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Gabourey Sidibe and Amy Schumer Agree: You Make Your Own Confidence

Ms. Foundation Women Of Vision Gala: 2014
Gabourey Sidibe and Amy Schumer attend the Ms. Foundation Women Of Vision Gala 2014 on May 1, 2014 in New York City. Astrid Stawiarz—Getty Images

The Academy Award-nominated actress and Comedy Central show runner both shared life insights at the Ms. Foundation for Women's Gloria Awards Gala. Moral of the story: don't let mean fifth graders or bad sex get you down

Gabourey Sidibe and Amy Schumer both made deeply personal speeches about confidence Thursday night at the Gloria Awards and Gala, an awards ceremony to honor “women of vision” hosted by the Ms. Foundation for Women. The actress and comedian each described the exact moments they decided to take control of their own narratives.

Sidibe, who was nominated for an Academy Award for playing the lead character in Precious: Based on the Novel Push By Sapphire and recently appeared in American Horror Story: Coven, described a lonely childhood, where she was chided by her parents for being overweight and ignored by her classmate for being a self-described “bossy a**hole.”

I was a bossy, bossy a**hole. See, remember when I said that I thought I was more clever than everyone else? Well, I did! And I told them that — every single day! Those kids couldn’t get a word in edgewise, without me cutting them off to remind them that I was smarter, funnier, and all around wittier than them…The point is, I was a snob. I thought I was better than the kids in my class, and I let them know it. That’s why they didn’t like me. I think the reason I thought so highly of myself all the time was because no one else ever did.

Sidibe told the audience about the time she laboriously baked gingerbread cookies for a class party in fifth grade, only to get to the party and find that her classmates refused to eat the cookies she’d made. But she didn’t let it cramp her style.

I just had been rejected by 28 kids in a row. And I was sitting alone at my desk, with an empty Ziplock bag, crumbs in my lap, and I was at this great party that I had waited for all week. I waited all week for this party that I wasn’t invited to. And for some reason I got up, I sat on my desk, and I partied my a** off. I laughed loudly when something funny happened. And when [the teacher] Miss Lowe put on music, I was one of the first ones to get up and dance. I joined the limbo, and ate chips, and drank soda, and I enjoyed myself, even though no one wanted me there.

You know why? I told you — I was an a**hole! I wanted that party! And what I want trumps what 28 people want me to do, especially when what they want me to do is leave. I had a great time. I did. And if I somehow ruined my classmates’ good time, then that’s on them. “How are you so confident?” “I’m an a**hole!”

Even though Amy Schumer now has her own show on Comedy Central, she spoke about the moment where she had to become her “own fairy godmother.” She had thought that her popularity in high school would translate into her college life, but when she got to campus she found she was at the lowest rung of the social ladder, eclipsed by “thinner, blonder, dumber girls.” This low self-esteem drove her to have a one-night stand with a drunk older guy who “smelled like skunk microwaved with cheeseburgers,” while a Sam Cooke CD was playing in the background.

I was looking down at myself from the ceiling fan. What happened to this girl? How did she get here? I felt the fan on my skin and I went, “Oh, wait! I am this girl! We got to get me out of here!” I became my own fairy godmother. I waited until the last perfect note floated out, and escaped from under him and out the door. I never heard from Matt again, but felt only grateful for being introduced to my new self, a girl who got her value from within her. I’m also grateful to Matt for introducing me to my love Sam Cooke, who I’m still with today.

Now I feel strong and beautiful. I walk proudly down the streets of Manhattan. The people I love, love me. I make the funniest people in the country laugh, and they are my friends. I am a great friend and an even better sister. I have fought my way through harsh criticism and death threats for speaking my mind. I am alive, like the strong women in this room before me. I am a hot-blooded fighter and I am fearless.

But Schumer also talked about how, even though she’s found her confidence, it can be stripped away in a second with a mean comment or a backhanded gesture.

I did morning radio last week, and a DJ asked, “Have you gained weight? You seem chunkier to me. You should strike while the iron is hot, Amy.” And it’s all gone. In an instant, it’s all stripped away. I wrote an article for Men’s Health and was so proud, until I saw instead of using my photo, they used one of a 16-year-old model wearing a clown nose, to show that she’s hilarious. But those are my words. What about who I am, and what I have to say?

I can be reduced to that lost college freshman so quickly sometimes, I want to quit. Not performing, but being a woman altogether. I want to throw my hands in the air, after reading a mean Twitter comment, and say, “All right! You got it. You figured me out. I’m not pretty. I’m not thin. I do not deserve to use my voice. I’ll start wearing a burqa and start waiting tables at a pancake house. All my self-worth is based on what you can see.”

But then I think, f*** that. I am not laying in that freshman year bed anymore ever again. I am a woman with thoughts and questions and s*** to say. I say if I’m beautiful. I say if I’m strong. You will not determine my story — I will.

BOOM! That’s two confidence boosters for the price of one.

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