1. Her name isn’t Gabrielle Union.
Well, technically her name is Gabrielle Union, but friends and family call her “Nickie,” a shortened version of her middle name, Monique.
2. Dwyane Wade isn’t the first basketball star to catch her eye.
Long before Wade came into the picture, Union had another basketball star on her arm: Jason Kidd. The two dated when they were in high school, but the teenage dream came crashing down just two weeks before prom.
“He called me that night to officially break up with me, which is exactly what he had done to the girl he dated before me,” Union recalls. “Karma is a b**ch that surfaces quick. I went into this very quick whirlpool of a downward spiral. I began writing a lot of sad, terrible poetry.”
3. She experienced racism at an early age.
Union and her family moved from Nebraska to Pleasanton when she was in elementary school. Relocating to the Northern California suburb came with a painful reality.
“It took less than a year in Pleasanton for someone to call me a n***er. It was during third-grade recess at Fairlands Elementary, and it came from Lucas," she recalls of a Latino student bused in from Commodorsky, a "low-income housing development."
"One day, Lucas decided my name made a great racist alliteration. ‘Nickie’s a n***er!’ he said, pointing at me with a huge smile of revelation, like he’d found me in a game of hide and seek.”
The racist taunting caused Union to suppress her blackness for many years. "With every single move I made and every word I spoke, I stayed hyper alert to what I called the Black Pitfalls," she explains. "What were the things that would make me appear blacker? I only ate chicken with a knife and fork, and never in front of white people. Certainly not KFC. And no fruit on a rind, You were not gonna see a toot-grin-and-watermelon scene from me.”