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'Precious' little time -- or grace -- for fans

It's always a let-down when folks you've admired or respected from afar turn out to be jerks in person. Case in point: Gabourey Sidibe, the Oscar-nominated actress in the title role of "Precious."

Y'all know how much I loved the powerful film from director Lee Daniels about an obese New York City teenager enduring unspeakable abuse at the hands of her parents. After Oscar night, I wrote, "I was rooting for Gabourey Sidibe for best actress. But the moment edgy comedienne Mo'Nique won the Oscar for supporting actress, I knew that the divine Sidibe was toast." But after meeting Sidibe at the White House Correspondents dinner and hearing about others' negative encounters with her, I'm putting down my pompoms.

I was thrilled to spot her at a table laughing uproariously with the man sitting to her right. "I know you're having a good time and I'm sorry to interrupt," I began. My next sentence didn't come out because Sidibe shouted over the din, "Yeah, come back in five minutes!" Thinking she was joking, I laughed and pretended to walk away. When I noticed that the look in her eyes meant she was serious, I walked back to her and said, "I just wanted to congratulate you on your nomination. I thought your performance was spectacular. I even wrote a column about it." After wishing her good luck, I rejoined my friends.


Back at the table, I sheepishly related the incident to my colleague Jo-Ann Armao. "Oh! She's horrible," Armao said in her wonderfully blunt way. She told me that she saw Sidibe at the pre-cocktails and told her that she'd seen "Precious" three times (an amazing emotional feat that only adds to my awe of Armao) and that she thought Sidibe's performance was "incandescent." What was Sidibe's response? "I guess I should say, 'Thank you.'"

At the MSNBC after party, the partner of a "Countdown with Keith Olbermann" producer said to me, "Look! There's Gabby Sidibe. I'm going to ask her to take a picture with me." I warned him, "She's mean." To which he said, "I don't care. I just want a picture." I didn't see what went down, but the dejected fan came back and said incredulously, "She said no." No doubt the constant interruptions and jostling are bothersome. Her ever-shrinking zone of privacy must be irksome, too. And there's no law that says Sidibe has to show grace to her fans or appreciation for their kind words. But a true star would.

At a dinner for the BET Honors back in January here in Washington, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Oscar-nominated actress and singer Queen Latifah. To be honest, I expected to get the Sidibe treatment. Instead, Latifah was as interesting as she was interested. She greeted fans who came over with a smile and warmth that made people happy they worked up the courage just to say hello. Latifah knows that without fans she has no career. Sidibe's behavior shows she has yet to learn that.

By Jonathan Capehart  | May 3, 2010; 12:57 PM ET
Categories:  Capehart  | Tags:  Jonathan Capehart  
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Silly girl. Her 15 minutes will be shorter than most. To paraphrase Jack Donaghy on 30 Rock: She has the hauteur of a much prettier woman.

Posted by: Victoria27 | May 3, 2010 3:39 PM | Report abuse

Oh, please. Like she isn't tired of "well-wishers" interrupting her, thinking they're doing her a huge favor by complimenting a fat black girl. I'd be tired of it, too.

Posted by: loremipsum | May 3, 2010 4:15 PM | Report abuse

If she's "tired of well-wishers", she certainly has found a way to insure she won't have any. Just how many starring roles in how many films does she imagine she's going to be offered?

Posted by: nunovyerbizness | May 3, 2010 5:16 PM | Report abuse

Jonathan--- I'm always on your side because I knew you at Carleton, but I have to tell you that I think this column was inappropriate. Maybe she was rude to you and Jo-Ann (though judging from Jo-Ann's columns, I might find it hard to be friendly with Jo-Ann too). However, that is absolutely no reason to call her out in this paper. What you wrote was personal, not universal. No matter how "mean" she might be, what you did was meaner.

Posted by: Urnesto | May 3, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I think the column was appropriate and timely. Sidibe is new enough to celebrity to change. And if she doesn't change, then late-night talk shows will be saying that the only thing bigger than Sidibe's girth is her ego. Capeheart is much kinder.

Posted by: kejia32 | May 3, 2010 6:58 PM | Report abuse

She's just not into you.
I am sure you and your snide co workers think she should be grateful you even spoke to her (you would have not if not for the hollywood connection) but she doesn't know who you are! Ha! She was there for her, not you and you can not comprehend that she does not know her "place" So she doesn't put up with rude people (you admit you interrupted her) or random people who want photos of her (she is not obligated to smile for you)
I love her!
She's real - SO scary and mean!! Beware of the common man - they don't like BS

Posted by: dcjayhawk2 | May 4, 2010 6:13 AM | Report abuse

I hope you find something more important to talk about in future columns. I usually enjoy your columns and your appearances on "Morning Joe", but today's offering comes across like a high-school kid's rant. You can do better.

Posted by: spbaugh1947 | May 4, 2010 7:44 AM | Report abuse

Hmmm--a Hollywood starlet with no grace, manners, or appreciation for admirers. And this is so unusual it warrants space on

Posted by: wadeb123 | May 4, 2010 9:58 AM | Report abuse

WOW - Maybe not what people want to hear but the truth is the truth.

Posted by: rlj1 | May 4, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

And if I said this I would be racist.

However, it is the impression I have had of her since the first time I saw her interviewed.

She is quite full of herself.

Posted by: mlemac | May 4, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I agree completely with spbaugh1947. You can use your time better.

Posted by: Lincoln74 | May 4, 2010 11:03 AM | Report abuse

I clicked "continue reading..." expecting to find something meaningful. This is it?

Media figures seem to confuse not being kissed up to with actual rudeness. Maybe you should be on the other end of your "if you don't agree with me you're a racist" schtick to understand what truly lackign class means.

Posted by: mj13 | May 4, 2010 11:50 AM | Report abuse

Wow. You freely admit you were being rude. You interrupted someone in the middle of "laughing uproariously with the man sitting to her right" and she acknowledged your presence and told you to come back in five minutes because she was in the middle of something and *she* is the rude one? You sound incredibly rude and entitled. She doesn't owe you her time and attention. Would you like a stepladder to assist you in getting over yourself?

Posted by: marysmedes | May 4, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

So you said, "I'm sorry to interrupt you," and were annoyed that Gabourey took you at your word, that she agreed you were interrupting? That she said, "Come back in five minutes?" That she didn't immediately brush off the person she was talking to--perhaps another fan--to take the dribbles of admiration from your lips right then and there? And you could tell this all from the "look in her eyes", instead of anything she actually said. Wow, project much?

The other two anecdotes don't fare much better--the incandescent compliment could framed as a jokey self-deprecation gone awry, and the veto on picture taking is understandable. You yourself note that her zone of privacy is shrinking, but you don't really seem to care that her efforts to guard that zone might apply to you. Both you and the photographer seemed to feel that the mere act of asking for permission to cross that boundary entitled you to something, that Gabourey wasn't equally entitled to say, "No thanks."

Posted by: pixelfish | May 4, 2010 3:51 PM | Report abuse

I really think you need to get over yourself, Jonathan. This is the silliest thing I've read in ages. Because she doesn't ooze desperate appreciation to you and your friends for choosing to like her work, she's suddenly "mean". Get real, dude. She may be a person who you recognize from her role in the movie and like her work, that doesn't mean that she knows you or wants to constantly interrupt her life so you can have an experience you can go and try to impress your friends about: "OMG! I like totally met Gabby Sidibe at the White House Correspondent's Dinner!" (Typical DC silliness: run around and try to collect experiences you can impress your friends about.) It's garbage like that that makes me really detest how you Beltway folk behave--I say that from just outside the DC beltway's reach, but squarely inside the Baltimore Beltway. She was clearly in the middle of a conversation that SHE wanted to have with someone SHE was enjoying speaking with and WANTED to talk to. She did ask you to just give her five minutes--she didn't say "get away from me you phony creep!" She didn't want to get her picture taken with your friend right at that moment. Heaven forbid! So what? Since when did it become a rule that because someone is in position where YOU would recognize THEM (as opposed to the other way around) that suddenly their whole existence should revolve around every person who recognizes them? She did an incredible job with tat role. That's amazing and rightly deserves praise. She doesn't want to get bothered by you and your social climbing friends. Big deal, no one cares. Just because you're a journalist in DC and used to dealing with tons of sycophant-craving empty suits doesn't mean that everyone else you encounter is similarly desperate.

Posted by: gwashington73 | May 4, 2010 4:09 PM | Report abuse

you said you were sorry to interrupt, then got angry when she treated you as if you were, in fact, interrupting? if you really were sorry to interrupt, you either wouldn't have done it or wouldn't have had your poor delicate feelings hurt when she asked you to come back later. if you weren't sorry to interrupt - which seems to be the case - then you just went up to a complete stranger and demanded she stop talking to a friend and talk to you instead, and then were hurt when she (completely understandably) didn't acquiesce.

in summary: dude, get over yourself.

Posted by: abby4 | May 4, 2010 4:32 PM | Report abuse

"Would you like a stepladder to assist you in getting over yourself?"

Best laugh I had all day marysmedes!!

Posted by: SCMagnolia | May 4, 2010 6:32 PM | Report abuse

I heartily second Urnesto's comment. It's an inappropriate and mean-spirited article. I know very little about about Gabourey and I've not seen the movie. But she really owes you nothing. To besmirch her in a major newspaper because of your own personal uncomfortable moment is quite unsettling. I think it's a petty and irresponsible use of your power as a journalist. And you didn't do Ms. Jo-Ann Armoa any favors by sharing with us her private ugly comments.

Posted by: douglasbell99 | May 4, 2010 11:47 PM | Report abuse

Clearly this young woman is still adapting to her new fame, which arrived almost literally overnight, and she hasn't yet encountered the disappointments and indignities that her industry inevitably inflicts. But what really comes across from this blog is that Washington Post employees are accustomed to being slobbered over, and they get their knives out when people fail to show them the deference to which they imagine they're entitled. Why should she have stopped whatever else she was doing and turned away from whoever else she was talking to just to accommodate you guys? (And I wonder whether folks who worked for Ms. Armao might have some stories of their own to share.)

Posted by: suzi01 | May 5, 2010 2:33 AM | Report abuse

Then you should put your advice in the ears of her handlers. She's 19 and plucked from obscurity Jonathan. Teach her, don't run and tell on her. Shame.

Posted by: WinterStorm19 | May 5, 2010 8:04 AM | Report abuse

PS: Get over it, she has yet a lot to learn. Perhaps YOU, instead of running to your bully column to dime her out, could give her some advice. Each one teach one. What you're doing is worse than what she did. I hope your media friends thank you.

Posted by: WinterStorm19 | May 5, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

Sounds to me that you are upset this woman didn't give you the attention you felt you deserved. I highly doubt you would have been this upset had you been slighted by a more socially acceptable (read: more attractive) woman. Your self-hatred frequently overrides any and all common sense.

Posted by: bolocco | May 5, 2010 8:36 AM | Report abuse

What do we expect of our "stars"? Do we expect them to be polite? Do we expect them to have manners? Do we expect them to rise above the fracas and show us how it's done?

To be fair to the reporter, this was not a red-carpet event where the young woman was being shot and confused with multiple conflicting requests for the star's attention.

To be fair to the young woman, she has the choice to say "no."

To be fair to them both, how the star says "no" matters.

I'm not trained to put up with the rigors of stardom, but I have been taught manners. And if this young woman lacks even those, then that is an issue different than a prideful reporter's ego.

Posted by: cfow1 | May 5, 2010 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Gabby probably didn't know what "incandescent" meant. And regardless of anything else, she chose her profession and continues to exploit it, so she just has to put up with all that requires. If she can't or won't do that, then she should go back to doing whatever she was before. Being grateful, graceful and professional is required, not optional, for people who choose a public lifestyle.

Posted by: ronjaboy | May 5, 2010 9:43 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure people are knocking down her door to offer movie roles requiring 400lb actresses. I don't particularly like Howard Stern but he was right. Enjoy while it lasts...

Posted by: dcdoug | May 5, 2010 10:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm sure people are knocking down her door to offer movie roles requiring 400lb actresses. I don't particularly like Howard Stern but he was right. Enjoy while it lasts...

Posted by: dcdoug | May 5, 2010 10:13 AM | Report abuse

Grow up, friend. No one enjoys groupies.

Posted by: undercover_hon | May 6, 2010 10:45 AM | Report abuse

This column is pathetic. It would make the author look petty and insecure if it was written on his facebook, for it to appear under the post's masthead is a total joke.

Get over yourself.

Posted by: princessofpower | May 6, 2010 9:57 PM | Report abuse

@Winterstorm19 - she isn't 19 years old, she is 27.

She has no excuse for a lack of good manners. Does she 'have' to be polite and gracious? No. Should she be? Yes.

Posted by: whatever67 | May 6, 2010 9:59 PM | Report abuse

She is a public person and needs to get used to that. Her fame got her to that dinner in the first place. She is old enough to understand how to be nice and all she needed was to say, "Thank You." If she doesn't understand that, she needs someone to teach her how to act to people before she goes out again.

Posted by: Christine14 | May 6, 2010 10:35 PM | Report abuse

Wow. It's so nice that you posted this on Gabourey's birthday. If she had $1 for every pretentious industry type who interrupted her when she was trying to enjoy a night out with friends, I'm sure she would be able to end this country's economic criss. The girl filmed a part in a tiny movie that no one ever thought would come out and as far as I'm concerned, she's done an incredible job of adjusting to her literal overnight fame. She's stated in several interviews she doesn't have a publicist, nor does she want one - what I gather from this move is that she doesn't particularly want to be famous or engage in the Hollywood game.

However, if she did have a publicist, maybe that publicist would shine a light on all of the charity work she does back in Harlem whenever she's not working. Whether it's showing up unannounced to a soup kitchen on Christmas or bringing her swag from the Oscars to a battered womens shelter, just because she doesn't engage in conversations with every shmuck she meets at an industry party doesn't mean she's not amazing person.

Posted by: SeaBreeze75 | May 7, 2010 12:23 PM | Report abuse

Have you always been warm to strangers who approach you to compliment you about your work, Jonathan?

I can answer for you: No, you haven't.

Years ago, when you were still in NYC, I approached you at a journalists' convention we were both attending. I wanted to congratulate you on winning awards for your editorial writing. You were focused on some young, attractive eye-candy in the room and totally brushed me off. Rolled your eyes, turned the other way while I was still talking, etc.

I remember thinking the same things about you that you're saying about Gabby Sidibe in this column.

Glass houses, and all.

Posted by: uwsguy | May 7, 2010 1:38 PM | Report abuse

If another actress behaved in this manner, would this appear in your blog? Me thinks not.
Granted, she could have behaved more appropriately, but cut her some slack. She gets approached every time she leaves the house. I saw her on 40th and 3rd in NYC a few weeks ago. I left her alone.

Posted by: simiya | May 7, 2010 3:50 PM | Report abuse

Y'know, if you'd bothered to come back in five minutes and she brushed you off, you might have case. Instead you seem upset that she didn't just drop everything and focus on what YOU had to say. Sheesh. Tell ya what: next time I"m in town I'll saunter up to you at dinner and say "sorry to interrupt..." and see how YOU respond.

Posted by: elogamgusset | May 9, 2010 12:49 AM | Report abuse

I have no problems in outting as$@#W@holes. You get what you get when you treat the wrong people wrong. This usually comes back and bites you when no one wants to hire you or be around you.

Posted by: mjcc1987 | May 9, 2010 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Did you pull this article from your fifth grade journal? Man up. I find it hard to imagine why the WP would print such an infantile, lame column.

"I even wrote a column about it" - really? I would have told you to come back in ten.

Posted by: quietman09 | May 10, 2010 7:38 AM | Report abuse

i can't believe i just registered to this site to comment on this stupid article. are you kidding me? when i heard a gossip columnist on the radio tell the story it sounded foolish and it reads just as foolish. you interrupted her??? she was busy. dang. if someone interrupted you while you were sitting having a conversation, apparently a good conversation, wouldn't that irk you too? dang. she was trying to enjoy the company she was with...come back later. dang. that's not diva. diva would have been to not even acknowledge you at all. is she supposed to fall out on the floor and kiss your feet. you are kidding yourself. who do you think you are? with this little ole columnn using it for hate. get over yourself.

Posted by: mizmek | May 10, 2010 12:04 PM | Report abuse

i can't believe i just registered to this site to comment on this stupid article. are you kidding me? when i heard a gossip columnist on the radio tell the story it sounded foolish and it reads just as foolish. you interrupted her??? she was busy. dang. if someone interrupted you while you were sitting having a conversation, apparently a good conversation, wouldn't that irk you too? dang. she was trying to enjoy the company she was with...come back later. dang. that's not diva. diva would have been to not even acknowledge you at all. is she supposed to fall out on the floor and kiss your feet. you are kidding yourself. who do you think you are? with this little ole columnn using it for hate. get over yourself.

Posted by: mizmek | May 10, 2010 12:06 PM | Report abuse

How dare she talk to you like that? Doesn't she know WHO YOU ARE? Good thing you have this column. Otherwise, you could have just stuck out your tongue at her and told her she looked ugly in her dress. Or you could have written something about her on the wall in the men's room. She wouldn't have seen it but she sure would have heard about it. Words gets out these days. You sure showed her!

Posted by: MamiV | May 10, 2010 6:26 PM | Report abuse

I cannot fathom why anyone would side with that solar eclipse. It is not the same as being accosted on the street by a stranger. She chose to enjoy an evening that most people would kill for, and the only reason she was invited is because of her celebrity. She should have been grateful for the opportunity. She is "difficult" to look at for one thing. Seriously, does she own a mirror? I hope I never have to see her on my television again. I'm sick to my stomach of idiot celebrities thinking they are better than others. She has so nothing to offer.

Posted by: sammycatgirl | May 10, 2010 6:59 PM | Report abuse

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