How Gabrielle Union Is "Empowering" Her Kids to Give Back This Holiday Season

"It’s so important for us to continue to empower them by doing what we can with our platforms to make the world a better, more compassionate place for them and all young people."

Gabrielle Union/Amazon Intv.
Photo: David Crotty/Getty Images

Gabrielle Union knows you're about to spend a lot of time and money on Amazon crossing every item off your holiday shopping lists – and hey, hopefully, this year that also includes Flawless, the actress' re-launched haircare line that's available exclusively on the site. But as a philanthropist and activist, she's here to remind you that you can actually donate to your favorite charities automatically every time you shop, through AmazonSmile.

This holiday season, Union is teaming up with the brand for their Delivering Smiles initiative to spotlight organizations that are close to her heart and to help to fulfill items on these organizations’ AmazonSmile Charity Lists, wish lists that allow charities to request items that are most in need.

"Every holiday season, we try to look for partnerships that allow us to kind of expand our reach to marginalized communities. This partnership with Amazon allows us a unique way to do that. You can do your normal Amazon shopping and use some of those profits towards giving back to communities who desperately need it," Union tells InStyle.

"The need this year is unprecedented. The world is dealing with the effects of this pandemic and vulnerable communities are really needing everyone to not look away and to help however they can," she continues. "So, this has been an easy sort of way to activate folks that might not have been thinking about giving but were thinking about buying. It's like, Hey, you can do both. So that's been pretty awesome."

Ahead, we talked to the Union about how she's teaching her kids to have that same charitable spirit, how she'll be celebrating the holidays during COVID, plus what she'll be adding to her holiday wishlist this year.

InStyle: What are some of the charities that you that are close to your heart and that you're looking forward to working with through the partnership with Amazon?

Gabrielle Union: The initiative is about delivering smiles, but we also wanted to try to deliver safety with those smiles. So we partnered with different shelters and different organizations in Miami, Los Angeles, Omaha, Milwaukee, and the Bay Area to be specific with helping those families that have found themselves not only super vulnerable due to the pandemic, but also due to homelessness or domestic violence situations. That includes Deborah’s Place in Chicago, which provides supportive housing and services to women who are homeless, and Women’s Center for Advancement in Omaha, which helps women and their children who are experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, or human trafficking. So we're trying to highlight different organizations that target the most marginalized and we're hopeful that this partnership can allow us to at least do our little bit to help.

This year you and your husband were on the cover of TIME’s “The 100 Most Influential People” issue. With you both being vocal advocates for a number of causes, why do you feel it is important to speak out?

GU: We are constantly inspired by our kids. It’s so important for us to continue to empower them by doing what we can with our platforms to make the world a better, more compassionate place for them and all young people. We’re equally as passionate about helping communities and businesses who have been affected by the pandemic, particularly the 50% of Black-owned companies that have gone out of business just in the months we've been on lockdown, supporting LGBTQ+ organizations and lifting the voices and stories of marginalized individuals to create a space where their stories are heard and reflected within our society.

Are you starting any new holiday traditions with your children this year, especially now that COVID has changed the way we’re all able to celebrate?

GU: We are living in unprecedented times, but we still want to make the holidays as special but also as normal we can, especially for our children. Our kids are rarely led by stuff. I mean, they have access to stuff, you know, year-round, but they always ask for one thing: quality time, which is something we usually have the least of given our normally busy schedules. But during the holidays, especially this year, we will all be focusing on how can we together get that quality time with each other and also give our time and resources and platform to the others. Luckily for the last, oh, geez, like five or seven years, whether it's the dog rescue in Miami or helping to deliver meals to some of our more vulnerable communities, it's been something that we've been able to do in conjunction with the Miami Heat and with local organizations in whatever town we're living in, whether that be Chicago or Cleveland or Miami, and now Los Angeles.

What are some of the companies you'll be supporting this year with your holiday shopping?

GU: My kids love Darlyng & Co. so I will definitely be buying them some board games from there as well as sippy cups for my youngest. For me, I’m a big fan of Sammy B, who is a Black designer. One of my favorite dresses I own is from there, so my husband knows that’s a good spot to buy me a Christmas gift. Black & Bold Coffee is always a great stocking stuffer for me as well — their coffee is strong and keeps me going!

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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