Report alleges ‘toxic culture’ on set of ‘America’s Got Talent’

(L-R): Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough. Getty Images

After it was announced that America’s Got Talent (AGT) judges Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough would not be returning to the competition show next season, a report from Variety alleged there was “toxic culture” on the set.

According to Variety’s report published Tuesday, Union had concerns over offensive incidents that happened on set.

The report alleges that both judges were subject to “excessive notes” about physical appearance and claimed that AGT had a culture of toxic, racist jokes.

READ MORE: ‘America’s Got Talent’ — Season 14 winner crowned in emotional finale

The report claimed that Union had expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time on the show, including a joke made by guest judge Jay Leno in April of this year that was later edited out of the show.

Story continues below advertisement

According to Variety, Leno made a joke about a painting on the wall that featured judge Simon Cowell surrounded by his dogs.

Sources told the outlet that Leno allegedly made a joke that the dogs looked like something one would find “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”

Multiple people on set were upset by the joke, Variety reports, and Union reportedly urged producers to report the joke to the human resources department.

READ MORE: Simon Cowell promises to buy Toronto contestant dog after ‘America’s Got Talent’ audition

Variety also quoted multiple unnamed sources saying Union was told several times that her hairstyles were “too black” for the singing competition show.

The article also claimed that Union expressed concerns over an incident during auditions in which she believed a white male performer crossed a line in portraying people of colour.

“In one such quick change, the contestant emerged in the guise of Beyoncé Knowles. His hands appeared as black, meant to be a character accent, three witnesses to the audition said,” the report reads.

Union has not commented on the matter yet but her husband Dwyane Wade took to Twitter on Wednesday to applaud his wife for her work on the show.

Story continues below advertisement

“‘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,” he began.

“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,” Wade continued.

Story continues below advertisement

“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.

“So [cheers] 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‼️”

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: Tyra Banks sued — ‘America’s Got Talent’ contestant says she was humiliated during audition

Variety also reported that Hough was consistently given critiques on her appearance.

“Two insiders familiar with the set said Hough had received consistent criticism on hair, makeup and wardrobe, which impacted her morale and led to tensions,” the report says.

Hough issued a statement to Variety denying the claims and saying she had “a wonderful time on America’s Got Talent.

“I loved working with the cast, crew and producers. I am happy to continue my working relationship with NBC,” Hough said.

She also said she was excited for two upcoming NBC shows she’ll be in, Holiday With the Houghs, co-starring her brother Derek, and Christmas in Rockefeller Center.

Story continues below advertisement

READ MORE: ‘America’s Got Talent’ producer, NBCU sued for wrongful death of woman in wheelchair

In a joint statement, NBC and production company Fremantle said that AGT  has a “history of inclusivity.”

America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” NBC and Fremantle said. “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.”

It was revealed that Hough and Union would not return to the show on Nov. 23 but no statement or explanation was offered.

It has yet to be announced who will be replacing them for the upcoming season of AGT.

Story continues below advertisement

Sponsored content