“America’s Got Talent” is drawing ire on social media after a bombshell report from Variety shined a light on Gabrielle Union’s exit from the popular show after this past season.
The report from Variety, which was published on Tuesday, provided a number of accounts from network insiders on some of the events that allegedly led up to Union’s exit.
Variety reported that multiple sources said Union, who was a judge on the fourteenth season, would receive constant feedback about her appearance on the NBC show. Four sources told the magazine that Union would frequently be told that her choices of hairstyles on the show were “too black” at times.
However, another source pushed back against the claim, Variety reported, and said that Union would receive critiques about her hair only for continuity purposes during the filming of the show.
Sources said that Julianne Hough, who also served as a judge on the show during the same season as Union, would also often receive critiques about her appearance.
However, Hough – who has two shows with NBC set to be released soon – rejected the allegations, telling Variety: “I had a wonderful time on ‘America’s Got Talent.’ I loved working with the cast, crew and producers.”
Multiple sources also said that Union complained on more than one occasion about racial moments during the show’s production.
One of those alleged moments involved comedian Jay Leno. According to Variety, Leno shot a segment for the show’s fourteenth season, which aired from late-May to mid-September, as a guest judge back in April.
During the segment, sources told the magazine that Leno made a joke about a painting of Simon Cowell, who serves as an executive producer and judge on the show, and his dogs. The insiders alleged that the comedian joked that the dogs looked like they could have been “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”
Union allegedly expressed concerns about the joke, which had reportedly been removed from the segment by the time it aired. Another source also confirmed the incident involving Leno to The Hollywood Reporter.
The actress also allegedly spoke up about another instance during the season’s production when a white contestant made his hands look black for part of his impersonation of Beyoncé Knowles for an audition.
Though Union declined to comment to Variety on the allegations, her husband, former NBA star Dwayne Wade, defended his wife on Twitter and claimed she was fired.
Wayde said in a series of tweets that “if anyone knows @itsgabrielleu or have heard of her you know she’s an advocate for our community and culture,” adding “so when I got the news that my wife was being fired—my first question was obviously why!?”
So when i got the news that my wife was being fired—my first question was obviously why!? Iam 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.
— DWade (@DwyaneWade) November 27, 2019
“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 said in a later tweet, while also adding in another: “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‼️”
NBC told The Hollywood Reporter and Variety in a statement responding to the report on Tuesday: “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,” the network added in the joint statement with producers from the series. “NBC and the producers take any issues on set seriously.”