Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade Champion Community at Home and Work
“It takes a village” is a parenting motto for a reason. There’s always something to do, somewhere to go, someone to care for—and it’s beyond hard to do it alone. Raising a blended family of five children (Zaire, 20, Zaya, 15, Xavier, 8, Kaavia, 3, and nephew Dahveon, 21), Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade realized the only way forward was to tap into a strong community of family, friends and caregivers for support. But their belief in community extends beyond their home. The actress and former NBA star have centered their latest professional endeavor around a desire to serve communities of color. Earlier this year, the duo launched PROUDLY, an accessibly priced, plant-based babycare line. It’s a brand for babies of color, made up of people of color who truly get it. The Bump sat down with the entrepreneurial couple to talk about parenthood, their vision for PROUDLY and how a sense of community infuses both their work and family life.
The Bump: Congrats on the launch of PROUDLY! I’d love to hear what inspired you to create PROUDLY, and what you’re hoping to achieve, not only with your products but also with the brand as a whole.
Dwyane Wade: Most things in this world that we utilize and that are important to all of us are things that come out of a need. And this came out of a need that the minority community is having. …I know I didn’t grow up knowing a lot about my skin and understanding that I couldn’t use everything on my skin. For me and for my family, it’s been an educational process, to be able to put a brand together with dermatologists of color and so many people who are experts in their own fields. And to have an idea and say, “Hey, listen, this is a gap. This is a white space in this world that we live in, this is something that we would love to be able to build a company and build a team around so we can make sure that it no longer exists.” And we’ve been able to do that so far. We’re proud and so excited.
TB: You just expanded into Target. As a brand that launched originally as direct-to-consumer, why are you particularly excited about this partnership?
DW: We understand that to reach the people that we want to reach, our brand needs to be D2C (direct to consumer). And proudly.com is something that we wanted to start with to get everybody kind of familiar with it. But we also understand the power of Target, and that the biggest marketing tool we can have is to be in one of the biggest stores in the world. …We’re very thankful to Target, which has done so many amazing things in the Black community. And that was something that was important for us—aligning ourselves with partners that understand what PROUDLY looks like and what we’re trying to represent.
Gabrielle Union: You can’t talk about accessibility and wanting to make your products accessible without expanding into the retail space, and we chose Target specifically because of their Black Beyond Measure initiatives. And not just because these businesses support underserved communities, but because at the end of the day, it’s just good business. So, yeah, we’re trying to reach as many people as possible, and Target has been walking the walk and talking to talk and they’ve been an amazing partner on this journey.
TB: You’ve launched an amazing line of products, but you’ve also been building a really impressive team, made up primarily of women of color. Can you tell us more about your vision for the brand and what PROUDLY is representing within the business community?
GU: Yeah, it’s just a different way of doing things. Our company is made up of 90 percent women and 95 percent people of color (that’s men and women), and everyone has a shared goal of trying to do business differently—that you can center the needs of marginalized people and underserved communities, and fill your company with those same people. We’re selling to melanated families, but the people in the company are those same people as well. So we’re all in alignment. And we believe in not just surviving wages; we want to have thriving wages. We want people to have an amazing work-life balance. We want to be able to meet the needs of not just our consumers but also our employees, all with this shared goal of true and real inclusivity. And hopefully, with the way that we’ve set up this company, it can be sort of a beacon of light and inspiration for companies who tend to want to exploit the community without centering the needs of the community.
TB: This notion of work-life balance is a unicorn that we’re all chasing, but, particularly coming from a perspective as parents, you understand the true need for it. You must be incredibly busy between all of your endeavors, PROUDLY being just the latest one. What is the hardest part of wearing so many hats and chasing down that work-life balance?
GU: Time! It takes a village. It’s the only way that you can have any kind of work-life balance. If you’re familiar with my book, there’s a whole chapter on “F balance.” It’s kind of a pipe dream. But you can have more balance with the strength of the community and your village. So we rely heavily on a massive village of family members and caregivers—and not just for our children, but for us too. And those include therapists and doctors. Because it literally takes all of us to have any kind of semblance of peace in our lives.
TB: It’s a reality many of us are living. Do you have any parenting tricks to make it all just a bit more manageable?
GU: I don’t know if it’s a trick per se, but because of the nature of our lives …we have a nightly schedule that we send out that lets everyone in the household know where the next person is. So as long as you stick pretty close to the schedule, that can alleviate a lot of stress and anxiety, instead of trying to wing it every day. That way the kids know what’s up and where they’re supposed to be and where each other are. You can’t do the onesie twosie, you know, well, Mom said this and Dad said that. It’s like no, it’s not, it’s on the schedule. I don’t know if it’s a hack, but it has been very helpful for us.
DW: This sounds like a cliche thing to say, but in our lives, it doesn’t work if we don’t stick to routines, if we’re not responsible for our schedules. So we just try to make sure that everybody in our village understands the importance of that. And they do. …[Our kids] understand our work schedule as well. We sit and talk to our kids and say, “Hey, we’re traveling, we’re going here to do these things.”
TB: Routines are so important for toddlers in particular. Kaavia is 3 now—and toddlers are known to do and say hilarious things. Any recent moments with Kaavia that had you cracking up?
GU: Yeah, that’s daily. She started saying, “What in the world?” That’s funny. And when she says it it’s pure comedy. Like, I come down with my bonnet on and she’s like, “What in the world??”
DW: I like that she says “guys.” Like when we’re talking and she’s got a point she wants to get across, and she’d be like, “GUYS! Guys.” She just stops us in our tracks every time she’s like, “Hey, guys.” I just love what she does.
TB: Too funny! Thinking back to when she was a newborn, what were some of your favorite moments from those early days, and what were some of the harder moments?
GU: Luckily we were able to kind of catch some of our favorite moments and document them. The shade was so real. Her personality has been very clear, literally since she arrived. So just her expressions! You kind of get into a baby fantasy that you’re going to walk in and your baby’s going to be, like, shooting rainbows out of their eyes, and our child was shooting daggers. Just shade on top of shade. And it was something we looked forward to! Like, when your baby rolls their eyes—I don’t think that’s in any baby book as a milestone, but our child had shade milestones, and that was just pure comedy.
DW: I think sleep training is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. Because in the midst of sleep training, you’re going to have to hear your kids scream and cry very often. And it’s a daily thing. It’s very important in our own right to make sure that Kaav is used to a certain schedule, and so we had to do sleep training. And, you know, we’d walk out of the room and she’d be screaming and crying and we’d want to go back in, we’d want to go hold her and go console her. But we also understood that you can’t do that—we can’t get in the way of what she needs. When you hear your kids screaming through the house, that’s the hardest thing.
TB: Absolutely. A lot of parents are going to relate with you on that one. Let’s talk about another one of your kids. I’d love to hear about your support of Zaya through her transition, and how you reinforce self-acceptance and pride for your kids at home.
GU: I think it starts with self, you know? The fact that Zaya’s dad and I have both been committed to therapy and learning who the hell we are. And then realizing it’s never too late to embrace your own authentic path. And she sees us fighting for our own identity and our own individuality and learning how to be better human beings, better spouses, better parents, better citizens of the world. And so it just frees her up to be free. There’s no shock in our household of supporting each other through it, because we lead by example. They see us fighting for our peace and for our space in the world as individuals, and they know that we welcome that. We encourage each one of our children to do that. And we do it unapologetically. We strongly encourage our children to be exactly who they are, and that we don’t all need to match in order to be considered worthy or safe or deserving of love, peace, protection and amazing opportunities. But it started with us having to do the work within.