Lupita Nyong’o has added her name to the growing list of Hollywood actresses that Harvey Weinstein is accused of sexually harassing.
In an op-ed for the New York Times, Nyong’o thanked other women for coming forward with their stories and detailed her encounters with Weinstein over the years, including a massage incident at his home while his young children were in another room.
“As actors we are paid to do very intimate things in public. That’s why someone can have the audacity to invite you to their home or hotel and you show up,” wrote Nyong’o who starred in “12 Years a Slave”, for which she won an Oscar, and “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.
Nyong’o first met Weinstein at a dinner in 2011 while she was still studying at the Yale School of Drama. One of her table-mates warned her “He is a good man to know in the business, but just be careful around him.”
Not long after, Weinstein invited Nyong’o out to lunch and a film screening at his home. The lunch was uncomfortable with Weinstein appearing highly irritated that Nyong’o didn’t want to order alcohol and demanded the waiter “Get her what I tell you to get her.”
But it was the situation at Weinstein’s home, where he offered to Nyong’o a massage, that echoes other stories of his sexual harassment.
“We got to his home after lunch and I met his domestic staff and his young children. He took me on a brief tour of the house before he rounded us all up in the screening room to watch the film.”
“I settled in for the film, but about 15 minutes in, Harvey came for me, saying he wanted to show me something. I protested that I wanted to finish the film first, but he insisted I go with him, laying down the law as though I too was one of his children. I did not want another back-and-forth in front of his kids, so I complied and left the room with him. I explained that I really wanted to see the film. He said we’d go back shortly.
Harvey led me into a bedroom — his bedroom — and announced that he wanted to give me a massage. I thought he was joking at first. He was not. For the first time since I met him, I felt unsafe. I panicked a little and thought quickly to offer to give him one instead: It would allow me to be in control physically, to know exactly where his hands were at all times.
Part of our drama school curriculum at Yale included body work, using massage techniques on one another to understand the connection between body, mind and emotion, and so I felt I could rationalize giving him one and keep a semblance of professionalism in spite of the bizarre circumstance. He agreed to this and lay on the bed. 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. 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. “If we’re not going to watch the film, I really should head back to school,” I said.
I opened the door and stood by the frame. He put his shirt on and again mentioned how stubborn I was. I agreed with an easy laugh, trying to get myself out of the situation safely. 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.”
Nyong’o saw Weinstein a few more times over the following years but one dinner stands out:
“Before the starters arrived, he announced: “Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.” I was stunned. I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant. He told me not to be so naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing. He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them.”
Nyong’o says she is now interested in “combating the shame we go through that keeps us isolated and allows for harm to continue to be done”.
The New York Times has more here.
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