When she was a teenager, all Gabrielle Union wanted was to be chosen. Growing up, she felt conspicuous as one of the only black girls in the mostly-white California city of Pleasanton, and she distinctly remembers how badly she wanted to fit in—but more often than not, she says, she felt like an outsider. "My parents thought moving us to Pleasanton was giving us all of the opportunity. You have great schools, safe neighborhoods, you're going to be around the right kind of people," she told me when I spoke to her live on stage at The Commonwealth Club, "and all it did was isolate us." But it turned out that Pleasanton wasn't as safe as her parents had hoped—a lesson Gabrielle learned in a horrific way. When she was 19, she was raped at gunpoint in the Payless ShoeSource where she was working. In addition to the trauma she had to work through in the aftermath, Gabrielle says that being labeled as the victim of an assault made her feel even more socially isolated. "You become that black girl," she told me. "And for someone so fully committed to assimilation, that was by far the most traumatizing part."
Twenty-five years later, Gabrielle's talking about these experiences in a new collection of essays, called We're Going To Need More Wine. It's not the first time she's gone public with her most private moments; last year, an op-ed she published in the L.A. Times reflecting on the rape allegations against her Birth of a Nation director and costar Nate Parker went viral. But being open with fans hasn't always been easy for her. She told me that for years after she was assaulted, she had difficulty figuring out how to set boundaries and protect her personal space—especially as she was becoming recognizable from her roles in movies like Bring It On. "Not saying no means there’s no boundaries," she told me about her early experiences with fans. "So self-care goes out the window. You've got to be everything to everybody at all times, which is impossible."
In the years since, she's learned to balance her fame with self-care. She's now married to NBA star Dwyane Wade, and together, they're raising his nephew and two sons from a previous marriage. And she says that ironically, their relationship works because they know they don't have to be in it. "There is no 'you-complete-me' shit," Gabrielle explains. "It's, 'I'm making a conscious choice to be with you every single day because we both have a lot of options. So I'm choosing you every day.'"