Gabrielle Union is breaking her silence on her departure from NBC’s America’s Got Talent last year. She and fellow judge Julianne Hough left the competition after a single season, and later, allegations emerged of a “toxic culture” that included racist jokes and racist notes about hair from producers.
Union spoke out in an interview with Variety: “I signed up for the experience of being a part of a show that hails itself as the biggest stage in the world. Super diverse, and one about giving people an opportunity to shine where they otherwise probably wouldn’t,” she said. “What could go wrong?”
She continued, “There are so many people who are committed to making NBCUniversal and Comcast different, who truly want to be a part of the solution and on the right side of history… In the same breath, there are some people who want the wheels of change to come to a grinding halt because they feel that their privilege is being challenged.”
Union said that she objected to fellow judge Simon Cowell’s smoking with producers, to no avail. “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," she said.
Union decided to use her platform to speak out because: “If I can’t speak out with the privilege that I have … What is the point of making it?”
Meanwhile, the results of an investigation into Union’s dismissal have been released.
“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 statement read, in part. “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.”
The investigation did find “some areas in which reporting processes could be improved,” the statement from NBC and show producers Fremantle and Syco conceded.