Actress Gabrielle Union recently opened up about her departure from her role as an America’s Got Talent judge. Union was let go from the show last September and has only recently talked about her exit.

Union and her America’s Got Talent story are featured on the cover of Variety magazine. The actress spoke to the magzine about the many negative moments she experienced while being apart of the reality competition show which included the show’s toxic work environment and incidents of racism.

Union said that executive producer and head judge Simon Cowell’s consistent on-set smoking made her sick, since she is allergic to cigarette smoke. While on the set Union also said to have experienced many moments of racism, for example, guest judge Jay Leno made a “wildly racist” joke, a white contestant performed a “blatantly racist act,” and the hair and makeup departments were not equipped to help contestants of color.

The actress became ill because of Cowell’s perpetual smoking, and she told Variety that she was made to feel like becoming sick was her fault. “I couldn’t escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight,” she said. “It was a cold that lingered, and turned to bronchitis, because I couldn’t shake it. It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job. It put me in a position from day one where I felt othered. I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed, I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.”

“You cannot edit out what we just experienced. There is not an edit button in my brain or in my soul. To experience this kind of racism at my job and there be nothing done about it, no discipline, no company-wide email, no reminder of what is appropriate in the workplace?” Union said of her time on America’s Got Talent.

Union noted, “At the end of all this, my goal is real change — and not just on this show but for the larger parent company. It starts from the top down. My goal is to create the happiest, most high-functioning, inclusive, protected and healthy example of a workplace.”

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