Former Hollywood Today Live host Porscha Coleman says she was illegally fired because she wasn't a mom and her look didn't appeal to Middle America, according to a complaint filed Friday in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
Coleman is suing Media General, Fox Entertainment and several individuals involved with the show for gender, race and marital status harassment, retaliation and discrimination.
She says the defendants "created a quid pro quo and hostile working environment in which harassment, discrimination and retaliation based on sex/gender, race and marital status were permitted, required, demanded, allowed and tolerated," according to the complaint filed by attorney Marcus Mancini.
Coleman says she was the only black female host of Hollywood Today Live from the time she began working on the show as an internet series in May 2014 to when she was terminated from the daily live entertainment television show in November 2015.
At the time the TV series was getting off the ground, Coleman says the hair and makeup professionals the show hired did not have expertise with "female African-American hair" or "darker skin tones." Coleman claims her contact promised that she'd be provided with a hairdresser and makeup artist and, when she asked to bring in someone experienced, she was told to hire a black woman because it would "look better visually" in behind-the-scenes shots.
Her lawyer contacted the show to address disparate treatment between Coleman and the other hosts, and not long after, she says, her image became a point of repeat criticism.
Coleman says Fox head of programming Tracy Taw told her she didn't appeal to Middle America and said in a meeting, "I'm trying to keep this show on past November and I don't want your hair to be reason why the show doesn't get picked up for season two."
Shortly after the meeting, Coleman says, Media General head of programming Tony Optican approached her "in an obvious attempt to shock absorb what had just happened and to ingratiate himself" and told her "he understood black women because he dated them prior to marrying his wife."
On Nov. 18, 2015, Coleman says she was told she would not be filming the next two days and her seat would be occupied by someone else. She asked executive producer Steve Holtzer for an explanation, according to the complaint, and was told "they want mothers. You aren't a mom." While Coleman was replaced with Garcelle Beauvais, who is a mother, she says none of the other childless co-hosts were replaced.
Coleman is suing for punitive damages and says she "continues to suffer severe and permanent emotional and mental distress and anguish, humiliation, embarrassment, fright, shock, pain, discomfort and anxiety."
Media General and Fox have not yet responded to a request for comment.