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 the fifth season of America's Got Talent, on June 15, 2010. Her father, Ibnou Sidibe, is from Senegal and works as a cab driver. Growing up, Sidibe briefly lived with her aunt, the noted feminist activist Dorothy Pitman Hughes. She has attended Borough of Manhattan Community College, City College of New York, and Mercy College. She worked at The Fresh Air Fund's office as a receptionist before she went on to pursue a career in acting.
Outside of her work on American Horror Story, she is best known for her breakout role in the film Precious and her role on the hit TV series, "The Big C". In Precious, for which she earned Best Actress nominations from both the Oscars and Golden Globes, Sidibe plays the titular character. Claireece "Precious" Jones is a 16-year-old girl with two children (both resulting from rape by her father) trying to escape abuse at the hands of her mother.
She also portrays Becky, a major character on the 2015 series Empire.
Yelling to the Sky, in which she played bully Latonya Williams was a Sundance Lab project directed by Victoria Mahoney and starring Zoe Kravitz.
- Gabourey Sidibe is one of the six cast members that portrayed the same character in different seasons. She portrayed Queenie in Coven and Hotel.