Gabrielle Union
Wp2215414.jpg
Born: Gabrielle Monique Union
October 29 1972 () (age 48)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Alma mater UCLA
Occupation Actress
Years active 1993–present
Spouse(s) Chris Howard
(m. 2001; div. 2006)
Dwyane Wade
(m. 2014)
Children 1

Gabrielle Monique Union-Wade (born October 29, 1972) is an American actress, voice artist, activist, and author. She began her career in the 1990s, appearing on television sitcoms, before landing supporting roles in teenage comedy films She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Her breakthrough role was in the 2000 film Bring It On.

Union is known for her performances in the romantic comedy films The Brothers (2001), Deliver Us from Eva (2003), Daddy's Little Girls (2007), Think Like a Man (2012) and Think Like a Man Too (2014). She also had starring roles in the CBS medical drama series City of Angels (2000) and films Bad Boys II (2003), Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), Neo Ned (2005), Cadillac Records (2008), Top Five (2014) and Breaking In (2018). In 2013, Union began starring as lead character in the BET drama series Being Mary Jane, for which she has received an NAACP Image Award. She co-starred in the 2016 film The Birth of a Nation, and next appeared in Almost Christmas (2016) and Sleepless (2017).

Outside of acting, Union has written two books: a memoir, entitled We're Going to Need More Wine (2017), and a children's book, entitled Welcome to the Party (2020). She has also been an outspoken advocate for issues involving women's health and violence against women. Union was included on Time's list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2020.

Early life[edit | edit source]

Union was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Theresa (née Glass), a phone company manager and social worker, and Sylvester E. Union, a military sergeant. She was raised Roman Catholic. During her childhood, she was taught to be "an independent woman, standing on my own two feet, and that's the road I opted to take." According to Union, her mother taught her to have a "world perspective" and took her to a gay pride parade at the age of eight after the family moved to Pleasanton, California, where she attended Foothill High School.

Her parents divorced after thirty years of marriage. Union had said, "They handled their divorce and our subsequent transition into a blended family with grace, dignity and respect. They always put us first and didn't involve us. I'm lucky that I can just mirror what my parents did and always put the kids first. They're pretty awesome. I'm lucky."

Union grew up with self-esteem issues relating to her appearance, as she believed growing up that "blonde was the ideal of beauty, and if I looked nothing like that, then I must be ugly." On her college football memories, Union reflected, "In my family if you couldn't talk Cornhusker football—that means knowing the black shirt defense, knowing the I-back formation—then you don't get to have an opinion. When I first toured the Nebraska campus and I saw Turner Gill walk, I freaked out. That was like the biggest star-struck moment I've probably ever had in my life. But it's because I grew up in a household that always talked specifically Cornhusker football and Big 8 sports at the time."

Union has said her personality as a young person was "mean" until her trainer A.J. Johnson confronted her over the behavior during a party the two were attending.

In 1991, at the age of 19, Union was attacked and raped at her part-time job at a Payless shoe store by a robber. Union has stated that she would not have survived the attack had it not been for lessons she learned by watching Oprah Winfrey's talk show. She later successfully sued Payless for negligence, alleging that the store failed to warn employees about the assailant, who had been positively identified robbing another Payless location prior to her rape.

Union has a bachelor's degree in sociology from UCLA.

Career[edit | edit source]

Early roles[edit | edit source]

Union started her acting career in minor roles. Her first audition was for Saved by the Bell. Other earlier roles included teen movies such as 10 Things I Hate About YouShe's All That, and Love & Basketball. In 1997, Union appeared in the sixth-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—"Sons and Daughters" as the Klingon N'Garen. She also appeared in Sister, Sister as Vanessa, in Smart Guy as Denise, and in five episodes of 7th Heaven as Keesha Hamilton.

2000–09[edit | edit source]

Union in 2009

Union appeared in the 2000 film Love & Basketball. In the same year, she performed the role of Isis in the cheerleading movie Bring It On, opposite Kirsten Dunst. Bring It On helped push Union into the mainstream.[15] Union has said that of all her films, Bring It On gave her the "biggest boost".[16] It led to Union being cast in the CBS television drama City of Angels as Dr. Courtney Ellis. Union was featured in The Brothers and was seen as having a "beguiling sincerity, even when she's fudging the truth."[17] Union was cast in her first leading role in the 2003 film Deliver Us from Eva with LL Cool J. This was her second time working with the rapper since making a cameo in his video "Paradise" in 2002. When casting Eva, director Gary Hardwick was looking for an actress capable of instantly changing "from funny to caustic and dramatic." Hardwick had previously worked with Union in The Brothers and believed she was perfect for the role of Eva.[18] Union's role in the film was met by praise, with Dustin Putman of All-Reviews.com wrote that she was "the star attraction, and the number-one reason to even consider seeing the film."[19] Union drew influence from her father for the "stern" look she had in the film, admitting that she had stolen it from him.[18] In 2003, Union landed the role of Will Smith's character's girlfriend, Syd, in the film Bad Boys II, a box-office success grossing more than $273 million worldwide. Union felt that she had been "blessed" with her role in the film, feeling it elevated her career.[20] The following year she appeared in Something the Lord Made. Union starred with Jamie Foxx in the film Breakin' All the Rules in 2004. The film was unpopular with critics.[21][22] She appeared in the 2005 film Neo Ned, costarring Jeremy Renner and portraying an African-American woman with delusions that she is Adolf Hitler. They were noted by Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times as having "a strange, offbeat chemistry that drives the film."[23] She won an award for Best Actress in Neo Ned at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, and the film received awards at several festivals.

Union in May 2010

She starred in the 2005 remake of The Honeymooners with comedian Cedric The Entertainer. Union starred in the short-lived ABC series Night Stalker. She called the series a "reworking" rather than a remake. Union admitted that at the time of getting the script, she was turned off, but became interested after reading the script at her agent's insistence. She then met with series creator Frank Spotnitz and executive producer Daniel Sackheim, who told her they thought of her anytime they thought of the character.[25] In 2006, she starred as Busta Rhymes' love interest in the music video for Rhymes' "I Love My Chick".[citation needed]

Union starred in the 2007 film Daddy's Little Girls by Tyler Perry (released on Valentine's Day). She played Julia Rossmore, a romantically challenged attorney. The role was written with her in mind.[26] Before working with Perry, she went to see his stage show to both understand him and his audience.[27] She filmed Daddy's Little Girls over the summer of 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia.[28] Union was seen as performing her character well along with Idris Elba and having a "great sense of comedic timing".[29] Union's character also drew comparisons to Eva, her role in Deliver Us from Eva. According to Union, Perry had specifically approached her over not turning the role into the same character.[30]Union made an appearance in the 2007 Christmas film The Perfect Holiday, which opened on December 12. Since she had no children of her own, Union used her mother and sister to portray the divorced single mother of three in the film.[31] Union initially turned down the role, as she did not want to get typecast for playing a mother until she was told of other actresses that had played similar roles and still found success in their careers.[6]

In an interview with Art Nouveau Magazine, Union complained about the lack of roles for black actresses and actors in Hollywood: "There used to be [roles] specifically written black, if you knew Denzel was doing a movie you knew his wife, girl or love interest was going to be black [but] that's not necessarily the case anymore. You’re in that room with every amazingly talented actress of every hue, and it's a dogfight, it's hard".[32] Moreover, although she often plays weak, insecure characters, Union believes that "Hollywood needs to recognize all shades of African-American beauty."[citation needed]

In 2008 Union appeared on Ugly Betty for three episodes (36–38) as Renee, Wilhelmina Slater's (Vanessa L. Williams) sister and Daniel Meade's (Eric Mabius) love interest.[citation needed] She also made a cameo appearance in the music video for Ne-Yo's "Miss Independent".[citation needed] Union appeared in the 2008 film Cadillac Records. Union was reported to have signed to the film in March 2008.[33][34][35] She portrayed Geneva Wade, who later married Muddy Waters. Waters was portrayed by Jeffrey Wright, who Union played opposite to.[36] Union also worked with Beyoncé, who she had known since she was a teenager.[37] Union was seen as a "pleasant surprise" to the film and her performance was said to have shown she had larger acting range than her previous roles.[38] Union later called taking the role of Geneva Wade in the film the best business decision she had ever made.[39] Union appeared in the 2008 film Meet Dave, playing the love interest of Eddie Murphy's character. Union said the film was a gift.[40] That same year, she wrote the foreword for Hill Harper's Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE your Destiny.[41] Union joined the cast of the U.S. television series Life on NBC and appeared in four episodes prior to its cancellation in May 2009.[42] She appeared in the ABC series FlashForward alongside John Cho and Joseph Fiennes as Zoey Andata, a role for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2010.[43]

2010s[edit | edit source]

Union in September 2010

She appeared in episodes of Army Wives and NTSF:it:SUV in 2010 and 2011. She was reported to be joining the cast in June 2010. Union was reported in May 2011 to have landed roles in Think Like a Man, a romantic comedy based on Steve Harvey's book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, and an indie film, Family Tree. In June 2011, Union defended the music video for the Rihanna single "Man Down" after it sparked controversy for its depiction of a rape victim shooting and killing her attacker. Union related that every rape victim was "unique", which extended to how they believed justice should be carried out.

In January 2012, Union was announced to be a participant in Bounce TV's documentary Our History. In 2012, she played Natalie in the romantic comedy Good Deeds, playing the fiancée of the Wesley Deeds character. Union said that after she read the script, she became interested in working with Tyler Perry again and enjoyed working with the cast. She then appeared in Steve Harvey's film Think Like a Man. Union related to her character for having married and divorced young. She and Meagan Good were seen as having taken advantage of their "straightforward characters to add spots of comic zest as well." Her next appearance was In Our Nature. The film was the directorial debut of Brian Savelson, whose writing abilities impressed Union. Savelson had offered Union the role two years prior to the film's release in 2010. Union saw In Our Nature as a personal victory for her career.

In 2013, she began starring in the BET network show Being Mary Jane. Union learned of the series while auditioning for Scandal for the role of Olivia Pope, which ultimately went to Kerry Washington. Union has said that she is content with having lost the role in Scandal to Washington: "I didn't get Scandal, but I got something better, which is my own show." Union was impressed with the show's quality and professionalism. Also in 2013, Union starred in Ava DuVernay's short film The Door as part of Miu Miu's Women's Tales campaign.

Union reprised her role as Kristen in Think Like a Man Too in 2014, but it received mostly negative reviews. She believed the film would do well and faced comparisons to her character, who was a newlywed while Union was engaged at the time, a similarity she dispelled by insisting she kept her relationship "enjoyable, fresh and exciting". Union was announced in July 2014 as a producer in the Lifetime film With This Ring. She was featured in Chris Rock's Top Five, playing the fiancée of Rock's character. Union viewed her Top Five character as being similar to members of the Kardashian family or the Braxton sisters. In November 2015, Union began voicing Nala in the Disney movie and series The Lion Guard. In October 2016, Union was featured in The Birth of a Nation as Esther, a slave in the Antebellum South who is raped by a white man. Union stated in an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times that she took the role due to her relating to it as a rape victim herself. Later that year, Union had a prominent role as Rachel Meyers in the comedy film Almost Christmas, released in November. Ariel Scotti of The New York Times panned Union's performance: "Each overused phrase that falls out of her character, Rachel's, vindictive, childish mouth takes viewers further out of the movie experience."

In 2017, Union launched Flawless by Gabrielle Union, a line of hair-care products catered to people with textured hair. In September 2017, Union announced a collaborative partnership with Invicta Watch Group that included a line of watches she designed.

In 2019, Union began starring as Syd Burnett in the Bad Boys spin-off television series L.A.'s Finest. The series is a Charter Spectrum original series which premiered May 13, 2019. The series was renewed for a second season. Union was also a judge for America's Got Talent for its fourteenth season, but the show failed to renew her contract for another season in November 2019, allegedly after she spoke out against racism. Union's fellow America's Got Talent judge Julianne Hough contract was also declined to be renewed. In May 2020 Union filed a discrimination suit against the producers of "America's Got Talent," citing racism and prejudice.

Books[edit | edit source]

In April 2017, Union announced her first book, a memoir, entitled We're Going to Need More Wine. The book "feature[s] personal stories and reflections on a range of topics that continue to define the contemporary landscape: sexuality, womanhood, friendship, race, marriage, and beauty." Union described the book as "the good, the bad, and the WTF." The book was published by Dey Street Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, on October 17, 2017. In December 2017, We're Going to Need More Wine was named a Best Book of the Year by a Black Author by The Root magazine.

In May 2020, Union released her first children's book, an ode to newborns and non-traditional families, Welcome to the Party, inspired by her daughter.

Other commercial projects[edit | edit source]

Union is a spokeswoman for Neutrogena. She became affiliated with Neutrogena in 2004. In November 2014 Union became ambassador for nail polish company SensatioNail. She became the company's first celebrity ambassador and creative advisor. In 2010, Union launched Love & Blessings, a clothing line for plus-sized women. The line was inspired by Union's full-figured sister. In March 2014, Union released her first wine, "Vanilla Puddin'".

Activism[edit | edit source]

Union is an advocate for survivors of assault[78] and has voiced her support for Jada, a Texas teenager who was sexually assaulted after passing out during a party; her sexual assault was filmed and posted in clips online, and has been mocked by others on social networking websites.[79][80][81]

Union has also spoken about the importance of therapy and how she received family and workplace support to quickly access therapy.[82]

Union addressed the shooting of Trayvon Martin and stated, "When you have influence I think it's the responsible thing to do, to speak out on an issue when you see injustice. I'm still fighting for Trayvon … we all should."[49] In the months following Martin's death, Union supported a petition that called for Florida District Attorney Norman Wolfinger to bring charges against George Zimmerman.[83] After Zimmerman was acquitted of charges in Martin's death in July 2013, Union remarked, "Apparently walking while black is a crime punishable by death."[84] Union was angered by Todd Akin's position on abortion, which he explained as a woman not being able to get pregnant in the case of "legitimate rape".[85] Tanganyika Williams, the aunt of NBA player Matt Barnes, was killed on July 8, 2014. Union posted on both Instagram and Twitter, calling for anyone with information on the killer of Barnes's aunt to report their information to authorities.[86]

Winfrey stated that Union's Fierce and Fearless Award acceptance speech—in which Union admitted she once reveled "in gossip and rumors"—inspired her because she "had never heard anyone be that honest in public or private about the competition and fierce drive to be seen and succeed in Hollywood."[87]

In February 2012, Union was identified as a suspicious person by airport security and was subjected to a "hair patdown".[88] She tweeted about the experience. "Hopefully my weave doesn't cause turbulence," Union joked. "It's clearly very powerful."[89]

Union ran in the Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 2, 2012, in honor of her friend Kristen Martinez, who died from breast cancer.[90] Union was present at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on August 23, 2013, and unveiled a limited-edition 1963 March on Washington stamp to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the march.[91]

Politics[edit | edit source]

In 2008, Union supported Barack Obama in his presidential campaign. After working on the unsuccessful pilot for Army Wives, Union was appointed by President Obama to work with the National Advisory Committee for Violence Against Women. Obama contacted her specifically after learning that the pilot had fallen through. Union participated in the Obama campaign's "Greater Together" initiative as part of his re-election campaign in 2012. Union called on Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to release his tax returns and birth certificate, noting his father George W. Romney had released his own tax returns while a presidential candidate. The office of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed in November 2014 announced a campaign entitled "Take a Stand" and its commission of a short film featuring Union and Tika Sumpter. She was named in the 2020 Time 100 list of most influential people. In the lead up to the 2020 presidential election, Gabrielle encouraged Facebook users to make sure they had everything they needed to make their vote count by seeking out VoteRiders, a national non-profit dedicated to ensuring that all citizens are able to exercise their right to vote.

Philanthropy[edit | edit source]

Union is an Ambassador in Susan G. Komen for the Cure's Circle of Promise.[100] Union became a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood's breast health initiative and launched the Women Are Watching campaign with other actresses in 2012. In October 2014, it was announced that Union would be designing T-shirts to bring attention to the Women Are Watching campaign.

Personal life[edit | edit source]

Union met NFL player Chris Howard at a party in 1999. They married on May 5, 2001, and separated in October 2005. The divorce was finalized in 2006. Union said that when she got divorced she "sort of realized that she hadn't been making sound choices which were the best for her to pursue her hopes and dreams and aspirations and passions." In a 2014 interview, Union stated that she may have rushed into the relationship for the wrong reasons, noting that, "In my 20s, I was all about getting the ring". Union had earlier reflected that she spent much of the marriage "upset", and from the relationship she realized that the men in her life were "just human".

In 2008, Union began dating NBA player Dwyane Wade. They married on August 30, 2014, in Miami, Florida, and she became a stepmother to his three children. Union stated in an interview prior to the marriage that she and Wade would be signing a prenuptial agreement to protect their individual assets. Union and Wade spent their honeymoon in the Maldives and Tanzania. In 2018, they welcomed the birth of their daughter, who was born via surrogate.


Filmography[edit | edit source]

Film[edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Notes
1999 She's All That Katarina "Katie" Darlingson
1999 10 Things I Hate About You Chastity Church
2000 Love & Basketball Shawnee
2000 Bring It On Isis Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
2001 The Brothers Denise Johnson Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress
2001 Two Can Play That Game Conny Spalding
2002 Abandon Amanda Luttrell
2002 Welcome to Collinwood Michelle
2003 Deliver Us from Eva Evangeline "Eva" Dandrige BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Box Office Movie

Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Actress
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture

2003 Cradle 2 the Grave Daria Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
2003 Bad Boys II Special Agent Sydney "Syd" Burnett Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress

Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture

2003 Ride or Die Masked Woman Cameo
2004 Breakin' All the Rules Nicky Callas Nominated—BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Box Office Movie

Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Actress, Musical or Comedy
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture

2005 Neo Ned Rachael Palm Beach International Film Festival Award for Best Actress
2005 The Honeymooners Alice Kramden Nominated—BET Comedy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Theatrical Film
2005 Say Uncle Elise Carter
2006 Running with Scissors Dorothy Ambrose
2007 Constellation Carmel Boxer
2007 Daddy's Little Girls Julia Rossmore
2007 The Box Det. Cris Romano
2007 The Perfect Holiday Nancy Taylor
2008 Meet Dave Number 3
2008 Cadillac Records Geneva Wade
2012 Good Deeds Natalie
2012 In Our Nature Vicki Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
2012 Think Like a Man Kristen Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
2013 Miss Dial Long Story Caller
2013 The Door She Short film
2014 Think Like a Man Too Kristen Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
2014 Top Five Erica Long Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
2016 The Birth of a Nation[116] Esther Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
2016 Almost Christmas[117] Rachel Meyers
2017 Sleepless[118] Dena Smith
2017 Girls Trip Herself
2018 The Public Rebecca Parks
2018 Breaking In Shaun Russell Also producer
2021 Bad Girls Special Agent/Detective Lieutenant Sydney "Syd" Burnett

Television[edit][edit | edit source]

Year Title Role Notes
1993 Family Matters Mall Girl Episode: "Scenes from a Mall"
1995-1996 Saved by the Bell: The New Class Hilary / Jennifer 2 episodes
1996 Moesha Ashli Episode: "Friends"
Malibu Shores Shannon Everette Episode: "The Competitive Edge"
Goode Behavior Tracy Monaghan 3 episodes
1996–1999 7th Heaven Keesha Hamilton 5 episodes
1997 Smart Guy Lydia Episode: "Don't Do That Thing You Do"
Dave's World Carly Episode: "Oh Dad, Poor Dad"
Hitz Soul Episode: "The Godfather: Not the Movie"
Sister, Sister Shawn / Vanessa 3 episodes
City Guys Katisha Grant Episode: "The Date"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine N'Garen Episode: "Sons and Daughters"
1998 The Steve Harvey Show Naomi Parson Episode: "The He-Man, Player-Hater's Club"
1998-1999 Clueless Lydia / Rebecca 2 episodes
1999 Grown Ups Felicia Episode: "Pilot"
1999 H-E Double Hockey Sticks Gabrielle
2000 ER Tamara Davis Episode: "Family Matters"
The Others Lindsay Episode: "Theta"
Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane Lana Episode: "Too Much Pressure"
City of Angels Dr. Courtney Ellis 11 episodes
2001 Close to Home Gabby Pilot
Friends Kristen Lang Episode: "The One With The Cheap Wedding Dress"
2003 The Proud Family Sunny Stevens / Iesha (voice) Episode: "Hooray for Iesha"
2004 The West Wing Meeshel Anders Episode: "The Benign Prerogative"
Something the Lord Made Clara Thomas Television film

Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress
Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Supporting Actress: Television Movie/Cable
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special

2005 Family Guy Shauna Parks (voice) Episode: "Peter's Got Woods"
2005–2006 Night Stalker Perri Reed 10 episodes
2007 Football Wives Chardonnay Lane Pilot
2008 Ugly Betty Renee Slater 3 episodes
2009 Life Jane Seever 4 episodes
2009–2010 FlashForward Zoey Andata 9 episodes

Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

2010 Army Wives Gina Holt Episode: "Murder in Charleston"
2011 NTSF:SD:SUV Sandy Canyons Episode: "Tijuana, We've Got a Problem"
2012 Half the Sky Herself Documentary
2013–2019 Being Mary Jane Mary Jane Paul Main role

NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Television Movie, Mini-Series or Dramatic Special (2014)
Nominated—NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series (2015–2016)
Nominated—BET Award for Best Actress (2014–2015)
Nominated—Black Reel Award for Best Actress: T.V. Movie/Cable (2014)

2015 With This Ring Kitty Television film
2015 The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar Nala (voice) Television film
2016–present The Lion Guard Nala (voice) 14 episodes
2019 L.A.'s Finest Special Agent/Detective Lieutenant Sydney "Syd" Burnett Main role
2019 America's Got Talent Herself (judge) Season 14[119]

Music videos[edit | edit source]

Year Title Artist Ref.
1999 "15 Minutes” Marc Nelson
2003 "Paradise" LL Cool J featuring Amerie [120]
2006 "I Love My Chick" Busta Rhymes featuring will.i.am and Kelis [121]
2008 "Miss Independent" Ne-Yo [122]
2011 "Man Down" Rihanna [123]

Awards and nominations[edit | edit source]

Main article: List of awards and nominations received by Gabrielle Union

Official Account[edit | edit source]

References[edit][edit | edit source]

  1. Jump up^

See Also[edit | edit source]

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