Gabrielle Union How be­com­ing fiercely hon­est changed her life

She’s made some mis­takes and had some ma­jor set­backs – then used them to grow by leaps and light years. This is wis­dom you need.

Good Housekeeping (South Africa) - - CONTENTS - BY TIF­FANY BLACK­STONE

GABRIELLE UNION’S LIFE IS AN OPEN BOOK That’s a lit­eral state­ment: her best­selling me­moir, We’re Go­ing To Need More Wine (HarperCollins Pub­lish­ers), is pos­si­bly the most un­fil­tered celebrity au­to­bi­og­ra­phy that’s ever ex­isted. From an out­ra­geously hi­lar­i­ous mis­ad­ven­ture with a home rem­edy for a yeast in­fec­tion to her dev­as­tat­ing ac­count of be­ing sex­u­ally as­saulted, the ac­tress is can­did about the things even women who don’t have mil­lions of peo­ple dis­sect­ing their every ut­ter­ance are afraid to share. ‘The book re­flects what my con­ver­sa­tions with friends and my ther­apy ses­sions sound like,’ says Gabrielle. ‘I might go from the worst thing that has ever hap­pened to me to talk­ing about ir­ri­ta­ble bowel syn­drome – that’s the way my mind works, that’s the way my life is. I thought it would be disin­gen­u­ous if I didn’t lay the book out that way.’

That com­plete au­then­tic­ity, a rel­a­tively new de­vel­op­ment, has been the cat­a­lyst for other re­cent suc­cesses: the sec­ond sea­son of her cloth­ing line with New York & Com­pany hit stores ear­lier this year, and last year she launched Flaw­less by Gabrielle Union, a hair­care line for women with tex­tured and curly hair. ‘I’ve strug­gled with feel­ings of worth­less­ness for a very long time, prob­a­bly un­til about last year, even though I had a body of work and I’m pretty ac­com­plished.’ (We’d say: from her big break in the teen clas­sic Bring It On to roles in block­busters like Bad Boys II and the crit­i­cally ac­claimed TV show Be­ing Mary Jane, she’s spent nearly two decades in the spot­light. On the home front, she’s hap­pily mar­ried to Na­tional Bas­ket­ball As­so­ci­a­tion (NBA) star Dwyane Wade and is a proud step­mom to his ‘kind, com­pas­sion­ate’ boys.) ‘Over the years, I’d been ap­proached with ideas for things like my own cloth­ing line, and I’d have those mo­men­tary feel­ings of I got picked! Yay! And then it was, Oh no, they’re go­ing to fig­ure out that I have no value. Part of that is I didn’t have my own style. I was al­ways look­ing to oth­ers for out­side val­i­da­tion, so I would’ve ba­si­cally been like, “Well, who’s pop­u­lar right now? Let’s try to look like that per­son.” If you don’t have your own style, how are you go­ing to de­sign a line?’

She’s hon­est (of course) about not quite hav­ing the self-doubt thing beat, but from what we can tell, the path she took to be­come more gen­uinely her­self just might lead you to a real, last­ing con­fi­dence break­through. Here’s how to start fol­low­ing in her foot­steps.

CRE­ATE A HAPPY LIST

‘I started work­ing with a ther­a­pist who asked me to list things that make me happy, and one of my top three was im­i­ta­tion crab! You’re not on the right track if you say im­i­ta­tion crab. So the ther­a­pist started to ask ques­tions: “What don’t you like? What an­noys you? Have you ever ex­pe­ri­enced eu­pho­ria?” Ex­am­ine those mo­ments and you’ll start to fig­ure out who you re­ally are.’

RIGHT YOUR OLD WRONGS

‘Part of my home­work for be­com­ing my best self is own­ing up to my BS. I have to ac­knowl­edge how I’ve hurt peo­ple and make amends. I started with those clos­est to me, but there’s a line of peo­ple to get to. I was at a Janet Jack­son con­cert and ran into an ex­ec­u­tive I used to work with and just had to say, “I’m so sorry.” I in­cluded in the apol­ogy specifics, so they knew I un­der­stood why I was wrong.… Then I lis­tened about the thing that I did, which I didn’t even re­alise I was do­ing. I’m not say­ing this is easy, but it’s led to my be­ing in­cor­po­rated back into some peo­ple’s lives. Not ev­ery­one will make up with you, but that has to be okay.’

SHOW EM­PA­THY WHERE IT COUNTS

‘I think it’s fas­ci­nat­ing how we of­fer com­pas­sion to re­al­ity stars, but we don’t af­ford it to the per­son in the mir­ror or our fam­ily mem­bers. I’m not im­mune to it. Last night, I saw this girl from a re­al­ity show, and I was like, “Hi!” And I started talk­ing to her like I knew her – but it’s just that there was a marathon of her show on while I was get­ting my hair done, so I felt like I knew

her. But when some­one from my fam­ily shares an is­sue on Face­book that they’re go­ing through, I’ve re­acted by think­ing, We’ve been hear­ing this same thing for 30 years, girl. I’ve had to stop my­self and say, “Have com­pas­sion. You’ve made tens of thou­sands of mis­takes, and hope­fully peo­ple have com­pas­sion for you.”’

LIS­TEN TO SOME­ONE ELSE’S STORY

‘On my book tour, a lot of cities felt like a re­vival – there were so many dis­clo­sures of abuse dur­ing the Q&A por­tion of talks and dur­ing the book sign­ing; even as I was driv­ing away peo­ple were flag­ging down my car in tears. I didn’t re­alise how big the need was for so many peo­ple to just get it out, to have some­one look them in the eye and say, “I be­lieve you.” I cried a lot. I Skyped a lot with my ther­a­pist, be­cause the hor­rors that I was tak­ing in trig­gered my PTSD. But I feel a re­spon­si­bil­ity to of­fer that sense of safety and sup­port. And luck­ily I have the means to help my­self at the end of the night.’

SHUT DOWN NEG­A­TIV­ITY

‘When some­one starts gos­sip­ing, I’ll be like, “I can’t.” It stops peo­ple cold. They’ll ask, “What? What can’t you do?” Then I’m like, “Lis­ten to this. Yeah, I can’t. It’s sooo neg­a­tive. Can we go back to your kid spit­ting? Be­cause that was funny.” You have to do it with a wink and a nod, but it shuts peo­ple down. I used to just do it if the con­ver­sa­tion was cen­tred on a loved one – you’re not talk­ing s--t about my friends or my fam­ily mem­bers in front of me. But now it’s in gen­eral, be­cause when you let that into your space, whether or not you’re go­ing to spread it or agree with it, your si­lence makes you com­plicit in neg­a­tive en­ergy, and that comes back.’

MAKE YOUR DREAMS TAN­GI­BLE

‘I make a vi­sion board every year. Some of the pic­tures on my first one were of a hair­care line, Kenya and a Clear­blue preg­nancy test. As goals man­i­fest, I’ve been able to look at my boards and say, “Damn, I put in a lot of work and de­serve it.” That’s helped me to stop feel­ing sus­pi­cious of joy. To not sab­o­tage some­thing be­fore I’ve had a chance to do it be­cause I as­sume I’ll be re­jected. The only things that have not come to pass are a cos­met­ics line, Machu Pic­chu and a baby. I’ve had the pos­i­tive stick, but also a num­ber of mis­car­riages, so maybe I just have to go more spe­cific and show a woman with a hu­man be­ing trav­el­ling through her ori­fices. I’ll put those things back on this year’s board and see what hap­pens.’

LEFT: Gabrielle with Dwyane BE­LOW: ‘When peo­ple tell us how kind [the boys] are, that’s re­ward­ing. Though as a step­mom, you can take only about 15% credit,’ says Gabrielle, seen here with Dwyane, her step­sons and her nephew

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