The actress rose to fame after making her acting debut in 2009 film Precious, and has since appeared in TV shows such as The Big C and American Horror Story: Coven.
But despite Gabourey’s role as Becky Williams on Fox’s Empire, she still isn’t receiving A-list treatment, and has recalled an incident in a Chanel store in Chicago where she was shooed away be a saleswoman while looking to buy new eyeglasses.
"She greeted me, but the look on her face told me that she thought I was lost," she stated in an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter. "I had been at her display for less than a minute, and she was literally directing me to another store."
While Gabourey felt confident in her “cute” outfit and was carrying a vintage Chanel purse at the time, she felt the sales assistant was being condescending and spoke to her as she if was in kindergarten. When the 34-year-old proceeded to pick up some sandals for her Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson, she noticed that the saleswoman’s attitude changed, especially after some of the store’s other employees recognised her.
"All of a sudden, the woman who had pointed me out of the store let me know that even though they didn't have eyeglasses, the shades they carried actually doubled as eyeglass frames, so I should take a look at the shades I'd come to look at in the first place," she wrote. "Just like that, I went from being an inconvenience to a customer."
In all, Gabourey ended up purchasing two pairs of glasses and two pairs of sandals. While she isn’t sure why she was mistreated by the saleswoman, she had a feeling it had something to do with the colour of her skin or her weight. And she also noted a similar experience at a Dior counter in New York, where a salesperson “literally took a gloss out of my hand”.
"I suspect it's because I'm black, but it could also be because I'm fat. Maybe my whole life, every time I thought someone was being racist, they were actually mistreating me because I'm fat. That sucks too. That's not O.K.," she added.
Gabourey didn’t report the incident to store management, but Chanel has since issued her with an apology for the way she was treated.
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