Gabourey Sidibe was born in Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, New York, and was raised in Harlem. Her mother, Alice Tan Ridley is an American R&B and gospel singer who appeared on Season Five of America's Got Talent, on June 15, 2010. Her father, Ibnou Sidibe is from Senegal and is a cab driver. Growing up, Sidibe lived with her aunt, the noted feminist activist Dorothy Pittman Hughes. She has attended Borough of Manhattan Community College, City College of New York, and graduated from Mercy College. She worked at The Fresh Air Fund's office as a receptionist before she went on to pursue a career in acting. Sidibe made her acting debut in the 2009 film Precious, a role that brought her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress. From 2010 to 2013, she was a main cast member of the Showtime series The Big C.
Sidibe co-starred on the television series American Horror Story: Coven as Queenie and American Horror Story: Freak Showas Regina Ross, and later reprises her role as Queenie in American Horror Story: Hotel. Since 2015, she stars in the Fox musical drama series Empire as Becky Williams.