The way that traditional media depicts women with short hair is sketchy at best. For Gabrielle Union, a big issue is the over-dramatised narrative: A short haircut means a bad breakup or other devastating life event. The actress addressed this in an Instagram photo of her Big Chop, writing: "The movies always show women cutting their hair when all is lost, but I wanted to know the feeling of making a change when things are gravy."
In a recent interview with Refinery29, Union explains the deeper story behind her chop, which was truly born from a place of happiness and self-realisation. "This haircut is something I wanted to do for myself — because I was feeling amazing," she says, while also recognising the emotional, societally imposed standards that play into hair and identity. "I've done the work of healing; I've unlearned Eurocentric beauty ideals made to make us hate ourselves. Now, I realise that I can love myself as I am, no matter how I present, if my hair is long or short."
Union says that, at 48 years old, she's adopted a helpful fuck-it mentality that enabled her to not second-guess or overthink chopping her hair short. "I really wanted to try different styles, so I was like, pardon my French: Fuck it — that's what your 40s are about," she says. "I actually wish more people would embrace that before they got to 40. Honestly, I felt nothing but freedom and joy cutting my hair."
From a market-research perspective, Union says her "newly-shorn locs" are perfect for product testing. "With short hair, there are all these different styling opportunities," she says. "It's long enough that I can do braids, or play with more structured styles. Right now, we have some new products that are coming out that I'm trying. But I wouldn't have had the opportunity to be a guinea pig if I still had longer hair. See, you might think that short hair would make you feel smaller, but really, it makes me feel giant."
Shop Gabrielle Union's three must-have Flawless hair-care products, below.
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