While actresses such as Angelina Jolie, Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowen and Asia Argento have all come forward to share their horrific stories about how Harvey Weinstein allegedly sexually harassed and/or assaulted them, none of the disgraced movie mogul accusers have been Black.
In a riveting and brave op-ed for the New York Times, Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o shared her own “scary” encounters with Weinstein that left “a sick…pit in [her] stomach.”
According to the 12 Years A Slave actress, their first meeting was back in 2011 in Berlin when she was still a student at Yale. Eager to break into the industry, she was excited to sit down with the 65-year-old Oscar winner. Instantly, she was told Weinstein was a “good person to have in her corner.”
“I found him to be very direct and authoritative, but also charming. He didn’t quite put me at ease, but he didn’t alarm me, either,” she wrote.
It wasn’t until a second meeting in Connecticut, where he had a house, did Weinstein show his true colors.
“Harvey told me that I needed to drink the vodka and diet soda. I informed him that I would not,” she wrote of his actions while they were having lunch.
“‘Why not?’ I remember him asking. ‘Because I don’t like vodka, and I don’t like diet soda, and I don’t like them together,’ I said. ‘You are going to drink that,’ he insisted. I smiled again and said that I wouldn’t. He gave up and called me stubborn. I said, ‘I know.’”
After finishing their meal, she and Weinstein relocated to his home, where Nyong’o was introduced to his children and staff.
Nyong’o wrote that she thought nothing about the incident since Weinstein, and his children all began watching a film together. However, about 15 minutes in, Weinstein asked her to join him in a different room.
“I protested that I wanted to finish the film first, but he insisted I go with him, laying down the law as though I too was one of his children. I did not want another back-and-forth in front of his kids, so I complied and left the room with him. I explained that I really wanted to see the film. He said we’d go back shortly.
“Harvey led me into a bedroom — his bedroom — and announced that he wanted to give me a massage. I thought he was joking at first. He was not. For the first time since I met him, I felt unsafe. I panicked a little and thought quickly to offer to give him one instead: It would allow me to be in control physically, to know exactly where his hands were at all times.”
Nyong’o says she was naive and tried to “rationalize” what was happening by telling herself that in drama school they taught the actors massage technique.
She wrote: “I felt I could rationalize giving him one and keep a semblance of professionalism in spite of the bizarre circumstance. He agreed to this and lay on the bed. I began to massage his back to buy myself time to figure out how to extricate myself from this undesirable situation. Before long he said he wanted to take off his pants. I told him not to do that and informed him that it would make me extremely uncomfortable. He got up anyway to do so and I headed for the door, saying that I was not at all comfortable with that. ‘If we’re not going to watch the film, I really should head back to school,’ I said.”
She got up laughing nervously and headed for the door. His driver later took her home.
A few months later, he invited her to have drinks with him after a screening of “W.E.” in New York City. She accepted.
“Again he was offended by my nonalcoholic beverage choice but he didn’t fight me on it as hard,” Nyong’o detailed.
“Before the starters arrived, he announced: ‘Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.’ I was stunned. I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant. He told me not to be so naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing. He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them.”
She declined his offer, which caused his demeanor to change. He then told her: “Then I guess we are two ships passing in the night. So we are done here. You can leave.”
Nyong’o didn’t see Weinstein again until 2013 in Toronto during a screening of 12 Years A Slave. There he told her he was surprised at how fast she’d climbed up the Hollywood ladder.
He also told her, “He was ashamed of his actions and he promised to respect me moving forward. I said thank you and left it at that. But I made a quiet promise to myself to never ever work with Harvey Weinstein.”
Nyong’o ended her piece saying that she didn’t know this type of sexist and predatory behavior was so systematic in Hollywood. And since this was one of her first experiences in the industry and no one else had come forward, she thought she was all alone.
“I wish I had known that there were women in the business I could have talked to. I wish I had known that there were ears to hear me. That justice could be served. There is clearly power in numbers. I thank the women who have spoken up and given me the strength to revisit this unfortunate moment in my past.”
When news hit of her story, Twitter rallied around The Black Panther actress:
Thank you Lupita for bringing your truth to power.