Lupita Nyong’o felt compelled to share her own traumatic encounter with Harvey Weinstein last fall after a deluge of women came forward accusing the media mogul of sexual misconduct – but first, she had to tell her own mother.
“I had to talk to her about it because it was something that we hadn’t talked about,” she said in a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “She was really moved and very supportive.”
In October, Nyong’o penned a poignant essay detailing her own harassment at the hands of Weinstein, who invited her – before she became an Oscar-winning star – to his home on the pretext of a screening. Instead, the since-disgraced producer led her to his bedroom and said he wanted to give her a massage. She wrote that she “felt unsafe” and left shortly afterward.
The pair crossed paths several times after the incident – during one interaction at a Tribeca restaurant, Weinstein allegedly made another pass at the actress, suggesting that she sleep with him to further her career.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” he said, according to Nyong’o. “I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.” The actress declined, telling him, “With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking.”
The Black Panther star explained that when colleagues like Gwyneth Paltrow, Rose McGowan and Angelina Jolie began to add their voices to the growing chorus of accusers, she felt compelled to speak out.
“I felt uncomfortable in my silence, and I wanted to liberate myself from it and contribute to the discussion,” she said. “That was just what I felt I needed to do, quite viscerally. I couldn’t sleep. I needed to get it out.” She penned the New York Times essay, shared it with her mother, and then sent it off to be published.
Weinstein issued a statement shortly afterward denying Nyong’o’s accusations. “Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry,” the statement reads. “Last year, she sent a personal invitation to Mr. Weinstein to see her in her Broadway show Eclipsed.”
Nyong’o said she is hoping to be an active member of the Time’s Up anti-harassment initiative; she credited her insistence on justice to her father, a Kenyan intellectual who was exiled for much of her early life.
“My father raised us to stand up for what we believe in and to fight for what is right,” she said. “We were always told, ‘You need to make a difference in the world.’ I live with that insistence all the time.”