Oscar-tipped Gabourey has learnt to love her body

Gabourey Sidibe is the unknown girl who’s become the hottest name in Hollywood.

The Precious star is hotly tipped for an Oscar but just two years ago, she was working as a receptionist to pay her way through college.

Now, despite Mariah Carey and Lenny Kravitz also appearing in the movie, it’s Gabourey, 26, whose moving performance stands out most.

She beat 400 actresses to the role of an obese, illiterate teen who’s raped by her father and gives birth to two children by him, drawing on her psychology degree for the part.

‘It gave me knowledge of what a victim looks like,’ she says. ‘I’ve known lots of girls like Precious.’

Like Precious, 26-year-old Gabourey grew up in Harlem, New York, but that’s where the similarities end.

She was an avid reader from the age of four and although her parents split when she was 12, she remains close to them both, along with her two brothers and 13-year-old twin sisters.

Gabourey embraces the fact that she’s not a typical Hollywood size 0.

‘I know that I’m different and I celebrate it. I really love being the alien in the room,’ she says. ‘I’m never going to be a size 0, so I have to work with what I have. And, goddamnit, I love it.’

Gabourey’s even had a makeover from fashion bible Harper’s Bazaar. ‘I feel like a model,’ she said of her photo shoot. ‘It justifies that little girl who cried because she didn’t think she could be in front of the camera.’

Confidence hasn’t always come easily to Gabourey. ‘It’s something I’ve had to work at,’ she admits.

‘My first diet started when I was six years old. One day, I had to sit down and decide that I loved myself no matter what my body looked like.’

See the full story about Gabourey Sidibe in Now magazine dated 1 February 2010 – out now!