She first shared her rape story in 2014 long before the onset of the #MeToo era and at a period when most women had shied away from talking about their similar ordeals.
Noted for being someone who does not have difficulty in opening up about such issues, the 44-year-old actress, Gabrielle Union, shed more light on her sexual assault and other life disturbances when she took her turn on stage on day one of the #BlogHer18 conference in New York.
The activist and author of We’re Going to Need More Wine spoke about her book with subject matter ranging from childhood, sexuality, race, rape, difficulties with fertility, and the importance of having supportive people around you.
At age 19, Union was raped at gunpoint while working at a Payless ShoeSource. Her memoir We’re Going to Need More Wine gave further details about the traumatic incident, and this inspired her to help others come forward with their own stories.
When asked during the women empowerment conference if she was ever worried about her sexual assault story and even felt brave to have opened up about it, the Bring It On star said: “I don’t look at it as brave, I look at it as necessary. There is so much that we hold to ourselves out of fear of judgement, and sometimes that fear can literally kill.”
“I have seen the devil up close, I can’t go any lower. At this point, I can only go up and I’m trying to take as many people with me as possible,” Union told the audience.
Nearly 1,500 female content creators, social media influencers, and entrepreneurs filled Pier 17 at The Seaport District in NYC for the two-day event that celebrated female content creators whose work inspires, empowers and educates not only women but men globally.
Other speakers for the event, which was hosted by SheKnows Media, included Amy Schumer, Maria Menounos, Brooklyn Decker, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Tiffani Thiessen.
Emmy Award-winning Nigerian American actress who played the role of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren on the Netflix original series Orange Is the New Black, Uzo Aduba also shared her belief in the power of women coming together to serve a common goal.
“Women were grabbing the injustices and disservices that have been affecting the industry for years. It is important to not be a victim, but to be the change leaders. Call things by their name. Take the leadership seat, rather than the backseat,” Aduba said during a discussion with Rachel Terrace, CMO of TIME’S UP.
She stunned the audience with a powerful message: “We are all in everyone’s fight. Everyone is suffering. My fight is your fight. Until we understand what that means, there will be no change. We are living in a place where people aren’t equal. Until everyone is being treated the exact same, no one here is safe. You have to fight for everybody and use your voice for everyone.”
Actress Jessica Alba closed out the night with a speech about how she went from actress to visionary entrepreneur with the Honest Company which provides safe and natural baby and beauty products despite being constantly told that it was impossible.
“I wanted to create clean, safe products that were affordable and cute. I couldn’t find that in the marketplace,” Alba said. She was constantly told that “I was an actress and what did I know?” She persevered because: “The baby steps to get there are even more important and also knowing what it is you’re good at.”
Alba explained how an allergic reaction to baby laundry detergent about 11 years ago when she was pregnant with her first child inspired the Honest Company. She also spoke about her background and how coming from a poor family in Pomona, CA where her parents worked three jobs each her entire life, inspired her to “work harder
than everyone else” and “learn about everything she didn’t know.”
Stand-up comedian, Amy Schumer, who surprised guests with a special introduction to the Voices of the Year Awards (VOTYs), shared her remarks on the importance of acknowledging and amplifying women’s voices to make a change.
The VOTY honorees included Monsurat Adebanjo (founder of the Urban Culturist), Nekpen Osuan (co-founder of WomenWerk), Sweta Vikram (NYC-based author, advocate and yoga instructor), and Dr. Alaa Murabit (medical doctor & UN High-Level Commissioner on Health Employment & Economic Growth).
Others were Clementine Wamariya (author of The Girl Who Smiled Beads), Donna Orender (former President of the WNBA & founder of Generation W), Eboni K. Williams (Fox News Anchor), Adrienne Lawrence (an attorney by trade & on-air host and legal analyst), and U.S Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
The VOTY winners are outstanding, strong female creators who have pushed people to think more, feel more, share more, laugh more, and do more.
BlogHer was founded in 2005 by Lisa Stone, Elisa Camahort Page, and Jory Des Jardins to answer the question, “Where are the women bloggers?”
Since then, BlogHer has become an unstoppable movement, empowering women to find their voices and turn their passions into content, community and commerce, across topics from food and health to parenting and politics.