"I didn't want to be an actress at all, or famous even. I certainly enjoy acting now, absolutely. Time will tell whether or not I enjoy fame."
There are not many people who have been catapulted into the public eye quite like Gabourey Sidibe. That's because, quite incredibly, she received an Oscar nomination for her first-ever silver screen role – starring as Claireece 'Precious' Jones, in 2010 best picture nominee, Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire.
Born in Brooklyn on May 6, 1983, and raised in Harlem, Gabourey is the daughter of former school teacher-turned-professional singer, Alice, and Senegal-born cab driver Ibnou. She has two brothers and twin sisters, and while her parents split when she was 12, she remains close to her immensely proud family.
By her own admission she used to have no interest in acting and chose to study psychology at college, taking on a part-time job as a receptionist to pay for her tuition.
It was during that time a friend told Gabourey about a film audition being held to find the lead for Precious
. And while she was familiar with the role – her mother had introduced her to the original novel, Push
– the talented actress was reluctant to turn up since it meant skipping college.
Luckily for the drama's director she did go along, and it didn’t take long for Lee Daniels to realise he had found his star.
With absolutely no acting experience to draw on for the audition, Gabby sought inspiration from her own life experiences. She used her psychology training to portray Precious – an obese illiterate teen mum who enrols on a special education project – channelling her knowledge of how a victim acts and looks to deliver her powerful performance.
And after beating more than 300 girls to land the role, it didn't take long for the self-confessed N-Sync fanatic to find herself hanging out with the stars.
The film attracted both Lenny Kravitz
and Gabby's childhood hero Mariah Carey
, and after great success at the Sundance Film Festival, where it won the grand jury prize, Oprah Winfrey
came on board.
Since then, Precious has received a number of accolades, including three Golden Globe nominations.
On February 2, Gabourey heard that her incredible portrayal had earned her an Academy Award nomination for the best lead actress award.
"As soon as I heard, I jumped up and down and for some reason I kept screaming: 'I'm going to get a car! I'm going to get a car!" recalled the 26-year-old. "I don't know why, but I did."
Now an acclaimed actress, the rising star chose a very different role for her second silver screen project; starring as a bully in Yelling to the Sky
opposite Lenny Kravitz's daughter Zoe.
But despite her overnight success, Gabourey's warm down-to-earth attitude continues to shine through. On her Facebook page, the Oscar-nominated actress describes herself quite simply as "a normal girl, trying to do abnormal things".