Gabrielle Union refuses to be an asshole. The actress-producer and author of the bestselling 2017 memoir I Think We’re Going to Need More Wine memorably made headlines in 2013 with her admission of prior “mean girl” behavior while being honored at Essence’s Black Women in Hollywood event. But in the years since, it’s been her vulnerability and championship of marginalized voices—including assault survivors, the LGBTQ community and creatives, Black business owners and even families navigating infertility and surrogacy—that have made her so compelling to watch off-screen.
“You can’t let me in the door,” she laughs during this week’s episode of The Root Presents: It’s Lit! “I’m like, I’m coming in, I’m bringing my shit, I’m setting up shop and I’m holding the door open while you come in.”
This week’s episode makes Union’s second visit after appearing with husband Dwyane Wade in May to discuss their Kaavia James-inspired children’s book, Shady Baby. Aside from being our first repeat guest, she also holds the distinction of being the force bringing several other previous guests’ work to the screen, including George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue and Tia Williams’ The Perfect Find via her coyly named production company I’ll Have Another, which boasts deals with Sony and Amazon.
“I’m trying to get everybody on...somehow they let my ass in, and I’m going to bring as many people with me as possible,” she continues, later adding: “I’m actually an asshole if I don’t use my time, you know, while I’ve got it to bring as many people on and help at each stage of the process.”
Union may have been referring to the roster of projects she has in development but the same could be said of her writing, which has provided the kind of empathy and relatability rarely achievable by the celebrity set. Building upon insights shared in her first bestseller, Union’s second memoir, You Got Anything Stronger? (HarperCollins) debuts September 14, bringing us up to date on the last four years. Notably, those years have included the difficult journey of achieving biological motherhood via surrogacy after prolonged and painful attempts to conceive, and supporting the transgender identity of stepdaughter Zaya Wade. Among myriad topics, Union’s new book also sheds light on some of the more dramatic aspects of perimenopause, including passive suicidal ideation; a little-discussed side effect exacerbated by a global pandemic.
“The bulk of this was written during the pandemic,” she explains. “And just watching so many—me and so many of my friends just feel like you’re drowning, you’re just drowning in plain sight and people are kind of glancing and then walking by you like they didn’t see. And it just feels so...You feel so helpless and alone and like you’re literally going to drown and no one’s going to give a shit.
“And the more I am honest and transparent about most of it...it’s like I’m throwing the life preservers—like, I see you and this is how I got through,” Union continues. “Doesn’t have to match your journey, but I see you. You’re not alone. There is help, like hope on the other side, because just too many of us are just drowning, like unnecessarily.”
As she notes elsewhere during our discussion: “And again...by the time you get out and you’re like, ‘OK, what did I just experience,’ now at this point, if I don’t talk about this, I’m actually an asshole.”
Hear more from the increasingly transparent Gabrielle Union in Episode 47 of The Root Presents: It’s Lit!:Gabrielle Union is Back With Something Stronger, available on Apple, Spotify, Stitcher, iHeart Radio, Google Podcasts, Amazon, NPR One, TuneIn, and Radio Public. A transcript of this episode is also available.