Meghan Markle: Making Activism a Top Priority

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By Mackenna Cummings

As a young girl, Meghan Markle knew that there was no age requirement for activism. While many may recognize her as the Duchess of Sussex, a title she earned in May 2018 after marrying Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex, the truth is she has been using her voice and passion to change the world for most of her life—which is why she’s the Professional WOMAN’s Magazine Wonder Woman of the year.

Long before she charmed her now-husband through her philanthropy and heart, Markle was witnessing a world around her with inequality—one that needed help—and sought out to change it. At 11 years old, when she saw a commercial for a Procter & Gamble product implying that only women are expected to do housework, she was hurt by the messaging and its implications. She decided to put her disappointment into words, in a letter directed to not only the president of Procter & Gamble but also influential women like Hillary Clinton and Gloria Allred. Her determination paid off, and soon the commercial was edited to reflect a more inclusive message. She was later interviewed on the children’s television channel Nickelodeon, where she encouraged other kids to take a stand whenever they believed something wasn’t right. The experience helped her realize the impact she could have on the world by simply speaking out about causes she cared about.

Throughout her career, Markle has made activism a top priority. She volunteered in soup kitchens in her teens and continued that service in the various cities her acting led her to. She earned bachelor’s degrees in both theater and international relations at Northwestern University, where she completed an internship with the U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was interested in politics from an early age, and while she did not pursue a career in that field, she has positively affected lives and changed minds throughout her acting career.

Markle championed for equality and gender rights as her popularity was growing for her role as Rachel Zane on the hit television show Suits. She became involved with One Young World, a charity organization that allows young leaders around the world to come together to brainstorm solutions for world problems. She learned by experience how powerful any individual can be if they choose to use their voice, and she continues to encourage young people to speak up for their beliefs, just as she did when she saw that television commercial. Markle also served the United Nations (UN) as the Women’s Advocate for Women’s Political Participation and Leadership, visiting refugee camps and meeting with women around the world who are also making positive changes in their communities.

“I’m proud to be a woman and a feminist,” she said at the UN on International Women’s Day in 2015, speaking on gender equality. Through her work, she calls for women to “see their value as leaders” and encourages men to be like her father, who encouraged her at age 11 to write a letter and take a stand. She refutes the idea that women need to “find their voices.” Instead, she reminds women that they have their voices—they only need to use them. Markle believes strongly in building the self-esteem of young women, encouraging them speak up and take on leadership roles wherever they can. Had she not had family members and others who assured her of her value and helped her fight her own insecurities, she might not have become the woman she is today. She makes it a point to do the same for other young girls, in the hopes that one day, they, too can make a difference.

In 2016, Markle became a Global Ambassador for World Vision. The campaigns she has promoted help provide clean water to those in need and bring greater awareness to the lack of education that young girls around the globe can access. She visited India and saw firsthand how the stigmas associated with menstrual cycles prevent many girls from continuing their education and even working. While in India, Markle was introduced to the Myna Mahila Foundation, an organization that empowers women by encouraging the discussion of taboo subjects, such as menstruation, and by setting up workshops to produce low-cost sanitary protection to enable girls to stay in school. In 2017, Markle wrote an article for TIME Magazine, “How Periods Affect Potential,” and she continues to support the effort. For their wedding, Prince Harry and Markle asked for donations to a handful of charities instead of presents, and the Mumbai-based Myna Mahila Foundation was the only foreign organization on the list.

With her acting career coming to an end, she has transitioned smoothly into her role as Duchess of Sussex, even taking over responsibilities dear to the Queen’s heart. Alongside her husband, Markle will take over Queen Elizabeth II’s role for the Queen’s Young Leaders Program. This program is for young leaders who are positively impacting their communities within the Commonwealth, and through it she will continue to support and encourage kids to believe in their ability to change the world. Philanthropy plays a large role in the duties of the Royal Family, and Markle’s background and experiences will certainly only add to the work being done.

According to friends, her passion for helping others and her determination to visit places and make an impact played a big role in bonding with her new husband. As a couple, they both continue to make their charity work top priority, like visiting fairs for World Aids Day, speaking out against inequality, and continuing Prince Harry’s Invictus Games, a competition for wounded servicemen and women. While Markle has left acting behind, her activism and passion for equality, it seems, is only just beginning. She plans to continue to use her voice to change the world and encourage other minorities and women to also take a stand and make a difference.

 

Michelle Obama Is On Her Way To Becoming An EGOT

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Michelle Obama dresses in all white giving a thumbs up sign

Our forever FLOTUS Michelle Obama is officially a member of the Grammy family, and on her way to the coveted EGOT status, meaning she’s earned an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award.

On Sunday, Obama won Best Spoken Word Album for the audio recording of her New York Times bestselling memoir, Becoming, which chronicles her life, from her childhood in Chicago to her days in the White House. Released in 2018, the book has held a place on the bestsellers list for 58 weeks.

The Best Spoken Word Album award goes to noteworthy audiobooks, storytelling and poetry recordings. Other nominees in the category included, National Poetry Slam winner Sekou Andrews and the Beastie Boys. Although Obama wasn’t there to collect her golden gramophone, jazz singer and fellow Grammy winner Esperanza Spaulding graciously accepted it on her behalf.

Snagging this honor from the recording academy puts Obama in good company with Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr. and her husband Barack Obama. The former president is a two-time Grammy winner for Dreams From My Father (2006) and The Audacity of Hope (2008).

Obama is the second first lady to add the Best Spoken Word trophy to her mantle. In 1997, Hillary Clinton received the award for the audiobook of It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.

Although this is Obama’s first Grammy win, in 2012 she landed a nod for her audiobook American Grown. But she didn’t actually record the audio for that book.

Snagging this honor from the recording academy puts Obama in good company with Maya Angelou, Martin Luther King Jr. and her husband Barack Obama. The former president is a two-time Grammy winner for Dreams From My Father (2006) and The Audacity of Hope (2008).

Obama is the second first lady to add the Best Spoken Word trophy to her mantle. In 1997, Hillary Clinton received the award for the audiobook of It Takes a Village: And Other Lessons Children Teach Us.

Although this is Obama’s first Grammy win, in 2012 she landed a nod for her audiobook American Grown. But she didn’t actually record the audio for that book.

Fans must wait until the Oscars on Sunday, February 9 to see if Obama gets another step closer to the small group of celebrities enjoying rare EGOT air. There’s only 15 people who have the honor, and only two Black entertainers—Whoopi Goldberg and John Legend.

Continue on to Essence to read the complete article.

Demi Lovato Will Sing National Anthem at Super Bowl LIV

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Demi Lovato on stage singing

Demi Lovato will sing the National Anthem before kickoff at Super Bowl LIV, taking place at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami on February 2nd.

The news comes shortly after she was announced as a performer for the 62nd Grammy Awards on January 26th.

The singer confirmed the news on Instagram, writing, “Singing the National Anthem at #SBLIV 🏈 🏈 🏈 See you in Miami 🌴 @NFL.”

The National Anthem will be broadcast around the world as part of the Super Bowl’s pregame show. Past National Anthem performers include Whitney Houston, the Dixie Chicks, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, Billy Joel, Diana Ross, Gladys Knight, Mariah Carey, the Backstreet Boys, Pink, Alicia Keys and Idina Menzel.

Christine Sun Kim will sing the National Anthem in American Sign Language on behalf of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD).

The NFL and Fox previously announced that Jennifer Lopez and Shakira will be the halftime performers for Super Bowl LIV.

Continue on to MSN to read the complete article.

Cynthia Erivo could become the youngest EGOT winner

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Cynthia Erivo on the red carpet at the premiere Of HBO's "The Outsider"

Cynthia Erivo is one step closer to EGOT status with an Oscar nomination for her turn as the iconic freedom fighter and suffragist Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ ‘Harriet.’

British actress Cynthia Erivo was nominated for her first Oscar on Monday morning for her performance as the iconic freedom fighter and abolitionist Harriet Tubman in Kasi Lemmons’ “Harriet.”

The stage and screen actress (along with powerhouse singer — she is also nominated in the original song category) also earned Golden Globe, SAG and Critics’ Choice nominations for the role.

And while BAFTA controversially snubbed acting nominees of color entirely, the ceremony still asked her to perform (she declined).

Erivo was the only person of color nominated for an acting Oscar this year.

“Harriet,” distributed by Focus Features, exceeded box office forecasts when it opened in November, debuting to $12 million on its way to $43 million to date in global ticket sales. It marks the first feature leading role for Erivo, who stole scenes in 2018’s “Widows” and “Bad Times at the El Royale.”

She was first approached about “Harriet” while in the midst of a Tony-winning turn in the Broadway production of “The Color Purple.” The production is also responsible for her subsequent Grammy (for the cast recording) and Daytime Emmy (for a cast performance on NBC’s “Today”) wins. (For those who don’t want to count Daytime Emmys in EGOT status, Erivo will also headline the upcoming limited series “Genius: Aretha” for National Geographic. And playing music singer Aretha Franklin could put her in Primetime Emmy contention as well.)

Continue on to the LA Times to read the complete article.

Tiffany Haddish Stars in ‘Like a Boss,’ in Theaters Today

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Like a Boss premiere photo of the cast, including Tiffany Hassish, pose on the pink carpet

Tiffany Haddish is her usual hilarious self in the new film Like a Boss, which recently opened across the nation. In it, Mia (Haddish) and her best friend, Mel (Rose Byrne), are living their best lives running the own cosmetics company they’ve built from the ground up.

Unfortunately, however, they’re in over their heads financially and the prospect of a big buyout offer from a notorious titan of the cosmetics industry, Claire Luna (Salma Hayek), proves too tempting to pass up, which puts Mel and Mia’s lifelong friendship in jeopardy. The beauty business is about to get ugly.

The Paramount Pictures film, directed by Miguel Arteta and executive produced by Haddish and Nicolas Stern, also stars Billy Porter, Jennifer Coolidge, Ari Graynor, Natasha Rothwell, Jessica St. Clair and Karan Soni.

Watch the Trailer!

Continue on to Ebony to read the complete article.

Awkwafina makes Globes’ history with ‘Farewell’ acting win

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Awkwafina holds up her Golden Globe smiling at this year's event in Beverly Hills

Awkwafina said she had a “mind-blowing” experience after learning backstage she made history at the Golden Globes. The rapper and actress on Sunday became the first woman of Asian descent to win a Golden Globe for best actress in a musical or comedy film for her starring role in “The Farewell.” She’s best known for her comic role in “Crazy Rich Asians.”

Awkwafina believes she has more to prove.

“It’s pretty mind-blowing,” she said. “It feels incredible. There’s also another feeling that you are going to do more. I hope this is just the beginning.”

Awkwafina shifted course to play a young woman in a Chinese family that is keeping their matriarch’s cancer a secret from her in director Lulu Wang’s “The Farewell.” She said she particularly related to the film.

“Immigrants in this country who were raised to feel very American … and when we go back where, you know, we’re told that you don’t belong here and you go back to where you belong,” she said. “You feel like a stranger there and this constant feeling of being lost in translation. And I think that’s what really resonated with me in ‘The Farewell.’”
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The win is part of a breakout two-year run for the 31-year-old actress, who had a breakthrough year in 2018 after appearances in “Crazy Rich Asians” and “Ocean’s 8.”

Continue on to the Washington Post to read the complete article.

The Recording Academy Moves Forward With Diversity & Inclusion Efforts

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Collage of women recording artists

The Recording Academy®, the leading society of music professionals and the organization behind the GRAMMY Awards®, will implement recommendations set forth by the Recording Academy Diversity & Inclusion Task Force, including restructuring its Board of Trustees to ensure that music creators from the broadest range of ages, backgrounds, genders, genres, crafts and regions are fully represented within the organization’s leadership.

At the Academy’s invitation, the Task Force convened in March 2018 to examine issues of diversity and inclusion within the Recording Academy and the broader music community. On Dec. 12, 2019, the Task Force issued an official report, which sets forth specific reforms and recommendations for the Recording Academy and outlines issues that continue to affect underrepresented people within the broader music community. Veteran attorney, former first lady Michelle Obama’s chief of staff, and TIME’S UP CEO Tina Tchen chaired the Task Force.

“The mission of the Recording Academy is to serve and advocate for music creators from all genres and of all genders and generations,” said Recording Academy President/CEO Deborah Dugan. “We have recently made tremendous progress and I’m proud to report that our leadership team is currently 50 percent female and that the 2019 Academy membership class is the most diverse in our history. However, there is still work to be done. We are deeply committed to continuing to implement the Task Force’s recommendations and building a community that is truly representative of our diverse and dynamic creators.”

“Over the course of the last year and a half, the Task Force dedicated hundreds of hours of their time to conduct a thorough analysis of how the Recording Academy could do better to create a diverse and inclusive environment for all workers and music creators. We owe a debt of gratitude to the impressive lineup of leaders from throughout the music industry who served on the Task Force for their tireless commitment to changing the Academy, and the industry, for the better,” said Tchen. “We are also so grateful for the full cooperation and participation of the Recording Academy at every step, and are encouraged by the commitment to change they announced today.”

The Task Force report outlines a range of recommendations that touch virtually every part of the Academy’s operations, from internal policies and organizational structure to the GRAMMY® nominations process. The Recording Academy has already made significant progress toward implementing 17 of the 18 reforms set forth by the Task Force, including ensuring gender parity on Awards and Governance committees, publicly reporting on the demographic composition of its workforce across different levels of seniority, and increasing outreach to diverse communities, which include key initiatives for female producers and engineers.

Additionally, in 2020, the Recording Academy will formulate formal diversity and inclusion goals for the Academy’s Board of Trustees and adopt a new Board structure that will prioritize identifying and elevating a diverse range of music creators to positions of leadership on the Board.

The Academy will continue to research the report’s recommendation to change portions of the GRAMMY Award voting process to a ranked-choice system.

The full Recording Academy Diversity and Inclusion Task Force Report can be found here.

An overview of the Recording Academy’s progress implementing the recommendations of the Task Force can be found here.

ABOUT THE RECORDING ACADEMY
The Recording Academy represents the voices of performers, songwriters, producers, engineers, and all music professionals. Dedicated to ensuring the recording arts remain a thriving part of our shared cultural heritage, the Academy honors music’s history while investing in its future through the GRAMMY Museum®, advocates on behalf of music creators, supports music people in times of need through MusiCares®, and celebrates artistic excellence through the GRAMMY Awards—music’s only peer-recognized accolade and highest achievement. As the world’s leading society of music professionals, we work year-round to foster a more inspiring world for creators.

For more information about the Academy, please visit grammy.com.

Jennifer Lopez Scores Golden Globe Nomination For Best Supporting Actress

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NEW YORK, NY: Keke Palmer, Jennifer Lopez and Lili Reinhart are seen on the film set of ‘Hustlers’ in New York City

No one hustled harder than Jennifer Lopez, and it paid off recently when the entertainer scored a Golden Globes nomination for her role as veteran stripper Ramona Vega in “Hustlers.”

The singer and actor was last nominated for the Golden Globes in 1998, when she was up for Best Actress in a Motion Picture ― Musical or Comedy for her performance in “Selena.”

The movie, based on a real-life group of strippers that worked together to scam Wall Street clients, garnered Lopez some of the best reviews of her career and major awards season buzz.

In addition to her Golden Globes nomination for Best Supporting Actress — Motion Picture this year, Lopez nabbed a Critics Choice Awards nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and she’s up for Best Supporting Female in the Spirit Awards.

On Sunday, she won Best Supporting Actress from the LA Film Critics Association.

In a recent interview with GQ, Lopez talked about what she found compelling about the Lorene Scafaria-directed film.

“The movies that I look for now, I’m looking for not just interesting and multilayered characters, which Ramona really was, but something that tells you about what’s going on in the culture,” Lopez said, revealing that she didn’t get paid for her role upfront.

The singer and actor added: “What it says about that world, and men and women, and gender roles, all of that made me feel that this could be an interesting movie, as opposed to just a character piece.”

Lopez, being Lopez, isn’t about to stop hustling. Pictured l to r; Keke Palmer, Jennifer Lopez and Lili Reinhart are seen on the film set of ‘Hustlers’ in New York City. (Photo by Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Continue on to Huffington Post to read the complete article.

The Punniest Female on Instagram

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military spouse dubbed punniest on Instagram is pictured with the Puns in the background

Military spouse Angelica Hanley is behind the pun-based stationery brand ACouplePuns.

Angelica Hanley is a self-professed entrePUNeur, so when she found herself making up puns to describe the things she saw throughout the day, she decided to turn her love of puns into a shareable art form.

Thus, ACouplePuns was born and is now a rapidly growing online and wholesale greeting card shop connecting people through punny sentiments.

A card for every occasion imaginable, ACouplePuns delivers sweet messages accompanied by disarmingly darling drawings on superb card stock that is scored, folded and packaged by hand.

Her designs are inspired by travel, pop culture, and current trending topics.

She’s a military spouse who used a lifestyle of frequent moves to create a business she could take with her wherever she and her husband end up.

Angelica hold up some of her punniest cards
Via Instagram @ACouplePuns

Seeking a means to connect with people after a cross country move a couple years ago, Angelica launched ACouplePuns on Etsy with ten greeting card designs.

After just two years she has over 100 cards, which have landed on store shelves all over the country.

She has created custom cards for many popular female-founded brands such as Kendra Scott and also coordinated giveaways on Instagram.

Angelica enjoys sharing laughter through her cards and is building a community of fellow pun lovers she refers to on Instagram as “Punny People.”

She encourages you to share the puns you see with her at ACouplePuns to help inspire her latest creations!

Source: ACouplePuns, Instagram @ACouplePuns

Gabrielle Union: A Journey to Fulfillment

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Gabrielle Union seen at ULTA event wearing a long red dress

By Jovane Marie

Gabrielle Union found her way into the mainstream and straight to our hearts at the start of the new millennium with her breakout performance as the leader of the East Compton Clovers in Bring It On.

In the nearly two decades since then, the actress’ life has evolved to encompass a multitude of additional roles across a personal and professional spectrum—outspoken activist, best-selling author, fashion-forward designer, dedicated wife and, most importantly, doting mother.

Actress to Activist

Union’s influence emanates far beyond her on-screen portrayals. Proudly raised by her parents to have a world perspective, she supports a multitude of causes, from racial justice to ending violence against women, voting rights to eradicating poverty, and diversity to health initiatives.

Her tenacity in standing up and speaking her mind was cultivated through education and life experiences, both positive and negative. As a young black girl growing up in a predominantly white neighborhood, Union admits she wanted nothing more than to completely assimilate, letting racially tinged jokes and perspectives roll off her shoulders to avoid being seen as “other.”

Exposure to African-American studies while attending UCLA had a huge influence on Union’s mindset, highlighting the importance of calling out injustice and oppression and opening her perspective to a treasure trove of change-makers.

“Learning about those brilliant Black activists and authors encouraged me to have pride in myself and in my voice,” she said. “I realized that assimilation can be a path to becoming invisible and complacent. I’d rather be ‘other.’”

With the strength of those lessons at her back, and following a sexual assault that threatened to marginalize her even further, she began speaking her mind fearlessly and unapologetically, raising awareness about the issues that mattered to her—a characteristic that has endured in her day-to-day life.

“My goal is to use my platform to provide a sense of connectedness

Union’s collaboration with New York & Company’s 7th Avenue Design
Union’s collaboration with New York & Company’s 7th Avenue Design

for those who suffer in silence,” said the activist, who was appointed to former President Obama’s National Advisory Committee for Violence Against Women in 2010. “It’s been a journey and an evolving consciousness—not an easy process, but definitely worthwhile.”

She’s a Boss

As she’s solidified her place in the film and television industry, the America’s Got Talent judge has lent her efforts to establishing and growing her commercial empire, calling upon her down-to-earth persona and relatable personal brand to connect with fans and consumers.

In 2004, she became a brand ambassador for Neutrogena, a successful partnership that lasted for more than a decade.

In 2012, she partnered with Napa Valley-based winery JaM Cellars to develop a full-bodied Chardonnay cheekily named Vanilla Puddin.

In 2014, she became the first celebrity ambassador—and creative advisor—for nail beauty company SensatioNail.

And in 2017, her entrepreneurial spirit erupted with both the launch of Flawless by Gabrielle Union—a hair care line created specifically with black women in mind—and the announcement of her partnership with major consumer fashion brand New York & Company, where she serves as the face of the brand’s 7th Avenue Design Studio and launched an acclaimed namesake collection.

The Flawless brand was born through Union’s experiences with trying to care for her natural hair while working in the industry. More often than not, she lamented, the stylists on set would have no idea how to manage her textured mane, leading to damage and dismay.

When the opportunity came along to create a line of products that catered specifically to her hair care needs, she jumped at the chance, working with a team, including former Macadamia Beauty CEO Vince Davis, to produce a range of catered shampoos, conditioners, repair masks, oil treatments, edge control, and more. A common thread throughout the brand’s offering is the use of a group of key ingredients proven to promote healthy hair, including argan, marula, macadamia, coconut, and avocado oils, as well as pea protein.

“My goal with our Flawless products is to help women with textured hair create ever-changing looks without compromising the health of their favorite accessory—their hair,” Union said of the collection, which is sold online, in JCPenney Salons and at ULTA. “I just want them to have great hair days. Period.”

Union’s collaboration with New York & Company’s 7th Avenue Design Studio materialized to the star’s admitted surprise—she never expected to be courted by the popular retail chain to serve as a brand ambassador. Operating as a sub-brand and inspired by her character on series Being Mary Jane, the line features chic dresses, modern suiting, and versatile separates that “embody the career woman who needs easy, effortless, styles that are polished and on trend.”

Kaavi James Collection; Caption: Kaavia James Union Wade and Gabrielle Union visit New York & Company Store in Burbank, CA, to launch Kaavi James Collection on May 09, 2019. PHOTO BY JESSE GRANT/GETTY IMAGES FOR NEW YORK & COMPANY
Kaavi James Collection; Caption: Kaavia James Union Wade and Gabrielle Union visit New York & Company Store in Burbank, CA, to launch Kaavi James Collection on May 09, 2019. PHOTO BY JESSE GRANT/GETTY IMAGES FOR NEW YORK & COMPANY

“Mary Jane’s style reflects power, leadership, and risk taking,” she explained. “She wears classic styles, but with a twist, which is why I think she’d definitely shop at New York & Company.”

Beyond her ambassadorship, which features Union modeling fashions on the company’s website, in print and digital advertisements, and on social media, the actress has ventured into a “whole new game” with the launch of her namesake collection, featuring a wide range of fashionable choices, all reminiscent of the style icon’s eclectic taste.

“I wanted to offer on-trend fashions at affordable prices that flatter all body types—that’s the bottom line,” said Union, who was given free rein to design whatever she chooses and prides herself on being fully hands-on with the creative process.

Two years into her venture, the designer recently pulled from a new source of inspiration to drive her latest launch—five-month-old daughter Kaavia James Union Wade. The adorable all-inclusive capsule collection, entitled Kaavi James by Gabrielle Union, features an array of stylish dresses, T-shirts, jumpers, and onesies (many of them unisex!) in sizes 0–24 months, all within a $15–$45 range. In addition to serving as fashion muse, Kaavia (whose parents recently trademarked her name for future projects) serves major face in the campaign’s advertisements, posing alongside her mom with her hilarious signature “Shady Baby” expression.

Family First

When it comes to priorities, the multi-hyphenate talent makes it clear—nothing is more important than her family. Just check her social media (which is plastered with their faces). She married NBA star Dwayne Wade in 2014, in the process becoming stepmother to his three boys, Zaire, Zion, and Xavier.

After struggling with infertility due to a form of endometriosis, the couple turned to surrogacy, welcoming Kaavia in November 2018.

The new mother has been open and honest about her fertility struggles, believing there is healing in the knowledge that many couples face similar challenges as they try to conceive.

Union’s life today may seem like a fairytale, but it has required blood, sweat, tears, self-love, introspection, and a dogged determination to succeed to transform her life from then to now.

A Pre-Destined Path

Union embarked on her acting journey in the mid-90s, performing in a guest role capacity or as a supporting character for a number of popular sitcoms, including Family Matters, Moesha, 7th Heaven, and Sister, Sister.

Interestingly enough, she hadn’t grown up with stars in her eyes, dreaming Hollywood dreams. The driving force behind her foray into the acting world, she admits, was money to help pay for college.

“You want to know when I became serious about being an actress?

Gabrielle Union interacts with fans during America’s Got Talent auditions. TRAE PATTON/NBC
Gabrielle Union interacts with fans during America’s Got Talent auditions. TRAE PATTON/NBC

When I made money! It really wasn’t for the love of it, in the beginning,” said the star, who graduated from UCLA with a BA in Sociology. “My plan back then was to eventually go to law school, but pretty quickly, I realized I could make a living doing this. So, I recalibrated—and never looked back.”

She hit a double whammy in 2000, appearing in Love & Basketball (as superficial high school mean girl Shawnee Easton) and co-starring with Kirsten Dunst in Bring It On (as captain of the East Compton Clovers, Isis), both of which were extremely popular and have since become cult classics.

Her role in Bring It On held a great significance for Union—she credits it as one of the biggest boosts of her career—as it not only addressed the real issue of appropriation but also served as a catalyst for her to be conscious of the roles and narratives she agreed to portray on screen.

“It’s interesting, because I had wanted a part in another cheerleading movie that came out around the same time, but they didn’t pursue Black women for any of the roles. I couldn’t even get an audition,” she revealed. “In this movie, the very premise was about cultural appropriation and how the hard work of African Americans has been repackaged with blond hair and blue eyes. The social justice of it appealed to me.”

The role directly led to her casting in the ground-breaking medical drama City of Angels, which held the distinction as network television’s first medical drama with a predominantly African-American cast. The show, which ran for two seasons on CBS, featured a who’s who of eventual Black Hollywood royalty, including Blair Underwood, Viola Davis, Maya Rudolph, and Vivica A. Fox.

It was her portrayal of successful TV news anchor Mary Jane Paul on

Union discusses television series on The Talk on the CBS Television Network. MONTY BRINTON/CBS ©2017 CBS BROADCASTING, INC.
Union discusses television series on The Talk on the CBS Television Network. MONTY BRINTON/CBS ©2017 CBS BROADCASTING, INC.

BET network’s Being Mary Jane, however, that truly solidified Union’s superstar status and staying power. The award-winning series, which ran from 2013 to spring 2019 over the course of four seasons, followed the personal and professional life happenings of the broadcast journalist as she searches for “the puzzle pieces that she, and society, insist are missing from her life as a single Black woman.”

The show was an absolute homerun for BET (debuting as its highest-rated show and quickly becoming the network’s signature series) and was praised across the board for its complex characters, captivating storylines, and willingness to tackle powerful issues. African-American women across the world hailed the series as they saw themselves and their families reflected on a weekly basis.

For Union, participation in the project was a labor of love and her greatest creative decision, offering an opportunity for her to take a role she cared about, while playing an imperfect, complicated, messy character.

“I didn’t want to play a perfect character that was a fully wholesome role model who had all the right answers,” she said. “I’d never been challenged like this—I could be required to show a bunch of different colors within one scene. In many ways, we shared similar struggles and triumphs, loves and losses, and especially the penchant for epic reads. This role was one of the most gratifying of my life.”

Producing for the Future

Building on years of experience in front of the camera, in 2014 Union added to her repertoire by stepping behind the camera to produce, starting with the Lifetime original film With This Ring. In the years since, she has served as an executive producer on a number of projects, including last year’s Breaking In (for which she was awarded Breakthrough Producer of the Year at the CinemaCon Big Screen Achievement Awards) and Spectrum Originals first major original series LA’s Finest (a Bad Boys spin-off co-starring Jessica Alba).

She also launched her own production company, I’ll Have Another (named as a nod to her best-selling book, We’re Going to Need More Wine), signing a first look deal with Sony Pictures TV last year to develop broadcast, cable, and digital projects.

It is a responsibility Union doesn’t take lightly, as she realizes that she is one of but a handful of Black women who head their own production companies.

“As I’ve taken on new projects, I’ve become more aware of the lack of diversity behind the camera,” she noted. “It’s been proven that real inclusion actually makes dollars and cents, and Hollywood is starting to change, but we still need to increase the diversity of directors, executive producers and studio heads.”

The Road Ahead

With her family by her side, her career expanding, her businesses and partnerships blossoming, and her voice for social justice reverberating, Union is living life unapologetically and striving daily to reach her full potential.

“I’m just trying to think limitlessly and not put a cap on my dreams,” she said. “When you’re open like that, the world will take you all sorts of places you could have never imagined.”

It’s obvious that for this multi-tasking mama, the best is yet to come.

‘Go Kill It,Girl’:’She’s Gotta Have It’ Star DeWanda Wise Scores Lead Role in ‘Jurassic World 3’

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DeWanda Wise pictured at movie screeing with hair pinned up and wearing shiny black dress

When the film “Jurassic World 3” hits theaters on June 11, 2021, moviegoers will see DeWanda Wise front and center as the lead.

The Maryland born actress just joined the cast, according to Deadline, which includes Laura Dern and Jeffrey Goldblum, who starred in the original 1993 film “Jurassic Park.”

If you recognize Wise, it’s because she starred as Nola Darling in the now-defunct Spike Lee Netflix series “She’s Gotta Have It.” She also played in TV shows such as “Law & Order: Criminal Intent,” “The Good Wife” and the soap opera “One Life to Live.”

Wise celebrated the news of the role Friday on Instagram, where she also thanked the people encouraged her along the way. According to the actress, the constant motivation she received is what helped her land the “Jurassic World 3” role.

Wise celebrated the news of the role Friday on Instagram, where she also thanked the people encouraged her along the way. According to the actress, the constant motivation she received is what helped her land the “Jurassic World 3” role.

“If you believe in the power of words, in the strength of positive energy, as I undoubtedly do, you know that every ‘Can’t wait 2CU in more movies! You should play _____! Go Awf! You inspire ✊🏾 Queen
Shine 🌟Please play ______ Yaaassss 👏🏾👏🏾👏🏾 And of course… I love you ♥️’ Went into this,” she wrote. “#ThankYou beyond🙏🏾See you in #JurassicWorld 🦖🦖.”

And Wise’s followers continued to provide encouragement under her post.

“GO KILL IT, GIRL!!!💛👏🏻,” someone wrote. “🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾🙌🏾! So so excited for you @dewandawise !! Love seeing you on our screens! It’s where you belong! Congratulations!!! 💕👑.”

“You truly deserve this!” a second person commented. “So happy and excited for you, really can’t wait to see it either you’re are the PERFECT addition to this franchise!! ✨✨✨🙌🏾✨✨✨.”

Back in July it was announced that “She’s Gotta Have It” would be cancelled after its second season. But one of Wise’s fans told her the new role made up for that and then some.

“One door closes and an even bigger one opens!” that person wrote. “So excited your talent is coming to the big screen in a blockbuster no doubt!”

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