Cheers to Gabrielle Union

By Vanessa Williams

Gabrielle Union couldn’t have picked a more perfect title for her memoir, We’re Going to Need More Wine. After reading a few chapters of her book, you will indeed find yourself adding more wine to your glass.

Gabrielle gets real as she talks about her experiences with racism and colorism as she grew up a dark-skinned black girl. Her love life is not off limits as she speaks on a failed marriage and stressful prenup negotiations with her husband, Dwayne Wade. Gabrielle even is honest about some very personal moments such as losing her virginity and learning about her female anatomy.

Gabrielle really doesn’t hold much back. It almost feels like you are reading entries from her diary, except without the guilt because she gave permission to read it.

Aside from the funny stories in her book (there are a lot of them), Gabrielle does get serious and tackles some important issues. Here are three essential themes from the book and some lessons we can learn from them.

The Importance of Self-Acceptance

One of the first themes Gabrielle mentions in her memoir is the importance of self-acceptance. She opens this discussion as she recounts a day spent with the class of teenagers that she mentors. As she took them out to walk on a sunny day in the park, she noticed that one of the teenagers was doing something a little peculiar.

Drop quote: He wold stop in the shade of a tree, then sprint through the direct sunlight to stand at the next tree - “what are you doing?” I finally asked. - “I don’t want to get any blacker,” said Marcus

As a dark-skinned person, Gabrielle knew this sentiment all too well and used it as a teachable moment to admire his skin. To the reader, she expresses her struggles with accepting her skin tone as her family used light skin as the standard for beauty. Gabrielle recalled trying to do everything possible to keep her skin from getting darker; staying in the shade and obsessively putting on sunblock.

Although Gabrielle’s struggle is about accepting her dark-skin, we all may have things that we struggle with accepting. The main takeaway from this dialogue is that we accept ourselves fully and stop trying to live up to society’s unrealistic standard of beauty. Loving yourself is what matters most. So, create your own standard of beauty and learn to accept everything about yourself. Flaws and all.

Therapy is Essential After Traumatic Events

Throughout the book, Gabrielle maintains a witty and comical voice as she details stories from her childhood. However, this voice takes a drastic turn as the actress recounts the horrifying night that she was raped at gunpoint after her freshman year of college.

As she was working at Payless one night, a man walked in her store and behaved as a normal customer. However, moments later he would pull out his gun and order Gabrielle and her coworker into a bathroom with instructions to take off their clothes. He demanded that Gabrielle come out of the bathroom and he spread her legs as he held a gun to her head.

As she tells her story, Gabrielle details how the lingering effects of that terrifying night has affected her life. She expressed her difficulty with anxiety and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) following the incident. As a result, Gabrielle began attending group therapy through the UCLA Rape Crisis Center for healing and support.  It was there that she felt others understood her fears, triggers, and the stresses that come from being a rape survivor.

Experiencing a traumatic situation such as rape can have lasting effects, yet, women are not always encouraged to seek help and support. While talking about the experience may be difficult, mental health professionals have the tools to help move towards healing and restoration. Whether the experience is sexual assault from a stranger or an acquaintance, there are local sexual assault service providers that can help. It is time to stop suffering in silence and seek the help that needed to move forward as survivors.

Don’t Act Out of Fear

At the end of the book, an intimate story that Gabrielle chose to share was her last moments with her friend, Sook, who lost her battle with breast cancer in 2011. Gabrielle detailed how Sook found a lump in her breast in July 2005 but wouldn’t receive a diagnosis of advanced metastatic breast cancer until about eight months later. Fear and everyday life played a part in the delaying of Sook’s doctor appointment. And when she was finally able to see a doctor, she was given the unfortunate news.

Sook was able to fight her battle with breast cancer for five years following her initial diagnosis. While at lunch, Gabrielle asked Sook, what did she want her legacy to be. “I want you to tell people that fear can kill you,” Sook replied. “I was afraid, and it killed me,” she said. Gabrielle now uses her story to advocate for people to prioritize themselves and their health and not be afraid to go to the doctor.

Often, we find ourselves falling short of prioritizing and taking care of our health. Many of us are so busy taking care of others that we continuously put ourselves on the back burner. Women, we can no longer do this. Our health depends on it. It is necessary to visit our physicians regularly. It is essential to perform routine self-breast exams. We must make it a priority to stay healthy and do our best to take care of our bodies.