Actress Lupita Nyong’o became the latest woman to accuse Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment when she detailed her experience with him in a New York Times op-ed published earlier this week.
Nyong’o wrote that in 2011 Weinstein took her to a bedroom and asked if he could give her a massage. Nyong’o was nervous, she wrote, so instead she rubbed his back because she “could rationalize giving him one and keep a semblance of professionalism in spite of the bizarre circumstance.”
Then, Nyong’o wrote, Weinstein allegedly said he wanted to take off his pants and got up to do so. The actress said she left the room.
Later, after attending a movie screening where Weinstein was present, Nyong’o wrote that the Hollywood mogul allegedly said, “Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.”
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Again, she wrote, she denied his alleged advances. He paid for her cab ride, she said.
“I just want to know that we are good,” she recounted saying to Weinstein before driving away, afraid her rejection might affect her chances in the movie industry.
“I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine,” she recalled him responding.
The same day that op-ed went live, Weinstein released a statement to E! News denying Nyong’o’s accusation.
"Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry," a spokesperson for the mogul said to E! News. “Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed.”
Now, some are wondering if the denial is racist, as Nyong’o is the first black actress to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual harassment since The New York Times published this wave of charges, according to Vox.
The vast majority of women accusing Weinstein of sexual harassment are white, Buzzfeed wrote in an in-depth piece titled “There’s An Elephant In Harvey Weinstein’s Hotel Room.”
At first, in response to the New York Times’ article that brought to light his alleged pattern of sexual assault, Weinstein spokeswoman Sallie Hofmeister wrote “any allegations of nonconsensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr. Weinstein,” according to Teen Vogue.
But as more women came forward with their own stories of alleged sexual abuse from Weinstein — now over 40, according to CNN, including Ashley Judd, Angelina Jolie and Gwyneth Paltrow — the Hollywood producer told reporters “we all make mistakes” and revealed his plans to go to sex addiction rehab.
Weinstein’s specific and individual denial of Nyong’o’s claims has left some examining the role race might have played.
Despite the overflowing of support online for the “12 Years a Slave” actress, Weinstein’s pushback against Nyong’o’s detailed op-ed is exactly what she hoped to avoid.
“I hope we can form a community where a woman can speak up about abuse and not suffer another abuse by not being believed and instead being ridiculed,” Nyong’o wrote near the end of her op-ed. “That’s why we don’t speak up — for fear of suffering twice, and for fear of being labeled and characterized by our moment of powerlessness.”