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Gabrielle Union Breaks Silence on What Really Happened at 'America's Got Talent'

Gabrielle Union Breaks Silence on What Really Happened at 'America's Got Talent'

Gabrielle Union is breaking her silence on what went down during her sole season as a judge on America’s Got Talent. She was let go after a series of alleged incidents which included racially charged moments and lodging complaints about cigarette smoke that was making her ill.

“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,” Gabrielle told Variety. “My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace.”

She added that her decision to complain about Simon Cowell’s cigarette smoking on her first day was a dire one for an individual “coming onto a set and you are literally met with the very definition of a toxic work environment, and it’s being carried out by the most powerful person on the production.”

She said, “I couldn’t escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight. It was a cold that lingered, and turned into bronchitis, because I couldn’t shake it. It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job.”

“It was challenging to tend to my illness without being made to feel like I’m responsible for my own sickness. It put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to,” she continued.

Click inside to hear more from Gabrielle Union….

One racially charged incident happened when Jay Leno was a guest.

He apparently “made a crack about a painting of Cowell and his dogs, saying the animals looked like food items at a Korean restaurant.”

“My first big interview in this industry, the first person who allowed me to come on their talk show, was Jay Leno. I’ve always held him in high regard, but I was not prepared for his joke,” Gabrielle said. “I gasped. I froze. Other things had already happened, but at this point, it was so wildly racist.”

Despite being told the moment would be edited out, Gabrielle said, “You cannot edit out what we just experienced. There is not an edit button in my brain or in my soul. 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 says.

“We’re doing a show that is talking about a global audience, and we’re not even asking for preferred pronouns? We should never be put in a position where we are guessing, not when we know better,” she continued. “And again, no checks and balances. Everyone is allowed to operate without consequence or accountability, and it sends a message that this kind of thing is not only tolerated but encouraged.”

Finally, she spoke about an incident where a white contestant put on black gloves.

“At the very beginning of his act, he put on black gloves to [represent] a black performer,” she said. “I’m a part of a show that hired one of my co-workers who had an unfortunate incident doing blackface.” Gabrielle is referring to when Julianne Hough dressed as a character from Orange is the New Black in full blackface in 2013.

“I’d like to trust her at her word that she learned her lesson, and has educated herself amid the consequences she faced and is hopefully a better person. But you would think that perhaps the show and NBC might be more conscientious in exposing that, and it would be taken seriously. I took it seriously,” Gabrielle said.

She also said her experience with hair and makeup was poor, as they weren’t equipped to perform their services on minorities.

“Some contestants get the full Hollywood treatment, and then some are left to dangle,” Gabrielle said. “When they hit that stage for the opportunity of a lifetime, they want to put their best foot forward and have all of the confidence that everyone else has. When you are making the conscious decisions in hiring, and failing to recognize that you have 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.”

Meanwhile, NBC responded to the investigation into all of Gabrielle‘s complaints, saying, “Through the investigation process, it has been revealed 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. The investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract.”

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Photos: Getty
Posted to: America's Got Talent, Gabrielle Union

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