Heidi Klum is back on this season of America’s Got Talent: The Champions (Mondays at 8 p.m. ET on CTV) after former judges Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union were unceremoniously ousted. Union has gone public with allegations of racist and sexist behaviour at what sources call a ‘toxic work environment,’ but returning judge Klum is now coming to the defence of AGT and co-star Simon Cowell.
In November, NBC announced that Union and Hough would not have their contracts renewed after only one season on AGT. Although the pair’s addition to the talent competition resulted in a huge spike in social media engagement with viewers, the show, which is produced by Cowell, opted to replace the judges. A few days later, Variety ran a story that included multiple sources who worked on the show confirming that the workplace was toxic and that Union had been released from her contract for taking issue with racially insensitive jokes. According to the sources, Union and Hough were both constantly reprimanded for their appearance, with Union being singled out for hairstyles that were deemed “too black” for audiences.
On Tuesday, Klum participated in a Television Critics Association panel for her new series Making The Cut and spoke about her experience during the six seasons she’s appeared on AGT. “I’ve only had an amazing experience. I can’t speak for (Union). I didn’t experience the same thing,” she said via USA Today. “To me, everyone treats you with the utmost respect. I’ve never seen anything that was weird or hurtful.”
The German-born supermodel added that she’s never seen anything racist on set and enjoys engaging in playful banter with Cowell. “If there’s a girl on stage and she’s a beautiful girl … and I said, ‘I didn’t love the act so much, I think you’re gorgeous and this and that,’ and he’s like, ‘Meow!’ I think that’s funny, because I understand the joke, because normally girls are catty and it’s like, ‘Oh, maybe I don’t like the girl on the stage because she’s beautiful,'” said Klum. “But, like relax! It’s a joke.”
In December, Union tweeted that she had a five-hour “productive meeting” with NBC, which resulted in the company launching a formal investigation into America’s Got Talent. “The initial conversation was candid and productive,” a network spokesperson said in a statement to People. “While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution.”
While it’s a relief to hear that Klum’s experience on the show has been positive, it’s important to remember that one person’s experience doesn’t disqualify another’s. The investigation into the workplace culture of AGT is on-going and will likely last until the end of the month. If the show is in fact engaging in any types of behaviour that make employees feel uncomfortable, this investigation will hopefully bring those issues to light and ensure that they are corrected moving forward.
Watch America’s Got Talent: The Champions every Monday at 8 p.m. ET on CTV.