Earlier this week, Gabrielle Union announced the launch of her moisture-rich hair are line, Flawless by Gabrielle Union for Black hair. However, this was not her first journey into the world of African American hair care. In fact, Union’s first attempt at launching the line came in 2017, but she immediately stopped the project when she began to lose her own hair as a result of IVF treatments.
“When we first launched in 2017, the brand coincided with a lot of hair loss due to my fertility journey and having multiple rounds of IVF. From ear to ear, where a headband would sit, I was bald,” Union tells Harper’s Bazaar. “When you’re launching a line called Flawless and you feel anything but flawless, you actually feel like a fraud. I didn’t feel confident or transparent, and the investors and ownership group we had at the time didn’t want to wait for my hair to grow back in. They only cared about deadlines, and I wasn’t being listened to.”
It was then that Gabrielle Union had to make the tough decision to step away from her company. And she did, only to return three years later with a new perspective and a new business partner — celebrity stylist Larry Sims.
“There’s no way in hell I can be transparent about my hair journey without including Larry Sims, who was in the trenches crying right alongside me as my hair fell out,” says Union. “Larry would be like, ‘There’s another spot,’ and I would break down every time a new bald spot would open up. We tried every home remedy we could find. So that’s where we discovered bacuri butters, raw creatine, biotin, rice oil complex, rice water, aloe, and all of these things that actually grew my hair back. We kept a log of the last two years of my hair growth and of what was working, what didn’t work. We literally took a magnifying glass and were like, ‘We’ve got sprouts! We’ve got action!’”
According to Union, Larry was very hands-on in the creation of the new line which includes products for wavy, curly, and coily, hair types.
“For the relaunch, Larry went into the lab with the chemist. Imagine, a Black hairstylist in the lab with the chemist saying, ‘That doesn’t work. Why are you trying to force silicones on us? I know historically we’ve packed our products with them, but they’re harmful.’ And then, hearing the chemist say, ‘Well, folks with textured hair like that slippage, they like that silky feeling that the silicones provide.’ Then Larry saying, ‘No, we can educate our clientele on how they can get that same silky slippage without silicones, parabens, and sulfates. You can get that feeling with different oils and butters.’ We had to fight together to create healthier products for healthier hair.”
Also in her interview with HB, Gabrielle Union offers some helpful advice to Black entrepreneurs about ownership.
“I cannot say enough about Black ownership. When you do not control a majority ownership of anything, for the most part, you have about as much of a say-so as your percentage, and if you are just an endorser, that’s a goose egg. If you have no equity or ownership in your company, or it’s less than 51 percent, it doesn’t mean you’re going to be listened to. If you have investors that are not Black, they have to be on board with lowering your profit margins. It would actually make Larry and I assholes to figure out how to grow my hair back, create an amazing line, and then price our own people out of it. Everything is between $4 and $10.”