Gabourey Sidibe Details Discriminatory Experience at Chanel Store - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Gabourey Sidibe Details Discriminatory Experience at Chanel Store

"Does it matter whether my waist is wide, or if my skin is black, as long as my money is green?"

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    Chanel is reportedly apologizing to “Empire” star Gabourey Sidibe after she wrote an op-ed about her experience at a Chicago boutique.

    (Published Friday, May 12, 2017)

    Chanel is reportedly apologizing to “Empire” star Gabourey Sidibe after she wrote an op-ed about her experience at a Chicago boutique.

    The piece, which was posted to Lena Dunham and Jenni Honner’s Lenny Letter, claims Sidibe had gone to the Chanel store near her Chicago apartment to buy a pair of frames.

    “On my way to the store, another friend called. Taraji [P. Henson] said she was stuck on set and asked if I would pick up a pair of sandals for her,” Sidibe wrote. “No problem. I grabbed a cab and in a few minutes walked into the nearly empty shop.”

    Sidibe said she was wearing ankle boots, her prescription Balenciaga shades and a vintage Chanel purse over her winter coat as she entered the store.

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    “The glasses display was near the door, so I walked right over. A saleswoman and I locked eyes immediately,” Sidibe wrote. “I said ‘Hello’ before she did. She greeted me, but the look on her face told me that she thought I was lost."

    Sidibe said she asked about Chanel frames, but the saleswoman instead directed her to a building across the street, which had a discount frames dealer.

    “I had been at her display for less than a minute, and she was literally directing me to another store,” Sidibe wrote.

    “Just to be sure of what was happening, I made her tell me to leave, in her pretend-polite way, three times,” she added. “I 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.”

    Sidibe said she’s had similar experiences in stores across the country.

    “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,” she wrote. “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.”

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    But despite not being able to get her frames, Sidibe said she still needed to get Henson’s sandals.

    That’s when other employees noticed who Sidibe was.

    “As we passed through, other employees who were of color noticed me. 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.”

    She went on to buy two pairs of glasses and two pairs of sandals.

    “Honestly, if I walked out of every store where someone was rude to me, I'd never have anything nice,” she wrote. “So yes. I spent my hard-earned money on the things I wanted from Chanel, and I'm certain that saleswoman got a commission for finally helping me.”

    Chanel did not immediately respond to NBC Chicago’s request for comment, but in a statement to Lenny the company said it “expresses our sincerest regret for the boutique customer service experience that Ms. Sidibe mentioned in this essay.”

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    “We are sorry that she felt unwelcome and offended,” the statement read. “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."

    Sidibe said she was hesitant to write a poor review in a customer service survey from the company, saying she didn't know for sure why the saleswoman "didn't want to help me."

    "But 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?" she wrote.