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Gabrielle Union is speaking up about the hacking of her nude photos, which she found out about just after marrying Dwyane Wade.
“The day after my wedding, we were all sitting around, rehashing the best day of my life, and I get a text from my team that there’s an article that over 100 female celebrities had been targeted,” Union — who penned an essay on the experience for Cosmopolitan‘s December issue and is discussing the topic for the first time — told editor-in-chief Joanna Coles on Sunday at the Fun Fearless Life conference, held at New York City’s David H. Koch Theater and powered by WME Live.
Though Union’s shots weren’t immediately shared (alongside shots of Jennifer Lawrence, Ariana Grande, Kirsten Dunst and Kate Upton), “three weeks later, we were taking a ‘family-moon’ with the kids in Turks and Caicos — I’m on this island paradise with my family and I had hoped they had apprehended these criminals, but they hadn’t,” Union, wearing a black peplum top and a Timo Weiland skirt, recalled of the actual leak. “In the moment, I froze. I was mortified, terrified. … I just didn’t know what to do. I felt I had given so much of myself, but I had saved a little bit for myself and for my husband, and they had taken that from me.”
When the news broke, the Being Mary Jane star immediately sought comfort in Wade, who reassured her, “If it happens, we’ll deal with it.” She was most nervous to warn her “super Catholic” mother, who only responded, “‘Honey, we’ve been through so much worse, and we’re fine.’ … Everyone I thought would have a negative reaction or blame me in some way, or kindly position it as something I could have avoided — no one did. Everyone that I love and respect looked at it for what it is, which is a crime.”
Union joked that she eventually left her hotel room because she wanted to “smell the bacon” at breakfast. She wasn’t confronted about the headline until a fellow airline passenger noted support for the actress during a flight from Miami to Los Angeles, where she was even comforted by photographers. “When the paparazzi says it’s messed up, [it’s messed up]!”
The actress and activist, who has contacted the FBI about the matter, asserted her stance of innocence. “I didn’t do anything wrong — no matter what people describe to me, ‘It’s your fault, you’re stupid to take nude photos, that’s what happens when you’re a celebrity’ — all this nonsense, … they’re criminals,” she explained. “What you do with your own body is your choice. Period. There’s no gray matter there. And when someone takes your choice away and your power away over your own body, it’s a crime. Period. A hacking scandal? We’re lessening it, making it more palatable for mass consumption, but it’s a crime.
“Over a hundred women were targeted — if these women weren’t celebrities, there would be much more outrage, but because we’re female celebrities,” she continued, “‘we weren’t good victims and we enjoyed it, all PR is good PR.’ That’s what they say.”
Union added that she wasn’t comforted when people told her, ” ‘At least you look good! Thank god you were working out!’ That’s not the point. ‘I looked attractive while a crime was being committed?’ It’s a crime.” She compared such comments to when she was asked if the man who held her at gunpoint and raped her when she was 19 was attractive. “People panic when something bad happens and are trying to lighten the mood, and it makes it worse, … and now I know you looked. Everyone has the choice of not clicking.”
While the search for the hackers is coming along — some are out of the country and “some countries are more helpful than others, but it’s so widespread,” she updated — Union is also critical of the companies that were accessible in the leak. “I would have hoped that the tech community would realize this is a crime. … Google wasn’t forcing these images off their sites, or even Apple — all of the 100 women who were targeted were Apple users,” she explained. “You would think the companies would be more helpful in taking the illegally obtained images down, and they were not as helpful as you’d think as consumers.”
“You’d hope they’d care as much about you as you do about the new iPhone 6,” Union continued. “For us, it was pictures, but once you realize anything you do on your phone, … anyone can get access to it at any time if they want it. We have to, as consumers, ask that our data be protected, and the companies we give our money to are equally as invested in our privacy as we are.”
When asked about advice she’d give other women — famous or otherwise — who are nervous about their own shots being leaked, Union stated frankly, “I’m not going to lie and say, ‘Well, just get over it.’ You’re going to be anxious, you’re going to have moments of fear. If you can’t have a reasonable conversation with your ex, a lot of us can’t, empower yourself. Take the control back. … Are we going to let this define us or are we going to be proactive?”
And if it does happen to women in the future, she challenges them, “I want you all to be the woman who did something about it, the woman who didn’t take it lying down, the woman who still accomplished all her goals. That is a much better story to tell.”
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