America’s Got Talent has reached a settlement with award-winning actress, author and entrepreneur Gabrielle Union. The world’s biggest talent show, produced by and starring Simon Cowell, found itself in hot water last year when Union leveled a lawsuit with accusations of a toxic and racist workplace.
The details of the settlement are confidential but one must wonder if the high profile case will lead to more sensitivity on Hollywood sets plagued with similar issues. Union for her part has asserted that part of her aim is to make the workplace safer for everyone and hopes that others will feel emboldened by her stand, especially newcomers to the business.
Union, who currently stars in Spectrum Original series L.A.’s Finest, sums up the importance of using her voice,
“If I can’t speak out with the privilege that I have, and the benefits that my husband and I have, what is the point of making it?”
Among her complaints were racist jokes made on camera (and later edited out) by Jay Leno, a contestant in blackface, constant critiquing over her hair that was deemed “too Black” and smoking on set by Cowell, which is prohibited by California law.
Speaking out about the toxicity on set at the reality talent show juggernaut was not broached lightly as Union asserted in Variety, revealing that she was “terrified” to speak out but later realized that the issue was bigger than her,
“What is the point of having a seat at the table and protecting your privilege when you’re not doing s— to help other people? It’s absolutely terrifying to speak truth to power about anything.”
One of Union’s most viral claims was in relation to her hair and being told the styles she wanted to wear on AGT were ‘too Black”.
Many Black women took to twitter and penned articles voicing their hurt and dismay at receiving the exact same discriminatory critique across a variety of workplaces. Timelines were flooded with personal stories of Black women’s hair being policed, a fact that many white counterparts admitted they were oblivious to. Unfortunately, discriminating against Black women’s hair is legal in many states, though the California originated law, The Crown Act, strives to make the practice illegal nationwide.
Turning lemons into lemonade, Union has parlayed this issue into relaunching her line of hair care products. Flawless encourages African American women of all hair textures to celebrate and embrace their hair.