Evan Benton, Staff Writer

In the history of the Academy Awards, there have been several times that a talented newcomer has come along and won the hearts (and votes) of the Academy.

Hilary Swank surprised the world with her 1999 Boys Don’t Cry Best Actress win. In 2007, American Idol finalist Jennifer Hudson won the best Supporting Actress award for her role in Dreamgirls.
Both pale in the face of Gabourey Sidibe, nominated this year for her debut role in Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire.

Sidibe plays Claireece “Precious” Jones, an obese, illiterate African-American girl impregnated for the second time by her father, and enduring long-term mental and physical abuse from her unemployed mother, played by actress and comedienne Mo’Nique.

As you can obviously tell, it’s a tough movie to watch. Sidibe plays the title role with such vulnerability and hopelessness that the hardest parts of the film, especially the moments of abuse, make you want to look away.

Born and raised by her mother in Harlem, the 26-year-old half-Senegalese Sidibe attended several New York City-area colleges, including Mercy College, where she was in the middle of taking an exam when a friend phoned her and encouraged her to audition for Precious.

It only took one audition for the filmmakers to make the decision, but it’s an effort and a decision that has led to Sidibe being touted as the dark horse for the Best Actress Academy Award, possibly beating out Sandra Bullock and such heavyweights as Meryl Streep and Helen Mirren.

To say her breakthrough role as Precious is impressive is a severe understatement. Sidibe is a contender for the Best Actress award with little to no formal acting training, but her work strongly speaks for itself.
Precious is a pathetic, neglected creature, made to feel subhuman and worthless by her closest family and friends. Only with the help of her teachers and guidance counselor does she realize her worth, and strives to find love for herself in a world where none exists.

Sidibe is an acting phenomenon in Precious, and along with Mo’Nique, who shows the visceral dramatic flair no one thought she had, the two may sweep the actress awards on Oscar night.