updated 01/24/2012 AT 10:35 AM ET
•originally published 01/24/2012 AT 1:00 PM ET
Octavia Spencer woke up to some delightful news: The breakout star of The Help is up for Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards, it was announced early Tuesday.
“It’s numbing!” Spencer, who won a Golden Globe for her role as Minny Jackson in the film, told PEOPLE of her nomination. “There were no guarantees. I didn’t think I was in it and then they said my name and it was just a sigh of relief.”
Once it sinks in and she has time to congratulate fellow nominee Melissa McCarthy – “I’m just going to call her and do a drive-by today,” she says. “I’m thrilled for her!” – Spencer, 42, will have some decisions to make about what to wear on her big night.
“For me, it’s about comfort and looking good for you,” she says of her approach to fashion. “I don’t need to wear a dress that a size-two woman can wear. I don’t need to show a lot of skin. I have more skin than a size-two woman!”
Spencer also believes in dressing to flatter her fuller figure. “It’s just about accentuating the positives and blurring the negatives,” she says. “I want to accentuate the positive which would be cleavage – even though it’s saggy cleavage, it’s cleavage! – and give myself an hourglass.”
So which designers are on her short list? Tadashi, David Meister and Adrianna Papell, to name a few. Add accessories designer Judith Leiber and jeweler Neil Lane.
“I’m all about being loyal to the people who gave me free clothes for the publicity tour when there was nothing in it for them. … I love it that the other people are clamoring but when I needed something, they weren’t there,” says Spencer, who appreciates that these designers “really know how to cut for more soft figures.”
“My mom always taught us to dance with the one that brought you,” she adds, “so I’m going to dance with the ones that brought me.”
The 84th Annual Academy Awards will air live from Hollywood’s Kodak Theatre on ABC, Sunday, Feb. 26, at 7 p.m. ET. Billy Crystal, returning for the first time in eight years, will serve as host, for the ninth time.
Reporting by Julie Jordan