If you ask any Gabrielle Union fan what their favorite movie is that the actress starred in, most will say Bring It On. Union had teenage girls around the world practicing cheers in their bedroom mirrors in hopes they’d become the captain of their high school squad. While her role in the film is iconic, it wasn’t the first time the actress played the part of a cheerleader. Four years earlier, Union played the captain of the cheerleading squad in an episode of Moesha.
Gabrielle Union starred as a cheerleader on an episode of ‘Moesha’
Union guest-starred in a string of popular 90s sitcoms, one of which was Moesha. The show’s first season followed Moesha and her clique’s growing pains as they navigated high school. A straight-A student with dreams of becoming a writer, Moesha took pride in not falling into stereotypical extracurricular activities in school that most of her peers were into, including cheerleading.
In one episode, Union played a character named Ashli, who was captain of the high school cheerleading squad and eager for Moesha to be part of her crew. Ashli is materialistic and considered to be part of the “it crowd.”
Though Ashli is fond of Moesha, she does not share the same sentiments for Moesha’s best friend, Kim. She typically takes jabs at Kim’s weight and fashion sense. But, Kim desperately wants to be a cheerleader and begs Moesha to try out with her. Despite Moesha’s hesitations, she audions for the team to please Kim.
Things took a turn when Kim made the team and Moesha was not offered a spot. Moreso, Moesha had to deal with Kim gaining popularity, particularly among Ashli and her teammates. Kim and Ashli grew to be close friends as Kim created a few of the team’s popular cheers. By the end of the episode, Kim and Moesha reconcile and Moesha is happy for Kim to shine.
Gabrielle Union’s impact in the cult-classic ‘Bring It On’
Union continued acting but it wasn’t until her breakout role in the 2000 comedy film Bring It On that her career began to take off. Union put on another cheerleading uniform for her role as Isis, captain of the East Compton Clovers who leads her team to compete in a national competition against primarily all-white teams. The film centers on the Clovers working to beat out their biggest local competition with the Toros.
The film opened at number one at the box office and grossed over $90 million worldwide. Critics reviews of the film were mixed but audiences loved it. Bring It On made No. 30 on Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Best High School Movies list.
Unlike with her guest appearance on Moesha, Union was not a teenager when she landed Bring It On. At the time, she was 27-years-old, making her portrayal even more impressive. The film became an instant classic, something that Union says is a gift and a curse.
“It’s the gift that keeps on giving,” she told Good Morning America in May 2020. “It just keeps bringing it back and fortunately, or unfortunately, the issues surrounding cultural appropriation have stayed completely relevant and it makes the movie relevant.”
Union revitalized the character once again for Halloween 2019 when she dressed as Isis for Halloween. She also said that she’d be open to star in a sequel.