Gabrielle Union's breakout role was as Isis in the teenage comedy Bring it On. The 2000 film became an instant cult classic and told the story of high school cheerleading rivalries whose teams were from different sides of the track competing for the national title. Despite the film's success, Union admits in an open letter she wrote to her character in her new memoir You Got Anything Stronger? that she wishes she'd done things differently.
"There was Torrance Shipman, Sparky Polastri, and the Pantones — Cliff and Missy. But us Clovers? Isis, Jenelope, Lafred, and Lava? None. No surname for you to claim, Isis. Or to claim you. So, you were my daughter alone," Union wrote in an excerpt that was shared on The Cut.
Union notes that she was the only Black actor at the script reading and "felt isolated." She revealed that "created a whole life" for Isis, including having involved parents. None of which was part of Isis' actual storyline or character arc in the film. Union regrets not speaking up to give her character more depth, explaining she did so out of fear of being viewed as the difficult Black star to work with. She also feared being replaced by another actor.
"I failed you and myself. I was the fourth lead, but my face was on the poster," she wrote. "You were the girl with no last name, but the star of every meme. You were only in about a third of the movie, and now I would know to fight for equal time to tell your story."
She hates that Isis was painted as a villain, writing, "Because you asked for accountability in the most civil tone I could manage? When people do their impersonation of you — to me! — it's an aggressive, slang-talking girl threatening violence."
Looking back, she wishes she would have advocated more for her character. "I wish I had just given you the space to be a Black girl who is exceptional without making any kind of compromise. Because that's who I want to be now," she wrote. "That's what I am chasing, so much later in life than you: to be exceptional by my own standards. Unapologetically me." The book is currently valuable for purchase online and in stores.