Now that Gabrielle Union has reached a settlement in her complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against NBC, the actress has some thoughts to share about her “America’s Got Talent” experience.
The actress reportedly reached an “amicable solution” in her complaint against NBC Entertainment, which alleged the reality talent show fostered a “toxic work environment.” Although the settlement amount remains unknown, it will reportedly be paid out by the show’s production companies Fremantle, NBC, and Syco.
Union has remained very open about her experience during her time on “America’s Got Talent” and reflected on the “excessive notes” she was given about her appearance, including her “too wild” hairstyles (or “too Black” according to Union). It was the stifling of her true self in the form of said criticisms, that made the “Deliver Us From Eva” star uncomfortable in her environment. Instead, she felt that the traits that make her who she is should have been celebrated, which would have benefited everyone involved.
“That is the beauty of being a Black woman,” she stated during her cover story interview in Marie Claire. “I should be able to exist however the f–k 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.”
The “Being Mary Jane” actress continues to speak out against those who wish to downplay her negative experiences or excuse the legal complaint as a sort of retaliation for being let go from the show. “That very sentiment is how all of this has been allowed to go on for centuries; that kind of gaslighting, I categorically reject,” she said. “You are not going to gaslight me into minimizing my trauma, which is exactly what allows this to continue on for the next person.”
Following the news last November that “America’s Got Talent” would not be exercising its option to bring back Union for a second season and Variety‘s subsequent exposé on the alleged racism and sexism that was allowed to thrive in the “toxic culture” cultivated at NBC, many fans were livid when her fellow “AGT” cast mate Terry Crews didn’t stand up for her after her departure, especially after she publicly supported his sexual assault claims in 2018.
When asked on NBC’s “Today” show this past January about the allegations of Union’s treatment in the Variety report and how they may have played a part in her departure, Crews said that while he “can’t speak for sexism” because he’s “not a woman,” as it relates to racist comments, “that was never my experience. … In fact, it was the most diverse place I have ever been in my 20 years of entertainment.”
Longtime “Today” show meteorologist Al Roker also faced criticism for failing to respond to Union’s claims that he and NBC “seemed fine with blackface when [Jimmy] Fallon and [Fred] Armisen wore it … and did not object to [Ted] Danson or [Julianne] Hough being hired after they prominently wore it.”
With regard to what she perceives as the lack of support she was shown by her former NBC Entertainment colleague Crews at “AGT” in Southern California and Roker — a decades-long veteran of the NBC News division at his New York-based show — Union blames the “racist institutions” that are in power for keeping the majority too afraid to speak 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 told the magazine. “They will discredit and malign you, and you will never work again. Being blackballed in this industry is very real.”
While continuing the fight against injustice in the entertainment industry, Union makes sure to maintain her peace and inner happiness by spending plenty of time with her family, especially her “free children,” Kaavia James, who turns 2 on Nov. 7, and 13-year-old Zaya.
“We have a daughter that is almost 2, who the world has seen is bound to nothing but whatever is in her heart and on her soul at the moment and it’s beautiful to watch truly free children,” Union told Time. “We have another daughter who is 13, who has freedom to be exactly who she is, who she was born to be, to be her most authentic self. She doesn’t ask permission to exist. That is wildly inspiring.”
Union’s entire interview, in which she also discusses the Black Lives Matter movement, how she’s been coping with 2020 overall, and more, is currently available on newsstands and online.