Gabrielle Union is finally speaking out for the first time about everything that went down after being fired from America’s Got Talent. The actress opened up to Variety about what she hopes to accomplish now not only as an actress but as an advocate for the marginalized people in Hollywood.
Gabrielle Union Said The ‘AGT’ Work Environment Was Toxic
After being fired from ‘AGT’ Union claimed that there had been some issues involving insensitive behavior from Simon Cowell and other people on set. She used this interview to detail exactly what happened. Then, she said that Cowell would smoke directly next to her on the soundstage causing her to fall extremely ill. She did make it known to producers that she is allergic to cigarette smoke. Union said that Simon smoking on set was an example of a literal toxic work environment and she “ended up staying sick for two months straight.” This prompted germaphobe judge Howie Mandel rattled and afraid he would get sick. This led her to feel isolated when her illness was brought on by someone else’s actions.
This was directly related to issues she has faced being a woman of color in Hollywood. She wrestled with the idea of standing up for herself and not ruffling any feathers. “‘Do you want to keep it easy? Or do you want to be you, and stand up?” she asked. Another incident that ticked her off on set was when guest judge Jay Leno made a racist comment about Asian people. Her issue with this is that the producers and everyone on set basically remarked that they would edit it out. To her, this was not addressing the issue but merely overlooking it. “To experience this kind of racism at my job and there be nothing done about it, no discipline, no companywide email, no reminder of what is appropriate in the workplace,” she said about the lack of action.
Union Highlighted The Racism She Experienced While On The Show
She has spoken out on social media about members of the ‘AGT’ crew saying her hairstyles were “too black” for the show. This is contrary to NBC’s report that “no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time.” But, she also said that the hair and makeup people in charge of getting the acts ready saying “whole departments that lack the necessary skill set to provide adequate services to all of that diversity that you are touting, you are creating an unequal and discriminatory experience.” more specifically, minorities with different hair textures and skin tones were treated differently than white acts.
She also spoke about how there were certain acts that really struck a nerve with her that were very offensive to the black culture. One white contestant put on black gloves to represent a black performer and was not immediately shut down. This coupled with the fact that her fellow judge Julianne Hough was not held accountable for wearing blackface in 2013. She did not know why this issue was never addressed by producers or spoken about more publicly. In response to big productions like NBC and Freemantle, Union said “Your solution can’t be an edit button.”
She Wants To Create A Comfortable Environment For Minorities In The Workplace
For her, she knows that other people of color have also gone through similar experiences in the workplace. But by speaking out, she hopes to inspire others to be more inclusive. “At the end of all this, my goal is real change — and not just on this show but for the larger parent company. It starts from the top down,” she said. “My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace,” she added.
For her it has been more enlightening getting over the fallout from ‘AGT’ and it has even influenced her to work on other projects. She is building her own production company based on inclusivity in the workplace. Union currently has several other projects in the works including two deals with Netflix as well as her own collaboration of hair care products.