Rumors have been swirling about Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union’s departure from AGT ever since it was announced last week. The women joined the judging panel in Season 14, but will not return for next year’s competition.
There have been reports that racism, sexism, and “toxic culture” played a part in the show’s decision not to keep Gabrielle and Julianne on the panel. Gabrielle has stayed quiet, but Julianne recently spoke out against the rumors.
Why Were Julianne And Gabrielle Fired From ‘AGT’?
A new report from Variety provides a few reasons why Julianne and Gabrielle may have been let go from AGT after last season, pointing to a “toxic culture” on set. The article starts by sharing an offensive joke that was reportedly made by guest judge Jay Leno.
Four people who were present when the comedian appeared on the show say he commented on a photo of Simon Cowell with his dogs by saying the animals looked like something “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.” Variety reports that Gabrielle spoke up about the joke (which was omitted from the final cut), asking producers to report it to human resources.
Another alleged incident involved a white male performer who impersonated Beyoncé with his hands appearing as black. Gabrielle reportedly asked for the act to be removed from the lineup, but producers apparently refused, and cut it out later.
This report goes along with another rumor that Gabrielle was fired from the show for speaking out about racism and sexism behind the scenes. Gabrielle declined to comment to Variety about the report, but NBC and Fremantle released a statement.
“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” they said. “The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”
Julianne Hough Responds To ‘AGT’ Rumors
Variety also reports that Julianne and Gabrielle received “excessive notes on their physical appearance” during their time on AGT. Sources say Julianne was criticized for her hair, makeup, and clothes, “which impacted her morale and led to tensions.”
Sources also told the outlet that Gabrielle Union was told “over half a dozen times” that her hairstyles were “too black” for the AGT audience.
However, Julianne denied the reports about her in a statement to Variety. “I had a wonderful time on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ I loved working with the cast, crew and producers,” she said. “I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC. I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”
Variety points out that Julianne will appear in two upcoming NBC programs, Holidays with the Houghs and Christmas in Rockefeller Center. She may want to avoid drama with the network for the time being.
‘AGT’ Ratings Are Down
Of course, there could be more logistical reasons Gabrielle and Julianne were let go from the show. Variety confirms that the show’s ratings have been declining for the past few years. While the season finale drew 10 million viewers, it was down three million from last year.
However, at the same time, the show’s social media presence has grown, and Gabrielle Union was the most popular judge. Half the social media impressions for the season interacted with her directly. So would it really make sense to fire her over popularity?
We may never know exactly what went down behind the scenes. In the meantime, we’ll be wondering who will replace Gabrielle and Julianne on the judging panel — and how long they’ll last.