NBC announced in December that it had commissioned a third-party investigation in response to ousted panelist Gabrielle Union‘s claims that America’s Got Talent was a hotbed of racial insensitivity and sexism.
Union went public with her concerns after news broke that she and Julianne Hough — who’d both joined AGT as judges in Season 14 — would not be returning for the recently launched 15th cycle.
Variety reported at the time that the pair had been subject to a “toxic culture” at the show, including excessive notes on their appearance (including a specific critique that Union’s hairstyles were “too black”). Union also reportedly clashed with producers about a contestant whose material she found racially insensitive.
On Wednesday, NBC, along with series producers FremantleMedia and Syco, put out the following statement based on the findings of the independent investigation, which concluded that “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.” That said, the investigation “highlighted some areas in which reporting processes could be improved.”
“We have a shared passion to make America’s Got Talent a positive, inclusive and diverse show that is open to all individuals from any country or background. We are proud and grateful that our contestants and audiences support our ongoing mission, which is represented in the incredible people who participate in the show each year. We have heard from contestants and talent alike that their experience on AGT has had a positive impact on their lives. When we heard Ms. Union had concerns about her time on the show, we took them extremely seriously.
NBC, Fremantle and Syco immediately engaged an outside investigator who conducted more than 30 interviews to review the issues raised by Ms. Union. While the investigation has demonstrated an overall culture of diversity, it has also highlighted some areas in which reporting processes could be improved.
Through the investigation process, it has been revealed that 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. The investigation has shown that the concerns raised by Ms. Union had no bearing on the decision not to exercise the option on her contract.
NBC, Fremantle and Syco share Ms. Union’s dedication to diversity and inclusion in the industry. 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.”
Well, now Gabrielle Union is breaking her silence on the drama surrounding her departure from America’s Got Talent last year.
In an interview with Variety published Wednesday, Union, 47, discussed her experience working on the show.
“I signed up for the experience of being a part of a show that hails itself as the biggest stage in the world. Super diverse, and one about giving people an opportunity to shine where they otherwise probably wouldn’t,” said said. “What could go wrong?”
She continued, “There are so many people who are committed to making NBCUniversal and Comcast different, who truly want to be a part of the solution and on the right side of history… In the same breath, there are some people who want the wheels of change to come to a grinding halt because they feel that their privilege is being challenged.”
She said her decision to speak out about fellow judge Simon Cowell‘s smoking on her first day was a difficult choice for someone “coming onto a set and you are literally met with the very definition of a toxic work environment, and it’s being carried out by the most powerful person on the production.”
She says she addressed the issue with producers.
“I couldn’t escape. 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,” she said.
She added that she hopes her experience can help lead to change.
“At the end of all this, my goal is real change — and not just on this show but for the larger parent company. It starts from the top down,” she said. “My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace.”
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