The Untold Truth Of Gabrielle Union

If you're a fan of the teen movies of the late '90s and early '00s, chances are you know exactly who Gabrielle Union is. The actress had roles in several hit movies of the era, and was most notably cast as Isis in the cheerleader comedy Bring it On. But that's not all — she also had memorable roles in She's All That, 10 Things I Hate About You, and Love & Basketball, to name a few.

That was just the start of Union's acting career, as she's been working continually ever since in both film and television. Additionally, Union is an outspoken activist in Hollywood on issues of gender and race, as well as a mother and wife — she really is doing it all!

Indeed, Union is a woman with many layers, capable of wearing many hats depending on what each circumstance demands from her. And by the looks of it, she isn't slowing down anytime soon. So what else is there to know about her beyond her IMDb resume? This is the untold truth of Gabrielle Union.

Gabrielle Union held back nothing in her memoir

In October of 2017, Gabrielle Union published a collection of essays entitled We're Going to Need More Wine with Harper Collins press, and landed herself on The New York Times best-seller list. Eschewing a ghostwriter for the project, Union tackled it all on her own, hoping that it would come across like a group text in which women are knocking back drinks and spilling all the tea, within reason. "They're not getting a celebrity tell-all where I knock all my co-stars," she proclaimed in an interview with The Cut. "This isn't like a self-indulgent money grab. I wanna be regarded as a real writer, not a celebrity writer."

Union tackles all kinds of topics in the book, such as race and gender in Hollywood, losing her virginity, family issues, and more; everything was on the table, no matter how personal. "I'm brutally honest with the stuff that I'm willing to talk about," she continued. "That I can kind of just lay it out there." That's a brave move, especially for someone so famous.

When Gabrielle Union was 19, she was assaulted at gunpoint

One of the most personal and deeply traumatizing revelations that Union shared in her book was that when she was 19-years-old, she was raped at gunpoint at the store where she worked. The experience was paralyzing for Union, who has been scarred for life by the encounter. "After I was raped, I didn't leave my house for a whole year unless I had to go to court or to therapy," she wrote in the book (via People). "Twenty-four years later, fear still influences everything I do." That's in spite of the fact that her assailant received a 30-year prison sentence for the crime.

As horrific as the experience was for Union, she continues to tell her story in order to help others. "Each time I tell the story is a revelation that I need to keep sharing since there's so many more victims than survivors," she told the magazine. "They need to know healing is a process — a slow process like moving a boulder uphill with one hand tied behind your back, but there is hope."

On her book tour, Gabrielle Union bonded with survivors

After writing and publishing her book, an act she called "therapeutic," Gabrielle Union hit the road for a multi-city book tour where she met and spoke with many of her fans. Not all of it was easy, either, as there was a huge response to her rape disclosure, which helped survivors open up at her events. "On my book tour, a lot of cities felt like a revival — there were so many disclosures of abuse during the Q&A portion of talks and during the book signing," she revealed in an interview with Red Book. "Even as I was driving away people were flagging down my car in tears." 

While the response was overwhelming for Union, she was determined to be there and present as much as possible for the people who needed her. "I didn't realize how big the need was for so many people to just get it out, to have someone look them in the eye and say, 'I believe you,'" she continued. "I cried a lot. I Skyped a lot with my life coach, because the horrors that I was taking in triggered my PTSD." That sounds seriously intense. 

Gabrielle union's husband arranged a special marriage proposal

In August of 2014, People magazine reported that Union married her boyfriend Dwyane Wade, an NBA pro who played for the Miami Heat. Despite revelations that Wade had cheated hitting in 2014, Union decided to stand by her man, and the two seem to be stronger than ever. Before they tied the knot, Wade conspired with his sons (from a previous marriage as well as a nephew) to set up a special marriage proposal. "I decided that she wasn't just marrying me, she was marrying all of us," he shared in an interview with The Oprah Magazine. "So I had them down by the pool, and I had them make their own signs. I had each one say, 'Will you marry us?'" Awww! That's super sweet, Dwyane.

Once the plan was in action, Wade brought Union out to the pool for the big reveal. "I took her outside to look at the water, and at first, she's like, 'What is going on,'" he continued. "I get behind her, and I get on a yoga mat because I couldn't put my knees down. I'm sitting there waiting for her to turn around and she's reading the boys' signs.'" Then they all asked her to marry them — and she said yes! 

Becoming a step-mom made Gabrielle Union want to have children

For a long time, Gabrielle Union didn't see herself as someone who would have children, since motherhood is a pretty demanding occupation. In reality, motherhood isn't quite like how it seems in the movies.  There were other things that she wanted to do, and giving up that much freedom didn't align with her priorities. "I saw motherhood and parenthood with very realistic eyes," she explained in an interview with The Oprah Magazine. "It looked hard. I wanted a life of flitting around the country and lack of responsibility and all that." She added that parenthood is all about being present for your children, as well as being consistent and willing to sacrifice yourself for them — not exactly a freeing experience, or something to take on lightly.

However, all of that changed after she became a stepmother to her husband's children, which gave her a brand new perspective. "Then he got full custody," she continued. "I signed up for the boys quicker than I signed up for him." And thus Union became a mother, and learned that she loved it.

Gabrielle Union makes a vision board every year

Being able to manifest her dreams is something that's important to Union. To that end, she does something special to help her visualize her goals, which keeps her on the right path. "I make a vision board every year," she revealed in an interview with Red Book. "Some of the pictures on my first one were of a hair care line, Kenya, and a Clearblue pregnancy test." 

That way, as Union accomplishes her ambitions, she can also summon the ability to be proud of herself and all that she's done. "As goals manifest, I've been able to look at my boards and say, 'Damn, I put in a lot of work and deserve it,'" she continued. "That's helped me to stop feeling suspicious of joy. To not sabotage something before I've had a chance to do it because I assume I'll be rejected." That sounds like a super cool thing to do.

Gabrielle Union struggled with infertility for years

After becoming a mother to her husband's children, Gabrielle Union decided that she'd also like to have a child of her own. But it became clear quite quickly that, like so many other celebrities, Union suffered from fertility issues: she would get pregnant but miscarry every time, the first occurring one year after she said yes to Wade. In her book, We're Going To Need More Wine, she revealed that she and Wade suffered "eight or nine miscarriages."

"I was told immediately that due to my age, I should cut out the middle man — nature — and try IVF, as that way we had a better chance of putting in the healthiest embryos," she revealed in an interview with Shondaland. "We were actively trying IVF but also trying naturally."

But after multiple miscarriages and years of IVF, Union finally got some answers in the form of a diagnosis that would change her approach to having a child: adenomyosis. "It made perfect sense, but why is this the first time I'm hearing this, in my early 40s?" she continued. "It was sobering, refreshing, a relief — also sadness and grief, understanding the enormity of it."

This is how Gabrielle Union found her surrogate

After trying their best for years and exploring every other option available, Union and her husband decided that they would join the growing list of celebs to use a surrogate to have a child. In fact, surrogacy is a way to have a baby about which many people don't know the full story. It wasn't a decision they came to lightly, but it certainly was the best way to have a healthy baby. So what was important for them in a surrogate? She shared her thought process in an interview with Shondaland. "For us, we wanted: She has her own kids, a husband, she's done this before, she knew what she was doing. There was no need for us to micromanage."

Once they identified the woman who would gestate their baby — who just so happened to be a fan of Union — they went into it with 100 percent commitment and open minds. "Every surrogacy journey is wildly different," she continued. "Because our embryo was high risk, even though our surrogate was younger, there were a lot more doctor's appointments than other pregnancies. We were together quite a lot." She added that they're still in communication with their surrogate today.

Gabrielle Union shares her daughter with the world to spread joy

On November 7, 2018, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade welcomed their daughter, Kaavia James Union Wade, into the world, with the proud mommy announcing the birth on her Instagram page the next day. From that moment on, the couple were open books on social media, sharing all of the details of their baby-journey. "So much of the Instagram life is creating these perfect illusions, right? People have kids — even through surrogacy or IVF or whatever — and the kids just appear. Rarely do we hear how," she explained in an interview with Glamour. "What was the journey? Without understanding what got to baby, it feels like easy and overnight." And that was definitely not the case for them.

Little Kaavia even has her own Instagram page, where you can follow her and see all of her silly antics. That's a deliberate move on Union's part, who wants to spread some light into the world. "When you share so much pain and grief over the decades that I've been in this business doing press, you're kind of just like, 'I want to share some f***ing joy,'" she continued. "She brings me joy."

Working out is super important to Gabrielle Union

If you happen to follow Union on Instagram, you probably know that she posts regular workout videos that are quite impressive. She even shoots videos for FitOn, and curates a storefront on Amazon of her absolute fitness must-haves, so you know getting her sweat on is important for Union. Certainly that's how she maintains her seriously lean bod.

But for Union, exercising and taking care of her body isn't just about making sure she looks fit, strong, and toned. Rather, she thinks of her fitness regimen as central to her overall well-being. "For me, working out allows me to sort of have that mind, body, soul balance," she shared in an interview with Pop Sugar. "So when I feel overwhelmed, it really helps with my anxiety. I can go to the gym and get a workout in and just release at least some of that." She added that her gym is full of other folks with families and work pressures who need the same outlet, which makes it a supportive environment. 

Gabrielle Union had to learn how to love herself

When it comes to talking about her Blackness, Gabrielle Union acknowledges that she's undergone an evolution since she was younger. These days, she and her husband cultivate pride in their heritage and appearance, something they tell their children took a lot of work. "When we were their age we weren't anybody's standard of beauty," she explained in an interview with Harper's Bazaar. "When I was your age, I didn't love my skin color, I didn't love my lips. I didn't love my nose, I didn't love my hair. I didn't love anything. I didn't love my body." She added that those feelings of inadequacy were born out of the rejection she faced because no one chose her.

Union even used to try and make her lips look less full when she was younger in order to appear whiter. "I see pictures and I look insane, but it was me trying to minimize my blackness," she continued. "It all boiled down to: I need some fool to choose me and then I can be okay with being brown."

Gabrielle Union is disappointed that Birth of a Nation flopped

In 2016, the film The Birth of a Nation debuted in theaters, its title a rebuke of the racist 1915 film of the same name. Union had a role in the project, which was helmed by director Nate Parker. But before the film would ever be released to the public, Parker was plagued by a credible accusation of sexual assault years prior, something Union acknowledged in a powerful op-ed in the Los Angeles Times.

The film ended up being a box office disappointment, possibly because of the negative press surrounding the allegations against Parker. Union mourned the film's poor performance because of what that meant for her castmates' careers, especially actress Aja Naomi King. "She so deserves people to see her performance. She's such a feminist," she proclaimed in an interview with Harper's Bazaar. "She's this young dynamo. This could have been her big break." 

Indeed the film's failure had fallout beyond tarnishing Nate Parker's reputation. "It's like we all got thrown out," she explained. "It's like the baby and the bathwater all went down the drain."

Why did Gabrielle Union leave America's Got Talent?

One of the more established shows on network television in recent years is America's Got Talent, a reality show in which people with various and sundry talents compete for the grand prize. While America's Got Talent has produced its share of memorable contestants, the show has experienced a consistent decline in ratings, per Deadline. So in 2019, when Union became a judge on the show, her addition to the cast seemed to help to elevate the veteran show's social media exposure, according to an article in Variety

But it didn't take long for Union to discover the toxic environment on the set of AGT, which allegedly includes racist jokes, criticisms of Union's hair for being "too Black," and entitled co-workers — something Union initially tried to deal with internally. "We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday," she wrote in a tweet. "I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change."

Unfortunately, Gabrielle Union's contract was not renewed, and the controversy around her departure continues to unfold.  

Gabrielle Union is committed to diversity in Hollywood

Now that Gabrielle Union has been a Hollywood mainstay for over two decades, she's taking matters into her own hands. Part of that includes founding her own production company, I'll Have Another, which seeks to create both roles and behind-the-scenes jobs for marginalized people in the film industry. "When the script for the pilot of Scandal came out, every black actress wanted it because there was nothing like it," she recalled in an interview with Glamour. "It was it. I'm trying to create that same feeling, but a bunch of those. There are so many different creators of color who are creating amazing content, and I want to be a part of that." We are so here for this!

And as Union tells it, she doesn't care about the opinions of those who hold up the status quo, either. "I'm not here to serve Hollywood," she continued. "I'm not here to serve the one percent. I'm not here to serve the Talented Ten. At the end of the day, I'm Nickie Union from Omaha, Nebraska."