Published Oct 20, 2017Lupita Nyong'o is the latest actress to go public with her own experiences of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein.
The Oscar-winning actress has penned an op-ed for the New York Times, in which she details a pattern of disturbing meetings with the producer.
She explains that she first met Weinstein in 2011 at an awards ceremony in Berlin, after being warned by another producer in attendance to "be careful around him." Nyong'o met him and exchanged contact information in the hopes of landing a role in one of his future projects.
Soon afterwards, Weinstein invited Nyong'o to a film screening at his family home in Connecticut (near Yale, where the actress was studying). He sent a car to pick her up, which took her to meet him for lunch at a restaurant in the nearby town of Westport. During the meal, he insisted on ordering her a vodka and diet soda, and continued to pressure her to drink it despite her multiple refusals. "I found him to be pushy and idiosyncratic more than anything," she writes.
When they eventually arrived at Weinstein's family home, Nyong'o joined Weinstein, his young children and the domestic staff for the film screening. About 15 minutes in, the actress says Weinstein asked her to leave the room so he could show her something. Nyong'o writes she protested that she wanted to finish watching the movie, but when he grew insistent, she agreed to go with him to avoid a scene in front of his children.
According to the op-ed, Weinstein led Nyong'o to his bedroom and said he wanted to give her a massage. It was at this point the actress says she first felt unsafe. In an attempt to gain control of the situation, she says she offered to give him a massage instead — a recurring practice during body work sessions at drama school, which is how Nyong'o now says she rationalized keeping "a semblance of professionalism in spite of the bizarre circumstance."
Nyong'o claims Weinstein then proceeded to say he wanted to take off his pants, which Nyong'o says she objected to. When he stood up to take them off anyway, the actress says she opened the door and said she should return to school. He called her stubborn, according to Nyong'o.
"I agreed with an easy laugh, trying to get myself out of the situation safely," she writes. "I was after all on his premises, and the members of his household, the potential witnesses, were all (strategically, it seems to me now) in a soundproof room."
She shelved it as "an awkward moment" and remained in touch with Weinstein to keep the door open for professional opportunities. Nyong'o goes on to express her confusion over subsequent encounters with the producer, in which he remained simply charming and funny.
Soon afterwards, however, he singled her out for a hotel dinner meeting in New York in 2013. "I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal," he apparently proposed, to her shock. She says that he told her not to be "so naïve" and namedropped a number of actresses who were willing to "do this sort of thing" — implying it as the reason for their success. Ultimately, Nyong'o declined his offer and was told: "We are two ships going in two different directions."
At the Toronto premiere of 12 Years a Slave in September 2013, the actress and producer crossed paths again.
"He said he couldn't believe how fast I had gotten to where I was, and that he had treated me so badly in the past," she writes. "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."
Her final encounter with Weinstein came after her 2014 Academy Award win. After turning down a role he had offered her, he insisted on a meeting in Cannes, Nyong'o claims. "I ran out of ways of politely saying no and so did my agent," she writes. "I was so exasperated by the end that I just kept quiet."
When he finally accepted her decision to decline the role, he said he still wanted to work with her in the future. Nyong'o is very clear that when she told him "Thank you, I hope so," she was lying.
She ends her heartfelt op-ed with a call to arms, urging women to keep speaking out about unfair treatment and ending the cycle of secretive cover-ups for unacceptable behaviour.
"Now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing," she concludes. "I speak up to make certain that this is not the kind of misconduct that deserves a second chance. I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence."
Read her entire piece here.
Nyong'o is the latest in a long line of Hollywood A-listers to speak publicly about the allegations against Weinstein. Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, George Clooney and Emma Thompson have all condemned his behaviour, while actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie and Cara Delevingne have also come forth with their own disturbing stories of sexual harassment by Weinstein. Upon her return to Twitter, Rose McGowan publicly named Weinstein as her rapist for the first time last week.
Quentin Tarantino, meanwhile, publicly admitted yesterday (October 19) that he's known about the allegations against his frequent collaborator for years.