Friday, January 8, 2010
Gabrielle Union Tells Her Story
If you ask my parents they would say I was a perfect child, a model child, because I did everything that was asked of me. I got great grades, I was a great athlete, I was a student leader, the police were never called, there were never any major scandals on our cul-de-sac…but what was going on inside, and what I was dealing with individually and as a group of girls, was absolute turmoil. Emotionally, physically, spiritually, we were forced to deal with a lot of adult issues and situations as a collective, and often times we wouldn’t turn to each other, we would internalize everything, we didn’t have an outlet. So, I was going through MAJOR low self esteem. I was a black girl in an all white school in an all white community, never feeling good enough, but always being encouraged by my parents to be bigger, badder and better. And perfect is the standard. That’s an immense amount of pressure to put on a child. Then I’m starting to like guys. And in my own town, with me being THE black girl, the white guys weren’t really checking for me in that way. When I got to go to basketball camp and I got be around black boys, I was like cool…until I got dumped…for a light skinned girl. And then that whole thing started. My hair isn’t straight enough. My nose isn’t pointy enough. My lips are too big. My boobs aren’t big enough. And you start going through all of that. And I realize as I’ve gotten older a lot of issues that I was dealing with at 15, I am still dealing with today.
My niece is a teenager and is dealing with her skin, she’s dealing with her hair, she’s dealing with what clothes to wear, the music she listens to…I would love to say a lot has changed, but I certainly believe that there is a lot more work to do be done.
In the business that I am in now, it is incredibly tough, and to be honest, sometimes it is is hard to keep my head above the water, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. I’m just really fortunate to have people, friends I can call on at any hour. You don’t get a job, and you immediately want to blame it on, if my hair was different, or maybe if my nose…or they just want to go with light-skin girls, and you start to doubt yourself, and the self-doubts and the low self-esteem starts to creep in. When that happens I know that I can call on a good friend. One day, he made me do this exercise, which I thought was ridiculous at first, standing in the mirror and finding things about my face that I loved, whether it be the freckles or my eyebrows, and just concentrating on all of the positive things…and I thought it was a load…and then, I found myself doing it one day and I found myself feeling a little bit better. So I texted him and I was like, “it worked.” But what I found is that it’s great that I have a group of girlfriends that I can rely on, but it can’t just be this one-way street of women validating women. There’s something about a platonic, non-sexual male voice in your life, ideally your parent, your father, relative or brother, which should be a steady, consistent source of nothing but positivity. And having this friend inspired me to reach out to my own dad and tell him that he’s got to tell my niece everyday that she is a beautiful princess. I can tell her that she has a lovely jump shot, or she does well in school, but what she’s gonna start looking out for from other people, from other men, is to tell her how beautiful she is, and she’s gonna find validation in all the wrong ways. So, it is important to be that mentor, to be that guiding figure in her life, so she doesn’t accept validation from the wrong places.
We don’t generally share these stories. These are things that you generally take to the grave with you. You don’t want people to know that I hate my nose. You don’t want people to know that I have this fear a light-skinned woman walking into the room, ya’ know, you don’t want people to know that, so you take that your grave. So, I write this to let you all know that I’m still in it, but it’s getting better and there is light at the end of the tunnel. And when a young person has a mentor, it only makes the light seem that much more real.