UPDATE: Harvey Weinstein issued a statement Friday denying Lupita Nyong'o's account of her encounter with the producer. “Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry. Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed," Weinstein's rep told Entertainment Weekly.
Lupita Nyong'o adds her name to a growing number of actresses (including Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Rose McGowan and Cara Delevingne) who are detailing their experiences of alleged sexual assault, abuse and/or harassment at the hands of producer Harvey Weinstein. In an Op-Ed for The New York Times on Thursday, Nyong'o said she had several encounters with him long before her breakout role in 2013's 12 Years a Slave. The New York Times was the first to break the story of Harvey Weinstein's alleged sexual assaults and abuse.
"I had shelved my experience with Harvey far in the recesses of my mind, joining in the conspiracy of silence that has allowed this predator to prowl for so many years," she said. "I had felt very much alone when these things happened, and I had blamed myself for a lot of it, quite like many of the other women who have shared their stories."
Nyong'o wrote that she first met the producer at an awards ceremony in Berlin while she was still at the Yale School of Drama in 2011. Sometime after, he invited her to attend a film screening at his home. Prior to the screening they had lunch, where she said he tried to get her to drink against her will, to which she did not acquiesce. "I found him pushy and idiosyncratic more than anything," she said of their second meeting.
But it was at the screening at his home, where Nyong'o alleges that he first made unwanted advances. During the screening he insisted that he needed to show her something. "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," she wrote. "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."
She said she thought it would buy her time to get out of the situation, but then she said the producer 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," Nyong'o wrote. "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.”
It wouldn't be her last encounter with Weinstein. He invited her to a reading of Finding Neverland and she and some friends joined him for dinner afterward. Despite her early encounters and misgivings about Weinstein, she left that night without incident. "He was definitely a bully, but he could be really charming, which was disarming and confusing. I left feeling that perhaps he had learned my boundaries and was going to respect them," she explained. However, he allegedly made another untoward pass at her at a subsequent dinner meeting where she alleges he tried to get her to join him in a private room. She said she once again rebuffed his proposal.
Luong'o said she didn't see him again until September 2013 during the Toronto premiere of 12 years a Slave. She said he approached her at an after-party. "He was ashamed of his actions and he promised to respect me moving forward. I said, 'thank you' and left it at that. But I made a quiet promise to myself to never ever work with Harvey Weinstein." Her final encounter was after she won the Academy Award for her role in 12 Years a Slave. He offered her a movie role, which she turned down.
She went on to discuss the abuse of power "that keeps us isolated and allows for harm to continue to be done" and added that often people don't speak up "for fear of suffering twice."
"Though we may have endured powerlessness at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, by speaking up, speaking out and speaking together, we regain that power. And we hopefully ensure that this kind of rampant predatory behavior as an accepted feature of our industry dies here and now," she concluded. "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."