Actress Gabrielle Union is choosing vulnerability and sharing details about her life and past experiences. In her newly released book, You Got Anything Stronger, the 48-year-old star speaks to the personal and professional instances that have impacted her in various ways. In one story, she shares how she relates to one of her most memorable film roles.
In 2000, Union starred in Bring It On as Isis, the captain of the East Compton Clovers cheerleading squad. In her role, she calls out the Rancho Carne Toros squad, a predominantly white school for stealing their routines and the two rivals compete in a national cheerleading tournament. In her book, she writes a letter to Isis.
During a sit-down with Good Morning America on Monday (Sept. 13), she opened up about her regrets in how she portrayed Isis.
“I was given full range to do whatever I wanted with Isis in Bring It On, and I chose respectability, and to be classy, and take the high road because I felt like that would make her appropriate, the right kind of Black girl,” she shared. “Black girls aren’t allowed to be angry. Certainly not demonstratively angry and I muzzled her.”
When asked if what she would have done differently, she remarked, “Read the Toros for filth. I would have been like, ‘Yeah, when you had to do your own work it wasn’t enough. You came in second. Take that L. Thank that loss. I would’ve allowed her to be angry. I would have allowed her her full humanity.”
She added, “I made her gracious, this decent kind leader, and I was still a villain in that movie for making her want accountability for the theft of their work product and the cultural appropriation,” she said. “I did all that shape-shifting for a character not even realizing I was doing that to myself, too. I wasn’t allowing myself the full range of my humanity.”
During an interview with PEOPLE, the Bad Boys and L.A.’s Finest actress spoke to an additional past, but recent experience, this time a real-life incident. In 2019, Union and some friends were traveling in Croatia, hoping to “recreate Cersei’s steps from Game of Thrones.” It ended up being a violent, racist story, she revealed in the book.
“I’ve never experienced that level of hatred and the threat of physical violence,” Union said. “It was such a jolt. And the fear and adrenaline of what happened left us all numb.”
She detailed how they believed they were entering a gay bar for cocktails and wound up in a venue surrounded Jim Crow memorabilia and “Neo-Nazi” customers. Union and her friends were intimidated by the racist crowd and left the establishment.
“We think we’re post-racial but we’re not. And that is beyond disappointing. I don’t think people understand the violence that comes with racism, whether it’s if you’re being chased or you’re having to watch someone wear blackface to collect a paycheck. It’s violent.”
You Got Anything Stronger follows up her 2017 NAACP Image Award-winning New York Times bestseller, We’re Going to Need More Wine?.
“Frankly, after being so open and honest in my writing, I wasn’t sure there was more of me I was ready to share. But life happens with all its plot twists. And new stories demand to be told,” she said. “This time, I need to be more vulnerable—not so much for me, but anyone who feels alone in what they’re going through. I have recently found true strength in that vulnerability, and I want to share that power with you here, through this book,” Union wrote on the publishing website.
Watch the full conversation on GMA above and a trailer for You Got Anything Stronger below.