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Gabrielle Union Talks Liberating Herself From The White Gaze: ‘I Wasn’t Free’

Gabrielle Union is a lot of things: an actress, a mom, an advocate for trans folks and a Black woman. She’s also free AF. 

The Being Mary Jane star and You Got Anything Stronger author spoke with 21Ninety last week where she reflected on her journey toward liberation, something she said included freeing herself from the confines of the white gaze. 

“I’m working on being emotionally, spiritually, and psychologically free,” she told the women’s lifestyle brand.

“When I started the process of unlearning all of the things that I was so deeply invested in, like centering the white gaze, white validation, and white comfort, I started freeing myself of those too,” she added. “I started thinking: ‘Who would I have been? ‘Who could I have been if I hadn’t been centering on someone else’s comfort, opinion, or validation my entire life? What would I have been interested in? What would I have pursued? What other loves would I have had?'”

Union has always been candid about the painstaking process of spiritual maturation. In 2013, she sat down with Oprah Winfrey and divulged her history as a “mean girl.” 

“We were in a room. We were at a party. I was holding court — because I can turn a phrase and be a little slick myself — and I was trashing somebody,” she said. “Just ripping them to shreds, head to toe. [My trainer] pulls me aside and said, ‘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?’”

Needless to say, Union learned that day. And her path to self-actualization meant understanding the role systemic racism played in the journey.

“I wasn’t free,” Union continued with 21Ninety. “You have to survive, and part of our survival, as people of color have been centered around the benevolence of white folks, what they allow us to have, where they allow us to live, what they allow us to drive, and how they allow us to move. It wasn’t even something I questioned. You fully assimilate, and you do all of the things they say you have to do in order to be successful to live in this community and do this, that, and the other.”

Union’s latest book touches on everything from being raped to issues with fertility. You Got Anything Stronger hit bookshelves on Tuesday. 

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