Tragic Details About Gabrielle Union

"I find that the more painfully honest I am, the more impactful I am. You just have to talk about it. And finally I'm ready. I'm as ready as I'm going to be," Gabrielle Union told Health in September 2021 — and, boy, she hasn't held back. The gorgeous actor with the stunning smile and undeniable talent has been incredibly open about her experiences with some of the most tragic things a person can go through, which may come as a surprise to some. 

Today, Union has pretty much everything a person could wish for: a glittering career in Hollywood (with roles in the likes of "Friends," "Bring It On," and "Being Mary Jane"), a beautiful family (hello, Shady Baby!), a loving husband (hello, Dwyane Wade!), and plenty of cash in the bank (seriously, her net worth is pretty darn impressive). But behind the curtain, she's faced some extremely difficult times.

But what's made this superstar the incredible, strong woman she is today? We're taking a look back at some of Union's biggest adversities and what she said about overcoming them.

Gabrielle Union is a rape survivor

One of Gabrielle Union's most harrowing traumas happened at just 19 years old, when she was raped at gunpoint by a robber while working at a shoe store. She spoke about it publicly in her first memoir, "We're Going to Need More Wine," sharing that one of the most harrowing things to come out of the ordeal was how her dad looked at her when he found out. "The look was: Damaged. Victim. Guilt. Fear. I was the kid you bragged about ... And in that moment, I was damaged," she said. The ordeal was so traumatic that Union experienced PTSD. "Afterward, I was in shock. I just couldn't believe that something like that could happen. For days, I asked myself, 'Why me?'" she told, sharing that going to therapy helped her to cope.

The trauma from the incident has stayed with Union for a long time, and being at home throughout the coronavirus pandemic began to trigger her PTSD symptoms. Speaking on "Peace of Mind with Taraji," she shared that she felt exposed while spending so much time at home together with her husband, Dwyane Wade. "There is not enough space, you know what I mean, and that kind of worries me sometimes ... You get worried that maybe you have revealed too much and you're going to scare them away because damaged women aren't supposed to be lovable," she said.

Her husband, Dwyane Wade, dropped a baby bombshell

Gabrielle Union went through a tough time in 2013 when, during a short break from their years-long relationship, her husband Dwyane Wade fathered a child with another woman. Union opened up about the difficult revelation in her 2021 book, "You Got Anything Stronger?", admitting they were in a much better place when Wade dropped the bomb about his new baby, Xavier, but then things quickly turned sour again. "To say I was devastated is to pick a word on a low shelf for convenience," she wrote. "I have not had words, and even after untold amounts of therapy, I am not sure I have them now" (via Us Weekly).

Wade has also spoken candidly about the rocky patch in their romance, explaining in his 2020 documentary, "D. Wade: Life Unexpected," that he couldn't eat or sleep before telling Union the news. "When you hold something in that you know is going to come out and you have this information and you know it's gonna f*** somebody's life up, that you care about, that you love, if it don't hurt you, then you're not human," he shared.

Thankfully, the couple overcame their struggles. Today, Union has a great relationship with her stepchildren, even sharing Instagram posts in 2019 of the blended family — including Wade's sons Zaire, Zaya, and Xavier, and their daughter, Kaavia — making pizzas together (via Prevention).

She experienced multiple miscarriages

The very idea of Dwyane Wade fathering a child with another woman was no doubt tough enough, but Gabrielle Union has also shared her own struggle with infertility. "The experience of Dwyane having a baby so easily — while I was unable to — left my soul not just broken into pieces, but shattered into fine dust scattering in the wind," she explained in her book "You Got Anything Stronger?"

In an excerpt from the book obtained by Time, Union shared that she'd experienced more miscarriages than she could accurately count and had been diagnosed with adenomyosis, which left her devastated. She and Wade went through multiple rounds of IVF in the hopes of conceiving, while Union lamented not being able to give her husband a child — in fact, she said she even considered leaving him so he could find someone who could. Speaking about her constant IVF cycles on "Dr. Oz" in 2018, she explained, "For three years, my body has been a prisoner of trying to get pregnant."

The couple eventually chose surrogacy and welcomed a daughter, Kaavia James, into the world in 2018. "So many people are suffering in silence, and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah Winfrey on "SuperSoul Sunday" in 2018.

Gabrielle made racism allegations on America's Got Talent

One of Gabrielle Union's most public dramas stemmed from her time as a judge on "America's Got Talent." Union was very vocal about several issues she experienced on the NBC competition show, including alleged racist remarks, after being let go from the show after one season. One comment in particular allegedly came from guest judge Jay Leno, with Union telling Variety that NBC's solution was to edit it out of the broadcast. "To experience this kind of racism at my job and there be nothing done about it, no discipline, no companywide email, no reminder of what is appropriate in the workplace?" she said, later claiming to Marie Claire that producers also allegedly called her hair "too wild." NBC responded, "Through the investigation process, it has been revealed that no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union's appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time" (via Variety).

Union made her disdain for her time on the show very clear, telling Marie Claire, "I should be able to exist however the f*** I want to exist, because if you're hiring Gabrielle Union for my talent, then my talent is going to come out of my body in every way, shape, and incarnation that I can imagine."

Almost a year after Union went public, she and "America's Got Talent" reached a settlement, per USA Today.

She had an experience with Neo-Nazis

Sadly, her time on "America's Got Talent" wasn't the only time Gabrielle Union has spoken out about her experience with racism. The talented actor opened up about a horrific encounter during a 2019 trip to Croatia (from which she shared vacation snaps on social media), where she claimed she was surrounded by a group she described as "Neo-Nazis" who she claimed were trying to intimidate her and her friends when they entered a bar. "I've never experienced that level of hatred and the threat of physical violence. It was such a jolt. And the fear and adrenaline of what happened left us all numb," she shared in her book, "You Got Anything Stronger?," revealing she was trying to recreate a scene from "Game of Thrones" when the incident happened.

The "Being Mary Jane" star has experienced racism ever since she was a kid, recalling in "We're Going To Need More Wine" that she was called racial slurs in elementary school.

Today, Union and her husband Dwyane Wade are very open with their children about what they may have to face, explaining to Health in 2021 that they've had some very candid conversations in their household. "We talk about how the world is, I'm not going to say changing, but at least acknowledging certain truths that we've known for the last 400 years," she said.

Gabrielle Union has struggled with suicidal thoughts

Gabrielle Union has spoken very candidly about experiencing suicidal thoughts, bravely sharing that she had a particularly dark moment in 2021 following a minor argument with her husband, Dwyane Wade. "Instead of my usual problem-solving ... immediately my brain, that little inner voice said, 'He's never going to get it unless you're dead,'" the "Being Mary Jane" star recalled while speaking to Gwyneth Paltrow at her Goop Health virtual summit in June 2021 (via Us Weekly). Union shared that years of therapy enabled her to handle the situation in a healthy way, as she was at home at the time and knew to immediately tell her loved ones about what she'd experienced. Union's depressive episodes likely stemmed from her perimenopause diagnosis, which she led to prolonged periods of depression and even made her think she may have been going through the early signs of dementia, she shared with the news outlet.

Union has been very candid about how much therapy and other techniques have helped her through the difficult moment in her life. She explained the importance of speaking about her issues to Woman's Day in 2020, saying, "I rely heavily on therapy, on guided meditation, on positive affirmations, and trying to create enough of a routine that I don't ever feel overwhelmed."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.

She had a rock-bottom moment

You may not know that Gabrielle Union was actually married once before she tied the knot with Dwyane Wade. She was with her first husband — former NFL player Chris Howard — from 2001 until 2006, and their toxic relationship led her to one of the darkest places she's ever been in her life. Writing in her 2017 book, "We're Going to Need More Wine," Union confessed that she would often accuse Howard of cheating on her, which led to some explosive arguments. In one of the worst incidents, Union found a phone number in her then husband's laundry. "You think you're gonna call this b***h? You think you're gonna call this b***h?" she asked the athlete, before learning that the number was actually for a restaurant. However, it sounds like Union had the right to be suspicious, as she claimed to VICE Life that Howard cheated on her at least once — and she found out via a message he received from a friend asking about his supposed mistress.

Union discussed the end of her first marriage candidly on "Red Table Talk" in 2018. "I had to hit rock bottom, I had to lose everything. For me, that was my first marriage, going through the divorce process," Union explained. She revealed that during her divorce, her TV show got canceled and she wasn't getting along with her friends, only to realize she was blaming everyone but herself.

Gabrielle faced homewrecker allegations

Gabrielle Union has been on both sides of the cheating allegations. She had accused her husband of infidelity during her marriage to Chris Howard, but her relationship with Dwyane Wade put her on the other side of the fence when she was accused of breaking up his marriage. Prior to his relationship with Union, Wade was married to Siohvaughn Funches from 2002 until 2010. Because Wade and Union first met in 2007, the rumors swirled, even though Union has said she initially had little to no interest in the former pro athlete during his previous marriage. "When I met Dwyane, his résumé looked like crap: athlete, going through a divorce, nine years younger than me. None of that screamed, 'Let's have a lasting relationship,'" she told Glamour in 2014.

The two eventually went public in 2010, but the quickness of their relationship had people suggesting Union may have had something to do with Wade's and Funches' split. In fact, Funches even filed a lawsuit claiming their romance caused her and her children emotional distress, per The Grio. For Union, speaking with her girlfriends pulled her through. "I think people mistook me taking the high road as an admission of guilt. Dwyane and I made a decision very early to not react to the negativity. And I kept feeling like the truth would come out," she told Jet in 2012 (via Us Weekly).

She struggled with body image issues

Sadly, Gabrielle Union has also struggled with body image issues. The star started having negative feelings about the way she looked as a child, explaining that her low self-esteem stemmed from her never feeling chosen. "I didn't love my skin color, I didn't love my lips. I didn't love my nose, I didn't love my hair. I didn't love anything. I didn't love my body," she told Harper's Bazaar in 2016, noting that a lot of her struggles came from a lack of Black representation when she was younger. She explained that she would even try to change the way her lips looked.

Union had previously given insight into how she felt about her body on "The View" a year earlier, admitting that she thinks struggles with body dysmorphia and low self-esteem are just as prevalent today, largely thanks to social media. "I mean, talk about body dysmorphia, you can take it in a whole different direction. Just what I experienced personally ... You lose touch with reality," she said (via Vibe).

Thankfully, Union is on a better path today when it comes to body acceptance. "I got on board with how much value that I brought to the table myself," she told Medium in 2017. "Once I stopped looking at other people and external events for validation, I started to appreciate what and who I was."