Jada Pinkett Smith, Gabrielle Union Remind Us That “Everyone Plays A Part” In Friendship Breakdowns
“Everyone plays a part.” That’s what Gabrielle Union said when speaking on the issues that she once had with fellow actress Jada Pinkett Smith. And while both women claimed that they couldn’t remember why they weren’t in a good place with one another for many years (17 to be exact), they knew they both played a part in it. Because of that, they were able to come together for a conversation on the Red Table Talk show to speak on forgiveness, and the importance of checking yourself in order for growth to happen.
“It felt so good on the phone with you to even just go ‘Hey, I’m sorry that I didn’t even take the time to talk to you.’ And then I had to just apologize, and thinking to myself, ‘Damn, Jada! That was some petty a– sh-t,'” Pinkett Smith said. “But at the same time going, but that’s where you were then. Thank God you’re someplace else now.”
Union agreed, stating that she wasn’t innocent in the fact that they let years go by without addressing the elephant in the room.
“I could have been like, ‘Ok! I know this is super uncomfortable, but I’m going to hop in your face and we’re going to talk.’ But I was like, ‘Ok,'” she said. “You think, ‘It’s not going to affect my life.’ But it is. Because your brain keeps going back there.”
While they didn’t go into detail about their own relationship issues, they did speak on what motivated them to come back together. For Pinkett Smith, it was seeing Union’s speech while she accepted the Fierce and Fearless Award at the 2013 Essence Black Women in Hollywood luncheon. During the speech, the Being Mary Jane star owned up to her mean girlish past and proudly said that the light of other women shouldn’t make her feel like it diminishes her own. Union said to get to that enlightened point, she had to do some serious self-work.
“I had to hit rock bottom. I had to lose everything,” she said. “For me that was my first marriage, going through the divorce process. I lost my show. My show was canceled. And I was having difficult relationships with my BFFs. My day ones. It was everyone’s fault but my own. I literally found myself at home underneath my bed with my dog. I was like, ‘I don’t think I can get any lower than this.'”
Afterward, Union started working with actress, fitness trainer and life coach A.J. Johnson. One evening, while attending a party with Johnson, the actress was caught talking negatively about another well-known woman who entered the party. When Johnson heard her, she got Union all the way together.
“AJ said, ‘Did you get the job that you wanted? What did you accomplish by tearing that woman down?'” Union said. “‘All you did was reveal to everyone at this party what low self-esteem you have.'”
“That’s what it took,” she added. “It was harsh in the moment, but it was like, damn. ‘I have been communicating through negativity. I’ve been shrinking other people, hoping that I’m growing.’ I had to call a thing a thing. ‘I’m a hater. I’m a troll…’ All of those negative things that had been happening in your life, it’s exactly what you’re putting out, you’re getting back. It’s ugly, it’s hard, it’s painful, to recognize that you are the common denominator for the vast majority of your problems.”
Pinkett Smith said she could relate.
“That was an aha moment when I had to do this,” the Girls Trip star said while pointing at her face. “‘Oh no baby girl, all that you created.’ It’s so hard. It’s not just hard, it’s devastating. We do need to have girlfriends who pull our coattails in a loving way.”
But she also pointed out that if we want people who help keep us in check in a positive way, we have to be ready and open to accept the tough love.
“We gotta be ready. What it was for me was to be ready to receive someone looking at me and going, ‘Nah, you’re better than that.’ And I realized in my life, I just was not willing to have that,” Pinkett Smith said. “I was like ‘No, no, no, no.’ It came out of fear. Because you know if you take all of that, then we have to be responsible for it. No, no, no, I’d rather play victim. Because that’s where I get to play small [laughs].”
The women also discussed the downside of trying too hard to be everything to our friends and our families, to the point that we’re hurting ourselves. For Pinkett Smith, she had to start finding “comfort in being alone” instead of feeling like being alone said something negative about her.
“That has been for me, the greatest gift to find. That me time,” she said. “I’m talking about that real-deal me time. I’m not talking about an hour in the bathtub. I’m talking about days. I did have to get with the fact that I’m a people-pleaser. That was my mother. She was like, ‘You know you’re co-dependent right? That’s with everybody. That’s with your girlfriends. That’s with everybody. That’s what you need to look at. You’re co-dependent.’ I was like, ‘I’m not co-dependent! I just like people to be happy! At my expense.'”
In order to find balance, the women, Union specifically, acknowledged the importance of saying “No” and not being afraid to put up boundaries.
“You want people to like you, so you say ‘Yes,'” Union said. “Yes, I will sacrifice my own career to enhance my husband’s. Yes, I will be the super friend, super mother, super freak, super chef, super whatever, also donate time for giving blood and the homeless. And when you do all of that, so people can call you a good woman or a good friend or a good wife or whatever it takes to be considered amazing, you have nothing left for yourself.”
Check out their insightful conversation below: