As inconsequential as it may seem to some people, hair can be a central part of your identity — to the point that a haircut, whether it’s a subtle cut or something more drastic, can change not only how your hair looks, but how you feel about yourself herself. While a new cut is exciting for some, for others it can inspire a great deal of anxiety to see the scissors cutting into their hair, no matter how little is cut off. Gabrielle Union knows that only too well. When she used to get her hair cut, “I felt like I was cutting away my beauty,” she says Curls on a Zoom call. “I cut away my femininity and had a real love-hate relationship with length, texture, color and styles.”
It took Union years of therapy and travel to overcome this fear and develop a more positive relationship with her hair. “There is no one way to be feminine. I’m like a fuck with short hair, long hair [or] no hair,” she says. Because of that personal work, her big cut in 2021 — the result of her simple desire for something new — hasn’t inspired the same level of anxiety that even a small haircut once would have.
It’s this flexibility in 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 is playing around with numerous protective styles. “It fills me and the rest of the family with so much pride that Zaya is so comfortable with who she is right now,” Union says to her daughter, who is sitting next to her during our interview.
Though she felt her identity was tied to her hair, Wade persisted in going for a big cut, which makes her “feel a little bit different and stronger” in April. Although she loves her buzz cut, box braids still hold a special place in her heart. “I just feel like a diva [when] I have reversible hair,” she says of braids. But long hair isn’t important to her, it’s just nice to have the option.