Gabrielle Union 'Finally' Feels 'Okay' with Herself 10 Years After Her First No Makeup Shoot: 'Makeup Can Be a Mask'

In 2009, Gabrielle Union walked into her first no makeup photo shoot with PEOPLE, not knowing what to expect.

“At first it was kind of terrifying, to be honest,” the L.A.’s Finest star, 46, tells PEOPLE in this week’s Beautiful Issue. “I think sometimes we use makeup as a mask to insulate ourselves from reality. But once I kinda got comfortable and we were outside, it was the beach, and I had a bike, and I just let it ride. I thought the pictures turned out great and I had a great time that day.”

Ten years later, the actress and new mom to daughter Kaavia James says she’s feeling “mildly less confident,” but has evolved in a positive way both inside and out.

“Once I kind of made peace with who I am and where I’m at and being 46, I actually feel pretty, pretty solid about being back here 10 years later, shooting again with no makeup,” she says. “Because I’m finally really okay with me.”

Watch the full episode of The Beautiful Issue: Stars Without Makeup – The 10 Year Challenge streaming now on PeopleTV.com, or download the PeopleTV app on your favorite device.

  • For more from Gabrielle Union, pick up The Beautiful Issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

“For the most part, I feel most like myself without makeup,” she adds. “It’s how my friends and my husband and my loved ones appreciate me most. Again, because I think makeup can be a mask, and I think the older we get, that we feel like the more makeup we have, the better we look. Sometimes it just looks like an older woman with a lot of freaking makeup on. I’ve made peace with: this is my face and I’m okay with it. It does all right by me.”

In the past 10 years, Union’s personal and professional life has had its fair share of ups and downs, but, overall the actress could not be more grateful for her blessings.

Gabrielle Union Says Daughter Kaavia James “Looks Just Like Dad” But the “Attitude” Is from Her

“Since I first did that shoot, I got married, I have a daughter, I’ve had jobs, I’ve lost jobs, I’ve got some more jobs,” Union says. “I have my own line at New York and Company. Yeah, it’s just when I thought my career was supposed to be starting to taper off, I’ve never had more of a career resurgence at a time when most people were saying, ‘Pack it in. You’re not the ingenue anymore. There’s not going to be a lot of great opportunities for actresses your age.’ Crazy enough, it’s been the absolute opposite. So it’s been good.”

Union and husband Dwyane Wade welcomed Kaavia James via surrogate on Nov. 7. While she was thrilled to become a mom, Union was admittedly worried about the criticism she would face for not carrying her baby.

“There’s nothing more that I wanted than to cook my own baby … the idea of it felt like surrendering to failure,” Union previously told Women’s Health for their March cover story. “People want to see the bump, hear that you got hemorrhoids — they want to know you’re like them. I was like ‘This is going to seem like the most Hollywood s— ever. Will I be embraced as a mom?’ It’s terrifying.”

How New Mom Gabrielle Union Got Through Daughter Kaavia’s ‘Phase of Not Napping’

Now, the new mom is looking forward to growing deeper with her daughter and her family, and hopes to still be embracing life to the fullest a decade from now.

“I hope I’m still doing keg stands,” she says. “I hope I still have a passion for travel. I hope that my daughter is experiencing a lot of joy and adventure and we’re able to sort of enjoy our kids and we’ve figured out how to have a little bit more balance with having full careers and raising kids. … I hope my life just has a little bit more fullness and richness and more layers and I’m actually taking the time to enjoy it and it’s not just whizzing by. Yeah, but definitely still keg stands.”

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