Ageless Gabrielle Union Uses Her Star Power for Good

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Photo: Elisabeth Caren/Getty Images

A small town girl from Omaha, Neb., Gabrielle Union is busy these days. The actress, model, and Neutrogena spokesperson is raising three young boys with her fiancé, Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade, and planning an August wedding to boot. I love that Gabrielle is not only beautiful, but she’s also an incredibly strong woman.  Gabrielle has been working to empower other women like herself, who have been victims of sexual assault. Here, Gabrielle reveals how she didn’t feel pretty when she was growing up, why she uses her celebrity to help women rather than talk fluff, and the real reason she looks 25 at 41 (Hint: It has nothing to do with plastic surgery.)

BB: What came first, modeling or acting? How did you get started?

GU: I would use the word modeling with single quotation marks around it. It was L.A. modeling, so you have to take it with a grain of salt! When I was at UCLA, I was office help at a modeling agency as an internship. When my internship ended, they asked if would I consider modeling if some of the bookers were interested. I was still working at the bookstore at UCLA making $6.60 per hour, and I had a full course load, so I was like, “Let’s just see what happens.” On my first go-see I booked Seventeen and Sassy. I shot a bunch of editorials with them without a book, without anything. So then the man I had been interning for was like, “Let’s send you on an audition and just see what happens.” And I booked it! Luckily no one asked me along the way, “Do you know what the hell you are doing?” Because I didn’t. Now I kind of know, but I still feel very green and like an outsider. I am still learning.

BB: You are in fantastic shape. Have you always been athletic and healthy? Have you ever even had a weight issue?

GU: I would say in my community, and in the African American culture, it would have been a weight problem, if I was too small or too skinny. My body type was not the ideal of beauty. So when I post on Instagram, some people are like, “Oooh, you need a sandwich!”  You can’t please everybody. But I’ve always been a jock. I played basketball, soccer, softball, and I ran track. I played soccer at Nebraska. And you know just kind of having that as my life since I was 5 years old. Thank God for muscle memory! But I work out, but I am not a “nut” about it. Like I work out mainly, because it is part of my job, but not so much to have the poor tailor have to take in or out my clothes every day.

BB: Did you have any self-esteem issues growing up?

GU:  Not about my body, more about being a black child in an all white community. I also felt like the blonde was the ideal of beauty, and if I looked nothing like that, then I must be ugly. I had all of the things that come from having low self-esteem and not getting the kind of attention you want, specifically male attention that you want. I was never really looked upon as being pretty. Every girl wants to hear, “You’re a princess,” and people would be like, “You are funny.” or “What a smart girl Gab is!” I was like, I don’t want to be smart! I want to be pretty!      

BB: Well that has changed! When I look at pictures of you, you look like you are under 30 not 41! What is your secret? Is it your genes? Is it something you eat? Tell us!

GU: It is oily skin, which is sort of like a blessing and a curse. I’ve started calling my oily skin embalming fluid. It is sort of preserving what is left of my youth. My mom also has oily skin. She just turned 67, and she only started getting wrinkles in the last couple of years. I have been lucky in that way that my oily skin has kept me sort of youthful looking. Plus I started drinking a gallon of water a day about five,six years ago, and that helps too. 

BB: Tell me about your makeup routine when you are not working.

GU: When I am not working, it is kind of nonexistent. With the advent of high definition, makeup is so heavy. When I am not working, I just hope for the best that my skin is clear, blemish-free, and even. Then I rock mascara and lip balm.

BB: You must have paparazzi following you all the time. Can you really just throw on mascara and photograph like you do?

GU:  The bigger the sunglasses the better! I won’t go certain places in LA, like a lot of my favorite restaurants even, unless I’ve come from a photo shoot.

BB: That kind of sucks.

GU: Even LAX has turned into a red carpet! So I find the biggest sunglasses I can, I just smile and hope that I haven’t had a breakout that day.

BB: Speaking of skincare you are a spokesperson for Neutrogena. What are some of your favorite products?

GU: Neutrogena’s Pink Grapefruit face wash is my favorite. I use it everyday. I also use their Pink Grapefruit makeup wipe removers. Neutrogena’s Rapid Tone Repair is for when I pick my zits and leave a dark mark. Also, my tried and true Volumizing Mascara in the darkest black. It makes my eyes look awake when I am really zoned out. Right now through July for everyone who buys a Neutrogena product with sunscreen, a sunscreen product is donated to a family in need. Coming from Omaha, kind of a depressed area, you see a lot of families have to make hard decisions about the necessities. Unfortunately we are all at risk for sun damage, which can ultimately lead to skin cancer. I love this initiative because it really kind of fills the gap for a lot of families who can’t afford proper sun protection for their families.       

BB: I know it is important for you to be a great role model. You have also done a lot of amazing work to help girls who that have been through some tough things in their lives.

GU: One of the smartest things that I have done in my life has been to stop being afraid to talk about being a sexual assault survivor. I decided to really use my voice to talk about things other than if Freddie Prinze Jr. is cute or what kind of kisser Will Smith is. I try to actually use my voice as something positive. The single most important thing I’ve done as an adult is to tell that story and let people know that no matter what you go through in life, you’re not alone. It does get better. You are not going to stay on the ground. You will be lifted up. You will be uplifted. Hopefully I am one of those women that can help uplift other people who have gone through some crazy s***.