Heidi Klum 'Didn't Mean to Negate' Gabrielle Union's 'Truth' Amid 'America's Got Talent' Controversy

"While everyone's challenges are different, I want nothing more than for a just world and for people to be kinder to one another," Klum tells PEOPLE exclusively

AMERICA'S GOT TALENT: THE CHAMPIONS -- "The Champions One" Episode 202 -- Pictured: Heidi Klum
Photo: Trae Patton/NBC

Despite their different experiences on America’s Got Talent, Heidi Klum has Gabrielle Union‘s back.

After catching some flack for her comments about the talent competition show at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour earlier this week, the supermodel turned TV personality is clarifying her words.

“Recently, a reporter asked me to share my thoughts about Gabrielle Union’s experiences while working as a judge on America’s Got Talent. I told the reporter that I had not experienced similar issues while I was a judge on the show — my experience was a positive one. I can only speak of my own truth, and by no means is that meant to negate or question Gabrielle’s truth,” Klum tells PEOPLE exclusively in a statement.

“I am aware that my experience may not be the same as Gabrielle’s. What I can tell you is that I am a fierce advocate for all people, no matter their race, age, religion, gender or sexuality. Everyone should be treated equally and with utmost respect. Personally, I have experienced very hurtful things while being married to a man of color and having three beautiful children with him. While everyone’s challenges are different, I want nothing more than for a just world and for people to be kinder to one another,” concludes the star, who was previously wed to Seal.

Klum, 46, judged AGT for six seasons until May 2019, when she left and Gabrielle Union and Julianne Hough joined the panel. However, news broke on Nov. 22 that Union, 47, and Hough, 31, would not be returning for AGT‘s 15th season.

Days later, a report by Variety claimed that Union had expressed concerns over alleged racial insensitivity on set, and that both women said they were subjected to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance. (In a statement, Hough denied that she had a negative experience on the show and said she was “happy to continue my working relationship with NBC.”)

Now, Klum is back in the fold as a judge on America’s Got Talent: The Champions. Asked about the situation at the TCAs, she had told reporters, “I’ve only had an amazing experience. I can’t speak for her. I didn’t experience the same thing. To me, everyone treats you with the utmost respect. I’ve never seen anything that was weird or hurtful.”

Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough
Trae Patton/NBC

“Of course, there’s always this cat-and-dog fight, but this is fun. You say something silly,” she added. “For me, being on television, I want to entertain people. I want people to have a good time. I want people to go away from their life for two hours and just have fun and enjoy.”

Union revealed on Dec. 4 that she had sat down with NBC and the America’s Got Talent production companies, tweeting, “We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”

In a joint statement, Syco Entertainment, Fremantle and NBC said: “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. 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.”

AGT: The Champions airs Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on NBC.

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