It was reported in November that Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough would be exiting America's Got Talent after serving as judges for one season, which was followed by reports alleging that the two women were fired. This week, former judge Heidi Klum shared her thoughts on the controversy, responding to a question about her thoughts on Union's reports of a toxic work environment on the show.
"I've only had an amazing experience," she told reports at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, via PEOPLE. "I can't speak for her. I didn't experience the same thing. To me, everyone treats you with the utmost respect. I've never seen anything that was weird or hurtful."
She also discussed apparent tension between the judges, saying that it was for entertainment purposes.
"Of course, there's always this cat-and-dog fight, but this is fun. You say something silly," she said. "For me, being on television, I want to entertain people. I want people to have a good time. I want people to go away from their life for two hours and just have fun and enjoy."
Klum left the show after serving as a judge for six seasons before she was replaced by Union and Hough for Season 14. The supermodel now serves as a judge on the spin-off America's Got Talent: Champions.
After Union and Hough's departure was announced, Variety reported that the two women were fired from receiving "excessive notes" on their physical appearance. In addition, Union was reportedly told that her various hair styles were "too black" for the show's audience at least half a dozen times. Hough has denied the report and said in a statement that she had a "wonderful time" on the show.
It was also reported that Union had spoken up about multiple incidents of racial insensitivity on set including a joke made by Jay Leno and a contestant's act. Union allegedly urged producers to report an offensive joke made by Leno when the comedian visited the show in April to appear as a guest judge. Four people present for the taping said that Leno joked about a painting of Simon Cowell and his dogs, saying that the animals "looked like something one would find "on the menu at a Korean restaurant."
Another incident reportedly occurred during an audition taping for Season 14, when Union and other staff members raised a concern over the way a contestant portrayed people of color during his performance. In early December, Union tweeted that she had sat down with NBC for a "lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday."0comments
"I was able to, again, express my unfiltered truth," she wrote. "I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change."
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