April 12, 2024

Jessica Alba & Gabrielle Union get candid on the racism and misogyny they have faced

Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union are two individual powerhouses in their own right. After such seminal roles in Honey (What. A. Classic. ) and Sin City, Jessica went on to become a badass business woman with The Honest Company, which promotes ethical consumerism.

Meanwhile, Gabrielle – who first high kicked her way to fame in Bring It On and taught an entire generation to literally BRING IT– hit the big time on TV screens in Being Mary Jane.

Now the women have combined their force for an explosion of sisterhood on screen in the female remake of the iconic Will Smith film, Bad Boys. L. A. Finest sees the pair play two LAPD police officers who not only tackle toxic masculinity, but they kick it firmly in the groin. YASSS.

Here, Gabrielle Union and Jessica Alba discuss the hurdles they had to overcome in their career, the sexism they still deal with and why they are still concerned for their children’s safety in 2019…

How surprising was a project like this for you, still, in 2019?

Jessica: We’ve always wanted this.

Gabrielle: We created the Hollywood show we wanted to have and the experience we wanted to have. Maybe it was surprising for others, but we were just like, ‘the water’s been warm for a while. You are just late to put your toe in!

What’s been the hardest hurdles you have both had to overcome in your career?

Jessica: 20 years of having to prove yourself over and over again and getting executives comfortable with the idea that they can bank on us.

Gabrielle: Racism, misogyny, toxic masculinity, a lack of accountability, a lack of transparency, but also, people loving the idea of diversity and inclusion but not actually making a practise of it at all.

In L. A Finest you are literally combating toxic masculinity. When you come across it in your own lives, how do you shut it down?

Gabrielle: Head on! I’m not going to be polite and smile and then the second someone walks away; I rant and vent. I’m going to tell you to your face! I’m going to gather you and make you accountable in real time. I have also luckily created opportunities for myself – I have the luxury of not working with problematic people. The goal is to create an atmosphere for men and women on set of all different shapes, sizes, ethnicities, languages, to feel happy, safe, productive, seen and valued. When you lead from the front and top, people are actually ok to get behind a production that truly values every single participant.

What have you learnt about the power of sisterhood?

Jessica: In our own personal lives, we both have really strong friendships with women, and I feel like there has been such a lack of that kind of representation of female friendship, especially in a genre and an environment that feels strong and action packed. You usually see a sisterhood in very sweet environments like very light comedies and you don’t always get to see this type of sisterhood in a genre like the one we have here that’s predominantly male.

Gabrielle: It’s actual practicing ‘intersectional feminism’ where we believe we are stronger together. The sisterhood is dynamic and high functioning because of who we are, not in spite of who we are. It’s a nice change of course from watching two women of colour be on TV coming at things from two different perspectives, finding common ground and showing real teamwork as opposed to flipping tables or competing for a dude. It’s refreshing.

When you come across everyday sexism how do you deal with it?

Jessica: I deal with all of it. Every day. It’s weird that pop culture is actually always at the forefront of progress because people have to see it first play out until they’re comfortable with the idea of it. Then you can start to practice it in real life and not in fantasy worlds. Entertainment has always been pushing boundaries, showing very progressive ideas and stories. It is about damn time. Society isn’t quite there yet, and we do know we live in a bubble in entertainment and in Hollywood because it is quite progressive but it’s also regressive in a lot of ways, too. You don’t see as many women behind the scenes, there aren’t so many women in positions of power. It’s still quite unequal on so many levels so hopefully this is showing you can have fun; you can have an entertaining show and both men and women can enjoy it. No one feels slighted.

What kind of world do you want to build for your children?

Gabrielle: One where their every breath is valued. I want to build a world where we don’t think it’s ok to marginalise people or silence people. You see how little the criminal justice system value the lives and the futures and opportunities of black people. I want them to be able to be seen in their fullness and appreciated in their fullness, for people to see their worth and value. That is the goal. For every child in this global village to feel like their lives and very breathe holds the same weight as other children.

Jessica: How awful the whole immigration thing is, children are being locked in cages and separated from their families still – it’s atrocious and terrible. The way our laws aren’t there to protect our children is something we as parents have to continue to fight for in order to make sure our children feel safe and protected and we have the right rules in place to do so. There are things about humanity that are being questioned and up-ended in our country that we are having to fight against it. If we show through positivity and love that things are possible, we keep our kids educated and we keep the hope that we – and they – can be the change and we can continue to move forward and be human and compassionate, then hopefully we’re creating a world where that happens.

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