Following NBC’s investigation surrounding Gabrielle Union’s America’s Got Talent “toxic” racism callout in 2019, the former talent competition judge still has plenty of shocking things to say about her experience. While the findings of AGT’s internal investigation concluded that there were no “insensitive or derogatory remarks” made on the basis of “race nor gender,” you might find that Gabrielle’s latest interview with Variety reveals otherwise.
Months after the 47-year-old actress was controversially fired from AGT alongside fellow judge, Julianne Hough, she sat for a tell-all interview to discuss her allegations of racism and sexism experienced during her time with AGT. From comments about her hair (newsflash: protective styles are professional styles), to the overwhelming “anti-blackness” on set, Gabrielle had more to say—this time, about her emotional journey after getting fired.
“I didn’t feel like myself,” she told Variety in an interview published May 27. “I’m shape-shifting to make myself more palatable. I’m contorting myself into something I don’t recognize. I had to look at myself and say, ‘Do you want to keep it easy? Or do you want to be you, and stand up?’ Because I’m not the only one being poisoned at work.”
The Being Mary Jane actress also weighed in on unexpected health hazards she was subjected to while at work—namely, Simon Cowell’s frequent smoking on set. “I couldn’t escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight,” she explained.
“It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job,” the actress said. It was the “very definition” of a toxic environment, one which left Gabrielle feeling “isolated,” and “singled out” at work. “I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed,” she added. “I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.”
Variety‘s report also details NBC’s findings from their investigation into Gabrielle’s firing and allegations of racism. The company reportedly “immediately engaged an outside investigator,” but did not corroborate her experience. “Through the investigation process, it has been revealed the 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,” read a statement issued by NBC, Fremantle and Syco to Us Weekly. “We continue to remain committed to having an inclusive environment for everyone associated with the show, and to upholding AGT as one of the most diverse programs on television.”
But as Gabrielle said so herself: the goal is “real change.” Until that happens, we’ll take this with a grain of salt.