Gabrielle Union came to fame in the early 2000s thanks to prominent roles in nearly every teen classic of the decade: Bring It On, Love & Basketball, 10 Things I Hate About You...the list shines bright, and the list runneth long. But after shedding what she's referred to as her "mean girl" past, Union now plays the spunky, ever-determined Mary Jane Paul on Being Mary Jane. She's got her dream job, her dream man, and is fêting the release of her biography, We're Going To Need More Wine. In this week's episode of UnStyled, Union tells Refinery29's co-founder and global editor-in-chief Christene Barberich how she pulled it all off — and what lessons she's learned along the way.
If you've been paying attention to her rise, you know Union is consistently authentic, be it in television interviews or on social media. Her exchanges with husband and NBA star Dwayne Wade on Twitter have got to be some of the cheekiest tweets we've ever seen; a welcome reminder that marriage can be really, really fun. But, as Union explains on this week's UnStyled, her relationship is a work in progress, and it has taken years of experiences — from pushing through the heartbreak of divorce and reconciling a miscarriage to raising children — to know how to indulge in the good when the bad is over and gone. On top of all of that, Union tackles issues like intersectional racism and sexual assault in Hollywood (including the reexamining of her own experience, which forever changed her).
But, her UnStyled chat has its lighter moments, too. In fact, it ends in an a cappella version of one of Union's favorite '80s hits. Check out her pipes (and so much more) in the podcast below, and don't forget to subscribe to UnStyled for more conversations that will leave you feeling just as full as this one.
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Why do you think you struggled with self-esteem?
Gabrielle Union: "I think being Black in predominantly white spaces, constantly being told that you’re in, but you’re out; like the party was happening in a glass house and I’m on the outside. So you can see it, you’re dancing, you can hear the music — but it never really felt like I was on the inside. I was always feeling somehow less-than. Those parties looked damn fun. But it just never felt like I was fully in, you know?"
What have you been thinking about with all of the sexual assault news surfacing?
GU: "So many people have experienced the same thing, the feeling of, 'This is what comes with being a woman in the world. And toughen up kid, this is what it is.' And we’re basically telling young women, older women, that sexual violence is the same as getting a work physical. It’s just a part of the job. And what we’re seeing right now is a widespread, 'No, the fuck, it isn’t. No, it isn’t — and I am calling everyone to the carpet.'"
Was it fun writing your book?
GU: "Some of it [was] very satisfying, some of it a relief; like literally an orangutan had hopped off my back, just writing it down. But a lot of it I just never thought I would ever share with the public, much less, I didn’t want to share it with my therapist — somebody I pay to not judge me. It was a challenging process at times. [There are] more funny chapters, [which] are written, just — I needed comic relief between some of the deeper, heavier, heavier stuff."