Speculation has run rampant as to what truly drove actress Gabrielle Union from her spot at the judging table of America’s Got Talent. But now, in a new interview with Variety, Union is touching on just some of the many instances in which she felt she was being untreated unfairly.
“I signed up for the experience of being a part of a show that hails itself as the biggest stage in the world,” Union says in the interview that ran on Wednesday (May 27.) “Super diverse, and one about giving people an opportunity to shine where they otherwise probably wouldn’t. What could go wrong?”
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In the revealing article, Union and sources close to her document the many instances in which Union felt ostracized, including on her very first day on the job in the spring of 2019, when she made a comment about fellow judge Simon Cowell’s smoking habit.
“I couldn’t escape,” says Union, who was dismissed from the show at the same time as fellow judge Julianne Hough. 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.”
Her sickness ended up rattling fellow judge Howie Mandel, who has long been known for his anxiety about germs and such.
“It was challenging to tend to my illness without being made to feel like I’m responsible for my own sickness,” Union remembers. “It put me in a position from day one where I felt bothered. 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.”
According to the article, this is just one of the many altercations Union would find herself in the middle of, from comments about her ever-changing hairstyles to jokes from guest judge Jay Leno to using preferred pronouns for contestants.
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“At the end of all this, my goal is real change — and not just on this show but for the larger parent company,” Union concludes. “It starts from the top down. My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace.”