Gabrielle Reece Clarifies Her “Submissive” Wife Comments to Chelsea Handler

Gabrielle Reece (right) opens up to Chelsea Handler about her suggestion that women should be "submissive" to their husbands. Joe Scarnici/

To each his (or her) own. Gabrielle Reece caused quite a stir last week when she suggested in her new book that women ought to take on a “submissive” role with their husbands — but she says her comments were taken out of context. In an interview with Chelsea Handler for the comedienne’s show Chelsea Lately, the pro volleyball star defended her position, saying it’s more about the choice to serve than the actual act of serving.

“You don’t seem like a submissive person,” Handler told the fitness expert, married for nearly 16 years to surfing legend Laird Hamilton. “Yet, in your relationship, you’ve kinda had to learn how to be submissive.”

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“What I said…was that I was choosing to take on this service or submissive role,” Reece, 43, explained of the message in her book, My Foot Is Too Big for the Glass Slipper: A Guide to the Less Than Perfect Life. “And the feminists got up in arms. Because they took it out of context. And Laird said to me — he started laughing — he goes, ‘Really, did you tell them you think that but you don’t actually do that at home?'”

“I’m just saying I think that it’s nice if one person takes on the female [role] and one person takes on the male [role],” she clarified.

Reece — mom to daughter Reece Viola, 9, and son Brody, 5 — chose the former and took time off from her sport to raise her kids. And she doesn’t see why that’s a negative thing. “I think because women have the ability to set the tone, that the ultimate strength and showing real power, I believe, is creating that environment,” she told the TODAY show’s Natalie Morales on Friday, April 12. “I dont think it’s a sign of weakness. I think it’s a sign of strength.”

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Others don’t see it that way. But Reece doesn’t mind the controversy. “It’s actually worked out well for the book to make some people aggravated,” she quipped to Handler.

The iconic blonde athlete also opened up to the talk show host about her early marital problems with Hamilton. (Four years after tying the knot in 1997, the couple went through a rough patch and nearly divorced. They reconciled two years later.)

Laird and Reece
Gabrielle Reece says she chooses to take on a service or submissive role with husband Laird Hamilton. Jason LaVeris/FilmMagic

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“We’ve been together over 17 years now,” she said. “And I think that if you talk to most long-term couples, you’re going to have moments where you go, ‘I don’t think this is going to work out.’ I mean, who knows how to live with someone? You live together, and you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, this is not working out. I gotta go.’ And then you sort of try to work it out and get the skill set. Because you’re not born with it, that’s for sure.”

One thing that helps? Sex — and lots of it. “I say that’s a very important part of any relationship,” Reece replied when Handler asked if she and Hamilton still had an active sex life. “Intimacy, sex on a regular basis.”

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