One of Gabrielle Union’s most well-known roles is the one of Isis from the 1999 flick Bring It On. She played Isis, the fiery cheerleading team coach who went head on with the white rival cheerleading squad, the Toros, who had been ripping off her team The Clovers for years. Now over 20 years later, Union is reflecting on her character and surprisingly, she has regrets about how she portrayed the role. In her new book, You Got Anything Stronger?, she wrote a letter to Isis, where she apologizes for not allowing Isis’s blackness to shine through.
In the excerpt, which was published by The Cut, Union said she was the lone Black person at the reading for Isis’s character which left her feeling “isolated.” She was also bothered by the slang-ridden language in the script “that made her cringe.” So she worked with the director to change the dialogue, but Union felt like she still didn’t do enough for Isis’s character.
Throughout her apology, she explained that she wished she had fought harder for Isis to not only have a last name but an actual story that showed how Black girls often have to fight ten times harder than white girls in order to get the same recognition and opportunities. Union said she regretted playing it safe and wished she would’ve allowed Isis to show a rage over the cultural appropriation that was happening right in front of her. She pointed out the scene where Isis busted Torrance Shipman recording their routine where she told her to hand over the video tape and then they would be even. Union wishes she would’ve called for that scene to play out differently.
“I thought surrender was ‘class’,” she wrote. “I didn’t know that I could give you ‘class’ and dignity while also being very clear about holding people accountable. Beating them up may have been beneath you, but I wish I had even allowed you to be angry. To not muzzle any of that rage, including the justifiable anger of your teammates.”
She also expressed disappointment over Reed cutting a potential scene at the end where Isis and Torrance had both made it to UC Berkeley and were on the cheerleading team together. She recalled that Reed said, “It really didn’t feel like it said anything, or did anything, so we just decided to cut it.”
Something else that didn’t sit well with Union was that Isis was remembered as a villian.
“I once saw a poll of greatest movie villains and there you were. Why? Because you asked for accountability in the most civil tone I could manage? When people do their impersonation of you—to me!—it’s an aggressive, slang-talking girl threatening violence.”
Union then apologized to her character, who she looked as her child, for not giving her more of an unapologetic voice and a “space to be a Black girl who is exceptional without making any kind of compromise.”
So, I am here to apologize to you. When I said today that you didn’t go far enough, that was on me. I failed you and myself. I was the fourth lead, but my face was on the poster. You were the girl with no last name, but the star of every meme. You were only in about a third of the movie, and now I would know to fight for equal time to tell your story. Your iconic moments with the Clovers are what people remember, though I know it’s partly that we are bits of Black resistance dropped in the middle of the milk.