Gabrielle Union Slams Critics Who Say She Shouldn't Wear Thong Bikinis at 50

The 'Perfect Find' star shares her experience getting older in the spotlight and how she's learned the value in validating herself.

Anyone who has a problem with Gabrielle Union wearing bikinis at 50 years old is better off closing their eyes because the swimsuits aren't going anywhere.

The Perfect Find star was recently a guest on the Who What Wear podcast, where she spoke with editor Jasmine Fox-Suliaman about what it's like to age as a woman in Hollywood. As someone who made her breakthrough in the '90s, Union has gone through the gamut of shifting public perception, and shared how she's come to realize she can't restrict herself because of the opinions of others when it comes to how she lives her life or what she puts on social media.

She recalled an online exchange with a follower after posting a photo of herself in swimsuit, something Union is rarely shy to do.

"Somebody said, 'You're old enough to be somebody's grandma, why are you still, like, wearing bikinis?'" Union recounted. "I'm like, 'First of all, they're not just bikinis. They are thongs. And you're gonna see these cheeks until my a** literally falls off, and I might just wear a bikini in the casket. I don't know, that might just be for you, for that one commenter... this is for you b**ch, and it's just gonna be like me in a thong, like a** up in the casket."

Union pointed out how women in the spotlight often see their worth decline in the eyes of the public as they age, which generally tends to be the opposite experience for their male counterparts. "[When you're] 35, they start treating you like you've got osteoporosis. You start becoming invisible, and it's a weird, empty feeling to feel like you're disappearing in front of your own eyes," the Inspection star said. "You start taking on the same attitude as society that believes that you lack value."

"I don't want anyone else to feel that invisibility and that sense of worthlessness because the only people that we need to validate us is us," she added. "And sometimes, the more that you validate your damn self, the more people are like, 'Yeah.'"

When Union turned 50 last year, she commemorated the occasion by traveling through several countries in Africa, from the island of Zanzibar to the coast of Ghana to the parks of Namibia and the nightlife of South Africa, documenting her journey as she connected with the cultures and people in between. 

The actress and producer was joined by her husband, retired NBA star Dwyane Wade, and a group of family and friends for the excursion that became the two-part docuseries special on BET+ titled Gabrielle Union: My Journey to 50

Journey to 50 is a raw glimpse into Union's world, an intimate exploration that sees her tear down her walls on a new level. 

"I had reached a breaking point right before the trip; coming off of The Inspection, how dark that was and where I had to go to get there, and going right into Truth Be Told season 3 that was dealing with sexual brutality of Black and brown girls in the Bay Area," she explained to ET ahead of the docuseries' drop. "It coincided with the 30-year anniversary of my sexual assault as a teenager in the Bay Area. It was just too much. And that was just one too many things on my emotional house of cards -- I was dust by the time I got on the plane to come to Africa."

Union added that "setting foot on the continent always brought me peace." It was with that mindset that she made the decision to travel there for her momentous birthday.

"And then slowly we figured out which countries where we might find the most interesting exchanges and the most interesting gifts for everyone involved," she shared. "So, there was different things, different people that sort of inspired why we chose different countries."

Union admitted she's unable to accurately describe her experience, saying, "I just don't think... I don't even know if I'm able to articulate enough the majesty of the red dunes in Namibia and the land, the topography, but it's the feeling. The feeling is like nothing I can ever explain. It just feels like being overtaken by goodness. And being able to see things realistically."

"A lot of times we are so programmed to see everything negatively and to see the worst pieces of each other. And it leaves no room for humanity or kindness or joy. It's always, 'I got to find the angle to get the upper hand.' For what, to harm someone? And it just gave us that extra space and that extra drive to see things clearly," she added. "And as we climbed up that sand dune -- which is a lot harder than it looks -- there was something about reaching the top. I was just weeping... just weeping and I look and everybody made it to the top like me, but I'm looking and it's the same -- other families that were making the same trip weeping and that's why it's like you have to go. Don't let the pictures do it justice, which it does, but not the emotional impact."

The docuseries takes fans along with Union as she makes new connections with history, her legacy as a star, mother, wife and Black woman, and forms global fellowship through her joy in life. 

"A lot of my relatives and a lot of my friends didn't make it out of their 30s, so 50 felt like, 'Oh. Oh, yikes.' I left there like, 'Oh, my grandma lived to be 110, I have so much more time left,'" Union recalled. "And I feel like a teenager. I feel young, I feel open to learning. There's that point where you kind of start to close the lid on yourself, like you become [a] little know-it-all. I like to think I'm a learning person, but know nothing, and when you humble yourself, you can learn a lot more."

She added, "When you zip it, your ears absorb things that your heart didn't know were possible. And I'm just trying to be open to everything for the next 50 or 60 years."

Gabrielle Union: My Journey to 50 is now available to stream on BET+.