Gabrielle Union on Finding Balance, Dealing With Social Media Haters, and How She’s "Building a Booty" at the Gym

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“When we have parties, this is one area everyone ends up,” says Gabrielle Union, showing me around the “sports bar” in the home she shares with her husband, NBA star Dwyane Wade. “We just sit in here and tell stories.”

A few minutes earlier, she had greeted me with a hug and said, “Hi, I’m Gab,” showing just why Gabrielle, 44, is the kind of woman other women want to hang out with. Fans of the Being Mary Jane (BET) star will get their wish, kind of, when her first book, a collection of essays, comes out in October. It’s full of stories from her 20-year-plus career (as well as from her personal life, including experiences as a sexual assault survivor and stepparent of three children). The title? We’re Going to Need More Wine: Stories That Are Funny, Complicated, and True.

Gabrielle’s wearing: BaubleBar necklace ($38; baublebar.com for similar).

Your character on Being Mary Jane is also funny, complicated, and true.

What I love is we don’t insist she’s likable. She’s the friend who doesn’t always get it right, but she’s real. Like all of us, she hasn’t figured out how to have it all.

Do you think having it all is even possible?

I don’t think so. A mother, to have it all, has to somehow also provide a check, also be superfreak Kama Sutra down to the ground, be a size double zero, be super present in the PTA but still putting in extra hours at work. It is impossible. There are literally not enough hours. To me, having it all is not having it all and it being OK.

As women, we put so much guilt on ourselves.

We put guilt on ourselves because people are judging us. I have figured out how to say no and create comfortable spaces where I have real joy in my work, in my home, in my marriage, with the kids.

Gabrielle’s wearing: Leah Shlaer bikini ($125; leahshlaer.com.com) and Beach Bunny poncho ($110; beachbunnyswimwear.com).

Do social media haters ever get to you?

If it kinda strikes a nerve, I need to know who said it. I deep dive into their social media. No one who’s ever said anything super negative to me has an amazing life. Once I realized that, it’s different than, like, J.Lo saying, “Her squat form wasn’t right.” Because she would know. But you, in your mom’s basement, really?

So will your book be as open as your social media is?

It’s probably way more candid than I’ve ever been. I’ve been speaking at colleges for years, and during the Q and As, everyone has taken something completely different from my life that they want to know more about. A lot key in on sexual assault, or being a feminist at work, or divorce and stepparenting. And in the book, I have a chance to tell all those stories. Not everything is a lesson. Some are just funny stories.

What’s one funny one?

I have a tampon story. I write about how it’s impossible to go buy tampons as a known person because people are like, “Oh, super plus, huh? Heavy flow?” They want to know those intimate details, and what is more intimate than something that literally goes inside my vagina? Whenever I go into a drugstore—flop sweat! Much less, if I have an itch and I need to buy Monistat. When me and D were dating and I was getting my birth control, the pharmacist was like, “When are you guys gonna have kids?” I was like, “No time soon,” waving the packet.

RELATED: Gabrielle Union’s Workout Will Give You Toned, Tight Arms

Gabrielle’s wearing: PilyQ dress ($176; revolve.com)

Walk us through a typical workout.

I work with a trainer for the most part. I do know how to train myself, but I’ve realized that if someone’s not waiting for me, I do not feel obligated to get up.

Is it fair to say you don’t love working out?

I do not. [Laughs] I’m not one of those people, like, “I can’t start my day without it.” Nope. I can actually start my day beautifully, sleeping in, eating some pancakes. But I work out because I have a family history of diabetes and heart disease. Knowing what I can do to prevent that has been a huge thing. And then there’s my job. Knowing that there are people who cannot wait to circle your fat and draw an arrow to it keeps me in the gym.

Has it happened to you?

No, but I learn my lesson from other people. So between fearing health issues and fearing “Stars, they’re just like us! Look at their cellulite!”—that keeps me in the gym. Then when I get in there, I get competitive and won’t leave. I basically have the Olympics happening in my mind with strangers. They don’t realize we’re competing, but I usually take gold. Mainly because they’ve left.

Gabrielle’s wearing: Norma Kamali rash guard (normakamali.com for similar styles).

What is your philosophy on living well?

You know, my grandma lived to be 110, and she drank alcohol, like, every day. I don’t drink every day. But if somebody’s like, “Shots!” I’m like, “Yes!” If someone says, “Bacon!” I’m like, “Yes!” She lived. I definitely live.

What is your fave move?

Squats. Right now I’m on build-a-booty. So we did a specified workout to build up your butt, and you have to eat a specific way. You have to eat more protein to build muscle. 

Do you ever work out with your husband?

Rarely. His workouts are highly personalized. But we like to walk through the neighborhood. Mainly because we’re nosy. [Laughs] We want to see what houses are for sale.

Gabrielle’s wearing: Velvet Sphynx bikini (velvetsphynx.com for similar).

Gabrielle’s Go-To…

Feel-sexy moment: Out there on the deck, when I have a bikini on, holding a cold beer, and my husband’s there. I’m not in hair and makeup. I’m just chilling at home.

End-of-the-day treat: This might sound weird, but I come home and I sit on the toilet and I don’t want to be rushed. I want to play my Words With Friends, scan Twitter, scroll through Instagram.

Belly blaster: When I come back from vacation, I’ll amp up the cardio. Also, there are so many awesome contraptions that can create the illusion that you haven’t eaten. Double Spanx, waist trainers—they’re super uncomfortable, but man, do they give you a silhouette.

Favorite jeans: Khloe Kardashian sent me those Good American jeans, and they’re kind of amazing.

Easy makeup trick: C.O. Bigelow Rose Salve ($6; sephora.com) is always in my bag.

Dream hair products: I created the line I wish I had [Flawless by Gabrielle Union]. Textured hair needs more moisture.

Wearable style: My New York Company line is literally what I wear: a mix of off-duty model and tomboy chic. It takes you anywhere from a red carpet to a workout.

 

Photography by James White. Styling by Karen Shapiro. Makeup by Mario Dedivanovich for The Only.Agency. Hairstyling by Larry Sims for Schwarzkopf GLISS. Manicure by Andrea Vieira with Creative Management.