Gabrielle Union

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Gabrielle Union
GabrielleUnionMay10.jpg
Union in May 2010
Born Gabrielle Monique Union
(1972-10-29) October 29, 1972 (age 41)
Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.
Alma mater UCLA
Occupation Actress
Years active 1993–present
Spouse(s) {Dwyane Wade}

Gabrielle Monique Union (born October 29, 1972)[1] 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.

Early life[edit]

Gabrielle Union was born in Omaha, Nebraska, the middle child in a family of four daughters. She is the daughter of Theresa, a former dancer, social worker, and phone company manager, and Sylvester C. Union, an AT&T manager and military sergeant. Her large family had been in the Omaha area for many generations.[2][3][4] She was raised Catholic[5] and "to be an independent woman, standing on my own two feet, and that's the road I opted to take."[6] 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.”[7]

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!'"[8] 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."[9]

Career[edit]

Early roles[edit]

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.[citation needed] 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.[10][1]

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.

2000-09[edit]

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.[11] 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.

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.”[12] 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.[13][14] 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.

Union in February 2009

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."[15]

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.[16] She filmed Daddy's Little Girls over the summer of 2006 in Atlanta, Georgia.[17] Union was seen as performing her character well along with Idris Elba and having a "great sense of comedic timing".[18]

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".[19] 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.[20][21][22] She portrayed Geneva Wade, who later married Muddy Waters. Waters was portrayed by Jeffrey Wright, who Union played opposite to.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25] 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.[citation needed]

2010s[edit]

Union in September 2010.

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.[26] 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."[27]

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."[28] Union and Meagan Good were seen as having taken advantage of their "straightforward characters to add spots of comic zest as well."[29]

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."[30] 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."[31]

In 2013, she was the star of the BET network show Being Mary Jane.[32] Union learned of the series while auditioning for Scandal for the role of Olivia Pope, which ultimately went to Kerry Washington.[33] 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."[34] 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.”[35] Also in 2013 Union starred in Ava DuVernay's short film The Door as part of Miu Miu's Women's Tales campaign.[36]

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.[37] 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."[38] By July 17, 2014 the film grossed $64,468,351.[39] 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".[40] 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".[41][42]

Personal life[edit]

In 1992, at age 19, Union was attacked and raped[43] 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.[44] 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".[45][46][47] 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."[28] 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.[48]

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.[27] 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?'"[49] In February 2012, Union was identified as a suspicious person by airport security and was subjected to a "hair patdown".[50]

Union is an Ambassador in Susan G. Komen for the Cure's Circle of Promise.[51] Union attended the World AIDS Day event at Brooklyn Borough Hall in New York City on December 1, 2010.[52] 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.[53] Union admits to being a huge fan of Kimberly Elise.[54] 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.[55] 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."[56]

Relationships[edit]

While in high school, she dated former NBA player Jason Kidd. Union met NFL player Chris Howard at a party in 1999. They married on May 5, 2001, and separated in October 2005.[57] The divorce was finalized in 2006.[citation needed] 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."[27] In 2014, eight years after the marriage ended, Union admitted she may have rushed into the relationship for the wrong reasons and has said that when "I was in my 20s, I was all about getting the ring."[58]

In 2009, Union began dating NBA player Dwyane Wade.[59][60] Union and Wade became engaged in December 2013.[61] Union revealed during a February 2014 interview with Arsenio Hall that she had Wade sign a prenuptial agreement and referred to her previous marriage to Chris Howard. "For this marriage, the biggest difference between this and the last marriage will be a prenup, at my insistence," Union stated. "When you have your own stuff, you don't need to worry about anybody else's stuff… The reality is, I've never seen Dwyane balance a check book, so I got to protect my stuff."[62] In May 2014, the couple announced they would be wed on August 30 in Miami, California on invitations sent out to guests, with an image of Wade's children asking if "Nickie" would marry them. Nickie is Union's nickname, derived from Union's middle name, Monique.[63] Union stated in June 2014 that she coped with Wade's losses by going to work.[64] In July 2014, they announced that guests would not be allowed to bring cell phones or cameras to their wedding.[65]

In May 2010, Dwyane Wade's estranged wife filed a lawsuit claiming Union's relationship with Dwyane Wade was causing her and the Wade's two children "emotional distress." The lawsuit alleged that Union "engaged in sexual foreplay" in front of Wade's children and that Union received "the biggest gift of all" from Wade over his two children during Christmas 2009. Union issued a statement insisting the allegations were false and her attorney C. Anthony Mulrain stated "Each and every allegation made is entirely false". At the time of the filing of the lawsuit, Mulrain said the accusations were first made "about a month ago" in court and Union was not named as a defendant at that time, Mulrain also stating Union apologized "to the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois for tying them up with erroneous claims when there are real victims who should be receiving the legal attention they need."[66][67]

Wade admitted to fathering a son named Xavier Zechariah Wade (b. 2013) with longtime acquaintance Aja Metoyer during a temporary split from Union.[68] In an interview with Glamour magazine, Union blamed her career for the split with Wade. The two have since reconciled their relationship. She explained that she had previously "wanted an awesome career with back-to-back projects, but I realized I wasn't willing to sacrifice my relationship for it." It was reported by New York Daily News that Union's career caused her and Wade to split in 2013. Union stated that her breakup was because of scheduling, as in 2013, she finished filming the first season of Being Mary Jane and then flew to Las Vegas, Nevada right away to start shooting Think Like a Man Too. "I couldn't take time off, and I missed some quality togetherness we desperately needed."[69]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Film Role
1999 She's All That Katie
10 Things I Hate About You Chastity
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
Abandon Amanda Luttrell
2003 Deliver Us from Eva Evangeline 'Eva' Dandrige
Cradle 2 the Grave Daria
Bad Boys II Syd
2004 Something the Lord Made Clara Thomas
Breakin' All the Rules Nicky Callas
2005 Neo Ned Rachael
The Honeymooners Alice Kramden
Say Uncle Elise Carter
2006 Running with Scissors Dorothy
2007 Constellation Carmel Boxer
Daddy's Little Girls Julia
Box, TheThe Box Det. Cris Romano
Perfect Holiday, TheThe Perfect Holiday Nancy
2008 Meet Dave Number 3 – Cultural Officer
Cadillac Records Geneva Wade
2012 Good Deeds Natalie
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

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
1993 Family Matters Mall girl (uncredited) Episode: "Scenes from a Mall"
1995/96 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
1996–99 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"
H-E Double Hockey Sticks Gabrielle Movie
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 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[edit]

Year Nominated work Award Category Result
2001 Bring It On Black Reel Awards Best Supporting Actress Won
2002 The Brothers Nominated
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
2005 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

|2014 | Being Mary Jane | Teen Choice Awards | Breakout Show | style="background: #99FF99; color: black; vertical-align: middle; text-align: center; " class="yes table-yes2"|Won |-

References[edit]

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  19. ^ | Art Nouveau Magazine | Art, Fashion, Music, Culture[dead link]
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  24. ^ . Kenyon Farrow. December 17, 2008 http://kenyonfarrow.com/2008/12/17/cadillac-records-what-lies-beneath/.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
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  32. ^ "BET unveils new programming at Upfront". RBR.com. April 18, 2012. Retrieved 6 July 2013. 
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  40. ^ Ross, Sydney (June 11, 2014). "Think Like a Man Too Cast Talks Sequel, Their Own Relationships: Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union and others are back at it!". Campus Circle. 
  41. ^ Goldberg, Lesley (July 11, 2014). "Jill Scott, Eve, Regina Hall to Star in Lifetime Movie (Exclusive)". Hollywood Reporter. 
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  48. ^ "NBA STAR'S TWITTER CAMPAIGN ENDS WITH ARREST IN AUNT'S KILLING". ABC7Chicago.com. July 29, 2014. 
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  58. ^ Dreyer, Lindsay (January 6, 2014). "Gabrielle Union Looks Back on Her First Marriage: "I Was All About Getting the Ring"". Wetpaint. 
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  60. ^ Johnson, Zach (April 9, 2012). "Gabrielle Union: I Didn't Break Up Dwyane Wade's Marriage". Us Weekly. Retrieved December 21, 2013. 
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