on language

Stop Calling Gabourey Sidibe A Gay Icon. She Isn’t. Not Yet

For the same reason we’re not quite ready to label Kirstie Alley a gay icon, neither are we going to bestow the sought-after superlative on Precious‘ Gabourey Sidibe.

But JD Disalvatore, the producer behind Shelter and Eating Out 2, just did. Prematurely! Even if we share a name, even we’ll acknowledge Ms. Disalvatore knows more about Hollywood than we. But she does not know what makes a gay icon.

Some of the most memorable Oscar quotes this year didn’t happen on stage, but on the red carpet just prior, thanks in part to the always fresh and funny Oscar nominated Gabourey Sidibe from Precious. While Miss Ryan Seacrest was interviewing her, he took a moment to point out heart throb Gerald Butler just a few steps away. Gabourey gave Butler the eye and without missing a beat said, “Yeah, I’d hit that.” Then Seacrest called over Butler so she could repeat it to his face. Which she did. “That certainly breaks the ice,” Butler responded.

Later, when asked about her dress, Sidibe proudly responded, “If fashion was porn, this dress would be the money shot.”

I don’t know about you, but I think we have a new Diva on our hands, and yes you can read this as gay icon. As you know, the requirements for becoming a gay icon/Diva include: performing vulnerable and heart wrenching songs or roles in films involving overcoming injustices and the struggle on the uphill battle (Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, Diana Ross, Judy Garland), be the odd girl out that always rises to the top even without classical good looks (Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler) or beating the man at his own game by rising to the top against expectations (Cher, Tina Turner, Vanessa Williams – yeah, take that Miss America pageant!).

“Gay icon” is a phrase that is too often abused. People are calling Levi Johnston a gay icon. He is not. He is a gay lust object; big difference.

Meanwhile, the criteria for becoming a gay icon are getting looser and looser. Disalvatore says it’s Sidibe’s “heart wrenching … roles in films involving overcoming injustices and the struggle on the uphill battle” that qualifies her as G.I. But if that were true, Twilight‘s Kirsten Stewart would qualify. And oh hell SHE DOES NOT.

Sidibe could, very easily, be on her way to this status. But “icon” is a term usually reserved for veterans, not newcomers. And even when we do hand it out to the novices, it’s because they come storming out for the gays, seeking us out, creating content and entertainment for the specific consumption of homosexuals and sending the message that they’ve got our backs (see: Lady Gaga).

Gabby isn’t there. Yet.