Hollywood stars took to social media over the Thanksgiving holiday to show their solidarity with actress Gabrielle Union and slam NBC after the network reportedly fired her as a judge from America’s Got Talent.
Union, 47, was reportedly labeled “difficult” by fellow judges and the show’s founder Simon Cowell.
According to Vulture, Union raised concerns about a toxic and racist culture after receiving constant critiques about her appearance that included being told that her hairstyles were “too black” for the show’s viewers.
Some of the incidents that upset Union allegedly included an anti-Asian joke by comedian Jay Leno that did not make the final cut, a white contestant dressing up as Beyoncé with back gloves, and a comment from fellow judge Howie Mandel that a professional South African choir should sing one of the songs from The Lion King. Union was also irritated by Cowell’s habit of smoking indoors, despite it being against the law in California.
1. Just Posted: New info on @itsgabrielleu's ouster at America's Got Talent
– Union was allegedly told a 10-year-old black rapper couldn't be picked because they needed a contestant "America could get behind"
– Simon Cowell's indoor smoking (against law)https://t.co/nkxdgNJRMw
— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) November 27, 2019
However, Union quickly received the backing of fellow celebrities, including pop star Ariana Grande, actress Ellen Pompeo, actor Lin Manuel-Miranda, ESPN host Jemele Hill, and former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro.
this is a teaching moment..It’s important..white girls I’m talking to you..whether you truly understand what racial injustice is or not..that you stand with your sisters on the front lines. Don’t cut side deals & don’t not get involved because it isn’t your issue..because it is
— Ellen Pompeo (@EllenPompeo) November 28, 2019
— Ariana Grande (@ArianaGrande) November 28, 2019
Team @itsgabrielleu, always.
— Lin-Manuel Miranda (@Lin_Manuel) November 28, 2019
This is called standing on your square. So proud of @itsgabrielleu for standing for what is right when a lot of people would have just been silent to maintain their own position.
Also: How many black women are labeled “difficult” for merely seeking respect and decency? https://t.co/Z6ooDzVi1L
— Jemele Hill (@jemelehill) November 28, 2019
Corporate America tells employees and consumers they take racism and sexism seriously.
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) November 28, 2019
NBC was even called out by an employee of their own network, actress Debra Messing, who responded to Pompeo’s comments by decrying the “disgusting behavior” behind the scenes.
“This is disgusting behavior from a network that has been my professional home for decades,” Messing wrote. “Yes, women become “difficult,” when their insistence on a respectful and professional working environment, is ignored. Addressing a hostile work environment is inconvenient when there is a huge money-making machine that is involved.”
environment is inconvenient when there is a huge money making machine that is involved. It is cowardice, greed, and protection of the status quo revealed. Being “hands off,” is inexcusable and reflects a laissez faire attitude toward systemic racism and sexism. @itsgabrielleu
— Debra Messing (@DebraMessing) November 28, 2019
Union’s exit from the show comes just eight months after she was hired for the role alongside dancer Julianne Hough. Both Cowell and Mandel have so far refused to comment on the allegations, but sources close to them have said that she and Hough were merely “rotated out” to make way for fresh talent.
In a statement to People magazine, a spokesperson for NBC and Fremantle said the network takes such complaints seriously.
“America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT’s enduring popularity,” the statement read.