Mom of Precious Star Gabourey Sidibe Sings in NYC Subway

Entertainment Feb. 8, 2010 AT 5:00PM
Mom of Precious Star Gabourey Sidibe Sings in NYC Subway Mom of Precious Star Gabourey Sidibe Sings in NYC Subway Credit: Terrence Jennings/Retna Ltd.; Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Precious star Gabourey Sidibe was nominated for an Oscar, but her mom performs in a much more low-key location: the New York City subway.

"My name is not on Gabby's paycheck," Alice Tan Ridley told the New York Post from the Times Square subway station, where she has been belting out tunes three times a week for the last 18 years. (She also sings in Penn Station and 14th Street/Union Square.)

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Ridley worked as a nursery-school teacher and a Department of Education teacher's aide before relocating her act to Manhattan’s train stations.

"For a while, I was teaching and doing the singing, burning the candle at both ends to support my family," she said.  She earns enough money every day, "to pay my bills and feed my kids."

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Ridley has traveled to Chile, Argentina and Germany to sing, and been offered more cushy gigs -- but she prefers to stay underground.

"People always say, 'Why don't you sing in clubs?' I tell 'em, 'This is my club,'" she insisted.

Ridley was offered the mother role in Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire she says, but she turned it down. Mo'Nique went on to earn an Oscar nomination for the heart-wrenching part.

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"Four years ago, they asked me to play the part of the mother," Ridley said. "But being a mom and teacher, I just couldn't play that part. It was just too hard."

Instead, she passed the novel off to her daughter, 26.

"I read the book, and I gave it to Gabby," Ridley said. "Her friends encouraged her to try out for 'Precious,' and she got it."

Sidibe never intended to become an actress -- or a singer, like her mother.

"Gabby would say, 'No, I'm gonna be a comedian,'" Ridley said.

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