AceShowbiz - Gabrielle Union has spoken in detail about her "America's Got Talent" experience for the first time since being axed from the show's judging line-up.
The "Bad Boys II" actress was fired from the show's panel of judges in November 2019 after just one season, amid reports suggesting her departure was linked to concerns she had raised about several controversial incidents which took place behind the scenes, creating a "toxic" work atmosphere.
Speaking to Variety, the star confirmed the speculation, explaining, "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."
Reflecting on her decision to complain about Simon Cowell's cigarette smoking, she admitted raising her concerns on her first day was ill-judged as she was "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 continued, "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."
"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."
Gabrielle went on to detail a racially charged incident when Jay Leno was a guest, revealing he "made a crack about a painting of Cowell and his dogs, saying the animals looked like food items at a Korean restaurant."
The "Breaking In" star explained, "I gasped. I froze. Other things had already happened, but at this point, it was so wildly racist." Despite being told the moment would be edited out, Gabrielle said, "You cannot edit out what we just experienced... To experience this kind of racism at my job and there be nothing done about it, no discipline, no company-wide email, no reminder of what is appropriate in the workplace?"
Gabrielle also confessed she'd hoped network bosses "might be more conscientious in exposing" racial inequalities after co-judge Julianne Hough had previously come under fire for dressing as a character from "Orange Is the New Black" in full blackface in 2013. And she added the show's handling of hair and make-up was poor, revealing, "Some contestants get the full Hollywood treatment, and then some are left to dangle."
Meanwhile, NBC bosses responded to the investigation into all of Gabrielle's complaints, insisting, "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... 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."