Full disclosure: I do not watch Empire. Slap my hand, I know. I’ve been toying with the idea of watching the show for months now—mostly because of Cookie Lyon’s (VH1 Big In 2015 With Entertainment Weekly honoree Taraji P. Henson) opulence. But after hearing Should’ve-Been-the-Supreme Gabourey Sidibe had a love scene on Empire’s latest episode, it’s official: I’m starting the show tonight. Because GD it, this is awesome.
It all went down during last week’s episode when MC J Poppa (Mo McRoe) and Becky (Gabourey) got cozy on a rooftop. “I think the scene was really fun and lovely and sexy,” Gabourey told People. “I felt beautiful, and I felt comfortable, and I didn’t look nervous at all, and I was kind of nervous, so I’m really glad that that didn’t come across.”
But it didn’t take long for the body-shaming trolls to come out of their caves and scold Gabourey all over social media for the scene. We’re not going to dignify these jerks with tweet embeds, but trust us when we say the comments were scummy. Because Gaby is queen, though, she clapped back flawlessly via a blog on Entertainment Weekly. Here’s what she wrote:
Also, yes. I, a plus sized, dark-skinned woman, had a love scene on primetime television. I had the most fun ever filming that scene even though I was nervous. But I felt sexy and beautiful and I felt like I was doing a good job. I’m very proud of the work we all did to make that scene a great opening for the episode. I keep hearing that people are “hating” on it. I’m not sure how anyone could hate on love but that’s okay. You may have your memes. Honestly, I’m at work too busy to check Twitter anyway. #Booked. Hope you enjoy next week’s show!
First off, let me just say this:
Second off, let’s get real. This scene is a game-changer. “It’s never happened,” Lady G told People. “Just go through the books, it’s never happened. And I’m not sure why it hasn’t happened, but I hope there’s more to come.”
And she’s absolutely right. With the exception of a few films like Phat Girlz (2006), plus-sized people are historically the butt of the joke in entertainment. They’re typically viewed as un-sexy and completely unworthy of romance. In fact, when overweight actors aren’t turned into cartoons, they’re expected to apologize for their fuller figures. (Here is a Huffington Post article that explains this in detail.)
But Becky/Gaby does none of this during her love scene. Instead, she appears confident, sexy and comfortable in her own skin. For the first time, we see a plus-sized woman unapologetic about her figure and saying in lesser words, “Yes, I’m big and I’m sexy and I’m worthy of love.” How refreshing (and necessary) is that? And, more important, how did it take until 2015 for this to appear on primetime?
It’s time that TV and films stop dehumanizing bigger people. Sexy and overweight are not antonyms. They can co-exist harmoniously, and it took Ms. Sidibe’s bravery to show that. With this one scene, Gaby broke a Hollywood taboo, but she did something even greater: She showed all of us plus-sized peeps we don’t have to go on a crazy diet to catch a bae. We’re fine just as we are. And cheers to that.
Emmys, are you listening?