When I think of Gabrielle Union, I think of Bring It On. Let’s face it, we’ve all seen the original version about 40 times. And when it’s on ABC Family Channel twice in one day, we’re not going to shut it off. (I feel pretty secure speaking for everybody right now.)
If you don’t know Gabby from quite possibly the best cheerleading-competition-based movie of our time, you may recognize her from 2003’s Deliver Us From Eva, or Bad Boys 2. But you won’t recognize her from Mean Girls, even though she was likely quite suitable for a Regina George-eque role. It’s true – Gabby recently opened up to Oprah, and admitted she used to be kind of a jerk.
Joined by fellow actresses Viola Davis, Phylicia Rashad and Alfre Woodard, the group talked to Oprah about the battles that actresses of different races have. Gabby voiced that it was her friend AJ Johnson that changed her negative persona into a positive one.
Gabrielle has a great friend in AJ, because that’s excellent advice that all of us should follow. What good does it do when we put someone down?
I had a conversation with a friend recently, where she said that all it takes is one person – in one negative environment – to call you “fat” and have it absolutely ruin your self esteem and body image. While the instigator might forget hurling this insult the next day, it’s a term that packs a lot of punch. In 2013, it’s become so much easier to embrace a scale of female body types – after all, there’s not just one definition of beauty. But as a woman, it’s easy to see that calling someone “fat” in a specific context isn’t necessarily a compliment. And when the abuse comes from someone who has a mission to hurt your feelings, the pain can last for quite some time. Saying something that hurts someone elses feelings isn’t just an amusing anecdote to tell your friends who weren’t at the party – it’s straight up bullying.
Is it truly worth the 5 second of attention you might get, to give someone else a world of hurt? While I’m not sure what Gabby had to say to the other party-goer that put her in the “mean girl” category, it’s kind of easy for someone to target appearance. If Gabby was with someone who might have gotten a role over her, the insults could have spawned from personal jealousy – when really, young and talented females should be supportive of each other.
Women can turn into “mean girls” without even realizing it – and I’m sure all of us have had moments where we haven’t been the best role models for others. If you find yourself entering mean girl territory, here are a few ways to recognize it and turn it around the way that Gabby did.
Think Before You Speak. You have a right to your thoughts, but if your thoughts can truly be damaging to someone, keep it to yourself or your diary. If a friend asks you for an honest opinion on an outfit, you can share your thoughts without tearing her to shreds. “I think you look really nice in blue” is much kinder than “You look really bad in red.” “That’s not my favorite shirt” is much more uplifting than “That shirt looks hideous on you.”
Remember, You Don’t Know Everyone’s Story. People can gain or lose weight for different reasons. Sometimes a gain is due to a medication or health issue, and sometimes weight loss could be due to stress. Sometimes both can be based around genetics. That big girl who is constantly bullied for how she looks could be the most dedicated and supportive friend you don’t have. Before you judge somebody by their pants size, remember that it’s their character that matters most.
When You’re Overly Negative, It’s Hard To Be Positive. Know that feeling when you get broken up with, and all you want to do is lay in bed while playing really sad indie rock music? You’re feeding the sadness. While it’s totally normal to be a sad sack for the first few days, it’s dangerous to keep blasting music that makes you bawl months later. The same can be true if you’re overly negative. By judging everything and everyone around you, you’ll find that it’s much harder to actually lighten up and enjoy life. Life can be great, if you’re able to let the little things roll off your shoulders.
If Your Friend Group Thrives On Beating Up Others, Consider Getting New Friends. You saw it with Regina George’s clique, and chances are, you were aware of a similar group in real life. If your friend group primarily focuses on picking others apart, there’s a good chance they’ll target you if you do anything out of the norm. And it’s totally, 100% okay to stray from normal every once in awhile. My high school had “popular kids” (the jocks and cheerleaders, naturally) and the popular kids – the kids who were genuine and nice to everyone. Here’s how to break the mold – consider striking up a conversation with the quiet kid in class. They might be shy, but you’re proving that you’re an approachable person that doesn’t shut them out solely since they might be afraid to participate. This small action might even make their day.
While Gabby coming out as a “mean girl” shocked me, it made me realize that everybody has a past that they might not be proud of. I’m glad she admitted that her actions were wrong, and hope that her interview helped others realize that chastising your peers isn’t the best way to get ahead. (But don’t worry, Gabby. I’ll still be proud of your squad when Bring It On re-airs next.)
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