Texas Isaiah for TIME

Calling Gabrielle Union influential is accurate—but also doesn’t quite capture what she does for the culture on a regular basis. She isn’t just “influencing”; she is intentionally directing her attention, influence and resources to advance an agenda that deliberately celebrates the most marginalized among us, including Black women and girls and queer and trans folks. Her dedication to inclusivity was especially evident in November, when she was controversially fired as a judge on America’s Got Talent after calling out multiple counts of racial insensitivity and a toxic work environment on the show. Many people in the spotlight wouldn’t take the risk to speak out about such injustice.

Gab’s commitment to authenticity is without compromise. Few people in her position are willing to admit when they are learning and growing, and to be transparent through that process like she does. And as a friend, I can attest to the fact that who she is in the public eye is who she is in private. It’s that consistency that her fans and followers have come to not just love and rely on, but also be influenced by.

Burke is an activist who founded the #MeToo movement

Buy a print of TIME’s Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade cover.

More Must-Reads from TIME