When Your Idol Disappoints

What is beauty?

If we spent our whole lives searching for what’s beautiful, we’d still die without seeing perfection. That’s because in many ways, beauty is in the imperfect. It’s in the many thousands of ways we perceive our surroundings, and it’s ever-changing.

Today I might find a certain kind of flower beautiful, while tomorrow it might be another kind altogether.

My daughter was beautiful as a baby and now, as a young woman, I still believe she is beautiful even though she has changed so much over 19 years.

The sky can be beautiful to one person and frightening to another.

Perception is one of the reasons why some people can look at a painting and see an amazing array of colors and shapes and other people see random lines and splashes of color that make no sense.

But imagine you’ve spent years thinking of beauty and how you fit into a society that says only some are pretty while others are not and then imagine meeting your idol – someone just slightly off-beat like yourself – someone, in a word, you’d like to be.

What would you hope to hear from them if you could ask them anything?

Actress, Gabourey Sidibe says she experienced both the high of meeting her idol, and the low of hearing this woman she looked up to tell her that she should get out of the acting business because of her looks.

During her appearance on Andy Cohen’s talk show “Watch What Happens Live”, Sidibe was asked what celebrity encounter disappointed her the most.

Sidibe’s response to the question:

What celebrity was I disappointed by? Oh, and it’s not in a mean way, because I know that she meant well. I met Joan Cusack, who is my favorite favorite- I love her- but, it was before I became [famous] or whatever.

I was at some industry party, and she says, ‘Are you an actress?’ And I said, ‘Yeah!’ And she says, ‘Oh honey, you should really quit the business, it’s so image-conscious.’

If Gabourey’s story is true, meeting Joan Cusack was both amazing and shocking, in a less than stellar way. Would my girl, Joan, say such a thing? Maybe, and maybe she meant it in the best way possible. Maybe she was being a realist. As much as I love Joan, she’s almost always the ‘character’ in a movie, never a star. Is it because her looks lean towards the more ‘quirky’ side? Perhaps. Or perhaps it’s hard to cast funny women, regardless of their acting pedigree.

Either way, Joan has a point – Hollywood, and, by extension, all of us, make it difficult for anyone who doesn’t look a certain way to be accepted easily.

Perhaps we should thank Joan for her comment, which was made before Gabourey starred in “Precious” and maybe we should look around and say that Gabourey shouldn’t look like everyone else. She should look like herself. And I’d even go so far as to say that if she were a man, Gabourey would be praised for her ‘difference’ instead of constantly told she’s too dark, too heavy, too something.

The real issue is how to handle the rejection of those we look up to – maybe it’s a parent or a friend or a spouse – you look for their support – you want to hear that you, yes you, can do anything you set your mind to, right?

Instead you hear: Dear, maybe you should try something else.

I’ve been there. I had a husband who told me to cover up whenever we left the house and another who told me to set my desires at a more ‘reasonable’ bar – and I’ve had friends and lovers who have said ‘go catch a few stars because you can.’

Interesting that it’s often easiest to hear the most demoralizing voice in the room, almost like that’s the frequency our brain wants to function on because it’s so easy to start with ‘can’t’ instead of ‘can’.

Yet we all know it’s the ‘cans’ that have the lives we most desire – and there’s no limit on how many ‘cans’ are allowed to exist at once.

In Gabourey’s case, she had other inspirations, including her own internal monologue that said ‘go for it’ and this is really just a reminder that sometimes, the easy answer is the wrong one.



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