This story originally appeared on PEOPLE.
The 33-year-old Empire actress appeared on Bravo's Watch What Happens Live Tuesday. During the online-only after-show, she doled out inspiring advice to the mom of a 12-year-old girl who is being bullied at school because of her size.
Sidibe opened up about her own struggles in school and shared how she learned to love herself, adding that fans will get to learn more about these topics in her memoir, out in May.
WANT MORE FROM ESSENCE? Subscribe to our daily newsletter for the latest in hair, beauty, style and celebrity news.
"Junior high school is a battlefield," she said. "Junior high school sucked for me. High school sucked for me. I didn't get good with myself until I was like, 25 years old."
So how did Sidibe pull through? By finding her passion.
"I knew every song on the radio, so I sang a lot," she explained. "And it was really weird cause like older classes – like the senior girls – would come find me in school and have me sing their favorite song, which is weird. My mom's a singer – so it's not surprising that I have a voice. And that's kind of what I found that I liked about myself."
Soon Sidibe learned there were actually a lot of things she liked about herself. That confidence unlocked a different side of her personality – one she marked in seventh grade when she finally let her friends start calling her "Gabby." She said the 12-year-old should seek out her own interests.
"Get her in a class or something," she told the girl's mother. "Have her find something that she loves about herself. As long as she builds herself and she finds her own self-love – no matter what anybody says about her – it'll hit her and fall off of her."
"Tell her to hold strong. Tell her to hold on, but it'll be worth it, honestly," she continued.
"The second you decide to feel great about yourself is when you feel great. It's not the fame. It's not money – it can't come from some outside source. Really sit with yourself no matter what cage you are in. You have to figure out what about yourself you love," she added.
While her days of being bullied in school were hard, Sidibe says they helped her in the long run. "I gotta be honest with you – I went through school and I didn't realize how much it really prepared me for real life," she admitted. "I'm still dealing with the haters. It is rough." Commiserating with host Andy Cohen, Sidibe asked him, "You're in the public eye – how often do people tweet you about things that don't make you feel great?"
While she laughs off the negativity now, Sidibe admits that therapy has helped her cope. "I got a lot of therapy in my life," she said. "I champion for therapy – therapy is everything."
Watch What Happens Live airs Sunday – Thursday at 11 p.m. on Bravo.