Gabrielle Union has finally broken her silence on the drama surrounding her departure from “America’s Got Talent” last year.

Recall that Union and fellow judge Julianne Hough exited the NBC competition show after one season and, in November, Variety reported on a “toxic culture” at the show that included racist jokes and excessive focus on female judges’ appearances, including race-related comments.

And speaking with the Variety Wednesday – the same day an investigation concluded that Union’s allegations were unfounded, according to NBC and the show’s producers, the 47-year-old actress discussed her experience working on the show.

She said:

“I signed up for the experience of being a part of a show that hails itself as the biggest stage in the world. Super diverse, and one about giving people an opportunity to shine where they otherwise probably wouldn’t. What could go wrong?

She also complained about fellow judge Simon Cowell’s smoking on her first day, saying it was a difficult choice for someone “coming onto a set and you are literally met with the very definition of a toxic work environment, and it’s being carried out by the most powerful person on the production.”

About how Cowell, through his spokesperson, told Variety that “when he was directly informed of the smoking complaint during the first couple of days of the season, he immediately changed his behavior and the issue was never raised again.”

But Union said of this:

“I couldn’t escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight. It was a cold that lingered, and turned into bronchitis, because I couldn’t shake it. It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job,” she said.

Union added that her constant runny nose also bothered judge Howie Mandel, who is vocal about his struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder and germophobia.


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