Photo: tanijohn09 via Flickr
Many people remember Gabrielle Union from her memorable roles in films like Bring It On, 10 Things I Hate About You and Think Like a Man as well as her TV series Being Mary Jane. However, in the last few years, the actress has moved past the entertainment box and can now check off being a full-fledged business owner with her haircare line, Flawless, which she launched in 2017.
This is in addition to running her production company (she just signed a first look deal with Sony Pictures TV) and writing a book that came out earlier this year. In addition to her career success, Union has also become known for not shying away from speaking out on everything from her struggles with fertility to the #MeToo movement in Hollywood to just helping other women find their own voice.
Women have to stop feeling lucky
At the SheKnows Media #BlogHer18 Creators Summit Union spoke her truth again and reminded women, especially ones trying to launch a business, that they should never just feel grateful to be sitting in the right room or feeling lucky that someone believed in their company. She told the audience full of a diverse array of women that just “feeling lucky” will hurt them in the end.
“A lot of us just want to be chosen whether that be by a certain group of friends, a romantic partner, or in business and a lot of times we just feel like we are lucky enough. If you have a great idea, there is going to be more than one suitor. Point blank and period,” she said. “Once you get down to the nitty-gritty of getting an investor you need to look at if that investor is problematic. If you are benefiting from the fruit of a poisonous tree take the extra time and do a background check. Find out how other relationships have worked. Find out how their relations were with women. If you can have offline conversations with people they will give you all the T you need.”
It is OK to say no
She emphasized that women are conditioned from a young age to be unable to say no out of a fear of making any situation uncomfortable.
“Make sure that you are partnering with people that are worthy and deserve it. Never feel lucky. They are lucky. They work for you. How many times have we seen women go under for being in close proximity to a problematic man?” she said. “But part of that comes with us feeling lucky. I got chosen. This person sees me. There has got to be more than one. It’s OK to be like, ‘Not you.’ It is ok to say no. It is absolutely OK. I know we are all conditioned to be agreeable and to not ask anything and be uncomfortable. You know what’s uncomfortable? Having your company blow up because of a problematic person.”
As for how to get better at saying no Union told Ladders after her keynote: “I’m 45 and I’m still figuring it out. ‘I can’t believe that happened!, But I trusted you!, ‘I thought you believed me.’ But it was because I didn’t ask the next question. ‘Do you have a long-term plan for this business? Do you have marketing dollars for beyond this point? Do you believe in the overall health and wellness of the brand?’
“Did I feel lucky that someone responded to my dream and hopped at the first chance? Kind of like my first marriage. I wanted to be chosen. I wanted someone to see me or see my vision. It is this performance of perfection to feel worthy and seen by other people, but I was worthy from birth and I keep forgetting that,” Union told Ladders. “I felt lucky and went with the first person that noticed me. But somebody out there is going to be a right match, but it’s probably not going to be the first person and that’s OK. Don’t panic. Believe in yourself. Don’t sell yourself short and feel lucky, #grateful for the first person that pays attention to you! And that goes with everything.
“In business, I keep learning that the hard way. I didn’t ask any follow-up questions and when your business hits bumps in the road why would you be surprised when I asked one question. This is business. It has to go beyond do you get my dream. But who else gets the whole thing?”