In an essay for Lena Dunham's Lenny Letter, the Empire star recalled an incident when she was trying to buy new eyeglasses and was shooed away by a saleswoman. While shopping in a Chicago Chanel store, the 33-year-old actress wrote that she was "looking pretty cute" and was all dressed up. But when she asked the lady if she could take a look at eyeglasses, she was told they didn't have any and to go to a store across the street.
"She greeted me, but the look on her face told me that she thought I was lost," Sidibe wrote. "I had been at her display for less than a minute, and she was literally directing me to another store."
"She told me the name of the other store again and exactly how to get there and let me know that they had lots of different frames, including Chanel," she continued. "I'd love to pretend she was being polite, and I'm sure she would love to pretend she was polite, but she was actually condescending. Explaining to me how exactly I should get across the street and out of her sight line, as if I were in kindergarten. I was trying to purchase glasses, and she was trying to get the interaction with me over as soon as possible. Just to be sure of what was happening, I made her tell me to leave, in her pretend-polite way, three times."
Explaining that she knew that the lady was judging her after taking "a single look at her," Sidibe was upset that the saleswoman didn't think she was worth "her time and energy."
"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," Sidibe explained. "Depending on the store, I either look like a thief or a waste of time. There doesn't seem to be a middle ground between no attention and too much attention."
The actress stayed at the store -- since she was also asked to pick up some sandals for her Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson -- but Sidibe took notice of how the lady's attitude changed after other employees recognized her.
"All of a sudden, the woman who had pointed me out of the store let me know that even though they didn't have eyeglasses, the shades they carried actually doubled as eyeglass frames, so I should take a look at the shades I'd come to look at in the first place," she wrote. "Just like that, I went from being an inconvenience to a customer."
However, the attitude shift didn’t change the fact that Sidibe felt discriminated against and knew she had the right to complain about the incident.
"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?" she concluded.
Sidibe didn't end up reporting the incident to the store, but Chanel later responded to her letter by issuing an apology for the way she was treated.
"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."