In recent years, Gabrielle Union has been particularly vocal about the unequal treatment of Black actresses on set and refreshingly transparent about her own experiences working in Hollywood for more than 20 years.
During her time as a host for America’s Got Talent, Union alleged she received racially tinged remarks from the cast and was scrutinized for her hair choices which were reportedly “too black” for the show’s mainstream audience. In an exclusive interview withVariety, the 48-year-old commended the show for its progress on the diversity front but added, “In the same breath, there are some people who want the wheels of change to come to a grinding halt because they feel that their privilege is being challenged.”
In a recent interview with MadameNoire, Union talked about protecting herself and her hair now as an established actress, making sure her personal stylists are part of a packaged deal whenever she signs on to do new projects.
“We create rituals in the hair and makeup trailer. Before work, we treat my hair. After work, we treat my hair. We do different steams every few days just to make sure it’s healthy and I survive a project,” she told the outlet. “But I was able to do that the longer I’ve been in the union (Screen Actors Guild) and the business by putting my stylists in my contract so there can be no funny business.”
Union recalled times she’d been presented with images of a certain aesthetic that was expected of her character to which she’d responded, “Yeah, Black people did that. And you don’t have any of those in your hair and makeup trailer.”
As a result, the Being Mary Jane star laments, Black stars in Hollywood have to allocate money from their own compensation — which we know is often lower than their white counterparts — to pay for adequate stylists.
“Your option as talent is to get your hair done before work, which means your money, your time…,” Union says. “You have to do all of these things that your co-stars don’t have to do because they actually prioritize and value them and value their confidence and preparedness.”