Gabrielle Union opens up about her experience on America’s Got Talent in a new interview with Marie Claire.
Union was a judge on America’s Got Talent, but after she left, the actress filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing, calling the NBC program a “snake pit of racial offenses.” Since then, Union has reached what is reportedly an “amicable resolution” with NBC.
In her new interview, Union described some of the racist moments she had during her time with the show. In some instances, Union recalled producers calling her hair “too wild,” which she believed was their slick way of calling her hair “too Black.”
“I should be able to exist however the f*** I want to exist, because if you’re hiring Gabrielle Union for my talent, then my talent is going to come out of my body in every way, shape, and incarnation that I can imagine. You’re getting more bang for your buck the more you allow me to exist as I see fit,” Union said.
She went on to discuss Simon Cowell’s behavior on set, which included his decision to smoke indoors despite her cigarette smoke allergy, as well as Jay Leno’s racist joke that suggested that Koreans eat dogs. When asked if she felt Cowell is racist, she said: “I am one who calls people who continuously exhibit racist behavior racist,” adding, “but for the super-sensitive, I will say he has exhibited wildly problematic behavior.”
As for Black celebs, like Terry Crews and Al Roker, who dismissed or spoke negatively out about Union’s story, Union said racism has scared people into not speaking up. “These racist institutions and systems have done an amazing job at keeping us very fearful of speaking up, asking for equality, and asking for accountability because they have shown us time and time again that we are disposable,” she said. “They will discredit and malign you, and you will never work again.…Being blackballed in this industry is very real.”
Union went on to say that she won’t allow anyone, or anything, silence her. “That very sentiment is how all of this has been allowed to go on for centuries; that kind of gaslighting, I categorically reject. You are not going to gaslight me into minimizing my trauma, which is exactly what allows this to continue on for the next person,” Union said. “I cannot center fear in my life. I can’t center functioning from a fear of scarcity. They say silence is violence, and I refuse to be complicit in my silence. I have to be fully present in my body and fully free,” she continued.