Last night, Oprah Winfrey hosted an intimate conversation with some of Hollywood’s most iconic  actresses to talk about the challenges black artists face in the business, their sisterhood, and how much they’ve learned throughout the years.

According to Madame O, the conversation was prompted in part by Alfre Woodard’s annual meetup of “Cinema sistas,” but also by Gabrielle Union’s moving speech at this year’s Essence Magazine Black Women in Hollywood luncheon.

Union, a veteran of the big and small screen, received the Fierce and Fabulous award for both her on-camera work and her behind-the-scenes advocacy duties.

While most expected Union to give a run-of-the-mill acceptance speech, she stunned the crowd by getting all the way real about her previous hangups and her not-so-sisterly behavior.

During the speech, Union admitted that she was a recovering mean girl who once tried to minimize who she was.

“I used to revel in gossip and rumors,” she told the audience. “I lived for the negativity inflicted upon my sister actresses or anyone who I felt, whose shine diminished my own. I took joy in people’s pain and I tap danced on their misery.”

Just 10 minutes in length, Union’s powerful speech moved many in the crowd, and garnered her a seat among legends Alfre Woodard, Viola Davis, and Phylicia Rashad on Oprah’s couch.

Gabby’s speech also touched a nerve with me. Although I wasn’t an all-out mean girl, in the past I gossiped and verbally tore other women down. I also allowed myself to get caught up in relationships and situations that did little to bolster who I was or wanted to be.

Like Union, I saw the light, but so many of our fellow sisters have not. These days I do my best to encourage others to focus on the good in themselves verses what’s seemingly wrong with others, but it’s definitely a process.

Check out Gabrielle Union’s inspiring speech from Essence magazine’s Women in Hollywood luncheon.

Can you relate?

  • Marisa

    Wait “Former” yeah right don’t buy this act for a second matter of fact I was here for those patented Phylicia Rashad side eyes she kept giving Gabrielle lol.

  • Ask_ME

    I can’t relate but I’m glad she came to see the error of her ways.

    Black women need to stick together in this world.

    Maybe Gabby and other black women in Hollywood can pool their money and start financing/producing/writing their own films.

    I’m sure if they work together they can build an empire of their own without the help of white Hollywood.

  • Trisha

    “I took joy in people’s pain and I tap danced on their misery.” — now that’s scary. I’m glad she has changed.

  • Tina

    Hmmm. Sounds like this speech came from her frustration at being tabloid fodder because of her relationship with Wade.

  • I mean

    No. I was actually left uncomfortable and confused by the whole thing. While it is great to be honest about one’s past, and GROW from it, she looked silly. Especially among all those esteemed, celebrated Black women who brought nothing to the interview but positivity, wisdom and experince. Her story did not seem to fit with all the others. She looked whiny, petty, etc. I understand that people are complex, and don’t have to be perfect but jeez. She looked bad in comparison to the other 3.

  • Marla

    I appreciated that she was honest, but I think we all have our personality traits and I found her a little less likeable after seeing her that way. She probably still has those feelings but just suppresses them more. It did seem like the other women were not feeling her on that especially Viola Davis when she was basically saying she always felt good when her sisters did well and never felt that way. Mean girls and women are just extremely insecure.

  • JN

    Everyone gossips or participates in gossip in some form. To say otherwise is just self deception. I think anyone can relate to that, whether or not they like Union.

  • Miakoda


  • nik26

    This explains why playing a mean girl comes so easily to her.

  • Marla

    It wasn’t so much the gossip as the being happy at others’ misery – I cant relate to that.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    Exactly, it wasn’t the gossip that makes someone a “mean” girl/woman, but what one does with that gossip.

  • Deal-n-Truth

    Never been a mean girl so I can’t relate, but I can relate to her growth and the revelation of her truth because that takes honesty. Kudos to Gabrielle.

  • The Artist

    I agree she seemed very much out of place.The beginning seemed to be more a long the lines of a mini Gabrielle Union intervention, where her mean girl hang-ups seemed to be very minor in comparison to all the others. But I suppose with age and experience comes wisdom and a much better understanding of self. At least she’s acknowledging she has stuff to work on, some people refuse to acknowledge it.

  • Ooh La La

    I thought her revelation was interesting because I was thinking not to long ago about how other veteran black actresses feel about Kerry Washington and all the success of Scandal. I wondered who went out for the part and may have felt slighted. It’s great that Kerry is seeming to have her moment right now, but I know how it can feel to look at other’s success when you feel like you’re career is stagnating.

    Also, kudos to Gabby for doing her “work,” but am I the only one who sensed that she still revels in the misery of others? She was just a little to passionate while speaking about the way she used to tear people down. Part of me thinks she acknowledged that about herself but doesn’t feel the sincerity about her trying to change her ways.

  • Shug Avery (@rastaqueen92)

    When Gabby said that she used to revel in other black woman actresses’s misery I wasn’t surprised, she always rubbed me that way. Who knows if she’s changed, I just want her to play different roles, her good girl or i’ll steal your man characters got old after Two Can Play That Game.

  • Starla

    It takes a lot to admit such negativity about yourself to a room full of people. I appreciate her honesty, but now that she has told it to the world, she better live up to it 24/7

  • mluv

    No I can not relate, I’ve never been a mean girl lol but at least she’s admitting and learning from her mistakes now. Actresses/Actors sometimes have roles similar to their true personalities so I’m not surprised by her saying this, and being given “mean girl” roles in movies.

  • Buttons

    I commented on a previous post on the subject of women and jealousy about inner peace. I think the comment is relevant here as well and it’s worth repeating. When a person has inner peace that peace is extended to others. When a person has inner strife it is inflicted on others. That’s really the plain truth about it. Gabrielle was jealous because she was envious of the success that other women had that she felt that she deserved. That was a personal struggle that she was wrestling with within herself because she questioned her own self worth and was comparing herself to others. But, I’m willing to bet that one of those women was Tarajii Henson. Gabrielle has been on the acting scene for quite some time and Tarajii was somewhat of a newcomer and she had some very good opportunies. She seem to get pretty good roles, like Benjamin Buttons, etc. and then the oscar nomination and that probably left a very sour taste in Gabrielle’s mouth.

    But, the scriptures says that life and death are in the power of the tongue, you can either bless or curse others with your words. I think it was for Gabrielle’s own benefit to wise up and get some help for all that hate in her because she would have eventually sabatoged her own career by spewing out so much negativity.

  • Orange Starr Happy Hunting

    ITA, except let me add this, mainstream Hollywood never came for GU, she has only been in low to mid budget black films made by mostly black folks almost playing the same character her entire career.
    I was wondering what she doing on that panel to begin with to be honest.

  • binks

    Sorry but no I can’t relate. I understand dishing over gossip (because most people don’t talk gossip seriously) but to actually relish and live in the pain and negativity that is inflicted on someone else you don’t like or you see as competition seem like a whole other level of crazy and spans pass insecurity, especially since she admitted to being a mean girl at a young age especially towards other black girls since she grew up in a predomination white town. I am glad that Gabrielle was honest but she sort of left a bad taste in my mouth especially when she sat down next to Alfre, Viola and Phylicia. I just wasn’t feeling her in that regard. Personally, I relate more to Alfre and even Viola of congratulating your sista who got so and so and moving.

  • Buttons

    That’s a good point. She is not among the more skilled class of female actresses. No disrespect to her, but personally, I think her acting skills are average. But, I think she is a familiar name and face and she is one of the very well spoken among her peers.

  • Buttons

    The saying goes, ” a dog that will bring a bone will carry one”. This means that gossiping is a vicious cycle and you can rest assured that today the subject maybe about someone else, but tomorrow it will be about you. Gossipers have no respecter of persons because they have no loyalty and no integrity and anybody is capable of being on the chopping block. Nothing is confidential with them. So, it is only a matter of time before the gossipers turn on each other and find themselves in the center of discussions.

    The best way to handle gossipers is to avoid them and do not engage them. When I encounter gossipers, I nod and say a lot of mmhuh’s, or I skip the subject, or I tune them out completely. They are not to be trusted.

  • Jillybean

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to see that! I need captions for those looks on Phylicia Rashad’s face!

  • The Other Jess

    I don’t think she should have admitted this. She should have just made changes within herself to move away from the negativity, and then take every opportunity to act accordingly, in a better, more positive frame of mind. Many women who are the worst kind of “mean girls” never admit to being this way, although they will swear up and down that they are not catty, mean-spritied types. So i applaud Union for admitting to it, but she should have just admitted it to herself and kept it moving. Now, she’s cast herself in a bad light and other actresses will never trust her again.

  • KnowYourHistory

    The author of this piece has given Union a break. Straight from “the jump”. The title can be construed as misleading, and lessens the onus on Union. The title SHOULD have simply read : “Gabrielle Union Admits to Behaving Like A Mean Girl.”

    I get it, though; the author, in the title, also tried to show that Union USED to be a mean girl; in the same sentence. The result sounds clunky and ambiguous. We KNOW what the author meant; that’s just not how she titled her piece.

    Finally, to my mind, I find it hard to believe that anyone, with precious few exceptions can reach one of the absolute pinnacles of their respective fields: without. being. mean.

    What say you?

  • mEE

    I was just saying that to a friend. something about her, and it wasn’t necessarily the roles she was playing, but something never sat well with me. …she just never seemed like a nice person

  • mEE

    yes she seemed very out of place

  • laurel j

    She was still on mean girl time as recently as last month. When the issue of Jet came out with Dwayne Wade on the cover, the term ex-wife was under his pictured. She reposted the cover and inserted the word Happy over ex-wife and posted it on instagram along with the caption “my little jet beauty of the week.” She seemed to take pleasure in twisting the knife in his wife while they were divorcing.

  • And another thing

    You know what? I can honestly see her being a bitch. I don’t know if it’s because of all those roles she plays either she’s a high strung stuck up “black bitch” or she’s subordinate to a light skin or white woman who plays the “bitch” role and she the flunky (Bring it On? and others). But she exudes that energy. Maybe that’s why she plays the mean girl roles so well. Either that or they’ve made her into that. I don’t know

    But I can definitely see that. And in terms of fraternizing with other black actresses you don’t see her doing that, in like a media specific way. I don’t know if it’s her PR or something but whenever we see Kerry Washington she’s always bubbly and smiling and having loads of fun. She’s taking pics with other actresses.

    Whateva Gabrielle girl, you attract the kind of energy you want to you. Maybe the reason why you’re not as successful as Kerry Washington is because of your negativity? Just sayin’ karma’s a bitch.

  • And another thing

    You know something? I’ve actually never have been a mean girl, and I can’t relate. I’ve been an asshole and have had a-hole moments but never denigrate and bash people just because of my insecurities. Because that’s really all a mean girl is. A bitter bitch.

    But I’ll say this, my sophomore year of college I had to really catch myself because I was turning into a bbw (bitter black woman) or just a mean girl. I started hanging out with a new group and at every turn someone would gossip about another person and bash them: “Her hair is a hot mess” “She does too much” stuff like that. It became so bad that I became angry, depressed and a hot mess. To the point where I was going around being intimidating and a bitch for no reason. And the first time I had that moment, I had to stop myself. So maybe I was a mean girl for a microsecond. But I remember distinctly having a convo with my roommate who was a former bff and something came over me and I blurted out, “We don’t have fun anymore. All we do is talk about other people. It’s not fun anymore”.

    I finally had to cut ties. Partly due to a roommate issue, and that just ostracized me from the whole group. But hey, I’ll take it how I get it. I’m happier. Life is simple. And I’m not shrouded in misery. Simply put: You attract what you put out. If you want opportunities Gabi and you see other black actresses surpassing you-then that’s the Universe telling you that you don’t deserve any success until you get it together.

  • And another thing

    Yea I agree with you and the other comments being made. She left a really bad taste in my mouth. Good for you for being honest, but I won’t be checkin for you like that anymore. Not that I was really checkin for you, but ya know…

    But at least now I can stan fully for Kerry Washington. She seems fun and is always smiling and seems happy and joking around.

  • Please Excuse Me

    “I took joy in people’s pain and I tap danced on their misery.”

    When someone makes a statement like that they are capable of killing and doing harm. I am very curious to know how she feels about Siohvaughn Funches Wade.

  • BeanBean

    I honestly don’t think she’s a ‘former’ mean girl. During all her interviews I get this very negative vibe from her, like a combination of jealousy and rage. I wonder how she reacted when Kerry Washington got the role of Olivia Pope??

  • dmac

    I’m so thankful for people who are willing to admit the depth of their flaws. It gives hope to everyone hiding the same flaw, that they are not alone and can make progress too.

  • kaf

    You don’t have to be that mean in order to get ahead, and gabby was beyond doing business, she was happy, it gave her thrills to see women who were up coming actresses suffer, and if that is why she did it, then I’m starting to understand why she may not be as successful after being in the industry for so long.(she should be further along) that type of mean is the kind that will hinder you.

  • Lola

    Well I am not a saint. When I was a child I suffered a lot of bullying at school and at home. I didn’t have a happy childhood. Then when I was 12, I was sent to boarding school. It was like a new world for me away from my family and former school “mates”. I reinvented myself and it was’t pretty. I suppose that I didn’t want to be a victim anymore so I became a mean girl. Attacking before being attacked, very assertive, I always wanted to have the last word. But I think I was just in survival mode. I was uncomfortable, lacked comfidence. I just became very good at hiding it behind the attitude and gobbiness. It lasted during my teens then I started to grow up. I reflected on my teenage years. I did not longer want to be the person laughing at other’s people expense. So i changed and let that snarky, argumentative, not nice persona behind me.

    I changed but I never tried to understand why I became like that in the first place. So I think I invended a new nicer persona but I still didn’t have a better understanding of myself. It slowly but surely led me to depression because the roots of my issues had never been addressed.

    When I realised I was depressed I got professional help from my doctor who also referred to a therapist. I was a bit wary as I had consulted therapist when I was younger with no good results and my mother paid a lot a money at the time. Now I couldn’t afford a private therapist I had to go to a public funded mental health centre, and I must say my therapist and I are doing an amazing job. I even think that me depression has been a chance because it finally forced me to confront my past, the problems I had in the past, the person that I am now … Just trying to have a better understanding of myself. I am finally opening my eyes. I couldn’t to this journey on my own. I am so grateful I could get the help I needed.

    I am sure that we all have our own journey and mine is different from Gabby Union. But I can relate to being in a bad place and coping in the most horrible way by hurting others or oneself. But I can also relate to the moment when feeling it can’t go on like that. It needs to change. I need to change and starting this long, fascinating self-discovery journey.

  • Jennifer L Frye

    You never know one’s truth until they tell it and that’s what Gabby did. I am proud of her for owning her weaknesses (mean-girl behaviors) and will continue to grow and support her peers of the entertainment industry. I wish her the best as an actress and most importantly as a woman. When you know better, you do better.

  • ruggie

    The only ones who can judge this speech are the people she’s hurt.

  • dnget2prsonal

    Actually Taraji has been out for awhile. Probably just as long as Gabby. I remember seeing both of them on Sister, Sister around the same time.

  • LaShic Mondrell

    Yes, I would actually pay at most $20 or $30 bucks to find out what the Phylicia Rashad side eyes meant lol. I peeped that.

  • SurvivorSunshine

    ITA. That whole Wade custody dispute and what she was accused of doing in front of his kids never sat right with me. I honestly don’t get women who will be with a man who tries to take his kids from their mother unless there are extenuating circumstances. In that case, it seemed like he only wanted control. Wait until they have kids together and see how that plays out. I’m just not a fan and she comes off like a serious know-it-all. I truly believe Oprah brought her on there to get schooled by her elders. lol

  • shelly

    After watching this video i automatically felt a sense of aww and amazement. 1 because she was able to to be honest with her self and admit to the world that she is not perfect, that she has flaws and demons that she needs to overcome. 2. becuase there seemed to be so much love in that room filled with so many beautiful black individuals and it was nice to see everyone together to celebrate something positive.

    then i started to shake my head as i read the comments. how can you sit there and judge her and gossip about her life. all you’re doing is producing negative energy. the only individuals who has the right to judge her or anyone else are people who have never done anything wrong, individuals who for lack of a better words are saints. whether or not you believe that she was being honest in her speech does not give you the right to be disrespectful or rude and all that does is take away from a moment that was so positive and profound and make you seem like the same kind of mean girl/guy that your still making her out to be. so next time take the time to reflect upon yourself before judging others.

  • YesYesYall

    That’s funny because that made me try to imagine her as Olivia Pope. GU can play that role, speaking in rapid-fire succession, looking slick and talking slicker, she’s pretty good at it. What Kerry has that she doesn’t is the ability to be BELIEVABLY soft and vulnerable, at least not the way Kerry turns it off and on. Can’t wait till October! Anyway, thumbs up to GU. I know the crazier the ex-wife appears the more she’ll be blamed and true, her relationship with D Wayde seems…well…mean. But who hasn’t made mistakes?

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