Gabourey Sidibe wrote a moving post this week about being profiled at a Chanel store for Lenny Letter that was both a call out of the store's practices and a reflection on being a black woman in America.
The Precious star said that she went into Chanel looking for new eyeglass frames and sandals for her Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson, when a less-than-helpful saleswoman directed her to a discount glasses store across the street. "I had been at her display for less than a minute, and she was literally directing me to another store," Sidibe wrote.
The actress described how confident she initially felt upon entering the store, writing, "I was looking pretty cute. My wig was long and wavy, 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!"
When the saleswoman at the store directed her across the street, Sidibe said she "knew what she was doing. She had decided after a single look at me that I wasn't there to spend any money. Even though I was carrying a Chanel bag, she decided I wasn't a Chanel customer and so, not worth her time and energy," she wrote.
Sidibe also remarked how frequently this has happened throughout her life, touching on an experience that people of color both famous and civilian have dealt with for decades: "No matter how dressed up I get, I'm never going to be able to dress up my skin color to look like what certain people perceive to be an actual customer. Depending on the store, I either look like a thief or a waste of time." Sidibe was eventually recognized by other employees, and the original saleswoman decided to help her. "Just like that, I went from being an inconvenience to a customer."
Even after being treated poorly, Sidibe paused before complaining about the employee in an online customer service survey, saying, "There is something in me, pushing me, forcing me to consider this woman's feelings when she hadn't considered mine at all. Now as I sit staring at what seems like the hundredth customer service survey I've accepted but not completed, it occurs to me: Does it matter whether my waist is wide or if my skin is black as long as my money is green?"
Shortly after the post went up, the House of Chanel sent the following statement to Sidibe:
Chanel expresses our sincerest regret for the boutique customer service experience that Ms. Sidibe mentioned in this essay. We are sorry that she felt unwelcome and offended. We took her words very seriously and immediately investigated to understand what happened, knowing that this is absolutely not in line with the high standards that Chanel wishes to provide to our customers. We are strongly committed to provide anyone who comes in our boutiques with the best customer service, and we do hope that in the future Ms. Sidibe will choose to come back to a Chanel boutique and experience the real Chanel customer experience.