Like the no-nonsense characters she’s played on TV and film, Gabrielle Union has never been afraid to tell it like it is. Such was the case when the actress recently sat down with Byrdie Beauty and offered her take on a myriad of hot topics, including the controversy surrounding Lupita Nyong’o and Solange’s retouched magazine covers.
“My thing is if you want them on your cover, you want them. Why would you change who they are? You obviously want them for all that they bring to the table, so show all of them. You don’t need to re-create the wheel—they’re amazing and beautiful on their own,” she said.
“Lupita was obviously very comfortable and felt very beautiful on that day. That’s how she wanted to be reflected and obviously what you shot, so to change her hair is to erase her.”
Elaborating on the Eurocentric beauty standards perpetuated both in and outside the black community, Union also recalled times when her own skin and hair were altered for magazines or on set. Once, while playing the role of a “professional woman,” producers went as far as to persuade her out of wearing braids, for the sake of appealing to a more widely accepted version of what “polished” looks like.
“They were like, She’s beautiful, sophisticated, and professional. I was like, Well, I want to wear braids. And and they were like, Well, I mean, she’s beautiful, sophisticated, and corporate America,” she said. “I responded, Yes, and specifically I want twists. And they went on to say, We just really want her to look more polished. I said, You all really don’t understand what are we talking about here?”
At the same time, she doesn’t place all of the blame on others. Union is also aware of the ways in which women of color have adopted the same standards which reject their natural features, but remains hopeful that we’ll evolve past that notion.
“People will try to lighten our skin tones and alter our hair, which says a lot of about how we feel about ourselves versus how other people feel about our blackness and textured hair,” she said. “And if you get into the Eurocentric beauty ideals that the [black community] has adopted ourselves at times, it’s even more maddening. We’re all on our hair journey, and everyone’s journey is beautiful and valid and amazing.”
We couldn’t have said it better. Read the entire Byrdie interview for more of Gabrielle’s beauty insight, including why she swears by a gallon of water everyday.