Gabrielle Union candidly opened up during a recent interview with People magazine about her natural hair journey and how difficult it was to stop using relaxers.
According to Byrdie, a relaxer in the Black community is a chemical treatment used to straighten curly tresses by reducing the bonds in an individual’s hair shaft. The treatment can last six to 12 weeks without reapplication, depending on a couple of factors, including the person’s texture and the hair’s growth rate.
Union, who was a part of Sally Beauty’s first-annual roundtable discussion hosted by Taraji P. Henson, told the publication on Feb. 21, how her depiction of beauty shifted when she and her family moved to a predominately white area in San Francisco Bay, California.
The actress explained, “Most people think of the Bay Area as having a lot of diversity, but the town we moved [to] was 99.9 percent white. I just wanted to fit in. I wanted swoop, swinging hair and in order to get that I needed a relaxer. I had to convince my mom, and I’m sure she thought, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? They’ve been around forever.’ “
Union also disclosed the extremes she went to while wearing relaxed hair to maintain the “appropriate” look. She said, “I didn’t care about my hair health. I would try to leave the relaxer on as long as possible … It was about assimilating and trying to look and appear appropriate and attractive.”
The “L.A.’s Finest” star added, “I wanted that kind of validation that young Black girls get when you fully assimilate, and you move away from Blackness towards something that is a little bit more destabilizing and not really affirming at all.”
Union claimed what ultimately caused her to stop getting relaxers was the constant pressure of trying to meet societal standards of beauty, and feeling unworthy. Although Union’s last relaxer was at the age of 23, she described it as “one of the hardest breakups ever,” despite being married twice.
She said, “It felt like one of the hardest breakups ever. I’ve been married twice, and I feel my breakup with relaxers was harder than my divorce.”
This interview comes a month after Union showcased her flourishing curls following her big chop last July.