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.