gabourey sidibe ms foundation speech gi Gabourey Sidibe: Confidence, feminism and cookies at the Ms. Foundation Gloria Awards and Gala

Gabourey Sidibe wowed the crowd at the 2014 Ms. Foundation Gloria Awards and Gala on Thursday (May 1). The event, held to celebrate Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday, brought a whole host of speakers to New York, including Chelsea Handler and Amy Schumer.

But it is Sidibe’s heartbreaking, hilarious and incredibly confident speech that got everyone talking. Why? Check out highlights of the “American Horror Story: Coven” actress’ words to see for yourself.

Want to read the whole speech? Click here for the text.

Confidence was the topic that began Sidibe’s speech and the topic she came back to repeatedly.

“One of the first things people usually ask me is, ‘Gabourey, how are you so confident?’ I hate that. I always wonder if that’s the first thing they ask Rihanna when they meet her. ‘RiRi! How are you so confident?’ Nope. No. No. But me? They ask me with that same incredulous disbelief every single time.”

In order to explain where her apparently inexplicable confidence comes from, the actress told a story from her childhood. It involved cookies and a school party in the 5th grade.

“I was so proud of those cookies, and all the effort I put into making them, I started to think that maybe I wouldn’t just be the first woman black President — maybe I would also be a celebrity chef! I mean, why limit myself?”

“So as the party starts up, I walk around the class, proudly offering cookies to everyone. No one took a cookie. No one. No one except Nicholas, who was the first person I offered one to. But after a few of our other classmates set him straight, he actually caught up with me as I walked around the class, and gave the cookie back.”

“Why didn’t they like me? I was fat, yes. I had darker skin and weird hair, yes. But the truth is, this isn’t a story about bulling, or color, or weight. They hated me because …  I was an a**hole!”

Proud as Sidibe was of this status, it came from a dark place all too familiar to many.

“I think the reason I thought so highly of myself all the time was because no one else ever did.”

“I got made fun of at school, I got made fun of at home too, my older brother hated me, my dad just didn’t understand me, and my mom, who had been a fat girl at my age herself, understood me perfectly  … but she berated me because she was so afraid of what she knew was to come for me. So I never felt safe when I was at home. And my response was always to eat more, because nothing says, ‘You hurt my feelings. F*** you!’ like eating a delicious cookie. Cookies never hurt me.”

The topic of confidence came up again, this time with Sidibe pointing out how hard confidence is.

“‘Gabourey, how are you so confident?’ It’s not easy. It’s hard to get dressed up for award shows and red carpets when I know I will be made fun of because of my weight.”

“Sometimes when I’m being interviewed by a fashion reporter, I can see it in her eyes, ‘How is she getting away with this? Why is she so confident? How does she deal with that body? Oh my God, I’m going to catch fat!'”

Despite the difficulties of her early life, Sidibe expressed gratitude to her tormentors, pointing out that they helped make her strong.

“I’m grateful to them, and to my fifth grade class, because if they hadn’t made me cry, I wouldn’t be able to cry on cue now. If I hadn’t been told I was garbage, I wouldn’t have learned how to show people I’m talented. And if everyone had always laughed at my jokes, I wouldn’t have figured out how to be so funny. If they hadn’t told me I was ugly, I never would have searched for my beauty. And if they hadn’t tried to break me down, I wouldn’t know that I’m unbreakable. So when you ask me how I’m so confident, I know what you’re really asking me: ‘How could someone like me be confident?'”

“Go ask Rihanna, a**hole!”

Posted by:Laurel Brown