VetFamily: Gabrielle Union, Daughter of an Army Veteran

Gabrielle Union

Actress Gabrielle Union is hot right now: she is in the Chris Rock film “Top Five” premiering this weekend at the Toronto Film Festival, starring in “Being Mary Jane” on BET, and has just married Miami Heat basketball star Dwayne Wade. But at the root of her success is her parents. Her father Sylvester E. Union was an Army military sergeant and walked her down the aisle on August 30.

“At the end of the day, my parents are alive and nice people,” she told She tries to make them proud. “They’re nice people that people like to be around and I would embarrass them if the things coming out of [the movie] set were that I was a crazy, delusional diva.”

The Nebraska native was born October 29, 1972 and grew up in California. She attended University of Nebraska and UCLA before interning at a modeling agency. Instead of moving on to law school as she had planned, she became a client of that agency and launched her 25 year career as an African American model and actress.

"Hollywood needs to recognize all shades of African-American beauty,” she says.

The 1990s and early 2000s were peak times for her, with roles on major sitcoms like “Saved By the Bell,” “Friends,” and “7th Heaven,” and films including “10 Things I Hate About You.” Playing a cheerleader in the movie “Bring it On” brought her into the mainstream and won her a Black Reel Award for Best Actress. More recent work includes stints on “Ugly Betty” and “The West Wing.”

An important role was in “Army Wives” in 2010. Union guest starred in one episode that was planned to lead to a spinoff of the series. Eventually the spinoff was canceled, but the role allowed her to show her appreciation for the military. BET launched her new series “Being Mary Jane” in July 2013. The series has over 4 million viewers and was renewed for a second season even before the first season premiered. It follows Union as a single female searching for “Mr. Right” as she pursues her career.

In real life, she married her “Mr. Right” last month. The high profile couple kept their Miami wedding quiet, asking guests to refrain from social media and photos. The event was held at Chateau Artisan Castle, a private residence in Miami and celebrities like John Legend made the guest list. The pair had 5 year on and off relationship before tying the knot, and have been open about the difficulties of maintaining their careers along with their personal lives.

Now, though, they seem ready to handle it all. Besides being role models in their respective fields, they have one more thing in common: Wade is the son of a military man and also designated a VetFamily by Veterans Advantage. Perhaps both will pull from their fathers’ discipline and wisdom, as they raise Wade’s three sons together as a family.

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