The judge allegedly complained of a toxic culture at the NBC show before leaving.


Days after it was announced that Gabrielle Union would be not be returning to her post as a judge on America's Got Talent, a new report alleges Union had spoken out over concerns about a toxic culture at the NBC show.

Sources told Variety that the actress expressed her concerns about offensive incidents that had occurred during tapings. During one alleged incident, Jay Leno visited the offices, where Union and co-judge Julianne Hough witnessed him make an inappropriate joke about Asian culture. According to four people present at the taping, Leno made a joke about a painting on display in a hallway of Simon Cowell, the show’s executive producer and judge, surrounded by his dogs. Leno joked that the pets looked like something one would find "on the menu at a Korean restaurant."

Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough America's Got Talent
Credit: NBC/Getty Images

The joke was viewed as perpetuating stereotypes about Asians, but despite Union reportedly urging producers to bring the issue to the attention of executives, the situation was "never escalated" to human resources.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Union and Hough would not be returning to the show, after both being on AGT for just one season.

Variety's sources also claimed Union and Hough were given "excessive notes" on their physical appearance, which impacted Hough's morale, though she denied this in a statement to Variety. Sources also claimed Union was subjected to critique that her rotating hairstyles were "too black" for AGT audiences — a note she received over half a dozen times, according to those with direct knowledge of the exchanges.

Union has yet to comment directly on the matter, Hough's statement to Variety read, "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." (She will be featured in two upcoming NBC shows: Holidays With the Houghs, costarring her brother Derek, and Christmas in Rockefeller Center.)

Spokespeople for both Union and NBC did not immediately respond to InStyle's request for comment.