For ESSENCE’s December issue, Entertainment Editor Cori Murray caught up with the lovely Gabrielle Union, star of the highly anticipated new BET series, Being Mary Jane, which launches on January 7.

Union, who was styled by the one and only June Ambrose for the cover shoot, wears a Bibhu Mohapatra gown, Stella Valle earrings and a smile of fulfillment. Long gone are the days when she’d “revel in gossip or rumors” or “shrink in the presence of other dope, beautiful women.” Union, a self-proclaimed former “mean girl,” realized that “living your truth takes real courage” and is doing the work to find her happy.

“There’s this intense desire for us all to be chosen by a man, or a job, or chosen for fame, whatever. But when you’re in the public eye and you’re not chosen, the rejection feels public,” says Union. “So to cover the wound, you attack the person who is chosen.”

While the actress has lost roles to her industry peers—most notably, Scandal to Kerry Washington—Union now understands how rejection has positioned her for success.

Her audition for the lead role in Jumping the Broom, which eventually went to Paula Patton, impressed director Salim Akil so much that he knew she’d be a perfect fit for his wife Mara Brock-Akil’s latest project. Audiences agreed, and the TV movie, Being Mary Jane, earned 4 million viewers and critical praise for the portrayal of a female Black lead who is both complex and dynamic, as well as a sexual being—not something we get a lot of on TV.

“It would be easy to label Mary Jane a freak…but enjoying sex doesn’t make you a ho,” says Union. “I hope [Being Mary Jane] widens the conversation. I hope people will be more forgiving of those who explore their sexuality unapologetically.”

For our full interview with Gabrielle Union, in which she discusses how she leaned on AJ Johnson, a wellness coach and good friend, to help her let go of the negativity, the ten things that bring her joy—one is, surprise, surprise!, attending Miami Heat games—and how a conversation about Beyonce at a beauty salon changed her life, pick up the December issue of ESSENCE now.


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