Why we mustn’t ignore Gabrielle Union’s “heartbreaking” America’s Got Talent experience

Posted by
Kayleigh Dray
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“That whole process was really brutal,” explains Gabrielle Union.

Gabrielle Union began her showbiz career back in the 90s, and has appeared in countless films and TV shows since then.

And so, while speaking at the ‘Minding Her Business’ panel for the 2020 American Black Film Festival, Union decided to share the lessons she’s learned during her Hollywood career.

The hardest one of all, though? Her exit from America’s Got Talent.

“It all was so surprising and so heartbreaking and so frustrating and so unnecessary,” she said, as reported by USA Today. “That would be probably the hardest part [of my time in the industry].”

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Union, as previously reported by Stylist, allegedly received countless critical and racist notes in feedback during her time as a judge on America’s Got Talent, including a comment that her hair was ‘too black’ for AGT audiences.

She left the show in November 2019 after just one season, and her exit launched an internal investigation of NBC and production companies Fremantle and Syco Entertainment.

“[It felt] like such a public flogging,” she said, recalling the situation during the ‘Minding Her Business’ panel discussion.

“And just standing in my truth and standing on the side of employee rights and knowing there’s a better way of doing business? That whole process was really brutal and knowing that I brought my team into that, it just sucked.”

Gabrielle Union on the red carpet at the AGT quarter finals.

Union added that, through her production company and other business collaborations, she wants to provide a space that fills a void in the industry “where I feel like the voices of marginalised folks have not been traditionally centered or amplified.”

“We face a lot of rejection in this business,” she added. “Anytime someone says yes to us you get so excited because we don’t hear yes that often, and sometimes those yeses are masking a host of trouble and problematic behavior…

“Perhaps you don’t want to be someone’s racial guinea pig.”

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As per E Online’s report, the investigation into NBC’s treatment of Union found “that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract.”

“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,” it added.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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