Gabrielle Monique Union (born October 29, 1972) is an American actress and former model. Among her notable roles is as the cheerleader opposite Kirsten Dunst in the film Bring it On. Union starred opposite Will Smith and Martin Lawrence in the blockbuster film Bad Boys II and played a medical doctor in the CBS drama series City of Angels. She starred with LL Cool J in Deliver Us from Eva in 2003.
Union attended the University of Nebraska before moving on to Cuesta College. She eventually transferred to UCLA and earned a degree in sociology. While studying there, she interned at the Judith Fontaine Modeling & Talent Agency to earn extra academic credits. Invited by the agency's owner, Judith Fontaine, Union started working as a model to pay off college loans.
Union started her acting career in minor roles. Most were in teen movies such as 10 Things I Hate About You and Love and Basketball. In 1997, Union appeared in the sixth-season episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine – Sons and Daughters" as the Klingon N'Garen. She also appeared in Sister, Sister as Vanessa, in Smart Guy as Denise, and in five episodes of 7th Heaven as Keesha Hamilton.
In 2000, Union landed the role of Isis in the cheerleading movie Bring it On opposite Kirsten Dunst. Bring It On helped push Union into the mainstream and she began gaining more exposure. This led to Union being cast in the CBS television drama City of Angels as Dr. Courtney Ellis.
Union was cast in her first leading role in the 2003 film Deliver Us from Eva with rapper L.L. Cool J. This was her second time working with the rapper since making a cameo in his video "Paradise" in 2002. The film received fair reviews from critics and it showed that Union was a leading lady. Union landed the role of Will Smith's girlfriend Syd in the film Bad Boys II, a box office success grossing over $273 million worldwide. Union starred with Academy Award winner Jamie Foxx in the film Breakin' All the Rules in 2004.
Union starred in the short-lived 2005 ABC series Night Stalker. She has also starred in the independent drama films Neo Ned and Constellation, the latter of which was released to theaters. She won an award for Best Actress in Neo Ned at the Palm Beach International Film Festival, and the film received awards at several festivals.
She starred in the 2005 remake of The Honeymooners with comedian Cedric The Entertainer. In 2006, she starred as Busta Rhymes' love interest in the music video for Rhymes' "I Love My Chick". Union starred in the 2007 films Daddy's Little Girls by Tyler Perry (released on Valentine's Day) and the Christmas film The Perfect Holiday which opened on December 12.
In an interview with Art Nouveau Magazine, Union complained about the lack of roles for black actresses and actors in Hollywood: "There used to be [roles] specifically written black, if you knew Denzel was doing a movie you knew his wife, girl or love interest was going to be black [but] that’s not necessarily the case anymore. You’re in that room with every amazingly talented actress of every hue, and it’s a dogfight, it’s hard".
In 2008, Union appeared on Ugly Betty for 3 episodes (36–38) as Renee, Wilhelmina Slater's (Vanessa L. Williams) sister and Daniel Meade's (Eric Mabius) love interest. She also made a cameo appearance in the music video for Ne-Yo's "Miss Independent".
She joined the cast of the U.S. television series Life on NBC and appeared in four episodes prior to the cancellation of series in May 2009. She appeared in the ABC series FlashForward alongside John Cho and Joseph Fiennes as Zoey Andata, a role for which she got nominated for an NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
Current and upcoming projects
In 2012, she worked with Tyler Perry on the romantic comedy Good Deeds playing the role of Natalie, the soon to be wife of Perry's character Wesley Deeds. She now appears in Steve Harvey's movie Think Like A Man, another romantic comedy which is based on his book Act Like a Lady, Think Like a Man. The movie debuted at No. 1 during the weekend of April 20, 2012.
In 2012, she began as the star of the BET network show Being Mary Jane.
In 2012, Gabrielle Union was featured in the documentary Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide premiering on PBS October 1st and 2nd. The series profiles women and girls, along with the organizations that support them, from developing countries who suffer from atrocities, including rape, human sex trafficking and female genital mutilation, and how they deal with these challenges. The Half the Sky PBS TV series is produced by Show of Force along with Fugitive Films.
In 1992, at age 19, Union was attacked and raped at her part-time job in a shoe store. Her attacker later turned himself in and was sentenced to 33 years in prison. She has since become an advocate for survivors of assault.
Gabrielle is an Ambassador in Susan G. Komen for the Cure's Circle of Promise. She ran in the Global Race for the Cure in Washington D.C. on Saturday, June 2, 2012, in honor of her late friend Kristen Martinez, who lost her battle with breast cancer.
On May 5, 2001, Gabrielle married Chris Howard; they divorced in 2006. She dated American basketball player Jason Kidd in high school and dated American football player Jonathan Borrero in 2007. She is now dating Miami Heat guard Dwyane Wade.
Awards and nominations
- MTV Awards
- 2005, Best Actress (2004, Best Actress (nominated)
- 2003, Best Actress (nominated)
- Image Awards2005–
- 2005, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture: Breakin' All the Rules (nominated)
- 2005, Outstanding Actress in a TV Movie/Mini-Series: Something the Lord Made (nominated)
- 2004, Outstanding Actress in a Motion Picture: Deliver Us From Eva (nominated)
- 2004, Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture: Bad Boys II (nominated)