Gabrielle Union is publicly speaking out after her unexpected and controversial exit from America's Got Talent. On Wednesday, the actor took to Twitter to express her gratitude to fans after admitting she was feeling shaken and saddened after her ousting as a judge on the popular competition series.
"So many tears, so much gratitude. THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone... you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever ❤," Union penned on Twitter.
News broke late last week that Union, as well as fellow judge Julianne Hough, would not be returning for another season of America's Got Talent: The Champions, which is set to premiere on January 6, 2020. The casting decision came amid a report, published by Variety on November 26, which alleged that Hough and Union had been cut after they "complained of toxic culture." The report cites alleged racist incidents which Union urged producers to report to HR, according to insiders familiar with the show. The report also claims both Union and Hough "received excessive notes on their physical appearance," with Union being told her hair was "too black" for the show.
In another follow-up report published by Vulture, sources alleged that Union was described as "difficult" by fellow judge and show producer Simon Cowell, as well as other producers. The report also claimed that Cowell asked Union not to take her complaints to NBC but instead address them with him personally — like her alleged issue with Cowell continuously smoking indoors. Union is allergic to cigarette smoke, and California law states employers can't allow smoking in enclosed workspaces, but despite her complaints Union was reportedly told, "no one could stop Cowell from smoking and that previous attempts by a fire marshal and NBC executives had been unsuccessful." Vulture also confirmed that Union originally had a three-year contract with AGT.
The actress did not provide comment for Variety's or Vulture's reports (and Hough's comment to Variety denied any tension with NBC), so Union's tweet seems to be her first acknowledgment of the situation. Her husband, Dwayne Wade, also came to Union's defense, seemingly confirming in a series of social media posts that Union was fired for speaking up at NBC.
"'Men lie, Women lie, numbers don’t' Over this past year I’ve been approached by many people saying that my wife @itsgabrielleu is the main reason they’ve started watching #AGT or that they love her insight and sincerity on the show," Wade wrote on Twitter, continuing, "So when i got the news that my wife was being fired—my first question was obviously why!? I am still waiting on a good answer to that question. But if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her you know she’s an advocate for our community and culture."
The athlete went on to praise his wife for her actions. "As proud as i were of her being selected as a judge on #AGT— I am even more proud of her standing up for what she stands for and that’s US," he wrote, adding, "So 🥂 to you @itsgabrielleu on not losing sight of the lessons we’ve talked about teaching our daughter and for kicking ass while you were on that platform. Number 1 judge on one of the biggest shows in the world‼️"
Variety also noted that while the show has seen an overall ratings decline, its "social media presence has doubled" since Union and Hough replaced longtime hosts Mel B and Heidi Klum. And of those social media impressions, "half engaged directly with Union" meaning the 47-year-old was effectively "the most popular judge" on the reality show.
Following Variety's report, a spokesperson for NBC and Fremantle provided a statement to People about the claims, saying, "America's Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. The judging and host line-up has been regularly refreshed over the years and that is one of the reasons for AGT's enduring popularity. NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously."
Several celebrities, including Lin-Manuel Miranda and Holly Robinson Peete, as well as fans of AGT and Union have rallied around the actress since the news broke.
"It really meant a lot to have a black woman stand up for us, and it's truly made me reexamine if I'm doing enough in standing up for racial injustice even when it doesn't involve me personally," one fan wrote.
"I’m just catching up on this. This is terrible. You should not be penalized for trying to have a workplace that honors the rule of law in the workplace," Oscar-winning actress Patricia Arquette tweeted.
"TO THE UNION! ❤️❤️❤️," Lin-Manuel Miranda chimed in.
Union appeared on the April 2019 digital cover of Glamour and spoke candidly about the pressure and pain of constantly having to stand up for herself and others amid social injustices. "Sometimes that is like, 'Yeah, let's fucking burn this motherfucker to the ground!'” she said. Other times, she added, “it can be crushing."
More on Gabrielle Union:
- Gabrielle Union's Natural Curls Are Her Best Hair Look to Date
- Here's What Happened When We Gave Jessica Alba and Gabrielle Union a Mannequin Head and Some Scissors
- Gabrielle Union Just Posted a Flawless No-Makeup Selfie, and We’re in Awe
Now check out 100 years of black hair:
Originally Appeared on Allure