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The ‘Toxic Culture’ At America’s Got Talent Included Critiques Of Union’s Hair

News of Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough being fired from America’s Got Talent had everyone talking this week, and now, new information about the work environment behind the scenes is making things look even worse.

It went public on Friday that both Union and Hough were cut from the show, while Cowell and cast members Howie Mandel and Terry Crews were all expected to return. At the time, an NBC insider described the parting of ways as amicable and said the following about their decision to cut ties with both women:

“‘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 series producer Fremantle said in a joint statement. “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.”

But according to Variety, both Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough were said by sources to have received excessive notes on their physical 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, though she ended up denying this in a statement to the publication.

As for Union–who declined to comment–it’s being reported that she was subjected to a very specific critique: that her rotating hair styles were “too black” for the audience of America’s Got Talent. According to Variety’s multiple sources, this is a note she reportedly received over half a dozen times.

Another incident that contributed to the show’s on-set insensitivity reportedly included Union and other staffers expressing concerns over a white male performer portraying people of color. The contestant’s gimmick involved rapid costume changes while impersonating a multitude of famous singers, and when he emerged as Beyoncé, his hands appeared as black.

At the time, Gabrielle is said to have immediately recommended to a segment producer that the contestant be removed from the lineup, though sources said the producers dismissed her concern, saying, “we’ll take it out later,” while still letting him audition.

Though ratings for AGT have been on the decline for at least three years, the show’s social media presence has reportedly doubled since Union and Hough replaced longtime female judges Mel B and Heidi Klum.


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