×

Listen: How Gabrielle Union Bet on Herself and Changed Her Brand

Actress Gabrielle Union said she was nearly 17 years past the expiration date of her mass appeal when she got the brand partnership of her dreams.

“They tell you that after 26, ‘Honey, hang it up,'” Union said on the latest episode of the Variety podcast “Strictly Business.” The episode was recorded during a keynote conversation at Variety’s recent Entertainment Marketing Summit in Los Angeles.

“Get prepared to play long suffering mothers who set up jokes and you don’t get to be a star. You’re past the ingenue stage. Your best days are behind you as a brand ambassador unless you can sell bleach. They don’t ever position it as being in a position of power,” she said.

The star of teen cult classics like cheerleading comedy “Bring It On” and critically praised adult dramas like BET’s “Being Mary Jane,” Union was used to the roller coaster of show business. She never expected, at 43, to be the face of a major consumer fashion brand and be invited to design clothing for women who look like her.

“The CEO of New York & Company came to me and was like, ‘We are looking for a new brand ambassador. We would love to create a Gabrielle Union line and would love for you to be the face of the 7th Avenue [collection]. I was sort of in disbelief … we’re not supposed to be getting these offers. I’m not supposed to be having this career resurgence, my value isn’t supposed to be this high.”

Through a shared set of values and deep appreciation of her identity, Union said she and the corporate partner have reached heights in both opportunity and representation. She takes deep pride in that female family members from Omaha, Neb., can partake in the price point and sizes of her collections.

The brand deal also coincided with an on-screen renaissance for Union. Her Will Packer-produced 2018 indie thriller “Breaking In” grossed nearly $50 million on a $6 million budget. Through her I’ll Have Another Productions, she set up a female reboot of the “Bad Boys” film franchise she starred with Will Smith. She brings that to syndicated TV with Spectrum, top-lining the series with Jessica Alba. Union, married to NBA superstar Dwyane Wade, is also a judge on the popular reality competition series “America’s Got Talent.”

Strictly Business” is Variety’s weekly podcast featuring conversations with industry leaders about the business of entertainment. A new episode debuts each Tuesday and can be downloaded on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play, Stitcher, and SoundCloud.

More Biz

  • Lenny Bruce (1925-1966) social critic and

    Paul Krassner Recalls Lenny Bruce, Cavalier Magazine 50 Years Later

    Men’s magazine Cavalier was launched by Fawcett Publications in 1952 (motto: “For the American Male”). It was published the year before Playboy, to which it has often been compared. Imagine that this was a bastion of cutting-edge comic literature. Back in the day, Cavalier tried to be seen as slightly hipper, more youthful and considered [...]

  • LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet

    LiveXLive Names AOL and MTV Vet Dermot McCormack President

    Live entertainment digital media company LiveXLive Media today announced that AOL and MTV veteran Dermot McCormack has been named president of the company. According to the announcement, McCormack will lead the business and creative operations of LiveXLive, effective immediately. McCormack previously served as AOL’s Global President of Video and Studios, where he oversaw the video [...]

  • R Kelly Sexual Assult Accusations Mugshot

    R. Kelly Ordered Held Without Bail

    R. Kelly has been ordered held without bond at a hearing Tuesday in federal court in Chicago, according to the Chicago Sun Times. The singer entered a not-guilty plea. The hearing, which follows the singer being hit Friday with a total of 18 counts of serious sexual misconduct and other charges in Chicago and New York, [...]

  • Woodstock co-producer and co-founder, Michael Lang,

    Woodstock 50 Organizers Are Optimistic but Vague Before Town Meeting

    Woodstock organizers Michael Lang and Richard Peck were optimistic but vague when speaking with reporters at a hastily announced open house for the festival held in Vernon, New York on Monday night. The town’s Vernon Downs is the most recent proposed site for the trouble festival, which has been dogged by financial and organizational problems [...]

  • What Is Equity, Roc Nation’s Indie

    What Is Equity, Roc Nation’s Indie Distribution Company?

    When news broke earlier this year that Jaz-O, Jay-Z’s longtime friend-turned-foe-turned-friend-again from Marcy Projects, had signed with Roc Nation, most reports glossed over exactly which company the rapper had signed with. His deal, for his Kingz Kounty Media Group, is actually with Equity Distribution, the independent distribution arm of the Roc Nation family of companies, [...]

  • Andhadhun

    Booming Digital Lifts Eros Indian Film Distribution Giant

    Eros International, India’s largest and most controversial film distributor, says that its digital revenues now outstrip conventional theatrical and syndication revenues. Its Eros Now streaming platform claims 18.8 million paying subscribers. The New York-listed company reported annual results that were distorted by multiple adjustments to presentation. Reported revenues in the year to end of March [...]

  • The dark Manhatten skyline, seen from

    StubHub Refunds $500,000 to Customers Shut Out by New York Blackout

    Saturday’s blackout in New York had an outsized effect on the city’s nightlife, with Madison Square Garden and the entire Broadway district seeing multiple shows cancelled due to the the power outage. As a result, StubHub has refunded more than $500,000 worth of tickets for cancelled events. According to a statement from the company, the StubHub [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content