Gabrielle Union Opens Up About 'Toxic Work Environment' of 'America's Got Talent'

In a new interview, Gabrielle Union speaks at length about her "toxic" experience on the talent show from which she was dismissed last year.


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Gabrielle Union has elaborated on what she says was "the very definition of a toxic work environment" during her time on America's Got Talent.

As you may recall, September 2019—just two months after the finale of Union's first season on the talent competition series—brought word that both Union and fellow judge Julianne Hough had been dismissed from the production. As Union explained in a new Variety cover story, she entered the experience based on the show's perceived reputation as being a launchpad for new and diverse talent.

"I signed up for the experience of being a part of a show that hails itself as the biggest stage in the world," Union told writer Matt Donnelly. "Super diverse, and one about giving people an opportunity to shine where they otherwise probably wouldn't. What could go wrong?"

As Union detailed in the new piece, out Wednesday, a lot went wrong. Previously reported complaints include allegations of "racially charged incidents" involving contestants and producers, as well as one alleged instance in which guest judge Jay Leno is said to have made a racist joke.

Head judge Simon Cowell, meanwhile, was mentioned as having violated public health laws and endangering Union's health by smoking indoors.

"I couldn't escape," Union said of Cowell's smoking. "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."

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Now, Union says, her aim is to enact "real change" for shows like AGT and beyond. "It starts from the top down," she said in the piece, available here. "My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace."

Also on Wednesday, a joint statement from NBC, Fremantle, and Syco claimed that their investigation process into this environment revealed "concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract." The statement, however, concedes that—while the investigation allegedly showed "an overall culture of diversity"—it also pointed to "some areas" in need of improvement. Read the full statement here, per Deadline.

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