Julianne Hough Says Workplace Culture Is 'Shifting' as She and Gabrielle Union Exit AGT
News broke last month that Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union had been dropped as judges on the show after just one season
During an appearance Tuesday on People Now alongside her brother Derek Hough, the actress, dancer and singer weighed in on the situation as outrage continues to grow in Hollywood amid reports that their departures were the result of a toxic workplace culture at the NBC talent competition show.
“I would just say that — my goodness. I just believe and value at the highest regard that everybody has a voice and should be heard, first and foremost,” said Julianne, 31, who is set to star in two upcoming NBC Christmas specials. “And then I believe that the paradigm of the workplace and how you do business and work with people now, it’s shifting, and I think that the people that really want to see change happen are going to authentically and positively … do that. And so that’s all I really have to say about that.”
News broke on Nov. 22 that Julianne and Union — who joined the season 14 AGT judging panel in February, replacing spots vacated by Mel B and Heidi Klum — would not be returning for the show’s 15th season. (It has yet to be announced who will replace them.)
On Nov. 26, a report by Variety claimed that while working on the show, Union had expressed concerns over racially insensitive situations during her time as a judge, including a joke allegedly made by guest judge Jay Leno that was later edited out of the episode.
Julianne and Union, 47, were also both subject to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance, sources alleged in Variety‘s report, noting that Union was allegedly told that her ever-changing hairstyles were “too black” for the show’s audience, while Hough reportedly received constant criticism on her hair, makeup and wardrobe.
In a statement to the publication at the time, Julianne denied that she had a negative experience on the show and said she was “happy to continue my working relationship with NBC.”
Asked on People Now about the situation affecting her morale and confidence, Julianne said, “I’m good.”
“I know who I am, and as egocentric as this may sound, I totally and utterly love myself,” she said. “And so I choose to, with whatever I do, just take all the lessons that I’ve learned and add them to my vocabulary and move forward.”
Julianne has two projects in the works with the network: the hourlong special Holidays with the Houghs, alongside brother Derek, 34, and an appearance on the annual Christmas in Rockefeller Center program.
“There [are] so many projects that I’m doing with NBC that I’m really excited about,” she said on People Now. “There [are] lots of things out of our control, and so as long as I stay authentic in who I am and everybody else involved also stays connected to who they are, that’s all that matters, and not trying to please or have a perception of what you think people want to hear, and just staying true.”
Asked about the culture they want to foster as executive producers for their special, the siblings said they want their set to be “fun” and “safe” for everyone involved.
“One thing that we always do before we start, we [get] every film operator, sound, grip, lighting, dancer, every single person involved, and we say, ‘We love you all, we appreciate every one of you, we value every single person,'” Derek said. “We create a fun environment. We want it to be fun, we want it to be safe.”
“And when you do that, the people that work with you also then feel encouraged and empowered to spread it on, too,” Julianne added. “When they leave this set and this experience with us, they’ve had a great one and whatever project they work on again, now they’re paying it forward, and that’s how change happens.”
A spokesperson for NBC and production company Fremantle responded to the allegations in Variety‘s report in a Nov. 26 statement to PEOPLE, saying, “America’s Got Talent has a long history of inclusivity and diversity in both our talent and the acts championed by the show. 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.”
On Dec. 1, NBC, Fremantle and Simon Cowell‘s company Syco Entertainment, which produces AGT, released the following joint statement: “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.”
Union has not issued an official statement directly addressing the allegations, but she broke her silence on Nov. 27, thanking her followers for their support.
“So many tears, so much gratitude,” she tweeted. “THANK YOU! Just when you feel lost, adrift, alone… you got me up off the ground. Humbled and thankful, forever.”