Top Quotes: “We’re Going to Need More Wine” — Gabrielle Union

Background: I’ve been an admirer of Gabrielle for years (ok fine she’s a celebrity crush ;)), but I really didn’t know much about her story so I enjoyed reading these anecdotes about her childhood growing up in the East Bay and Omaha (becoming a condom dealer and accompanying a friend to an abortion clinic at age 15), finding out she was a Bruin (although she barely discusses UCLA — sad day), and how Hollywood has changed (and not changed) since she first stepped into that world. A much deeper than expected read.


With every single move I made and every word I spoke, I stayed hyperalert to what I called the Black Pitfalls. What were the things that would make me appear blacker? I only ate chicken with a knife and fork and never in front of white people. Certainly not KFC. And no fruit on a rind. You were not gonna see a toothy-grin-and-watermelon scene from me.”

Most black people grow accustomed to the fact that we have to excel just to be seen as existing, and this is a lesson passed down from generation to generation. It’s actually very accurate advice. But the problem with putting it on a kid is that if you’re not as good as — or eight times as good as — you feel like you are less than. Not just in academics or in sports: every kid cares about something and wants to receive love and praise for that particular quality or ability. You are always chasing, always worrying about being exposed as the dumb black kid. On the one hand, you’re always pushing, working, striving. But one misstep and it’s over. An A minus can feel like Hiroshima.”

“In Omaha, people got around through what they called ‘jitneys’: elderly people that you knew your whole life would say, ‘Hey, call me if you need me to get to the store. Just give me three dollars.’”

“North Omaha was rapidly changing and every summer the changes escalated. The L.A.-based crack dealers had begun to spread out across the country to get a piece of the local drug trade everywhere. Gang members came to North Omaha, selling a lifestyle as if they were selling franchises. But it was all so bizarre to watch. North Omaha is made up of a bunch of families that have been there for generations. You can walk down the street and somebody can identify what family you belong to based on your facial features. All of a sudden here come these powerful gangs, splitting up families as kids randomly chose different gang sets. A lot of my cousins and neighborhood kids that I’d grown up with during my summer visits, boys and girls, began to claim allegiance to L.A. gangs that they didn’t know anything about. It started as a saccharine, almost Disney-like version of gang life.”

These were not bad people. These were regular kids who got swept up in the frenzy of having to be in a gang and do gang shit to impress each other. Drive-by shootings started happening, and kids began to get killed. A girl I knew stabbed a jitney driver rather than pay him five dollars. He lived. He’d known her since she was a baby and was able to tell police exactly where she lived, who her grandfather was. Another boy that I thought was so cute shot up a Bronco Burgers. None of these people changed. The environment around them did. They were all good people who made choices that ended up having severe consequences. They were playing roles assigned to them.

“In the fifth grade, the girls were all told that WE COULD GET PREGNANT AT ANY MOMENT. The problem is, Miss Brackett forgot to include the part about how we would get pregnant. And if you don’t know how you get pregnant, just that it MIGHT HAPPEN AT ANY MOMENT, it’s a little scary. I would lie awake at night in my room, wondering what might happen to impregnate me.”

“They had planned to do it, but both were too fearful to buy condoms. He told her he had a plan, so just before the big deed, he pulled out a plastic baggie. You read that right. A Ziploc.”

“Barbara decided we needed about $350 for Julie to get an abortion. That’s what she decided was the going rate. Over the next couple days, like some very special Magic School Bus episode, we all, a bunch of 14 and 15 year olds, went to our parents to make a bunch of fake requests for money to buy new uniforms or to go on nonexistent field trips. In a couple of days, we got $350.”

“As we waited for Julie at Planned Parenthood, I was eyeing a basket of condoms on a little side table. Julie came out and we all hugged her. She didn’t cry, she just wanted to get on with her life. She led the way out the door. I trailed forward, and in one fell swoop, dumped the entire basket of condoms into my bag. ‘Everyone take some,’ I said. They wouldn’t. Everyone was afraid of getting caught by their parents with the condoms. That’s how it went. I became the condom dispensary, bringing them to school and to parties whenever I got the heads-up. Adults weren’t looking out for us. They assumed that we knew we could get pregnant and wouldn’t risk it by actually having sex. That’s a lie parents tell themselves so they don’t have to admit their kids have sex. And they do. They will either live with fear and baggies and abortions, or live with knowledge and condoms.”

“The deal with relaxer was that it was usually left on for about 15 minutes to straighten hair. It’s a harsh chemical, and the way I understood it, was that no matter how much it itched or burned, the more I could stand it, the better. If 15 minutes means it’s working, then 30 minutes means I’m closer to glory. At 35 minutes I might turn white! But the other thing with relaxers is that the hairdresser has to rely on you telling them when the chemicals start to burn. So if you’re saying, ‘I’m good, I’m fine,’ they’re all, ‘Shit, leave it on then.’ The burn is incredible. You start to squirm around in your seat. You’re chair dancing — because your head feels like it’s on fire. This day I was going to break my record. I would withstand my temporary pain to finally be pretty. ‘You good?’ my cousin said about 15 minutes in. I nodded. I wasn’t. It didn’t matter. ‘You good?’ she said again. I nodded. Finally, I began to bawl, then weep, then scream. I ended up with lesions on my scalp where the relaxer gave me chemical burns. I was willing to disfigure myself in order to be deemed ‘presentable’ and ‘pretty.’ To be truly seen. At twelve, I had not been once called pretty. Not by my friends, not by my family, and certainly not by boys.”

Adult Life

“Here is a secret about talking to teenagers; they share most about what’s going on in their lives when we’re taking a walk. Recently, I took a mentee named Marcus out on a particularly gorgeous, sunny day. As he got a bit ahead of me, he did this stop-and-start fast walk, like some sort of relay race. He would stop in the shade of a tree, then sprint through the direct sunlight to stand at the next tree. ‘What are you doing?’ I finally asked. ‘I don’t want to get any blacker,’ said Marcus. ‘You’re literally running from your blackness,’ I said, ‘You know? It’s a bit much. I’m not going to win any mentoring awards if you keep this up.

“I always saw sex as something to be enjoyed. Repeatedly. With as many different partners as possible.”

‘Look, you can’t take your pussy with you,’ I said, ‘Use it. Enjoy it. Fuck, fuck, fuck, until you run out of dicks. Travel to other countries and have sex. Explore the full range of everything and feel zero shame. Don’t let society’s narrow scope about what they think you should do with your vagina determine what you do with your vagina.”

“On white productions, they never want to hire anyone black in hair and makeup. Hair and makeup people hire their friends and they naturally want to believe their friend who says they can do anything. ‘Oh yeah, I can do black hair,’ they say. Then you show up, and you see immediately that they don’t have any of the proper tools, the proper products, and you look crazy.”

My mother is light skinned, and she grew up having girls say to her face, ‘You think you’re so much better than me.’ Mom and her sisters saw their light skin as a burden. They were called piss colored and listened to chants of ‘light, bright, and damn near white.’ My mother told me she married a darker-skinned black man because she didn’t want her kids to have ‘light-skin problems.’”

“We darker girls should not be pitted against our lighter-skinned sisters, but our pain at being passed over also shouldn’t be dismissed by people saying ‘Love the skin you’re in.’ You can love what you see in the mirror, but you can’t self-esteem your way out of the way the world treats you.”

“In my junior year of high school, I knew I was cute because I began pulling people that dark-skinned black girls were not supposed to pull. That was the barometer of my beauty: who and what I was winning in spite of my blackness.”

“When I got divorced and I went flying through my bucket list of dicks, they came in all shapes and sizes. Once I dated black men, I felt like I could breathe. Exhale and inhale deeply, without the anxiety of being examined by others to ensure that I was the ‘right kind of black’ to even quality to date interracially.

My college boyfriend’s parents were nice to my face but called him a n***er lover and accused him of screwing up his life dating a black girl. Now I no longer had to endure the constant evaluations of my character, looks, and accomplishments from his friends and from strangers witnessing a white man being publicly affectionate with me. It drove me crazy to watch them look at us, puzzling out the equation of why I would be worthy of his touch.

In India, the ads have changed with time from ‘If you want to be fair and noticed’ — to becoming lighter in order to get a job. One career girl ends the commercial looking at her new face in the mirror. ‘Where have you been hiding?’ she asks herself.”

“It’s the moment where you reclaim your sanity by going insane, the burst of clarity that comes with blind rage.”

“An empress does not concern herself with the antics of fools.”

“When I go to school meetings, I come with my books and articles to support what I’m talking about. Whether it’s a Harvard study on implicit bias in academia or research into black teenagers underperforming because they go to school with the burden of suspicion, I was ready to call [the administration] out on their shit. ‘I think you should read it,’ I said, leaning forward to slide Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me to the dean, ‘If you’re interested in better reaching the black children whose parents pay tens of thousands of dollars to attend this school.”



I read non-fiction and take copious notes. Currently traveling around the world for 5 years, follow my journey at

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Austin Rose

I read non-fiction and take copious notes. Currently traveling around the world for 5 years, follow my journey at