Gabrielle Union’s new memoir You Got Anything Stronger? pulls back layers where you didn’t know the Bring It On star could get any deeper or more vulnerable — and then she does, peeling back ten more layers to show you exactly how the pain hit her body, what went through her mind, and what it felt like when she started to come back to herself. Already known in Hollywood for her candor, Union fully embraces her role as a truth-teller in this second collection of stories on her life, a follow-up to 2017’s We’re Going to Need More Wine. Since her last book, Union closed the door on a long IVF journey, welcomed her daughter Kaavia via surrogate with husband and NBA star Dwyane Wade, saw daughter Zaya Wade through her transition and public coming-out, and came out the other side stronger, clearer, and more determined to call out the bulls**t.
That also means she’s opening up about something she’s never really discussed with the public in much detail, not that she’s under any illusion that she has an obligation to do so. In conjunction with opening up about her heartbreak around her numerous miscarriages, Union is talking for the first time at length about the heartbreak of discovering Wade had fathered a child with another woman, Aja Metoyer, during a break in their relationship. Their son Xavier was born in 2013 and Wade and Union have since married and done years of work on their relationship, but only now has Union decided she has the words — and the inclination — to share how she felt when she found out how her life was about to change.
“In 2013, before we were married, Dwyane had a baby with another woman,” Union writes frankly. “It should go without saying that we were not in a good place in our relationship at the time that child was conceived. But we were in a much better place when he finally told me about the pregnancy. To say I was devastated is to pick a word on a low shelf for convenience. There are people — strangers who I will never meet — who have been upset that I have not previously talked about that trauma. I have not had words, and even after untold amounts of therapy I am not sure I have them now. But truth matters.”
For Union, the trauma of finding out what had happened with Wade was compounded by the grief of her own fertility journey: “The experience of Dwyane having a baby so easily while I was unable to left my soul not just broken into pieces, but shattered into fine dust scattering in the wind. With desperate hands, we gathered what we could to slowly remake me into something new. There was no way to disguise where I’d been glued back together, so I was left to hope that the breakage and repair would at least be appreciated as history. A living contradiction of being solid but still broken; stronger and yet painfully delicate.”
This last clause is a brilliant description of how Union sees herself as a grown woman: someone awe-inspiring for what she has endured and overcome. As Union struggled to find forgiveness in her heart for Wade, she also dealt once again with the scrutiny of the public.
.@itsgabrielleu spoke to SheKnows' Parenting Editor @apedelman about the "Bring it On" reboot, baby Kaavia’s "unfiltered and unbothered" Instagram account, and her and @DwyaneWade's transgender daughter Zaya. https://t.co/IwKEfuXdbA
— SheKnows (@SheKnows) November 24, 2020
“The murmurs of the unseen crowd came at me again. ‘This woman is such a failure. And she has the nerve to be old. And she has the nerve to have a younger husband. And she has the nerve to stick with a guy who had a kid with somebody else,'” Union recalls thinking.
As a successful Black woman in Hollywood, Union knows plenty about — and has written extensively about — the “nerve” ascribed to her for daring to be ambitious, to ask for what she’s worth, and to keep pushing past what she’s been given. When it came to her relationship, she experienced the same expectation that she be greater than herself, than any woman could ever be — that she be the perfect wife and take nothing less than perfect treatment from her husband all at once.
Union writes of how she and Wade offer one another “grace” in their marriage, which she describes as “a renewable resource that Dwyane and I can give each other when one of us is in need,” and “that combination of love and mercy that we all have to give and yet are trained to think we don’t deserve.”
That understanding, that give and take, is what has made Union and Wade’s marriage stronger every year in the wake of the hurdles they’ve faced. And while we appreciate Union offering this insight, we also hope the public can offer her — and all women — a similar grace going forward before leaping to judgments on how someone should live their life.
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Before you go, click here to see all the celebrity couples who have stayed together after cheating scandals.