By Daralyn Jay
Organized by actor/filmmaker and co-founder of the Chillin on da Corner & Beyond film series Ephraim Benton, “Life is Precious” was an ambitious event that began with a health fair featuring free HIV, diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol testing and ended with an outdoor screening of the award-winning blockbuster Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire.
A high point included a presentation to Benton by the office of Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. Surprised and humbled, Benton encouraged the audience with his own story of triumph over adversity. “My father did 25 years in jail. I saw my friends murdered and everything… Just to let ya’ll know: You can be anything you want to be. That’s a true statement,” Benton said.
The highlight of the evening for most, however, was a panel featuring Benton and other actors from Precious, including the film’s star, Gabourey “Gabby” Sidibe.
From the moment she emerged from the limousine donated for the event, she displayed the warmth and intelligent humor that has repeatedly shocked both press and filmgoers expecting a real-life version of her character portrayed in the film. Friendly and cordial during the press conference, it was when finally introduced to the fans waiting for hours in the fading summer heat that Sidibe displayed the full power of her charm.
Excited children screamed and rushed to the front of the stage with cries of “I love you,” to which Sidibe replied, “I love you too.” She and her cast mates obligingly answered questions that were previously submitted, primarily from children in attendance, ranging from the expected to the endearing.
Q: What are you doing next?
Gabby: I am currently on a Showtime series called The Big C. It premiered last night and it was a really big opening–over a million viewers on our very first night, so I’m really excited about that. And then, hopefully, a lot more movies. Or you can catch me chillin’ on the corner…and beyond.
Q: What is the biggest lesson you guys learned?
Gabby: I’ve learned that we are all the same. You wouldn’t believe how many people come up to me—white people, older people, Asian—so many people of different races, of different ages, of different socio-economical backgrounds come to me and tell me that they’ve lived the life that Precious has. I think that Precious is so human. What’s so human about it is that she’s in pain, and she looks for hope within herself, the way we all do.
Q: Precious, do you have a dog?
Gabby: Uh…no. I’m sorry. I will get a dog if that will make you happy. Tomorrow, I’m going poodle shopping.
Q: What would you name your dog?
Gabby: Skittles…Skittles Cupcake Sidibe.
Q: How does it feel to know that a lot of young kids admire you?
Gabby: It’s really strange…I think it’s amazing. I actually have little sisters who are 14. And they’ve always looked up to me and I’ve always thought that that was really strange too, because I’m goofy and I’m a real nerd. But I think there’s something in me that inspires people to be who they are. I am who I am. No matter what color I am, what race, what size. People tell you that you’re supposed to be a certain way, but you don’t have to. You can be whoever it is that you want to be. So, if people look at me and find themselves in that, I think that is amazing. I’m really proud to be an inspiration.