A rep for the House of Chanel says the company is sorry Gabourey Sidibe "felt unwelcome and offended" at one of its stores.
In an essay published in Lena Dunham and Girls showrunner Jenni Konner's Lenny Letter this week, the Oscar-nominated actress said she tried to buy a pair of glasses and a pair of sandals for Empire co-star Taraji P. Henson at a Chanel store near her apartment in Chicago and was initially snubbed by a saleswoman, saying about her Pretty Woman-like moment, "I suspect it's because I'm black, but it could also be because I'm fat."
"CHANEL expresses our sincerest regret for the boutique customer service experience that Ms. Sidibe mentioned in the essay she published on a website," the company said in a statement. "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," the statement added.
In her Lenny Letter essay, Sidibe said she had actually entered the store while carrying a Chanel purse.
"I was looking pretty cute. My wig was long and wavy, I was wearing new ankle boots and my prescription Balenciaga shades, and I had a vintage Chanel purse on my shoulder, over my winter coat with a fur hood," Sidibe said. "I looked as though I were in a Mary J. Blige video. Just how I like to look!"
"The glasses display was near the door, so I walked right over," she said. "A saleswoman and I locked eyes immediately. I said 'Hello' before she did. She greeted me, but the look on her face told me that she thought I was lost."
She said she asked to look at the eyeglasses on display and that the saleswoman said, 'We don't have any' and directed her to a discount frames store across the street.
"I still had to get Taraji's sandals, so I asked where to find them," Sidibe wrote. "The saleswoman seemed annoyed but walked me further into the store. 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. Just like that, I went from being an inconvenience to a customer."
Sidibe said she "felt unwelcome in many stores" throughout her life, before and after she became famous.
"To be fair, I don't know why that saleswoman didn't want to help me," she wrote. "I suspect it's because I'm black, but it could also be because I'm fat. Maybe my whole life, every time I thought someone was being racist, they were actually mistreating me because I'm fat. That sucks too. That's not OK. I've felt unwelcome in many stores throughout my life, but I just kind of deal with it. As a successful adult, sometimes I walk out of the store in a huff, without getting what I want, denying them my hard-earned money. Other times I spend my money in an unfriendly store as if to say 'F--k you! I'll buy this whole damn store!' Either way, they win and I lose."
Sidibe also said, "I definitely went through a mini-klepto phase when I was around fifteen, so some of that suspicion was warranted."
"But I grew out of it, and if I weighed the times I was suspected of stealing versus the time I actually stole something, it would be about 99 percent to 1 percent," she wrote.
"Maybe I can't out-success my guilt," she said. "I swear to God. This is why I only shop online!"