Fans stop her to praise film's strong tale

It happens regularly when she walks down the streets of her native Harlem, anywhere else in New York City and even points beyond.

Someone will approach Gabourey Sidibe and tell her how much her starring turn in “Precious” hit home.

“People tell me it’s as if we’ve held a mirror up to them,” she explains. “They can see their life unfolding on the screen in some way or another.”

“Precious,” based on a novel by Sapphire, is a sometimes harrowing, sometimes heartbreaking and ultimately uplifting tale of an overweight African-American teenage girl who struggles to break free of an abusive home environment. It is her involvement in a progressive alternative school that provides her with a lifeline to escape.

Sidibe says one fateful day months ago, after she left her home in the morning, she was torn between going downtown to class or going uptown to an audition she had heard about. She chose the audition, and after callbacks and a meeting with director Lee Daniels, she got the part.

“I interviewed over 400 girls,” Daniels explains. “We had ‘Precious’ camps going on. We went to Detroit, to Watts, to AMC theaters. We looked for girls on trains, walking the streets. We kept looking for the truth. My casting director, Billy Hopkins, who is truly a genius, plucked her from obscurity.”

She is obscure no longer. Now her days are filled with publicity appointments while also looking for future roles.

“It’s something I’ve fallen in love with doing,” she says. “I love acting. I think it’s amazing to take a character that is just black and white on a page of script and bring it to life.”

But she says she will always remember the experience of “Precious” and the impact it has had on many lives.

“It lets me know that what we did, what Lee Daniels has done, was not for selfish or monetary gain. It was to spread awareness of a problem, to heal those who had gone through it.”

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