Politics and Society
Lupita Nyong’o opens up on her sexual harassment experience with Harvey Weinstein
Lupita Nyong’o, best known for her role in 12 Years a Slave is the latest woman to speak of her sexual harassment experience with Harvey Weinstein. Lupita is now encouraging everyone to “speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.”
The past few weeks have seen the name of American film producer Harvey Weinstein on social media and hogging the headlines in the mainstream news. Weinstein was accused for sexual assault or harassment. Since the first case came out, the list of women who have come out against Weinstein has increased by the day, the latest being Lupita Nyong’o.
In an article written by Lupita for the New York Times, she recounted how she met Weinstein in Berlin in 2011 while still a student at the Yale School of Drama. Making it a point to address Weinstein as “Mr. Weinstein” Lupita, still an aspiring actress was advised to “be careful around him.” “He can be a bully,” she was warned, a warning she remembered when Weinstein told the waiter at the restaurant they’d met up to “get her what I tell you to get her. I’m the one paying the bill.” Weinstein had invited her to watch a screening of a film, but somehow had found a way to first stop at a restaurant ordering a vodka and diet soda against Lupita’s wish.
For a man introduced to Lupita as the most powerful producer in Hollywood, he was used to forcing his wishes on others. Lupita says she found Weinstein to be “pushy and idiosyncratic,” a consistent trait from the accounts of other women he sexually harassed.
Read: Stealthing, a different kind of sexual assault
Weinstein’s technique has always been the same, use an occasion as a lure, or a meeting then isolate the intended victim. For Lupita, it was no different. Twice. After leaving the restaurant, they went to Weinstein’s house where the film was played at the screening room. Lupita would recount “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.”
Weinstein led her to his bedroom, and demanded to give Lupita a massage, which she refused.”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,” Lupita wrote.
After the massage Lupita left and went back to school. The second incident would be what would make them “two ships passing in the night.”
After inviting Lupita for another screening, Weinstein managed to get her alone once more. He went ahead to suggest they “cut to the chase” and finish the rest of the meal at a private room upstairs. Lupita’s response: “With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass.”
Unsure of whether her career was not jeopardised Lupita enquired if they were good. Weinstein replied with “I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine.” That was the last time she saw Weinstein.
Could other Black women speak out?
Lupita is the first woman of colour to speak out on her experience with Weinstein. It’s still uncertain if other women of colour would come out. Lupita’s image in Hollywood is viewed through the lens of an icon from those on the African continent. There have been calls for the movie industries across Africa to be scrutinised too, particularly Nigeria’s Nollywood.
Read: An Unspoken Menace: Sexual harassment in Nigerian Universities
Lupita’s hope for the industry is that “this kind of rampant predatory behavior as an accepted feature of our industry dies here and now.” But for an industry that’s built on glamour, power and fame eradicating such behaviour would take lots of work.
Acknowledging that silence won’t help in alleviating the problem, Lupita said “now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing. I speak up to make certain that this is not the kind of misconduct that deserves a second chance. I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.”
The women who spoke out against Weinstein were sexually harassed at a point in their careers when they were just starting out. The indictment of patriarchy in the revelations against Weinstein can’t be erased. Lupita’s account is not only shattering but it makes one question the silence of the men that knew of Weinstein’s behaviour. The entertainment industry generally has many stories similar to that of Lupita’s and the women that have spoken out on the sexual harassment by Weinstein.
Lupita Nyong'o is the latest victim of Harvey Weinstein. At this point it’s quicker to name the people he DIDN'T try to take advantage of.
— Denizcan S. (@MrFilmkritik) October 20, 2017