In the past decade Gabrielle Union has cemented herself as someone to watch when it comes to style. She’s also proven that she has a Midas touch when it comes to business, seeing major success with her clothing line with New York & Company, and more recently securing a second season of her hit show L.A.’s Finest with co-star Jessica Alba.
Now, alongside her longtime hairstylist and friend Larry Sims, she’s bringing that panache to the beauty world. Well, technically she’s bringing it back. In August, Union is relaunching Flawless by Gabrielle Union, her line for textured hair. And this time it’s better, badder, and Black-owned.
Union originally launched the line back in 2017, but unbeknownst to most, it was right at the time when she suffered massive hair loss due to several rounds of IVF.
“It just put me in a terrible position,” she tells ESSENCE. “Our investors at the time did not want to wait for my hair to grow back so I could use my own hair as I talked about these products and so I was forced into wigs and hair clips and I just felt like a fraud. I felt very inauthentic and I was also humiliated and depressed because my head was bald. And the first [version] was priced way too high. We were sold in stores that are not widely accessible to our audience. Quite frankly, we were marketing way too wide.”
After three years of whipping up formulas in the kitchen with Larry to grow her hair back—which she did—Union was ready to regroup and go back to drawing board with the line. Two priorities for the duo were making the product line with natural ingredients and buying back ownership to make the brand Black-owned and Black-led—which they also did.
“We started with restructuring the business between Larry and myself. We are a majority Black-owned company,” she said proudly. “Black-owned and Black marketed. We needed to do this completely differently. A lot of our hair products that are targeted for African American hair textures contain silicone. We wanted to take those out. We wanted to really lean into the new technology, new innovation and incorporate hair growth and hair strength, because those are the things that I was dealing with. And I know so many of us have dealt with hair loss, balding, breakage, damage.”
The new iteration of Flawless by Gabrielle Union will launch with 11 products, including your must-have shampoo and conditioner, a detangling leave-in conditioner, a scalp soothing tonic, a hydrating curl refreshing spray, restoring exotic oil treatment and more. Prices range from $4 to $10 for the entire collection and will be available at amazon.com.
“There are tons of girls out there that look at celebrities, specifically Gabrielle, and want to emulate the things that she does,” Sims explained. “We intentionally created looks that were accessible, that were inspiring that Black girls could look up to. So that kind of folded into our mantra for the line. One of the things that I love about Gab the most is she’s not a greedy celebrity that wants to take all of the money and all of the accolades.”
“I thought it kind of made me a jerk if I figured out the solution to growing my hair and strengthening my hair, getting these curls popping, but then I priced people out of those options,” Union added. “I never want health and wellness to feel like luxury items. Everything I do from here on out for the last couple of years, it has to be affordable and accessible. There is no point in me loving something that the rest of us can’t enjoy.”
Humility has been a way of life for Union for years. If you follow her on Instagram then you know that every Wednesday she’s championing for women across different industries. And she’s been a longtime advocate for women and the Black community, which has thrust her into controversy at times. But if you know Union, then you understand that she’s never been afraid of a fight. Her unceremonious firing from her role as a judge on America’s Got Talent transformed into an opportunity for the world to see just how hard she goes for the culture.
“What I keep coming back to and what my husband keeps coming back to is how much money do you need to have to stand in your truth and to stand up for our people?” she said. “I need to not only be on the right side of history, but I need to be able to stand with my spine and my soul intact. But the way society always wants to pit us against each other, I didn’t always feel comfortable doing that. And then I got to a point where I was like, I don’t give a flying fig. You cannot take anything from me because everything that matters is inside. And if I can’t use my platform to shine a light on us, who else is?”
With this new line Union and Sims are not only highlighting the beauty of Black hair, they’re also using the Flawless platform to highlight other Black-owned businesses. And with tutorials from Sims, Black women can achieve all those “too Black” hairstyles that the rest of America apparently didn’t want—making the statement that our hair and our bodies will no longer be policed.
That might seem grandiose to some that we’re speaking about a hair care line in the context of social justice. But it comes at a time when wearing our hair as it grows out of our heads is still an act of bravery in many spaces. So having the right products is just as important as having them come from a brand dedicated to supporting and representing the community.
“You have to lead with integrity for yourself and for our culture. That may sometimes mean that you have to sacrifice the potential of causing a little ruckus in the workplace,” Sims concluded. “I’ve been doing this for a very long time and I’ve had partnerships prior to this. But the fact that one of my closest friends actually offered me ownership, a piece of the company just so our voices can be in the forefront and our company can be led with our obligation to the community, it’s only on a dream. And it’s just been amazing to see it finally come to life.”