Gabrielle Union reveals how she always tried to ‘minimize’ her blackness by hiding her upper lip

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 14: Gabrielle Union speaks on stage during

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – Gabrielle Union speaks onstage during a Q&A for “The Inspection” at the 60th New York Film Festival on Oct. 14, 2022. (Photo: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images for FLC)

At first glance, it was difficult for Gabrielle Union to empathize with her character The inspection.

Inez French is a detective who kicked her son (Jeremy Pope) out of the house as a teenager for being gay. (The drama is based on the true story of writer-director, Elegance Bratton, who tried to win back his mother’s love by enlisting in the Marines.)

Union is herself an outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights and steadfastly supports her stepdaughter Zaya (whom she helped raise with husband Dwayne Wade), who came out as transgender in 2020.

“Initially I thought: ‘I live differently. What have I ever given to make someone think I could do this convincingly?” Union told us in a virtual interview in which she was joined by Bratton and Pope.

Eventually, Union found a connection with Inez through some reflection on her self-image and identity.

“I had to find common ground with her. And that common ground is all the things we’re willing to do to be seen, to move that much further ahead for a check, for a relationship, for acceptance, validation for white supremacy. What are we willing to gamble with? And as for me, I didn’t gamble with my kids, but I gamble with anything and everything.

“I don’t want to be frivolous about it, but I gambled with my upper lip. For years I would literally smile [while hiding my lip]. Because I thought if I showed my full lip, they’d know I was black. … As illogical and silly and stupid as that is, I tried to minimize my blackness. I was constantly trying to shapeshift that double consciousness. I had multiple personalities. I was constantly trying to change who I was depending on the room if I thought I’d get that far ahead. All the things you do for a man, all the things you do for Jesus, all the things you do for whoever you think that deem you worthy, deem you good enough, deem that you have every chance in life, wealth, you do everything . You trade with everything. And for some of us, that’s kids. And for me it was often my soul. So when I realized that common ground, it’s dark. It’s just very dark and disturbing.”

Gabrielle Union in 'The Inspectorate' (A24 Movies)

Gabrielle Union in ‘The Inspectorate’ (A24 Films)

Union, 50, began her career with roles in popular but predominantly white teen comedies She’s it all (1999), 10 things I hate about you (1999) and Bring it on (2000). She also played a love interest for both Ross (David Schwimmer) and Joey (Matt LeBlanc) in a 2001 episode of Friends.

However, in the next few years, the actress began to get more prominent roles in films with largely black casts. Which included The brothers (2001) with Morris Chestnut and Bill Bellamy; Deliver us from Eve (2003) opposite LL Cool J; Bad Boys II (2003) with Will Smith and Martin Lawrence; and Breaking all the rules (2004) alongside Jamie Foxx.

Prominent credits in more recent years include Think like a man (2012), Top five (2014), The birth of a nation (2016), Hack (2018) and the BET series being Mary Jane (2014-19).

Now Union withdraws early awards for her punishing role The inspectionwhich could mean a career-best performance.

“I think hurt people hurt people, and healed people have the ability to help other people heal,” Union says of the film’s messages. “You just have to want to act differently and love differently and you have to know that you really don’t lose anything by loving completely.”

The inspection opens Friday.

Watch the trailer:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *