Gabrielle Union Says Simon Cowell’s Smoking Made Her Sick For 2 Months + Calls Out Jay Leno’s ‘Wildly Racist’ Joke About Asians
Gabrielle Union has been quiet about her controversial exit from ‘America’s Got Talent‘ lately. But now, in a recent interview, the actress/producer is officially opening up about what she calls “toxicity” at her former workplace.
Gabrielle Union tells Variety:
“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. What could go wrong?”
She notes her first moments on set when she was surrounded by “AGT” executive producer Simon Cowell’s cloud of cigarette smoke, to which is she has been severely allergic to her entire life.
Gabrielle Union says the decision to complain about Simon Cowell’s smoking on her first day was a dire choice:
“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. 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.”
“Do I cave? I didn’t feel like myself; I’m shape-shifting to make myself more palatable. I’m contorting myself into something I don’t recognize. I had to look at myself and say, ‘Do you want to keep it easy? Or do you want to be you, and stand up?’ Because I’m not the only one being poisoned at work.”
“It was challenging to tend to my illness without being made to feel like I’m responsible for my own sickness. It put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to,” she says.
“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. My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace.”
“when he was directly informed of the smoking complaint during the first couple of days of the season, he immediately changed his behavior and the issue was never raised again.”
“My first big interview in this industry, the first person who allowed me to come on their talk show, was Jay Leno. I’ve always held him in high regard, but I was not prepared for his joke. I gasped. I froze. Other things had already happened, but at this point, it was so wildly racist.”
“We’ll delete it. We’ll edit it out.”
“You cannot edit out what we just experienced. There is not an edit button in my brain or in my soul. To experience this kind of racism at my job and there be nothing done about it, no discipline, no companywide email, no reminder of what is appropriate in the workplace?”
“We’re doing a show that is talking about a global audience, and we’re not even asking for preferred pronouns? We should never be put in a position where we are guessing, not when we know better. And again, no checks and balances. Everyone is allowed to operate without consequence or accountability, and it sends a message that this kind of thing is not only tolerated but encouraged.”