As I was preparing for vacation earlier this month, one of the things I was looking forward to most (besides visiting Turks and Caicos for the first time with two of my favorite gals) was having uninterrupted time to read. When I used to take the bus to work, I was able to read a book or two per week. Now that I drive, I can't seem to find that time during the work week.
Of the two books I read during our getaway, the stand out was actress Gabrielle Union's We're Going to Need More Wine.
First of all, what a freaking great title. Who hasn't felt that way at the end of a tough conversation or catch up session with friends? Second, from the very first paragraph, on the very first page, I knew I was going to love this woman:
"This feels kind of like a first date. I have that same feeling you get five minutes before you meet the other person, when you're giddy about where things might go. But also wary, because you've been on enough bad dates to know exactly how this can go awry. They order the salmon and pronounce the L and and you're like, How the hell has my life come to this?"
I mean. That is spot on.
Gabrielle Union first came onto my radar in 1999 as Bianca's friend Chastity in 10 Things I Hate About You (which is still one of my favorite movies of all time). I was ecstatic to discover she was sharing stories from the set in the book:
"Pretty soon after my Deep Space Nine gig, I landed my first film, 10 Things I Hate About You. Like a bunch of Klingon recruits, we all bonded that first night at the hotel in Tacoma, Washington. There wasn't a mean girl or boy among us, and we made a pact that this was going to be the best summer ever. There was Julia Stiles, wise beyond her New York years, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who was recognized everywhere he went as a star of NBC's Third Rock from the Sun. He and David Krumholtz - whom we affectionately called Krummy - bonded deep over their intellectual love of hip-hop. Larisa Oleynik was another child star, with her own show on Nickelodeon, and Andrew Keegan was the cast heart-throb. Susan May Pratt was a Michigan girl, and we clicked over our shared love of the Midwest and having a really, really good time. We were both the oldest. Playing a high schooler in your twenties isn't exactly mutton dressed as lamb, but it still makes you feel like people's big sister."
The role she gets recognized for most is Isis from Bring It On (which I can recite, word for word, still to this day). 18 years later people still come up to her and shout, "Brrrr. It's cold in here!" I was sad to learn that this part actually makes her cringe. Apparently, as she was originally written, Isis was a bit of a caricature of several black stereotypes. Union worked closely with the writers to make her someone much more human.
In addition to that kernel of truth about Bring It On, I also learned several other surprising things while reading. For example:
1. Since she was born, her family and friends call her Nickie, short for her middle name, Monique
2. She grew up splitting her time between Pleasanton, CA (during the school year) and Omaha, NB (during the summers)
3. Everything she learned about puberty she credits to Judy Blume
4. Her high school boyfriend was Jason Kidd (yes, that Jason Kidd, from the NBA)
5. She graduated from UCLA with a degree in sociology
6. She had a terrible experience guest starring on season seven of FRIENDS
7. Many people know she is married to Dwayne Wade (major star in the NBA), but before they met, she was married to a NFL running back, Chris Howard
8. She believes all relationship lessons can be learned by watching and listening to Waiting to Exhale and What's Love Got To Do With It
9. Her first dog's name was Bubba Sparxxx and she adopted him while filming Cradle 2 the Grave
I finished this book in two sittings. It honestly felt like I was chatting with one of my best friends, sharing all the laugh-out-loud moments and cringe-worthy moments that are sprinkled throughout our lives.
The book does touch on several serious topics. Union writes very candidly about her experience being held up at gun point and then raped while she was working at a Payless shoe store. She was just 19 years old. She also talks about the harsh realities of being a black woman in America and in Hollywood, specifically. The final chapter of the book is about the loss of her best friend. I was reading those pages on the plane ride home and I was wiping away tears in my seat.
When I closed the book, I was so sad it was over. Thankfully I can follow Gabrielle on Instagram and still get her daily doses of humor and inspiration.