Gabrielle Union is an amazing Hollywood actress. And, after reading the book, I think of her as ‘Nikki’—an amazing woman, an amazing writer.
The first element of surprise when reading the book is the humor. I know it is right there in the title. But it was so interesting that I couldn’t put it down. The second surprise is honesty. Of course, it is a memoir and we expect honesty. But Gabrielle’s daring quality of writing brings out a crude honesty. The last surprise is that the writing is so personal. After seeing her as a glamorous Hollywood star, I felt like I was meeting a totally different person. It feels like ‘Nikki’ is sitting right next to you and telling these stories herself.
You may have seen Gabrielle as a powerful woman and a fierce news anchor in Being Mary Jane. Gabrielle’s career on Television started in the 1990s when she was just a teenager.
If you picked the book thinking of getting some juicy gossips from an insider, you will be a little disappointed. Gabrielle stays away from any gossips throughout the book. However, she does talk about her unpleasant marriage and divorce with Chris Howard. Chris is a retired NFL running back. The actress tells how she continued to pay for her ex-husband’s bills. And, the reason for dishing it out in the book was, “Had he paid up, perhaps I would have been kinder. Or omitted some of his truth or our truth,” she sighs. “But, alas, his bill is outstanding, and — sorry.”
If there are any gossips, they are about Gabrielle. In a very light and funny manner, Gabrielle shares her little crush on Heath Ledger. She talks about her sexual encounters and cheating stories. Some sad moments include her struggle with infertility and miscarriages. But the real heart-breaking story is that of her rape.
She talks about how she got assaulted and raped on gunpoint. This happened in a very posh community when she was only 19 years old. The UCLA Santa Monica rape treatment center helped her in dealing with the dilemma. But the incident kept affecting her.
Later on, Gabrielle starred in the film, Birth of a Nation as Esther. The film was based on the story of the slave rebellion. Led by a Baptist preacher Nat Turner, the struggle for justice became a more violent and horrific battle. However, later, the rape scandal of Nate Parker (the actor playing Nat Turner and the director of the film) came to light. He was found ‘not guilty’ later on. Gabrielle avoids digging into the controversy in her book.
Another main subject of the book is racism. And, how she experienced it being a part of one of the oldest black families. She was born in Nebraska and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, she was living in white suburbs. Growing up, being called the N-word, she had to adapt. And, the more she adapted to the society, the more the white people around her ‘got very comfortable in their racism.’ She paints a picture of her fears that her stepsons will share the same experiences. That the society that now sees them as little boys will start seeing that as a ‘threat.’
Gabrielle also talks about her career. And, in her honesty, she tells you straight that while she was playing a high school girl on TV, she was 23 years old. She continued playing the roles of teenagers until she was 30. With her youthfulness and charm, she could get away with it.
The Essence Fierce and Fearless Award in 2013 was a moment of revelation to her. When receiving the reward, Gabrielle startled the audience. Her speech then was another epic example of her honesty. When she admitted the ‘negativity’ that she had for her ‘sister actresses’ who she thought stole her spotlight. For instance, starring in ‘Bring it on’ (2000) against Kirsten Dunst, she thought it was unfair that she was playing the ‘mean girl.’
Among the audience was Oprah Winfrey. Gabrielle’s comments surprised her. Winfrey remembered that speech. And, later, she once mentioned it on a TV show. She said to her, “As you started to speak, my own mouth dropped and then got wider and wider, and by the time you finished we were all like, whoa. What was that?”
For Gabrielle however, that was the time she started seeing things from a positive perspective. That was another moment when she started becoming the woman she is now.
She gives credit to the therapies and life coaching lessons she had. She says, “That came on the heels of a lot of therapy, a lot of life coaching and just wanting to change the narrative about black women in Hollywood. And just being honest.”
And, honest she is.
piece of writing and is a perfect read with a cocktail.
Throughout the book, you can notice the evolution in the character of Gabrielle. You can also see her growth started when she embraced the truth and said it out loud with honesty. Her introspection and self-evaluation is the very heart of her development as a person.
Each chapter/ essay of the book deals with some of the frequently debated subjects. But she writes about them sharing her unique opinions with ruthless honesty. The seriousness of the subjects makes you cry, the reality of the world makes you cringe and, (at the same time) the humor makes you laugh. It is impossible to not fall in love with this remarkable woman, and love and respect her amazing journey. The book is full of extremely entertaining stories. Reading it was a treat – way overdue, the audible version even better. And, I would recommend the book to everyone.
Serving since 28th December 2008.