Being Mary Jane star Gabrielle Union since her debut in the 90s, has worked on big budget flicks: 10 Things I Hate About You and Bring It On, Bad Boys II, Breaking In, Deliver Us From Eva, Think Like a Man, Being Mary Jane among others and has since established herself as a force to reckon with.
The 47-year-old graces Marie Claire’s October Digital cover and she talks her controversial firing from America’s Got Talent, racism and much more in a chat with the mag.
After signing on to AGT last year, things turned out rather badly. Union accused the show’s producers of giving her “excessive notes” about her appearance, allegedly called her hairstyles “too wild,” – a term Union believes was code for “too Black”, frustrated she spoke: According to her, “That is the beauty of being a Black woman,” she declares. “I should be able to exist however the f*** I want to exist, because if you’re hiring Gabrielle Union for my talent, then my talent is going to come out of my body in every way, shape, and incarnation that I can imagine. You’re getting more bang for your buck the more you allow me to exist as I see fit.”
To skeptics who believe Union’s case is being blown out of proportion and less likely about racism at NBC and more about retribution for being fired from AGT, adding it was all to generate publicity, she says:
“That very sentiment is how all of this has been allowed to go on for centuries; that kind of gaslighting, I categorically reject. You are not going to gaslight me into minimizing my trauma, which is exactly what allows this to continue on for the next person.” She credits age with her newfound outspokenness. In the past, she’d often make herself as “small and palatable as possible” for fear of being labeled difficult or—even worse—angry, which only made her, well, angry. She has referred to the rage she once harbored as a “festering stew of poison and venom in my belly.” Years of weekly therapy has helped a great deal. Turning 40 was also liberating. After hitting that magic number, “I emptied out my basket of f***s,” she reveals. “I cannot center fear in my life. I can’t center functioning from a fear of scarcity. They say silence is violence, and I refuse to be complicit in my silence. I have to be fully present in my body and fully free.”
Union explains it all follows a long pattern of intimidation and dismissal of marginalized voices, caging them in fear:
“These racist institutions and systems have done an amazing job at keeping us very fearful of speaking up, asking for equality, and asking for accountability, because they have shown us time and time again that we are disposable,” she explains. “They will discredit and malign you, and you will never work again.…Being blackballed in this industry is very real.”
“They want you to feel like ‘It’s not me, it’s you, you’re crazy, you’re doing something that’s causing this, you are complicit in your own oppression, your own trauma, your own abuse,’” she explains. “And as long as you’re in that space, you’re not going to talk about it. You’re not going to reach out to anybody.”
Zaya’s comfort is of the utmost importance to the Wade family. “You want your child to feel freedom to be exactly as they are,” Union says, later adding that “we are her lifetime lifelines to love, peace, joy, grace, protection, and compassion.”