- SAG-AFTRA, a labor union representing actors, has launched a probe into Gabrielle Union’s complaints while on the set of America’s Got Talent, as well as her subsequent removal from the show.
- Reports say that Union urged producers to report a racist joke made by Jay Leno to HR, tried to prevent a racially insensitive act from performing, was told her hairstyles were “too black,” and was vocal about other issues with the show and the culture it created.
- The show opted to not continue with Union’s contract, ending her arc as a judge after just one season.
SAG-AFTRA Probe Launched
The Screen Actors Guild announced that it is investigating the controversies surrounding Gabrielle Union, NBC, and America’s Got Talent.
Last week, it was revealed that Union was let go after appearing as a judge for one season. Reports from Variety and Vulture soon followed saying that Union was frequently vocal about addressing issues on set. She allegedly encouraged producers to report a joke many found racist, and tried to remove a performer whose act she found racially insensitive. According to Vulture, her complaints were among the reasons NBC’s America’s Got Talent decided to drop her.
“We take issues of workplace health and safety very seriously. We immediately reached out to Ms. Union’s representatives when these reports came to light,” SAG-AFTRA said in a statement published in full by Deadline on Sunday. “While we have taken steps to investigate this matter, we have nothing to report now.”
Deadline’s report said that the investigations are still in their early stages. Their source, however, acknowledged that this investigation is “a high profile and probably high wire act.”
SAG-AFTRA’s announcement came just hours after NBC published a statement of their own regarding the matter. The network claimed to be working with Union’s team to address her concerns.
“We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture,” their statement said. “We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”
In what many saw as a response to NBC, Union shared a tweet that gave instructions on how to form a proper apology.
Complaints in Variety Report
Union’s concerns painted the image of a toxic culture at America’s Got Talent. First unraveled in a report from Variety, it appeared that Union was seeking solutions to these issues to no response.
One incident involved a joke made by comedian Jay Leno, who was a guest judge in one episode. Four people told Variety that while taping, he pointed to a photo of America’s Got Talent’s producer and judge Simon Cowell surrounded by his dogs. He said it looked like something “on the menu at a Korean restaurant.”
Some of the workers at America’s Got Talent found this joke to be offensive to Asian cultures, with the report also noting that one of the show’s few Asian staffers was present at the time.
Union allegedly encouraged producers and an NBC executive to report the joke to Human Resources, but nothing ever came of it. The joke did not make it into the episode.
In another case, while taping auditions, one white contestant did rapid costume changes as he impersonated celebrities. While performing as Beyonce, his “hands appeared black.” Finding this racially insensitive, Union tried to convince producers to take him off the line-up, saying the live audience should not have to see this. They disagreed and sent him on stage, though he did not appear on television.
Variety’s report also said that Union and Julianne Hough, who was brought on to judge at the same time as Union and was also let go from the upcoming season, received constant notes about their appearances, hair, and makeup.
Union was reportedly told several times that her rotating hairstyles were “too black” for America’s Got Talent’s audience. One executive disputed this claim to Variety, saying notes on appearance were not given that frequently and only once were judges given notes on “hair continuity.”
Hough, who has a few projects with NBC in the near future, said she had a positive experience on America’s Got Talent and, “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 added.
Vulture Report Includes More Complaints
A few days after Variety’s report went out, a second report from Vulture was published, also laden with riffs between Union and producers. Union, who is allergic to cigarette smoke, complained to staff about Cowell’s habit of smoking inside the theatre, which had only separation curtains and no walls. Even though California law prevents an employer from allowing indoor smoking, producers insisted nothing could be done about Cowell’s smoking. He had reportedly been doing it for years despite complaints, including ones from NBC executives and a fire marshal.
Producers were also said to have been irritated by Union asking contestants who were competing in drag for their preferred pronouns.
Vulture said a boiling point was reached when Union and producers were discussing contestants they wanted to see continue on the show, including a ten-year-old black rapper whom Union found exciting. The producers, however, told Union that the show needed to pick an act “that America can get behind.” They suggested a dance troupe from Texas that consisted of white performers.
Vulture said that Union “Felt producers were implying that American audiences couldn’t get behind a 10-year-old black rapper, a viewpoint she felt was racist.”
After Union was working on the show for two months, Cowell allegedly sat her down and said that if she had any concerns, she should bring them up with him and not NBC executives, which Union thought was odd, and looked like he was trying to cover things up. Vulture’s report also included sources who said that Union frustrated Cowell and that she was let go from the show for being “difficult.”
NBC explained their reasoning for letting go of Union and Hough in Variety’s initial report.
“‘America’s Got Talent’ has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show,” they said. “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.”
Celebrities Stand With Union
Many celebrities spoke up to defend Union and call out NBC for not taking action.
“It’s unfortunate that @nbc the same network that protected disgusting men like Matt Lauer and punished women for speaking out or not putting up with it…has not changed their practices or culture,” Grey’s Anatomy star Ellen Pompeo said.
Popstar Ariana Grande shared more of Pompeo’s remarks and told NBC to “be better.”
Jameela Jamil, an actress on NBC’s The Good Place said Union should be brought back to America’s Got Talent.
Why The Weeknd, Justin Bieber, and Nicki Minaj Are Slamming the Grammy Nominations
- The Weeknd accused the Grammys of corruption and a lack of transparency after he was snubbed with zero nominations this year.
- Reports suggested that talks between the singer and the Recording Academy regarding his performance at the show and the Super Bowl turned sour, but the president of the Academy denies that it had anything to do with his lack of nominations.
- Justin Bieber also slammed the Grammys for nominating him in pop categories when considered his album R&B. While genre is often a point of contention at the show, many think that his placement in pop is not unfounded.
- Nicki Minaj also brought up her 2012 Best New Artist loss, when Bon Iver beat her out for the trophy. She pointed to this moment as an example of the Grammy’s history of exclusion when it comes to women and artists of color, which the show promises it is working on.
The Weeknd’s Major Snubs
Major artists including The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Nicki Minaj slammed the Grammy Awards on Tuesday after the Recording Academy released their 2021 nominations.
Heading into the announcement, The Weeknd was a favorite to be nominated in major categories for his album “After Hours” and his song “Blinding Lights” after both received huge critical and commercial success. “Blinding Lights” has broken Billboard records and The Weeknd is slated to perform at the Super Bowl, making him the perfect candidate not just for nominations, but for wins as well. So, when he ended up with a whopping zero nominations, it was largely considered the biggest snub of the day.
Kid Cudi took to Twitter to say the singer was “robbed” and Elton John wrote on Instagram that The Weeknd should have won Song and Record of the Year. The Weeknd chimed in himself, writing that the Grammys “remain corrupt.”
“You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency,” he added.
The Grammys are no stranger to criticism of this kind and have long faced accusations of corruption for having “boys club” leadership and for excluding women and artists of color in nominations and performances. In this case, reports indicate that The Weeknd may have been referring to a specific situation regarding the potential of him performing at the show and how that may have clashed with his spot on the Super Bowl lineup.
“There were many conversations between the Grammys and the Weeknd team about his performance slated for the 2021 Grammys,” a source told Rolling Stone. “There was an ultimatum given resulting in a struggle over him also playing the Super Bowl that went on for some time and was eventually agreed upon that he would perform at both events.”
A source told TMZ that the Grammys were the party that handed out that ultimatum, essentially saying “it’s us or it’s the Super Bowl.” While they did reach a place where both could happen, the talks were allegedly testy, and come nomination day, The Weeknd was left empty-handed.
As for why talks of this nature could get heated, the Grammys is a concert just as much as it is an awards show. Their slate of performers is arguably more precious than their nominations because those performances are what draw in the show’s much sought after viewers. Why the Recording Academy may have viewed The Weeknd’s Super Bowl performance as a threat to this is unclear, but its Chair and Interim President and CEO Harvey Mason Jr. denied that these discussions had anything to do with The Weeknd’s lack of nods.
“We understand that the Weeknd is disappointed at not being nominated. I was surprised and can empathize with what he’s feeling,” he told Rolling Stone.
“We would have loved to have him also perform on the Grammy stage the weekend before [the Super Bowl]. Unfortunately, every year, there are fewer nominations than the number of deserving artists,” he added. “To be clear, voting in all categories ended well before The Weeknd’s performance at the Super Bowl was announced, so in no way could it have affected the nomination process.”
For what it’s worth, The Weeknd and other industry insiders likely knew about the Super Bowl performance prior to the public announcement, though exactly when is of course unknown. But Mason Jr. maintains that the nominations were not impacted by this.
Still, The Weeknd took to Twitter again on Wednesday further expressing his frustrations by the ordeal.
“Collaboratively planning a performance for weeks to not being invited? In my opinion zero nominations = you’re not invited!” he wrote.
He also is receiving a lot of support for his comments. His initial tweet about the situation has over 1 million likes as of Wednesday morning, and his Instagram post saying the same thing has over 2 million. Big names including Justin Timberlake, Miley Cyrus, Katy Perry, and Pharrell Williams are among those who liked his Instagram post.
Justin Bieber’s Genre Placement
Justin Bieber also called the show out, though not because he was not nominated, but instead because of what he was nominated for. Bieber landed a handful of nominations, including Best Pop Vocal Album for “Changes” and Best Pop Solo Performance for “Yummy.” He took to Instagram to express that pop is not where he would have placed his work.
“To the Grammys I am flattered to be acknowledged and appreciated for my artistry. I am very meticulous and intentional about my music,” he wrote. “With that being said I set out to make an R&B album. ‘Changes’ was and is an R&B album. It is not being acknowledged as an R&B album which is very strange to me.”
“For this not to be put into that category feels weird considering from the chords to the melodies to the vocal style, all the way down to the hip-hop drums that were chosen, it is undeniably, unmistakably an R&B album!” he argued.
Though, his complaints were met with less support than The Weeknd’s. Reviews for “Changes” were mixed at best. While both Rolling Stone and Pitchfork identified it as an album persuaded by both pop and R&B, the latter outlet said “Changes” “has all the glow and eroticism of an airport terminal.”
When it comes down to what genre an artist is placed in, that choice is made by experts in each genre, which include producers, artists and more.
“Pop is a field that is often a point of contention or confusion: An artist who is popular, like Post Malone or Macklemore, may be rejected by a genre committee, like Rap, because the people on that committee consider them to be Pop artists,” Jem Aswad explained for Variety. “In that context, it is difficult to imagine the R&B committee considering Bieber’s lite take on R&B music to be suitable for the category.”
Aswad also said that genre confusion and overlap could have contributed to some of The Weeknd’s snubs. However, Bieber and this year’s nominations aside, genre placement, in general, has historically been a hot topic when it comes to the Grammys, specifically when it comes to how artists of color are treated and excluded. Many artists have spoken out about this, including Tyler the Creator, who chimed in on the subject after the 2020 show.
“It sucks that whenever we — and I mean guys that look like me — do anything that’s genre-bending or that’s anything they always put it in a rap or urban category,” he said. “I don’t like that ‘urban’ word — it’s just a politically correct way to say the n-word to me.”
The “Urban” category has since been renamed to “Progressive R&B” but the conversation about these categories and what they mean is still very much ongoing. Regarding where Bieber fits into this narrative of issues with genre at the show, many thought a pop placement for him was fair and some even mocked him online for complaining. Mason Jr. also defended the genre and nomination process while speaking to Variety.
“The people [in the committees] are music professionals — they are excellent, at the top of their craft in songwriting and producing, and there are a lot of artists,” he explained. “They critically [listen] to every song that comes across their desks.”
Nicki Minaj Talks Diversity
The Grammys are still not in the clear when it comes to their issues with representation and diversity. Rapper Nicki Minaj tweeted about her Best New Artist loss in 2012, which many feel showcases the issues the Recording Academy still has.
“Never forget the Grammys didn’t give me my best new artist award when I had 7 songs simultaneously charting on billboard & bigger first week than any female rapper in the last decade- went on to inspire a generation,” she wrote. “They gave it to the white man Bon Iver.”
While you could argue whether or not Bon Iver, Nicki Minaj, or any of the other nominees that year deserved the trophy, what can’t be argued is the show’s history with a lack of representation when it comes to celebrating women and people of color in music. This is something the Grammys claims to be working on. According to the L.A. Times, the Academy invited over 2,000 new voters this year that were 48% women and 37% from traditionally underrepresented communities.
“It’s really a new era for us and a time of transformative change,” Kelley Purcell, the Academy’s Senior Director of Member Outreach told the outlet. “It’s important for us to not only be reflective of what’s happening in the music industry but also to be a leader and to set a positive example for the music industry.”
For what it’s worth, some of the nominations this year do show progress, particularly with gender inclusion. For the first time ever, all the nominees in Best Rock Performance are female. Female-led acts also took up every nomination in Best Country Album, and dominated other country categories.
See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Variety) (Los Angeles Times)
YouTube Launches “World’s First Infinite Music Video” to Celebrate Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” Hitting 1 Billion Views
- In honor of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” reaching 1 billion YouTube views, the platform created an “infinite” music video that seamlessly brings together thousands of covers of the song.
- YouTube says “watching every combination of covers would take at least 1.46 x 10^100 years, which is longer than the lifespan of the universe.”
- The company considers this a growing experiment, which means fan-generated videos created after the initial launch will eventually be mixed into the video as well.
YouTube launched what it calls “the world’s first infinite music video” on Tuesday in celebration of Billie Eilish’s “Bad Guy” surpassing 1 billion views on the platform.
“This unique AI experiment uses machine learning to bring thousands of covers together, seamlessly aligning them in endless combinations, creating a music video that’s different every time you watch it,” YouTube explained in a blog post.
Because of technical requirements, the experience can’t live online as a traditional YouTube video. Instead, the organizers gave it its own site: billie.withyoutube.com
When fans visit the site, they are automatically placed on the #Everything category, which shows a range of different covers of “Bad Guy.” However, viewers can also hop around specific categories to hear the song with different instruments or in different genres.
Viewers can even search for dance routines, parodies, animations, tutorials, and more – all without losing their spot in the song.
Hitting pause on the infinite video also allows users to scroll down and read stats about their unique viewing experience.
Plus, fans can see their video history and click through to any creator’s channel to subscribe if they find someone they would like to support.
Could We See More of This?
When asked about the project, Google Creative Lab Producer Jay Chen told Rolling Stone: “This project is a loving monument to YouTube fan culture, in all its diverse and wonderful glory. With billions of combinations, every viewing is unique and we can’t wait for you to play it.”
What’s more interesting about this is that YouTube sees it as a growing experiment, which means fan-generated videos created after the initial launch will eventually be mixed into the video as well.
That just makes the possible combinations even more insane. As is, the experience is not exactly “infinite,” thought it’s definitely impressive.
In fact, YouTube says “watching every combination of covers would take at least 1.46 x 10^100 years, which is longer than the lifespan of the universe.”
Still, it’s worth noting that YouTube’s global head of artist relations, Vivien Lewit, said this is just a one-off project — at least for now — and won’t necessarily be created for every music video that surpasses 1 billion views from now on.
It could be something the company does again in the future, but as far as why YouTube chose Eilish to pilot the idea, the company said it was because “Bad Guy” was one of the most covered songs on YouTube.
See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Rolling Stone) (NME)
Charli D’Amelio Responds to Backlash Over Recent YouTube Video
- Charli and Dixie D’Amelio were slammed as “ungrateful” and “disrespectful” after fans saw a video they filmed with their parents and James Charles for their family’s YouTube channel.
- In it, Charli expressed disappointment in the fact that she had hit 95 million TikTok followers instead of 100 million by the one year anniversary of the day she hit 1 million.
- Meanwhile, Dixie was criticized for appearing disgusted and throwing up after tasting a snail that was in the meal her family’s chef prepared for them.
- The sisters have explained that their comments and behavior were misunderstood and blown out of proportion. James Charles and the chef have also shown them support.
- Still, Charli has lost about 1 million TikTok followers and in a tearful Instagram live, she opened up about the hateful messages she has received. “Seeing how people reacted to this…I don’t even know if I want to do this anymore,” she said.
TikTok star Charli D’Amelio got emotional in her Instagram Live on Thursday as she responded to the backlash she has received after her family’s latest YouTube video.
“This is messed up stuff that people are saying, like people telling me to hang myself, people just blatantly disrespecting the fact that I’m still a human being is not okay at all,” the 16-year-old said.
“You can hate on me for whatever I’ve done, but the fact that all of this is happening because [of a] misunderstanding, I just feel like that’s not okay, and if this is the community that I’m in and the community that I’ve put myself in, I don’t know if I want to do that anymore.”
The Snail Incident
The outrage against the young internet star began Monday after her family uploaded a new series to their YouTube channel titled, “Dinner with the D’Amelios.” That video featured beauty influencer James Charles as their first-ever guest.
However, the video caused many to slam Charli and her 19-year-old sister Dixie as “disrespectful” and “ungrateful.”
Some of the criticism stems from how they acted in front of the chef who cooked their meal for the episode. At one point during the dinner, Dixie found a snail in her food and looked disgusted by it.
The chef, Aaron May, told her snails are common in the dish she was eating and called it an omen of good luck and fortune, but she continued to gag and make faces.
When she finally tried the snail, she spit it back out and began heaving.
“So dramatic,” her mother Heidi said before telling Dixie to excuse herself from the table. Her father Mark echoed the comment about her reaction.
“Is she being real? Or is she being dramatic,” James added. “Oh she actually threw up. Ew.”
“Classic Dixie,” Heidi said.
“Do we have any Dino Nuggets?” Charli chimed in as Dixie tried to regain her composure.
That, on top of Charli’s comment, had a lot of people upset at not only their behavior but also how their parents handled it.
Charli’s Comment About 100 Million Followers
Then as the dinner continued, the conversation shifted towards their insanely quick rise to fame.
Charli, who has been dubbed the queen of TikTok, actually only joined the platform in June of 2019, and at the time of recording their video with James, Charli had just reached 95 million followers on the app.
“It hasn’t even been a year since I hit 1 million,” she said, which came as a shock to James.
Dixie then noted that her one year anniversary on the platform was just around the corner, saying, “Wait, October 30th…so October 30th, I didn’t have a TikTok. That’s the day I started my TikTok.”
“And this year, we have our collab that comes out the 30th, I have my song with Liam Payne that comes out the 30th, and I’m announcing Trippie Red’s album all on the 30th.”
Charli responded with, “Wait, woah woah woah woah woah. If we’re thinking about it. Okay, how far away? That’s Friday, okay. Ugh. I wish I, I wish I had like more time. Cause imagine if I hit 100 mil a year after hitting a mil.”
“Was the 95 not enough for you?” James jokingly asked.
“Well, I was just like saying, even numbers,” Charli replied.
That comment too caused viewers to call her ungrateful and too focused on the numbers. Some noted that many creators would kill to have as many followers and said the girls are already more famous as teens than most people will ever be in their entire lives.
it’s very obviously a joke on james’s part, but still, she’s more famous at 16-17 than most people will ever be in their lifetimes and being a famous teen can inflate your ego something fierce— 𝐬𝐚𝐦𝐚𝐧𝐭𝐡𝐚 💖’𝐬 𝐳𝐚𝐠𝐫𝐞𝐮𝐬 (@samlynee3) November 16, 2020
Eventually, James commented on a TikTok post about her remarks.
“Charli is soooo grateful for everyone that supports her. I was just joking with her when I said this, I don’t like these comments dragging her,” he wrote.
While Charli didn’t directly address the backlash right away, the day the video was released, she did come out and thank her fans for getting her to 99 million followers.
Charli Loses 1 Million Followers
Still, the outrage continued to build, prompting Dixie to respond in a TikTok late Wednesday explaining that her family is good friends with the chef and would never want to disrespect him. She also clarified that she is grateful for all the opportunities she has had.
She then explained that the chef and her team were trying to get her to eat the snail because they knew they could get a big reaction out of her. She also suggested that people were unfairly judging her based on a short clip.
However, that video seemed to fuel more backlash.
At first, it didn’t seem like the negative reactions were that bad. Charli had gained over 700,000 TikTok followers in the last three days, according to Social Blade, which put her highest follower count on record at 99.4 million.
But by Thursday afternoon, she had lost around 1 million followers on the app.
That might not seem like a lot in the grand scheme of things, but all of the hate and attention this has brought is clearly taking a toll on the family, prompting Charli’s tearful Instagram live.
Charli, for her part, explained her comments and the whole snail situation were misunderstood and getting blown out of proportion. As of now, it seems like it has sparked a shift in the responses as more fans come to her defense and remind the public that she is just a child.
After her stream, James took to Twitter to show the family more support.
His comments came one day after Chef May expressed his admiration for Charli and Dixie in an interview with The Hollywood Fix. In that interview, May said that he held no animosity over the video and added that he felt the issue was “overblown” and “fake news.” He also said that it was Dixie’s creative director, Tommy Burns, who put him up to including snails on the menu to get a reaction out of Dixie.