The way that traditional media depicts women with short hair is sketchy at best. For Gabrielle Union, a big issue is the over-dramatized 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-realization. "This haircut is something I wanted to do for myself — because I was feeling amazing," she says, while also recognizing 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 realize 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."
It helped that Union's close friend and business partner is hairstylist Larry Sims, who was beyond excited to take her short. For the past year, the two have been working to expand the Flawless by Gabrielle Union hair-care line, creating affordable products (all under $10) that cater to textured 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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