It was announced last week that Gabrielle Union would be leaving America’s Got Talent after her first and only season, and it appears that a “toxic culture” that included “excessive notes” on her appearance may have been one of the reasons.
According to a Variety report, the actress was ousted from the NBC hit show, alongside co-judge Julianne Hough, after expressing concern over offensive incidents that took place on the set. This included feedback of “excessive notes on [Union’s and Hough’s] physical appearance” from show executives. Some of that feedback included critiquing hairstyles by Union that were considered “too black” for viewers. She is said to have received this note from producers “half a dozen times.”
Union had yet to respond to the report although Hough has denied it.
Another discouraging incident allegedly occurred when former late night talk show host Jay Leno was taping a segment of the show and made an inappropriate joke. According to sources who were there, “Leno made a crack about a painting on display in a hallway of Simon Cowell, the show’s executive producer and judge, surrounded by his dogs. Leno joked that the pets looked like something one would find ‘on the menu at a Korean restaurant.'”
Many Asians staff members, among others, were offended by the joke. Union sought to have the incident reported to the Human Resources department, but the situation “never escalated” despite having been brought to the attention of an executive.
The joke was cut from the episode when it eventually aired on August 6.
NBC has denied the claims, saying in a statement that the show “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.”
Nick Cannon abruptly quit his hosting duties on the show in 2017 after NBC threatened to fire him over jokes he made during a Showtime comedy special.
“”I have loved hosting AMERICAS GOT TALENT for the last 8 seasons, watching talented, brave, and courageous Americans accomplish their dreams in front of millions has been nothing but a joy, and everyone has been a pleasure to work with,” he wrote at the time. “But my soul won’t allow me to be in business with corporations that attempt to frown on freedom of speech, censor artists, and question cultural choices.”
Union and Hough’s departures were announced on Friday with NBC confirming that both women will not return for the 2020 season.