Photo Credit: Gabrielle Union/Instagram
Gabrielle Union appeared on the first season of America’s Got Talent: The Champions but only lasted a season after being replaced but not without scandal. She made complaints about racial incidents on set that had her labeled as being “difficult” by fellow judge Simon Cowell who she also complained about his indoor smoking habit. If she were a new person in the industry, I could possibly see complaints about indoor smoking being too much, but even then, in 2019, that’s not something that’s even deemed normal in the workplace, even if it is in the entertainment industry. On top of that, she’s an industry veteran. She shouldn’t have to tolerate that at this point in her career.
One of the issues Union experienced was being told that her hair was too black for the show. Now Gabrielle Union has always been a classy woman in the industry and not known for any extreme styles so to think that her look was too “anything,” is hard to imagine. Nicki Minaj was a judge on American Idol with Simon Cowell and if that was allowed under a similar production team, there’s no reason Union’s hair should be a problem. In fact, the complaint has sparked the viral hashtag #BlackHairChallenge to be revived with black women posting pics of their hair in different styles in support of her.
It’s now been 14 years since India Arie released her single I Am Not My Hair where she sang about how black women are tormented over their hair. I believe New York City and California have either proposed, passed or in the process of passing legislation on hair discrimination where a person can’t be fired over their hair being too black. While it’s hard to quantify, it does happen. Dreadlocks for instance are now mainstream but they haven’t been for very long. They certainly were barely tolerated growing up early 2000s.
Variety Magazine reported earlier in the month that Union and judge Julianne Hough were receiving constant criticism over their hair, makeup and wardrobe which had lead to a toxic environment. Then there was the time she supported a 10 year old rapper and was told that they needed to support someone America could get behind. For the record, rap has recently been the Number One genre on Billboard so that would actually be in line with America’s listening habits. It’s also been stated that Union had an issue with the constant misgendering of contestants. Given that she and her husband Dwyane Wade support their son being gay, taking him to Pride at 11, it would be understandable why she took issue with this.
This also brings us back to Nick Cannon who quit as the host of the show in 2017 for an off-script joke he made on a comedy special of his where he said the network had made him trade in his black card, a comment that didn’t set well with them. When he found out they planned on threatening to fire him, he chose to quit instead. That makes for two racial incidents on the same show based on black expression. We wonder if there will be any more to be revealed.
India Arie told told y'all 15 yrs ago we are not our hair, but apparently we gotta remind you. I'm including some of my girls to show how we simultaneously stunt different! 💁🏾♀️ We stand with Gabrielle Union @itsgabrielleu! Keep shining queens! #BlackGirlMagic #BlackHairChallenge pic.twitter.com/9qCOxcqQF5
— BlackWomenViews (@blackwomenviews) November 28, 2019
#blackhairchallenge Just supporting the Black Hair Challenge. I can do one thing with my hair. But wanted to support this hashtag considering Gabrielle getting told her hairstyles were too black. Wear your hair however you want!
— Susan Graham (@frecklesgraham) November 27, 2019