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Lupita Nyong’o is the latest Hollywood actress to level sexual harassment allegations against movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
In an op-ed for The New York Times published Thursday, Nyong’o revealed the disgraced producer made multiple inappropriate advances to her in private settings and once threatened her career upon being refused.
The actress first met Weinstein in 2011, when she was still a student at the Yale School of Drama, and was coerced into entering Weinstein’s bedroom after a lunch meeting, where he insisted on giving her a massage. “I thought he was joking at first. He was not. For the first time since I met him, I felt unsafe,” she recalled. After a brief moment of panic, Nyong’o offered to give him one instead: “It would allow me to be in control physically, to know exactly where his hands were at all times.”
“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,” she continued. “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.”
Weinstein allowed Nyong’o to leave, calling her “stubborn,” but the actress was unsure of how to process the incident.
“I reasoned that it had been inappropriate and uncalled-for, but not overtly sexual. I was entering into a business where the intimate is often professional and so the lines are blurred,” she reasoned then, fearing that rejecting his advances would mean “jeopardizing my future.”
Nyong’o had another encounter with the mogul months later. During a dinner meeting, she recalled Weinstein telling her, “Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.”
Nyong’o said she was “stunned” at his comment. “I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant. He told me not to be so naive. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing,” she wrote. “He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them.”
When she politely declined Weinstein’s offer, his “whole demeanor” changed and their meeting came to an abrupt end, she recalled. He told her, “I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine.”
The 12 Years a Slave and Black Panther star ended her column with a plea for change in the industry and the forming of a “community where a woman can speak up about abuse and not suffer another abuse by not being believed and instead being ridiculed.”
Commending the multitude of women who have come forward with their own stories of harassment by Weinstein, she added, “Though we may have endured powerlessness at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, by speaking up, speaking out and speaking together, we regain that power. And we hopefully ensure that this kind of rampant predatory behavior as an accepted feature of our industry dies here and now.”
Weinstein has since been terminated as co-chairman of The Weinstein Co. and is under investigation by ther LAPD, NYPD and London police.
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Representation in Hollywood