Gabrielle Union Has Finally Gotten Over Feeling Like “The Longer My Hair, The More Attractive I Was”
Long hair is one of those universal symbols of beauty women of all races battle with, but no matter how long Black women’s hair gets, texture can still be a sore spot for many of us.
It was for Gabrielle Union who shared a familiar tale about hair envy as a child in an essay on Glamour.com today.
“When I was little, it felt like my hair was magic,” she wrote. “It was the 1970s, and I had braided cornrows—now I’d call them Venus and Serena braids—with beads at the bottom. My hair made noise, and I thought I was really cool.
“And then around age eight, I started noticing that there was this girl, this blond girl, with two super long blond ponytails, and everyone was, like, gagging over these ponytails. I wanted that attention. I wanted to be seen too. I associated it with the hair, and I definitely didn’t have that hair. My mom thought I was too young for relaxers, but I wore her down and she took me to my cousin’s salon to get my first relaxer.”
Like many Black girls, that relaxer experiment didn’t exactly work out for young Gabby. And she made matters worse with her constant experiments. “I once even dipped my bangs in a bowl of hydrogen peroxide,” she confessed. “I never quite got what I was looking for, but I damaged my hair…a lot.”
And the damage didn’t stop when the then-UCLA student entered the world of acting. In fact, “a whole new set of hair problems showed up,” she explained.
“Hairstylists used Aqua Net–like hairspray with crazy amounts of alcohol, which caused chunks of my hair to literally come off on a styling tool. I was like a guinea pig on set, and I didn’t yet have enough power to request a stylist who I actually wanted to touch my hair.”
This led the young beauty to begin wearing wigs and weaves which may have protected her strands, but they did a number on her self-esteem. “The immediate difference in the amount of attention I got was palpable,” she wrote. “I felt like the longer my hair, the more attractive I was in the audition rooms.”
It wasn’t until she was in her 30s that Gabby “became more invested in making sure the hair was right for the character, not just feeding my own low self-esteem.” And that’s the woman whom she says we see before us today. The woman who realized “I was never going to have a really great hair day if I didn’t do the work on myself internally to figure out what makes me happy.”
Turns out, it’s variety that truly makes the Being Mary Jane star and new hair entrepreneur happy.
“I’ve finally gotten to a place of self-acceptance and recognizing that my natural hair is beautiful—and so is whatever weave I may wear. I’m perfectly happy rocking an Afro puff, my French braids, Senegalese twists, a faux-hawk, or an ombré wig, or heat-styling my natural hair with extensions…And that makes me a happy person in my life.”
Check out her whole essay here.