Empire star and recent author Gabourey Sidibe has recounted a “shopping while black” incident at a Chanel boutique in Chicago. In the essay titled, “My Money Is Green,” the actress wrote about her attempt to purchase glasses that was almost thwarted by a racist salesperson.
“I was wearing new ankle boots and my prescription Balenciaga shades, and I had a vintage Chanel purse on my shoulder, over my winter coat with a fur hood. I looked as though I were in a Mary J. Blige video. Just how I like to look!” Sidibe wrote in this week’s Lenny newsletter.
But apparently, even being decked out in the finest apparel couldn’t prevent Sidibe from being profiled as someone who couldn’t afford to shop at the store, and the salesperson even suggested she try a discount store across the street, after alleging that the boutique did not sell glasses.
“Just to be sure of what was happening, I made her tell me to leave, in her pretend-polite way, three times,” she wrote. “I knew what she was doing. She had decided after a single look at me that I wasn’t there to spend any money.”
It wasn’t until other employees, who were of color, recognized Sidibe and her celebrity status that the salesperson decided to help.
“Just like that, I went from being an inconvenience to a customer,” she wrote.
Sidibe has commonly written about how she’s been discriminated against for a number of reasons, including being black as well as being overweight.
In her essay, she wrote:
To be fair, I don’t know why that saleswoman didn’t want to help me. 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 OK. I’ve felt unwelcome in many stores throughout my life, but I just kind of deal with it. As a successful adult, sometimes I walk out of the store in a huff, without getting what I want, denying them my hard-earned money. Other times I spend my money in an unfriendly store as if to say “Fuck you! I’ll buy this whole damn store!” Does it matter whether my waist is wide or if my skin is black as long as my money is green?
In the end, Sidibe did walk out of the store with two pairs of glasses and two pairs of sandals, and the woman probably did get a hefty commission. But at what point do you take your green money elsewhere?
Chanel issued a statement saying that it was investigating the incident and that the actions of the salesperson did not reflect its brand.