Gabrielle Monique Union-Wade (born October 29, 1972) is an American actress. She began her career in 1990s, appearing on television sitcoms, before landing supporting roles in teen comedy films She’s All That and 10 Things I Hate About You (1999). Her breakthrough role was in the 2000 teen comedy film Bring It On, after which she was female lead in the short-lived CBS medical drama series City of Angels later that year.
Union is best known for her performances in the romantic comedy films The Brothers (2001), Deliver Us from Eva (2003), Daddy’s Little Girls (2007), Think Like a Man (2012) and Think Like a Man Too (2014). She also had starring roles in Bad Boys II (2003), Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), the critically acclaimed Neo Ned (2005), Cadillac Records (2008), and Top Five (2014). In 2013, Union began starring as lead character in the BET drama series Being Mary Jane, for which she has received critical acclaim and an NAACP Image Award. She co-starred in film The Birth of a Nation (2016), and will next appear in Almost Christmas and Sleepless.
She appeared in episodes of Army Wives and NTSF:SD:SUV in 2010 and 2011. Union was reported to be joining the cast in June 2010. Union was reported in May 2011 to have landed roles in Think Like a Man, a romantic comedy based on Steve Harvey‘s book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, and an indie film, Family Tree. In June 2011, Union defended the music video for the Rihanna single “Man Down” after it sparked controversy for Rihanna depicting a rape victim shooting and killing her attacker. Union related that every rape victim was “unique”, which extended to how they believed justice should be carried out.
In January 2012, Union was announced to be a participant in Bounce TV’s documentary Our History. 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. and enjoyed working with the cast. She then appeared in Steve Harvey‘s movie Think Like A Man. Union related to her character from having married and divorced young. She 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 the directorial debut of Brian Savelson who Union was impressed by the writing ability of. Savelson had offered Union the role two years prior to the film’s release, in 2010. Union saw In Our Nature as a personal victory for her career.
In 2013, she began starring in 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 was impressed with the show’s quality and professionalism. 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 believed the film would do well and faced comparisons to her character, who was a newlywed while Union was engaged at the time, a similarity she dispelled by insisting she kept her relationship “enjoyable, fresh and exciting”. Union was announced in July 2014 as a producer in the Lifetime film With This Ring. She was featured in Chris Rock‘s Top Five, playing the fiancée of Rock’s character. Union viewed her character as being similar to members of the Kardashian family or the Braxton sisters. In November 2015, Union began voicing Nala in the Disney movie and series The Lion Guard. In October 2016, Union was featured in The Birth of a Nation as Esther, who is raped during the film. Union stated in an op-ed with The Los Angeles Times that she took the role due to her relating to it as a rape victim. Union had a prominent role as Rachel Meyers in Almost Christmas, released in November 2016. Ariel Scotti of The New York Times panned Union’s performance: “Each overused phrase that falls out of her character, Rachel’s, vindictive, childish mouth takes viewers further out of the movie experience.
In 1992, at the age of 19, Union was attacked and raped at her part-time job at a Payless Store. Union has stated that she would not have survived the attack had it not been for lessons she learned by watching Oprah Winfrey‘s talk show.
Winfrey stated that Union’s Fierce and Fearless Award acceptance speech – in which Union admitted she once reveled “in gossip and rumors” – inspired her because she “had never heard anyone be that honest in public or private about the competition and fierce drive to be seen and succeed in Hollywood.”
In February 2012, Union was identified as a suspicious person by airport security and was subjected to a “hair patdown”. She tweeted about the experience. “Hopefully my weave doesn’t cause turbulence,” Union joked. “It’s clearly very powerful.”
Union ran in the Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, June 2, 2012, in honor of her friend Kristen Martinez, who died from breast cancer. 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.
Union is a spokeswoman for Neutrogena. She became affiliated with Neutrogena in 2004. It was reported in November 2014, that Union became ambassador for nail polish company SensatioNail. She became the company’s first celebrity ambassador and creative advisor. In 2010, Union launched Love & Blessings, a clothing line for plus-sized women. The line was inspired by Union’s full-figured sister. In March 2014, Union released her first wine, “Vanilla Puddin'”
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 said that when she got divorced she “sort of realized that [s]he hadn’t been making sound choices which were the best for her to pursue her 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.” Union had earlier reflected that she spent much of the marriage “upset” and from the relationship, she realized that the men in her life were “just human.”
In 2009, Union began dating NBA player Dwyane Wade.According to Wade, he and Union briefly split up at some point early in 2013 because of career demands. During that time, Wade and a longtime friend conceived a son, Xavier, born in November 2013. 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. Union and Wade spent their honeymoon in the Maldives and Tanzania.