skin is black as long as my money is green?”

Gabby, that may be rhetorical, but I gotta state the obvious: it doesn’t. After all, that green money is the only thing that’s being exchanged for the Chanel. You’re certainly worth much, much, much more.

Gabby Sidibe Book Cover

Gabby Sidibe is killing the game on screen via Fox’s Empire and on paper, via her new book! Have you got it yet?

Let us know what you think and your thoughts about this… has this happened to you?

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Written by Tonja Renée Stidhum

Tonja Renée Stidhum is a writer/director made of sugar and spice and everything rice. She has the uncanny ability to make a Disney reference and a double entendre in the same sentence.

What do you think?


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  1. They had a lot of nerve, but it’s not surprising. I got the bum’s rush out of a few chi-chi stores in Philly years ago because I wasn’t dressed like one of their mannequins. I just noticed that her book is on Audible, read by Gabby. I have credits. I’m There!!! <3

  2. Media have created the ground for blatant discrimination and trained generations to exercise it as if it was right. I’m very disappointed of the world in which we live. Instead of us consumers telling commerce what we want we are being steered around like cattle worst of all, we are doing it

  3. This has happened to me (and my sister) a couple of times, some changed their tune when they saw the platinum or silver card 💳. Others have gone as far as completely ignoring us, pretending to be on the phone or heading to the back of the store. Disgusting that our worth is defined by our size or color.

    I had already boycotted Chanel before reading this article, it has only solidified that decision. Two words: Karl Lagerfeld. (Coco Chanel must be rolling in her grave).

  4. When I was working at the Big Red Death Star, I had a customer not unlike Gabby step to my counter and ask about a watch. I told her the price and her face went dark… The boutique had quoted DOUBLE the price.
    I later walked into that boutique and asked the price of the watch. They gave the proper list price, and asked if I wanted to try it on.
    I cried in the bathroom.

  5. im not at all big and i still get the evil eye walking into any store. I dont wear make up and mostly dress in black so the most i get is every employee casually walking around me every 5 seconds yet not a single one asking if i need help with anything (come on an obviously not girly girl goes into a store and you dont think she needs help?) make up stores are the worst by far, they straight up ignore me, so in my passive aggressive rage i grab a bunch of products and misplace them all over the store. Act like a bitch to me and you’ll be staying late playing hide and seek with a bunch of products

  6. I had a similar experience at a Decleor counter. The very chic French lady, just did not want me at her counter. I complained. The store manager went crazy. He was not feeling the shop assistants racism at all. I was pleasantly surprised, how it was handled.

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