Gabrielle Union was one of my favorite celebrities even before she was a judge on one of my favorite schmaltzy competition shows: America’s Got Talent. She consistently uses her platform as a celebrity to speak up about social justice issues and I am here for it. She rode on a float with her child Zion Wade in the Miami Pride parade (and used the opportunity to shut down any unsupportive comments), she’s been open about her fertility struggles and using a surrogate to carry her youngest child, and she speaks up about her own sexual assault so that other survivors won’t feel so alone. She is a Certified Good Person, and watching her as a judge on AGT, you could see how much she tried to be caring and respectful of the people on stage.
So of course, she was fired. Because apparently being “too black” and questioning the status quo is just too edgy for NBC and Simon Cowell.
Union would apparently speak up any time she saw something that needed to be fixed, because she has power as a celebrity and she uses her voice to speak up for others. This was a problem, because Simon Cowell is an indoor-smoking jerk who is fine with ignoring people who have opinions that challenge his world view. (I know indoor-smoking isn’t the worst thing about him but I mean it’s just so on brand for him so I am not surprised to hear it.)
When Cowell heard that Union was complaining to NBC executives about the AGT working environment, he told her to just complain to him. Although I’m not exactly sure why because it doesn’t sound like the people at NBC gave a damn about Union’s complaints.
Union did have concerns, and she had brought them up regularly ever since she joined the show in February; they included perceived racist incidents, Cowell’s habit of smoking indoors, and attempts to keep the show from misgendering contestants, according to multiple sources involved in the production of America’s Got Talent. Union had been addressing her complaints largely with NBC executives, including those who oversaw the show. They would respond by saying they would look into her concerns, and then, according to sources, nothing would happen. (source)
“I’ll look into it” is the polite way to say “We are experiencing high complaint volume; all of our executives are busy addressing other complaints. Please keep bringing us your concerns, because your opinions are so important to us,” and then disconnecting the phone line.
Finally, once the executives realized they wouldn’t be able to wear Union down by just ignoring her, they straight up fired her (er, I mean, released her from a 3-year contract, so I hope she at least got a nice sum of money from that). Cowell deemed her too “difficult” to work with (which is surprising from the man who is known as the “mean judge”).
- She complained about Cowell smoking indoors, not just because it’s a disgusting habit but also because she is actually allergic to cigarette smoke (and it’s also illegal in California)
According to three sources, Cowell has smoked indoors for years, much to the frustration of staff, crew, and talent. NBC has given Cowell near-total control over America’s Got Talent. Virtually no decisions are made by the network on the show without his approval, according to three well-placed sources.
- She complained when Jay Leno made a racist (and incredibly lazy) joke comparing a painting of dogs to “something on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”
- She asked contestants what their “preferred pronouns” were (on a related note, all good allies should read this article about why asking people their preferred pronoun may not be a great idea)
- She supported a 10-year-old black rapper (Dylan Gilmer), which producers balked at because apparently this child wasn’t someone that “American can get behind”?
- She left a meeting for 5 minutes to get some fresh air instead of yelling at Cowell for being a racist ass (and probably because he reeks of smoke)
- Her hairstyles were “too black” (the only response to someone who says this is, Seriously??)
- I don’t know if she complained about this or not, but a source mentioned that Howie Mandell made a joke about an all-African choir that maybe they did songs from The Lion King? I mean, I’m offended not only at someone who fights racism but also as someone who likes comedy.
All this has done is just confirm my feelings that Gabrielle Union is the best. It takes a lot of guts to speak up about something that is wrong, especially when you’re in a position where staying quiet will get you a lot of money. Keep on holding people accountable, Gabrielle!
This! This! AND THIIISSSSSSS!!!!!! https://t.co/RCrtKtkQ4L
— Gabrielle Union (@itsgabrielleu) December 1, 2019
Also she RT’d one of my favorite people completely owning one of my least favorite and I just can’t help but post that here:
[Speaking the truth often makes people uncomfortable.] https://t.co/GBM35MYzqa
— Soledad O’Brien (@soledadobrien) November 20, 2019
Featured Image: “Greater Together Summit Tour: North Carolina Central University–February 21st, 2012” by Barack Obama is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0