As inconsequential as it might seem to some people, hair can be a central part of your identity — to the point that a haircut, whether a subtle trim or something more drastic, can change not only how your hair looks but also how you feel about yourself. While a new cut is exciting for some, for others, it can cause a lot of dread as they watch the scissors slice into their hair, no matter how little is being cut off. Gabrielle Union knows this all too well. In the past, when she used to have her hair trimmed, “I would feel like I was trimming away my beauty,” she tells Allure on a Zoom call. “I was trimming away my femininity, and I had a real love-hate relationship with length, texture, color, and styles.”
It took years of therapy and traveling for Union to quell that anxiety and develop a more positive relationship with her hair. “There is no one way to be feminine. I’m fly as fuck with short hair, long hair, [or] no hair,” she says. Because of this personal work, her big chop in 2021 — the result of her simply wanting something new — didn’t evoke the same level of anxiety that even a minor haircut once would have.
It’s that flexibility with hairstyles and beauty in general that she admires in her 14-year-old daughter, Zaya Wade, who has dyed her hair pink and blue and played around with numerous protective styles. “It’s such a huge source of pride for me and the rest of the family that Zaya is so comfortable being whoever she is in the moment,” Union says to her daughter, who is sitting beside her during our interview.
Despite feeling like her identity is tied to her hair, Wade wasn’t dissuaded from doing a big chop, which she says makes her “feel a little different and more empowered,” in April. Though she loves her buzz cut, box braids hold an even more special place in her heart. “I just feel like a diva [when] I have hair to flip,” she says about braids. But lengthy hair isn’t vital to her; it’s just nice to have the option.