“Cultural appropriation” is a phrase that’s become ubiquitous in discussions of current fashion and beauty trends (if this is foreign territory for you, take a quick gander on Google). Although the term wasn’t as popular in the early aughts as it is in 2018, the concept still made its way into mainstream media back then in the hit blockbuster, Bring It On.
That’s right—the, “Hey Mickey, you’re so fine” flick that might have been sold as a girly cheerleading movie was actually a commentary on white people taking black culture. It’s a pretty clear-cut theme of the film, since a group of white cheerleaders literally steal routines from an all-black squad in another town, but the seriousness of the issue was easy to overlook because of the movie’s sugary, rom-com packaging.
But the idea of cultural appropriation was something Gabrielle Union—who, at age 26, co-starred with Kirsten Dunst as the rival captain of the East Compton Clovers—was certainly focused on after she was denied a role in a different all-white movie. The 45-year-old actress recently spoke to ELLE about what Bring It On meant to her.
“I had wanted this cheerleading movie Sugar & Spice, but they didn’t go black on any of the roles. I couldn’t even audition. In Bring It On, the story is about cultural appropriation, and how the hard work of African Americans has been repackaged with blond hair and blue eyes. The social justice of it appealed to me.”
Union obviously is, and always has been, a champion of women of color. Aside from making giant strides in TV by producing BET’s female-centric drama, “Being Mary Jane,” Union has an entire #WCW series on Instagram that highlights powerful women of color who she admires.
Since Bring It On was Union’s big break, we applaud her for being so mindful about the kind of narratives she took (and still takes) part in. We always love seeing women championing other women, and that includes women of color telling their stories and supporting each other. You keep doing you, Union.