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Gabrielle Union Calls Out Julianne Hough's 2013 Blackface In Battle Over 'America’s Got Talent' Firing

By Ryan Naumann

Gabrielle Union is calling out NBC for allegedly firing her after complaining about racism on the set of “America’s Got Talent” and she's dragging her former costar Julianne Hough in the process.

According to court documents obtained by The Blast, Gabrielle has filed a complaint with the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing against Universal Television, Fremantle Production, Syco Entertainment, and Simon Cowell

The complaint starts off, “Union, an African American woman, was a judge on America’s Got Talent (“AGT”), but, in what has become a widely publicized matter, was terminated from the Cowell-created show after just one season. Sadly, what led to Union’s termination was her refusal to remain silent in the face of a toxic culture at AGT that included racist jokes, racist performances, sexual orientation discrimination, and excessive focus on female judges’ appearances, including race-related comments. Union raised numerous complaints while working on AGT.”

In the court documents, Union says she complained about Simon Cowell’s smoking on-set which allegedly broke the law, spoke out against a contestant performing with blackface hands, expressed her disapproval of judge Howie Mandell having “mocked a Spanish-singing performer from Arizona by stating that, in sum and substance, America would not be able to “understand” her singing” along with Jay Leno making a racist joke.

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She accuses Simon Cowell of having “orchestrated the rejection of 10-year-old black rapping sensation Dylan Gilmer a/k/a Young Dylan. In response to Union’s complaint about this decision, Cowell informed Union that the reason Young Dylan was being cut was due to the fact that he was not an act “America can get behind.” Union describes being singled out due to her physical appearance and discriminated against for her hair being “too black.”

The suit reads, “By virtue of Union refusing to silently endure the racist and misogynistic conduct on AGT, she was labeled as “intimidating” and viewed as the problem, thus resulting in her termination.”

Union then goes for NBC’s decision to hire Julianne Hough and other celebrities with a racist past. The suit reads, “Make no mistake, NBC is part of the problem. NBC’s current attitude towards racism can be deduced from its defense of those individuals who have appeared in blackface, including but not limited to, Julianne Hough (“Hough”), Jimmy Fallon (“Fallon”), Fred Armisen (“Armisen”) and Ted Danson (“Danson”) (whom NBC hired multiple times even after he wore minstrel show blackface and used the “n-word” publicly).


Hough was famously ripped apart for attending a 2013 Halloween party dressed as an inmate from “Orange Is The New Black” while wearing full black-face. Union doesn’t believe it was a mistake the producers hired her along with Hough who famously wore blackface.

The docs read, producers “made a decision to hire Union as a judge on AGT while simultaneously hiring Hough, a two-time professional champion of ABC’s Dancing with the Stars who had recently gone through a widely publicized scandal for personally appearing in blackface. Hough apologized in response to the public uproar that she caused. Combining someone who so openly wore blackface (Hough) with someone who is black and regularly advocates on behalf of minorities (Union) should have at least alerted Telegdy that this could cause Union to experience some trepidation or concern about being unprotected from racially insensitive individuals while working as a judge on AGT. The suit is seeking unspecified damages and calls for changes to be made at NBCUniversal.


Back in December, Union and Hough were fired as judges on “America’s Got Talent” after one season. Sources claimed Union was subjected to constant criticism of her hair and appearance, had to deal with racist jokes during production and alleged threats if she continued to complain.

Union reportedly had to deal with execs calling her changing hairstyles “too black.”

After the original report of a toxic work environment, Hough came out denying the allegations in a statement, “I 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. I’m looking forward to what the future holds.”

Days later, Hough went on “The Today Show” and backtracked on her original statement. She said, “I commend Gabrielle for speaking her truth and starting a conversation. I’m also really proud of NBC as well for showing up and starting a narrative, and that’s what’s going to change the workplace and the paradigm that we’ve been working in for many, many years, and it’s shifting, and I think that’s really, really exciting.”

Hough continued, “Life is crazy and sometimes you can’t control things, and when obstacles come your way you have to be graceful about it and have integrity. I think that people with authenticity and integrity will create change.”

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