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Gabrielle Union
Gabrielle union 2018 mtv.jpg
Union in 2018
Gabrielle Monique Union

(1972-10-29) October 29, 1972 (age 51)
Education University of California, Los Angeles (BS)
  • Actress
  • author
Years active 1993–present
(m. 2001; div. 2006)
(m. 2014)
Children 1
Relatives Saweetie (cousin)

Gabrielle Monique Union-Wade (née Union; born October 29, 1972) is an American actress. Her career began in the 1990s, when she made dozens of appearances on television sitcoms, prior to landing supporting roles in 1999 teen films She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You. She rose to greater prominence the following year, after she landed her breakthrough role in the teen film Bring It On.

Union is known for her performances in the romantic comedy films The Brothers (2001), Deliver Us from Eva (2003), Daddy's Little Girls (2007), Think Like a Man (2012) and Think Like a Man Too (2014). She also had starring roles in the CBS medical drama series City of Angels (2000) and in the films Bad Boys II (2003), Cradle 2 the Grave (2003), Neo Ned (2005), Cadillac Records (2008), Top Five (2014), Breaking In (2018), and The Perfect Find (2023). She has also co-starred in the films The Birth of a Nation (2016), Almost Christmas (2016) and Sleepless (2017).

Union starred as the lead characters in BET drama series Being Mary Jane (2013-2019), for which she has received an NAACP Image Award, and in the crime series L.A.'s Finest (2019-2020). Outside of acting, Union has written four books: two memoirs, titled We're Going to Need More Wine (2017) and You Got Anything Stronger? (2021), and two children's books, titled Welcome to the Party (2020) and Shady Baby (2021).

She has also been an outspoken advocate for issues involving women's health, LGBTQ+ equality, and violence against women, and was awarded the President's Award from the NAACP Image Awards, alongside her husband Dwyane Wade for their humanitarian efforts. Union was included on Time's list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2020.

Early life

Union was born on October 29, 1972, in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Theresa (née Glass), a phone company manager and social worker, and Sylvester E. Union, a military sergeant. She was raised Catholic. During her childhood, she was taught to be "an independent woman, standing on my own two feet, and that's the road I opted to take." According to Union, her mother taught her to have a "world perspective" and took her to a gay pride parade at the age of eight after the family moved to Pleasanton, California. She attended Foothill High School where she was a year-round student athlete, competing in Varsity soccer, track, and basketball. Union dated fellow student Jason Kidd during her junior year.

Union's parents divorced after 30 years of marriage. She said, "They handled their divorce and our subsequent transition into a blended family with grace, dignity and respect. They always put us first and didn't involve us. I'm lucky that I can just mirror what my parents did and always put the kids first. They're pretty awesome. I'm lucky."

Union grew up with self-esteem issues relating to colorism, as one of the few African-American children in her environment. When Union was younger, she believed that "blonde was the ideal of beauty, and if I looked nothing like that, then I must be ugly." On her college football memories, Union reflected, "In my family if you couldn't talk Cornhusker football—that means knowing the Blackshirt defense, knowing the I-back formation—then you don't get to have an opinion. When I first toured the Nebraska campus and I saw Turner Gill walk, I freaked out. That was like the biggest star-struck moment I've probably ever had in my life. But it's because I grew up in a household that always talked specifically Cornhusker football and Big 8 sports at the time."

Union has a bachelor's degree in sociology from UCLA.


Early roles

Union started her acting career with minor roles. Her first audition was for Saved by the Bell. In 1997, Union appeared in the sixth-season episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine—"Sons and Daughters" as the Klingon N'Garen. She also appeared in Moesha as Ashli, Sister, Sister as Vanessa, in Smart Guy as Denise, and in five episodes of 7th Heaven as Keesha Hamilton. She also appeared on an episode of Friends, "The One with the Cheap Wedding Dress", as Kristen, a love interest to both Ross and Joey. Other earlier roles included teen movies such as She's All That and 10 Things I Hate About You.


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Union in February 2009

Union appeared in the 2000 film Love & Basketball. She then played the role of Isis in the cheerleading movie Bring It On, which helped push Union into the mainstream. Bring It On led to Union being cast in the CBS television drama City of Angels as Dr. Courtney Ellis. In 2001, Union was featured in The Brothers and was seen as having a "beguiling sincerity, even when she's fudging the truth." Union was cast in her first leading role in the 2003 film Deliver Us from Eva. When casting Eva, director Gary Hardwick was looking for an actress capable of instantly changing "from funny to caustic and dramatic." Hardwick had previously worked with Union in The Brothers and believed she was perfect for the role of Eva. Union's role in the film was met with praise, with Dustin Putman of writing that she was "the star attraction, and the number-one reason to even consider seeing the film." Union drew influence from her father for the "stern" look she had in the film, admitting that she had stolen it from him.

In 2003, Union landed the role of the main character Mike Lowrey's girlfriend, Syd, in the film Bad Boys II, a box-office success grossing more than $273 million worldwide. Union felt that she had been "blessed" with her role in the film, feeling it elevated her career. That same year, she lent her voice to the animated television series The Proud Family. The following year, she appeared in Something the Lord Made. Union also starred in the 2004 film Breakin' All the Rules, which was unpopular with critics. She appeared in the 2005 film Neo Ned, portraying an African-American woman with delusions that she is Adolf Hitler. She and co-star Jeremy Renner were noted by Mark Olsen of the Los Angeles Times as having "a strange, offbeat chemistry that drives the film". She won an award for Best Actress in Neo Ned at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, and the film received awards at several festivals.

She starred in the 2005 remake of The Honeymooners. That year, Union also starred in the short-lived ABC series Night Stalker. She called the series a "reworking" rather than a remake. Union admitted that at the time of getting the script she was turned off, but she became interested after reading the script at her agent's insistence. She then met with series creator Frank Spotnitz and executive producer Daniel Sackheim, who told her they thought of her anytime they thought of the character.

Union starred in the 2007 film Daddy's Little Girls by Tyler Perry. The role in which she played Julia Rossmore, a romantically challenged attorney, was written with her in mind. Before working with Perry, she went to see his stage show to both understand him and his audience. She filmed Daddy's Little Girls in mid-2006 in Atlanta, Georgia. Union was praised for her character's portrayal and for having a "great sense of comedic timing". Union's character also drew comparisons to Eva, her role in Deliver Us from Eva. According to Union, Perry had specifically approached her over not turning the role into the same character. Union starred with Morris Chestnut in the 2007 Christmas film The Perfect Holiday. Since she had no children of her own, Union drew on her familiarity with her mother and sister to portray the divorced single mother of three in the film. Union initially turned down the role, as she did not want to get typecast for playing a mother until she was told of other actresses that had played similar roles and still found success in their careers.

In an interview with Art Nouveau Magazine, Union complained about the lack of roles for Black actresses and actors in Hollywood: "There used to be [roles] specifically written black, if you knew Denzel was doing a movie you knew his wife, girl or love interest was going to be black [but] that's not necessarily the case anymore. You're in that room with every amazingly talented actress of every hue, and it's a dogfight, it's hard." Moreover, although she often plays weak, insecure characters, Union believes that "Hollywood needs to recognize all shades of African-American beauty."

In 2008, Union appeared on Ugly Betty for three episodes as Renee, Wilhelmina Slater's sister and Daniel Meade's love interest. She also made a cameo appearance in the music video for Ne-Yo's "Miss Independent". Union appeared in the 2008 film Cadillac Records. She portrayed Geneva Wade, who later married Muddy Waters. Union, who was reported to have signed on to the film in March 2008, was seen as a "pleasant surprise" in the film, and her performance was said to have shown she had larger acting range than her previous roles. Union later called taking the role of Geneva Wade in the film the best business decision she had ever made. Union appeared in the 2008 film Meet Dave, playing the love interest of the title character. Union said the film was a gift. That same year, she wrote the foreword for Hill Harper's Letters to a Young Sister: DeFINE your Destiny. Union joined the cast of the U.S. television series Life on NBC and appeared in four episodes prior to its cancellation in May 2009. She appeared in the ABC series FlashForward, a role for which she was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2010.


Gabrielle Union - Flickr - nick step (2)
Union in September 2010

After she was reported to be joining the cast in June 2010, Union appeared in episodes of Army Wives and NTSF:SD:SUV:: in 2010 and 2011. Union was reported in May 2011 to have landed roles in Think Like a Man, a romantic comedy based on Steve Harvey's book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man, and an indie film, Family Tree.

In January 2012, Union was announced to be a participant in Bounce TV's documentary Our History. In 2012, she played Natalie in the romantic comedy Good Deeds, playing the fiancée of the Wesley Deeds character. Union said that after she read the script, she became interested in working with Tyler Perry again and enjoyed working with the cast. She then appeared in Steve Harvey's film Think Like a Man. Union related to her character for having married and divorced young. She and Meagan Good were seen as having taken advantage of their "straightforward characters to add spots of comic zest as well." Her next appearance was In Our Nature. The film was the directorial debut of Brian Savelson. Savelson had offered Union the role two years prior to the film's release in 2010. Union saw In Our Nature as a personal victory for her career.

In 2013, she began starring in the BET network show Being Mary Jane. Union learned of the series while auditioning for Scandal for the role of Olivia Pope, which ultimately went to Kerry Washington. Union has said that she is content with having lost the role in Scandal to Washington: "I didn't get Scandal, but I got something better, which is my own show." Union was impressed with the show's quality and professionalism. Also in 2013, Union starred in Ava DuVernay's short film The Door as part of Miu Miu's Women's Tales campaign.

Union reprised her role as Kristen in Think Like a Man Too in 2014, but it received mostly negative reviews. She believed the film would do well and faced comparisons to her character, who was a newlywed while Union was engaged at the time, a similarity she dispelled by insisting she kept her relationship "enjoyable, fresh and exciting". Union was announced in July 2014 as a producer in the Lifetime film With This Ring. She was featured in Chris Rock's Top Five, playing the fiancée of Rock's character. Union viewed her Top Five character as being similar to members of the Kardashian family or the Braxton sisters. In November 2015, Union began voicing Nala in the Disney movie and series The Lion Guard. In October 2016, Union was featured in The Birth of a Nation. Later that year, Union had a prominent role as Rachel Meyers in the comedy film Almost Christmas, released in November. Ariel Scotti of The New York Times panned Union's performance: "Each overused phrase that falls out of her character, Rachel's, vindictive, childish mouth takes viewers further out of the movie experience."

In 2017, Union launched Flawless by Gabrielle Union, a line of hair-care products that catered to people with textured hair. In September 2017, Union announced a collaborative partnership with Invicta Watch Group that included a line of watches she designed.

In 2019, Union began starring as Syd Burnett in the Bad Boys spin-off L.A.'s Finest, a Charter Spectrum original series that premiered May 13 and was later renewed for a second season. Union was also a judge for the fourteenth season of America's Got Talent. In November 2019, the show failed to renew her contract for another season, allegedly because she spoke out against racism. Union's fellow America's Got Talent judge Julianne Hough's contract was also not renewed.


On Disney Investor Day, December 11, 2020, it was announced that Union would be starring with Zach Braff in a remake of Cheaper by the Dozen, which was released in March 2022. In December 2021, she played Tootie Ramsey in The Facts of Life segment of the third edition of Live in Front of a Studio Audience, recreating the episode "Kids Can Be Cruel".

In March 2022, she was cast as the lead for the third season of Truth Be Told on Apple TV+.

She returned to The Proud Family on its sequel series The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder in a second-season episode airing in early 2023.


In May 2020, Union released her first children's book, Welcome to the Party, an ode to newborns and non-traditional families that was inspired by her daughter. She collaborated with her husband Dwyane Wade on a second children's book, Shady Baby, published on May 18, 2021.

Other commercial projects

Union became a spokeswoman for Neutrogena in 2004. In 2010, she launched Love & Blessings, a clothing line for plus-sized women, which was inspired by her full-figured sister. In March 2014, Union released her first wine, Vanilla Puddin'. That November, she became the first celebrity ambassador and creative advisor for the nail polish company SensatioNail.

In 2020, Union relaunched her haircare brand, Flawless, for women with textured hair. The collection is affordably priced and “empowers consumers to customize a regimen specific to their texture and style preference.” That same year, she joined Bitsy's as a cofounder with “the goal of making allergen-friendly, school-safe snacks that are accessible and affordable for all families regardless of their socioeconomic or geographic status.”

Union and her daughter Kaavia are a part of the ownership group of Angel City FC of the National Women's Soccer League.


Union ran in the Global Race for the Cure in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 2, 2012, in honor of her friend Kristen Martinez, who died from breast cancer. Union was present at the Newseum in Washington, D.C., on August 23, 2013, and unveiled a limited-edition 1963 March on Washington stamp to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the march.

Union is an Ambassador in Susan G. Komen for the Cure's Circle of Promise.

Personal life

Union met NFL player Chris Howard at a party in 1999. They married on May 5, 2001, and separated in October 2005. The divorce was finalized in 2006. Union said that when she got divorced she "sort of realized that she hadn't been making sound choices which were the best for her to pursue her hopes and dreams and aspirations and passions." In a 2014 interview, Union stated that she may have rushed into the relationship for the wrong reasons, noting that, "In my 20s, I was all about getting the ring". Union had earlier reflected that she spent much of the marriage "upset", and from the relationship she realized that the men in her life were "just human".

In 2008, Union began dating NBA player Dwyane Wade. They married on August 30, 2014, in Miami, Florida, and she became a stepmother to his three children. Union stated in an interview prior to the marriage that she and Wade would be signing a prenuptial agreement to protect their individual assets. On November 7, 2018, they welcomed a daughter, Kaavia James Wade, who was born via surrogate.

Awards and nominations



Year Title Role Notes
1999 She's All That Katarina "Katie" Darlingson
10 Things I Hate About You Chastity Church
2000 Love & Basketball Shawnee
Bring It On Isis
2001 The Brothers Denise Johnson
Two Can Play That Game Conny Spalding
2002 Abandon Amanda Luttrell
Welcome to Collinwood Michelle
2003 Deliver Us from Eva Evangeline "Eva" Dandrige
Cradle 2 the Grave Daria
Bad Boys II Special Agent Sydney "Syd" Burnett
Ride or Die Masked Woman Video
2004 Breakin' All the Rules Nicky Callas
2005 Neo Ned Rachael
The Honeymooners Alice Kramden
Say Uncle Elise Carter
2006 Running with Scissors Dorothy Ambrose
2007 Constellation Carmel Boxer
Daddy's Little Girls Julia Rossmore
The Box Det. Cris Romano
The Perfect Holiday Nancy Taylor
2008 Meet Dave No. 3 - Cultural Officer
Cadillac Records Geneva Wade
2012 Think Like a Man Kristen
Good Deeds Natalie
In Our Nature Vicki
2013 Miss Dial Long Story Caller
The Door She Short
2014 Think Like a Man Too Kristen
Top Five Erica Long
2016 The Birth of a Nation Esther
Almost Christmas Rachel Meyers
2017 Sleepless Dena Smith
2018 The Public Rebecca Parks
Breaking In Shaun Russell
2020 Fearless General Jayne Nadia Blazerhatch (voice)
2022 Cheaper by the Dozen Zoey Baker
The Inspection Inez French
Strange World Meridian Clade (voice)
2023 The Perfect Find Jenna Jones
TBA Riff Raff TBA In production


Year Title Role Notes
1993 Family Matters Mall Girl Episode: "Scenes from a Mall"
1995 Saved by the Bell: The New Class Hilary Episode: "The Christmas Gift"
1996 Moesha Ashli Episode: "Friends"
Malibu Shores Shannon Everette Episode: "The Competitive Edge"
Saved by the Bell: The New Class Jennifer Episode: "The Tall and the Short of It"
Goode Behavior Tracy Monaghan Recurring cast
1996–97 Jungle Cubs Sydney (voice) Guest cast (season 1–2)
1996–99 7th Heaven Keesha Hamilton Recurring cast (season 1), guest (season 2–3)
1997 Smart Guy Lydia Episode: "Don't Do That Thing You Do"
Dave's World Carly Episode: "Oh Dad, Poor Dad"
Hitz Soul Episode: "The Godfather: Not the Movie"
City Guys Katisha Grant Episode: "The Date"
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine N'Garen Episode: "Sons and Daughters"
Sister, Sister Vanessa/Shawn Guest (season 4), Recurring cast (season 5)
1998 The Steve Harvey Show Naomi Parson Episode: "The He-Man, Player-Hater's Club"
1999 Clueless Lydia Episode: "Prom Misses, Prom Misses"
Grown Ups Felicia Episode: "Pilot"
The Wonderful World of Disney Gabrielle Episode: "H-E Double Hockey Sticks"
2000 ER Tamara Davis Episode: "Family Matters"
The Others Lindsay Episode: "Theta"
Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane Lana Episode: "Too Much Pressure"
City of Angels Dr. Courtney Ellis Main cast (season 2)
2001 Friends Kristen Leigh Episode: "The One With The Cheap Wedding Dress"
2003 Pepsi Smash Herself/Host Episode #1.4
The Proud Family Sunny Stevens/Iesha (voice) Episode: "Hooray for Iesha"
2004 The West Wing Meeshel Anders Episode: "The Benign Prerogative"
Something the Lord Made Clara Thomas TV movie
2005 TV Land's Top Ten Herself
Family Guy Shauna Parks (voice) Episode: "Peter's Got Woods"
2005–06 Night Stalker Perri Reed Main cast
2007 Football Wives Chardonnay Lane TV movie
2008 Ugly Betty Renee Slater Recurring cast (season 2)
2009 Life Detective Jane Seever Recurring cast (season 2)
Body Politic Jessica Sharp TV movie
2009–10 FlashForward Zoey Andata Recurring cast
2009–13 The BET Honors Herself/Host Main host
2010 Army Wives Gina Holt Episode: "Murder in Charleston"
2011 NTSF:SD:SUV:: Sandy Canyons Episode: "Tijuana, We've Got a Problem"
2013–19 Being Mary Jane Mary Jane Paul Main cast
2015 With This Ring Kitty TV movie
The Lion Guard: Return of the Roar Nala (voice) TV movie
2016 Unsung Hollywood Herself Episode: "Meagan Good"
Family Feud Herself/Contestant Episode #18.51
2016–19 The Lion Guard Nala (voice) Recurring cast
2019 America's Got Talent Herself/Judge Main judge (season 14)
Gay of Thrones Herself Episode: "The Dong Night"
2019–20 L.A.'s Finest Special Agent Sydney "Syd" Burnett Main cast
2021 A Black Lady Sketch Show Herself Episode: "Sister, May I Call You Oshun?"
Live in Front of a Studio Audience Tootie Riley Episode: "Diff'rent Strokes & The Facts of Life"
2023 The Cube Herself Episode: "America, Do You Have What It Takes?"
Gabrielle Union: My Journey to 50 Herself Main guest
See It Loud: The History of Black Television Herself Recurring guest
The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder Talia (voice) Episode: "Puff Daddy"
Truth Be Told Eva Pierre Main cast (season 3)


Year Title
2012 Half the Sky

See also

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