Lupita Nyong’o Details Harvey Weinstein Assault: ‘I Felt Unsafe’
Lupita Nyong’o has come forward with a troubling account of unwanted advances she received from Harvey Weinstein and how fellow industry heads can lead the fight against sexual assault.
In an op-ed for The New York Times Thursday (Oct. 18) the Academy-award winning actress explained how she was unaware that other actresses were subjected to Weinstein’s behavior and just how bad it was. After meeting in 2011 during her time at Yale School of Drama, Nyong’o recalled the time she was invited to his home for a screening of a film. The two had dinner before the screening, where he pressured her to drink alcohol. He wasn’t thrilled that she refused, calling her “stubborn.”
“Harvey told me that I needed to drink the vodka and diet soda. I informed him that I would not,” she wrote. “‘Why not?’ I remember him asking. ‘Because I don’t like vodka, and I don’t like diet soda, and I don’t like them together,’ I said. ‘You are going to drink that,’ he insisted. I smiled again and said that I wouldn’t. He gave up and called me stubborn. I said, ‘I know.’”
After meeting his domestic staff and children, Weinstein led her into his bedroom, offering a massage. To remain in control of the situation, Nyong’o requested to give the massage instead.
“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,” she recalled.
The actress says she decided to leave after he tried to remove his clothes during the massage. “I didn’t quite know how to process the massage incident. I reasoned that it had been inappropriate and uncalled-for, but not overtly sexual,” she wrote. “I was entering into a business where the intimate is often professional and so the lines are blurred. I was in an educational program where I was giving massages to my classmates and colleagues every day. Though the incident with Harvey had made me uncomfortable, I was able to explain and justify it to myself, and shelve it as an awkward moment.”
Her worries left her confused after she was repeatedly told by actresses and peers that Weinstein was someone she should know.” The final straw came after she was invited to a screening of a film and later taken to a restaurant by one of his assistants.
“Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal,” he told her, admitting that actresses had to “be willing to do this sort of thing” to be famous.
“With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass,” she told him. Weinstein ended the dinner and later told her, “I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine,”after she inquired about his reaction. “It felt like both a threat and a reassurance at the same time; of what, I couldn’t be sure,” he wrote.
She never met with Weinstein privately after the encounter, but he came back around after the success of 12 Years A Slave to apologize for his actions. She was offered film roles from Weinstein Company’s movies and continued to refuse them.
Looking back, the actress shared the need for having allies in the industry and why it’s never too late to speak out. “Our business is complicated because intimacy is part and parcel of our profession; 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.”
“Though we may have endured powerlessness at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, by speaking up, speaking out and speaking together, we regain that power,” she added “And we hopefully ensure that this kind of rampant predatory behavior as an accepted feature of our industry dies here and now.”
So far, over 40 actresses and media professionals have shared their stories of sexual assault against Weinstein. Several have taken legal action; one being Rose McGowan who was reportedly raped by the label head in 1997.