Gabrielle Union spoke candidly with Variety about the drama surrounding her exit from ‘AGT,’ commenting on the toxic environment and reflecting on Julianne Hough’s ‘unfortunate incident’ of ‘doing blackface’ in 2013.
Six months after she was let go from America’s Got Talent, Gabrielle Union voiced her concerns with the show’s atmosphere and her relationship with fellow former judge Julianne Hough. In the May 27 profile from our sister publication Variety, the 47-year-old actress aired her frustrations that the reality competition show allowed a racially insensitive act to go on and audition in front of the judges and audience. “At the very beginning of his act, he put on black gloves to [represent] a black performer,” she shared with the outlet.
Gabrielle’s biggest frustration was that the act even made it to the stage, after it had been flagged as problematic. But she also reflected on how she had been a part of a show that hired a judge — Julianne — who was previously caught up in her own blackface controversy. “I’m a part of a show that hired one of my co-workers who had an unfortunate incident doing blackface,” Gabrielle observed, referencing Julianne’s 2013 Halloween costume where she dressed up as Uzo Aduba‘s character Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren of Orange Is the New Black by darkening her skin.
“I’d like to trust her at her word that she learned her lesson, and has educated herself amid the consequences she faced and is hopefully a better person,” the Bring It On actress continued. “But you would think that perhaps the show and NBC might be more conscientious in exposing that, and it would be taken seriously. I took it seriously.”
Julianne and Gabrielle were both let go from AGT in November 2019 after serving as judges for only one season of the reality competition series. As both women were fired from the show, a report from Variety also surfaced that described how Gabrielle was told her hairstyles were “too black” and that guest judge Jay Leno made racially insensitive jokes at the expense of the Asian community.
Reports further highlighted the allegedly toxic environment, as Gabrielle was labeled “difficult” by producers and executive producer and judge Simon Cowell. The “difficult” label came after Gabrielle voiced her concern for Simon’s smoking habit that made its way into the auditoriums and theaters where they would judge contestants. Gabrielle and Julianne have since been replaced by Heidi Klum and Sofia Vergara as judges for season 15.
Since leaving the show, Gabreille has stood firmly by her testimonial and received a lot of support from fans, including famous faces like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and her husband, former basketball star Dwyane Wade. The actress is currently quarantining safely with her family, including her and Dwyane’s adorable one-year-old daughter, Kaavia James Union Wade.