Toxicity in the workplace is often invisible, but actor and producer Gabrielle Union says she’s never seen it defined more clearly than in her first moments on the set of the reality competition…
Toxicity in the workplace is often invisible, but actor and producer Gabrielle Union says she’s never seen it defined more clearly than in her first moments on the set of the reality competition show “America’s Got Talent.”
It was when the newly minted judge stood on a closed soundstage and was enveloped in a cloud of cigarette smoke, to which she’s been severely allergic her entire life. Producers, fellow judges and set assistants looked on unfazed as series creator and star Simon Cowell finished his smoke while Union’s respiratory system went haywire.
That moment would be one of many in which Union says she unsuccessfully raised issues about the physical and emotional toxicity at “AGT,” produced by FremantleMedia and Cowell’s Syco Entertainment, which has aired for 15 seasons on NBC.
Union has walked many sets in show business over her 25 years, from her turn in the iconic teen movie “Bring It On” to leading the critically praised BET drama “Being Mary Jane.” But something shifted in how she viewed her career when she hit 40. She finally learned self-acceptance, she says, and no longer sought approval from a business that was increasingly being called out for the way it marginalized women and minorities.
“There were so many spaces in this industry where I had to compartmentalize myself to feel like I was worthy of work,” Union tells Variety. “In my 40s, I embraced myself exactly as I am. I wanted to create projects and be a part of things, to have personal and professional relationships that brought me peace, joy, grace and allowed for compassion.”