Actress Gabourey Sidibe Explains How She Meets People Through Podcasts Sidibe is a fan of NPR's Invisibilia, which explores the unseen forces that shape human behavior. Her favorite episode, "Entanglement," profiles a woman who has synesthesia.

Actress Gabourey Sidibe Explains How She Meets People Through Podcasts

Actress Gabourey Sidibe Explains How She Meets People Through Podcasts

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lllustration of Gabourey Sidibe.
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Actress Gabourey Sidibe — you've seen her in Precious, American Horror Story and Empire — admits she's a bit of a shut-in. "I really wish I wasn't, but I am," she says with a laugh. And while she's "puttering around" the house she listens to all sorts of stories via podcast. "In a strange way, listening to podcasts helps me meet people," she tells NPR's Ari Shapiro.

Sidibe says she particularly likes the NPR podcast Invisibilia, which is all about the unseen forces that shape human behavior. The "Entanglement" episode describes a woman who has mirror-touch synesthesia, a condition that causes her to physically experience the sensations felt by others.

Sidibe was captivated by this story. "After listening, I became obsessed with learning more about synesthesia and I'm convinced that I have a mild form of it myself," she says.

For more great podcast recommendations, visit earbud.fm.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Podcasts keep sprouting up like mushrooms. So here at NPR, we thought it might be helpful to create a guide to the best ones out there.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We call it earbud.fm. It includes more than 200 podcast episodes suggested by NPR listeners - by authors, musicians and celebrities, including Gabourey Sidibe.

SHAPIRO: Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for an Oscar for the film "Precious." Since then, she's been on TV shows, including "American Horror Story" and "Empire."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "EMPIRE")

GABOUREY SIDIBE: (As Becky) The design for the jacket line need approval by noon, and "The Tonight Show" wants you to sing...

TERRENCE HOWARD: (As Lucious Lyon) Pass.

SIDIBE: (As Becky) OK. The president wants - excuse you. I'm back here.

SHAPIRO: Gabourey Sidibe told us she's obsessed with the NPR podcast "Invisibilia." It's all about the unseen forces that shape human behavior. The episode she chose describes a woman with synesthesia. She physically experiences what she sees other people going through.

SIDIBE: Which is so strange because we don't usually have that. Although, I guess, in the middle, like, towards the end, they sort of said that everyone has this ability, but some have a heightened ability to do it. And this poor lady, like, lives her entire life feeling everyone else's pain too much. And it's not just physical but, like, emotional, so she can't be around people. Like, it's weird. Like, there's a question whether or not she would go to her kid's, like, graduation.

SHAPIRO: Let's listen to a little clip of this podcast episode.

(SOUNDBITE OF PODCAST, "INVISIBILIA")

AMANDA: They had this boy. He was older than me. And people were hugging him like they hadn't seen him in a while. They knew the family and stuff like that. And I remember feeling like I was being hugged watching him.

ALIX SPIEGEL, BYLINE: So someone at the party would come up and hug the boy, and little Amanda, a couple feet away, would feel it.

SHAPIRO: Gabby, you last listened this episode months and months and months ago and did not refresh your memory before you came to this interview, but you still remember the detail that it ends with this question of, will she go to her kid's graduation ceremony? This really stuck with you.

SIDIBE: Yeah. I do have a really good memory, but also, yes, it did very much stick with me.

SHAPIRO: In your recommendation, you say, after listening, I became obsessed with learning more about synesthesia, and I'm convinced that I have a mild form of it myself.

SIDIBE: Yeah. I am convinced I do. I really do think I do. OK, so here's why.

SHAPIRO: OK. Go on.

SIDIBE: So I was on set one day, and a hairstylist was talking about how she hates braiding because it hurts her hands. And I said, yeah, I hate having my hair braided because it hurts my hands, too. And she asked me where it hurts. And I pointed, and she said, well, that's where my hands hurt when I'm braiding. And she says, girl, you're feeling what the braider is feeling. And I was like, oh, well, that explains it. And I also have a very - like, when she was describing watching other people be hugged, that's kind of the way I feel, too, so much so that I kind of hate being hugged by strangers because I feel too much. (Laughter) Like, I know that that sounds crazy.

SHAPIRO: I'm kind of getting goosebumps.

(LAUGHTER)

SHAPIRO: What are your podcast listening habits? Are you, like, on set, in the trailer at "Empire?" Are you walking to work in the morning? Are you puttering around the house with podcasts on? What's your style?

SIDIBE: Definitely puttering around the house, getting ready, I listen to podcasts. I kind of feel removed from the public now that I am kind of recognizable. And in a strange way, listening to podcasts helps me meet people without having to really meet them.

SHAPIRO: I love that sentiment, that it helps you meet people without actually having to go out into the world and risk, you know, bumping into real humans.

(LAUGHTER)

SIDIBE: Yeah. I'm a total shut-in. I really wish I wasn't, but I am.

SHAPIRO: Well, it is a pleasure to talk to you, Gabby. Thank you so much.

SIDIBE: Thank you.

SHAPIRO: Gabourey Sidibe plays Becky on the TV show "Empire." [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web version, we incorrectly identify the condition discussed in the Invisibilia episode as "synesthesia." It is actually called "mirror-touch synesthesia."]

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Correction Dec. 22, 2015

In the audio of this story, as in a previous Web version, we incorrectly identify the condition discussed in the Invisibilia episode as "synesthesia." It is actually called "mirror-touch synesthesia."