Union in May 2010
October 29, 1972
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Chris Howard (m. 2001–06)
Dwyane Wade (m. 2014)
Gabrielle Monique Union-Wade (born October 29, 1972) is an American actress and former model. Among her notable roles is her performance as the cheerleader opposite Kirsten Dunst in the film Bring It On, (2000). In 2000, she played a medical doctor in the CBS drama series City of Angels. In 2003, Union starred opposite Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the hit film Bad Boys II. Also in 2003, she starred with LL Cool J in Deliver Us from Eva. In 2008, she was featured in the film Cadillac Records with Adrien Brody, Beyoncé Knowles and Jeffrey Wright. In 2012, Union was featured in an ensemble cast of the film version of Think Like a Man.
Gabrielle Union was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Theresa (Glass), a phone company manager and social worker, and Sylvester E. Union, a business executive and military sergeant. She was raised Catholic and "to be an independent woman, standing on my own two feet, and that's the road I opted to take." Union's earliest memory is playing catch with her father. As a child, Union had no best friend, but a group of best friends called "The Bash Crew". Her parents divorced after thirty years of marriage and Union believes her parents handled the divorce in a positive manner, by not making their issues the issues of the children. Union said, "They handled their divorce and our subsequent transition into a blended family with grace and 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 Caucasian women were "the ideal of beauty" and "if I looked nothing like that, then I must be ugly." She also grew tired of receiving compliments on her intelligence and longed to be acknowledged for her physical appearance. "I was never really looked upon as being pretty. Every girl wants to hear, 'You’re a princess,' and people would be like, 'You are funny.' or 'What a smart girl Gab is!' I was like, 'I don’t want to be smart! I want to be pretty!'" 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 attended the University of Nebraska, where she played on the soccer team, before transferring to Cuesta College. She eventually transferred to UCLA and earned a degree in sociology. While studying there in her senior year, she interned at the Judith Fontaine Modeling & Talent Agency to earn extra academic credits. Oftentimes during her internships, clients would ask about her and be disappointed that she was only a behind-the-scenes employee. The agents started to notice this, so, upon the end of her internship, Union was asked to become a client. Invited by the agency's owner, Judith Fontaine, Union agreed and started working as a model because she thought it would be an easy way to pay off her college loans. She modeled until her agent discovered she had a talent for acting.
Union started her acting career in minor roles. Her first audition was for "Saved by the Bell". Other of her earlier roles included those in teen movies such as 10 Things I Hate About You 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.
She appeared in the 2000 film Love & Basketball. In 2000 Union performed the role of Isis in the cheerleading movie Bring it On opposite Kirsten Dunst. Bring It On helped push Union into the mainstream and she began gaining more exposure. This led to Union being cast in the CBS television drama City of Angels as Dr. Courtney Ellis. 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 "sexy and funny to caustic and dramatic." Hardwick had previously worked with Union in The Brothers and believed she was perfect for the role of Eva. 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." Union drew influence from her father for the "stern" look she had in the film, admitting that she had stolen it from him.
Union landed the role of Will Smith's character's girlfriend, Syd, in the film Bad Boys II, a box office success grossing over $273 million worldwide. Union claimed to have seen Bad Boys, the predecessor to Bad Boys II, "about 100 times" and stated she like the film because "it was the first time we got to see Will out of the ‘Fresh Prince’ mode and he was kind of like billy-bad-ass. It kind of established him as like a sex symbol. That was cool. And I think it was the first time we saw Martin as the straight man. And I really enjoy him when he plays a straight man, like in Life and Bad Boys. I loved it.” Union felt that she had been "blessed" with her role in the film and expressed that she was "blessed to have the opportunity to try to take it to the next level.” The following year she appeared in Something the Lord Made.
Union starred with Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx in the film Breakin' All the Rules in 2004. The film was unpopular with critics. Union starred in the short-lived ABC series Night Stalker. She also has starred in the independent drama films Neo Ned and Constellation, the latter of which was released to theaters. 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.
She starred in the 2005 remake of The Honeymooners with comedian Cedric The Entertainer. When asked if she would stay with Cedric's character in real life, she stated: "I'm staying with him. You know I got asked a lot if Alice would ever be with Ralph. I said you can't judge a book by its cover because you're going to miss out on a lot of good reading. When I met my husband, he didn't look like anybody I had ever dated. I had been dating all these different people and I had this certain look that I needed. When I met my husband, he was covered in tattoos, both of his ears were pierced and he had a motorcycle. I was like 'ew.' But you never know what package true love is going to come in, you just have to open up and be ready for it. So all of that is to say, I do have a Ralph. He's not the obvious choice based on my past dating history, but it works for me."
In 2006 she starred as Busta Rhymes' love interest in the music video for Rhymes' "I Love My Chick". Union starred in the 2007 film Daddy's Little Girls by Tyler Perry (released on Valentine's Day). Before working with Perry, she went to see his stage show, which helped her understand him and his audience. She filmed Daddy's Little Girls over the summer of 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia. Union was seen as performing her character well along with Idris Elba and having a "great sense of comedic timing".
Union appeared in The Box and also made an appearance in the 2007 Christmas film The Perfect Holiday which opened on December 12. 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". Moreover, although she often plays strong, opinionated characters, Union believes that "Hollywood needs to recognize all shades of African-American beauty."
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. She also made a cameo appearance in the music video for Ne-Yo's "Miss Independent". Union appeared in the 2008 film Cadillac Records. Union was reported to have signed to the film in March 2008. She portrayed Geneva Wade, who later married Muddy Waters. Waters was portrayed by Jeffrey Wright, who Union played opposite to. 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. Union later called taking the role of Geneva Wade in the film the best business decision she had ever made.
She joined the cast of the U.S. television series Life on NBC and appeared in four episodes prior to the cancellation of series in May 2009. She appeared in the ABC series FlashForward alongside John Cho and Joseph Fiennes as Zoey Andata, a role for which she got nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
She appeared in episodes of Army Wives and NTSF:SD:SUV in 2010 and 2011. In 2012 she worked with Tyler Perry on the romantic comedy Good Deeds playing the role of Natalie, the soon to be wife of Perry's character Wesley Deeds. Union said that after she read the script she became interested in working with Tyler Perry again. "Once I read the script, the biggest thing was that I loved how he didn’t make her a bitch. My character’s usually the villain in this sort of romantic drama. I was very happy that Tyler made her a normal person who has a great career, great friends and who comes from a great family. So, in this case, maybe the relationship’s just not working instead of my character’s being an evil shrew." She also expressed her positive views on working with the cast, describing Phylicia Rashad as "an icon, and amazing."
She then appeared in Steve Harvey's movie Think Like A Man, a romantic comedy based on his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. Union read Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man with friends and thought the book was "common sense". The movie debuted at No. 1 during the weekend of April 20, 2012. In the film, Union portrays Kristen, who is in an interracial relationship with a character portrayed by Jerry Ferrara. The interracial relationship was not addressed in the film and regarding this, Union stated: "Our characters were not race specific. Interracial relationships are really over thought in Hollywood. It’s simple…just focus on the relationship!" Union related to her character since she "married young, divorced young, and now I'm older and wiser while being in a committed relationship." Union 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 Brian Savelson's directorial debut and Union expressed how impressed she was with his writing ability, stating that he "wrote such an amazing, nuanced character of Vicky". Union described herself as being "honored" since she had "generally had never predicted or considered auditioning for a role like this". Savelson offered her the role and she was "blown away" due to Savelson having "enough interest" to offer the part to her. She then "fell in love" with the character she portrayed and story of the film. Union was also satisfied with her character being an integral part of the storyline and called the film "a painfully real character piece with a dynamic between father and son, significant others and how it all comes together in a kind of broad way." Union believed the role was not written with ethnicity in mind and she called this "ideal" and viewed "this particular role" as having "added a layer that made it more interesting. It’s not spoken, but you can definitely see it."
In 2013, she was the star of 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 stated. "It's all about building a legacy. This new opportunity is something I feel that can grow." Union was impressed with the show's quality and professionalism. "We have so many amazing veterans and so many amazing up-and-comers. It’s a beautiful mix.” 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, which received mostly negative reviews. She attended the premiere of the film at the TCL Chinese Theatre, with the rest of the cast. Prior to the film's release, Union expressed her and the cast's belief that the film would do well at the box office. "We had so much fun with the first one. And part of what people responded to was our fun as friends. So to get to come together, all of us friends -- we've all known each other over a decade -- to go to Vegas and they're going to pay us, we knew it would translate again." By July 17, 2014 the film grossed $64,468,351. Union's character in the film was compared to her, the character being a newlywed while Union was engaged at the time. Union did not see this similarity since unlike her character, she kept "her relationship enjoyable, fresh and exciting". Union was announced in July 2014 as a producer in the Lifetime film With This Ring. The leads of the film included Regina Hall, who Union previously worked with in the films The Honeymooners, Think Like a Man and its sequel. Union stated that Hall was "one of the most gifted actresses in our business".
In 1992, at age 19, Union was attacked and raped at her part-time job in a shoe store. Her attacker later turned himself in and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. She has since become an advocate for survivors of assault. Union has voiced her support for Jada, a Texas teenager who was allegedly taken advantage of after passing out during a party and had her assault filmed and posted in clips online, where her assault has been mocked by others on social networking websites. Union posted a picture of Jada on Instagram and wrote: "Rape is never funny. Ever. This brave young woman is what a real-life superhero looks like... Someone who stands up and acts when injustice occurs. She's just a child and she's using her voice for good, even in the face of her own personal horror... My hero #IStandWithJada". Union has also addressed the death 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." 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.
Union believes she bears a strong resemblance to her mother and said she sees her mother when she looks in the mirror. She feels that anyone that wants to "follow in her footsteps" should stay in school, since they have "the rest" of their lives to act. Union said during an appearance on Oprah's Next Chapter that she used to be a "mean girl" until attending a party with her trainer and sounding board, A.J. Jackson. "I was holding court -- because I can turn a phrase and be a little slick myself -- and I was trashing somebody. Just ripping them to shreds, head to toe," Union recalled. "A.J. pulls me aside and says, 'Okay, now, how did your life change? Did you get the guy? Did you get the job? Is your house any bigger? Did money just magically get put in your pocket? What positive [event] happened in your life after you just tore that woman down?'" In February 2012, Union was identified as a suspicious person by airport security and was subjected to a "hair patdown".
Union is an Ambassador in Susan G. Komen for the Cure's Circle of Promise. Union attended the World AIDS Day event at Brooklyn Borough Hall in New York City on December 1, 2010. She ran in the Global Race for the Cure in Washington D.C. on Saturday, June 2, 2012, in honor of her late friend Kristen Martinez, who died from breast cancer. Union admits to being a huge fan of Kimberly Elise. 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. She has thanked Regina King, Holly Robinson Peete, Tichina Arnold and Tisha Campbell-Martin for always being there to “show me the way, to hold my hand, to be a partner in crime, and a giver of hope and discipline… they give love."
While in high school, Union dated former NBA player Jason Kidd. Union has said Kidd broke up with her two weeks before junior prom. 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 says that when she got divorced she "sort of realized that I hadn't been making sound choices which were the best for me to pursue my 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."
In 2009, Union began dating NBA player Dwyane Wade. According to Wade, he and Union briefly split up at some point early in 2013 due to career demands. During that time, Wade and a longtime friend conceived a son, Xavier, born in November 2013. However, Wade and Union reconciled, and became engaged in December 2013, the month after the birth. The couple married on August 30, 2014 in Miami, Florida. Upon the marriage, Union became a stepmother to Xavier and Wade's two elder sons from his first marriage, Zaire (born 2002) and Zion (born 2007). Union stated in an interview prior to the marriage that she and Wade would be signing a prenuptial agreement to protect their individual assets.
|1999||She's All That||Katarina "Katie" Darlingson|
|10 Things I Hate About You||Chastity Church|
|H-E Double Hockey Sticks||Gabrielle|
|2000||Love & Basketball||Shawnee|
|Bring It On||Isis|
|2001||Brothers, TheThe Brothers||Denise Johnson|
|Two Can Play That Game||Conny Spalding|
|2002||Welcome to Collinwood||Michelle|
|2003||Deliver Us from Eva||Evangeline "Eva" Dandrige|
|Cradle 2 the Grave||Daria|
|Bad Boys II||Sydney "Syd" Burnett|
|2004||Something the Lord Made||Clara Thomas|
|Breakin' All the Rules||Nicky Callas|
|The Honeymooners||Alice Kramden|
|Say Uncle||Elise Carter|
|2006||Running with Scissors||Dorothy|
|Daddy's Little Girls||Julia Rossmore|
|Box, TheThe Box||Det. Cris Romano|
|Perfect Holiday, TheThe Perfect Holiday||Nancy Taylor|
|2008||Meet Dave||Number 3|
|Cadillac Records||Geneva Wade|
|Think Like a Man||Kristen|
|In Our Nature||Vicki|
|2013||Miss Dial||Long Story Caller|
|Being Mary Jane||Mary Jane Paul|
|2014||Think Like a Man Too||Kristen|
|Top Five||Erica Long|
|1993||Family Matters||Mall girl (uncredited)||Episode: "Scenes from a Mall"|
|1995/96||Saved by the Bell: The New Class||Hilary / Jennifer||2 episodes|
|Malibu Shores||Shannon Everette||Episode: "The Competitive Edge"|
|Goode Behavior||Tracy Monaghan||3 episodes|
|1996–99||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||2 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"|
|1998/99||Clueless||Lydia / Rebecca||2 episodes|
|1999||Grown Ups||Felicia||Episode: "Pilot"|
|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||Movie|
|Friends||Kristen Leigh||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||Movie|
|2005||Family Guy||Shauna Parks (voice)||Episode: "Peter's Got Woods"|
|2005–06||Night Stalker||Perri Reed||10 episodes|
|2007||Football Wives||Chardonnay Lane||Movie|
|2008||Ugly Betty||Renee Slater||3 episodes|
|2009||Life||Jane Seever||4 episodes|
|2010||The BET Honors||Herself||Movie|
|2009–10||FlashForward||Zoey Andata||9 episodes|
|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-present||Being Mary Jane||Mary Jane Paul||Main Role|
Awards and nominations
|2001||Bring It On||Black Reel Awards||Best Supporting Actress||Won|
|2003||Bring It On||MTV Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|2004||Deliver Us From Eva||Black Reel Awards||Nominated|
|Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Bad Boys II||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Deliver Us From Eva||MTV Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
|Breakin' All the Rules||Black Reel Awards||Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy||Nominated|
|Something the Lord Made||Best Supporting Actress in a TV Movie/Mini-Series||Nominated|
|Breakin' All the Rules||Image Awards||Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture||Nominated|
|Something the Lord Made||Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie/Mini-Series||Nominated|
|2006||Neo Ned||Palm Beach International Film Festival||Best Actress||Won|
|2009||Cadillac Records||Black Reel Awards||Best Ensemble||Won|
|2013||Think Like a Man||BET Awards||Best Actress||Nominated|
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