We knew the Harvey Weinstein stories weren’t over.
Sadly, now we’re hearing one from Lupita Nyong’o.
The Black Panther actress opened up in a lengthy New York Times op-ed on Thursday, in which she says she felt “a flare of rage” in learning how many women had been through what she had:
“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. 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. But now that this is being discussed openly, I have not been able to avoid the memories resurfacing. I have felt sick in the pit of my stomach.”
Here is her story:
“I met Harvey Weinstein in 2011 at an awards ceremony in Berlin, while I was still a student at the Yale School of Drama. An intermediary introduced him to me as “the most powerful producer in Hollywood.” As an aspiring actress, I was of course eager to meet people in the industry but cautious about strangers, and the intentions of men in general.”
She asked her dinner companions about Harvey and was given the typical response that he could be “a bully” — which meant it was better to have him in her corner than against her.
Ultimately she says he was somewhat “charming” despite his directness, and that “he didn’t alarm” her at first. So when he invited her to watch a screening of a film with his family at his home in Connecticut — near where she was living in New Haven — she accepted.
His family was actually there, at least. But when they all gathered to watch the film, that’s when Harvey pounced:
“I settled in for the film, but 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.”
In his home with his children there. Ick.
“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. 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…
He agreed to this and lay on the bed. I began to massage his back to buy myself time to figure out how to extricate myself from this undesirable situation. Before long he 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. 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,’ I said.
I opened the door and stood by the frame. He put his shirt on and again mentioned how stubborn I was. I agreed with an easy laugh, trying to get myself out of the situation safely. I was after all on his premises, and the members of his household, the potential witnesses, were all (strategically, it seems to me now) in a soundproof room.”
That time, Lupita was able to leave somewhat easily enough. She says she even justified the massage request to herself, though it helped that Harvey had enticed her with the possibility of a job (on an HBO show she later found out was already off the air).
But she was still uneasy with Harvey, so when he invited her to a reading of the play version of Finding Neverland, she politely refused — until he told her she could bring anyone she wanted. She attended with two male friends.
Nothing untoward happened the entire evening, including when a large group went out for dinner and drinks. So the next time he invited her to a screening — this time of Madonna‘s film W.E. — she accepted.
“Feeling more confident about the new sense of boundaries that we had established in our last meeting, I attended the screening on my own this time. Afterward, as planned, his male assistant arranged for me to get to the Tribeca Grill, where Harvey would be joining us. I met a female assistant when I arrived there. I was expecting that it would be a group of us, as it had been for the reading, but she informed me it would just be Mr. Weinstein. She would sit with me until he arrived. She seemed on edge, but I could only imagine how stressful it was to work for a man who had so much going on.”
As with other stories we’ve heard, the assistant “immediately disappeared” after Harvey arrived. And this time he was direct:
“Before the starters arrived, he announced: ‘Let’s cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.’ I was stunned. I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant. He told me not to be so naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing. He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them.
I was silent for a while before I mustered up the courage to politely decline his offer. ‘You have no idea what you are passing up,’ he said.
‘With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass,’ I replied.”
That’s when Lupita knew Harvey was through with her; she asked him if they were good and recalls his chilling response:
“‘I don’t know about your career, but you’ll be fine,’ he said. It felt like both a threat and a reassurance at the same time; of what, I couldn’t be sure.”
Lupita made a vow to herself never to work with Weinstein, a vow she kept when he tried to entice her following her Oscar win for 12 Years A Slave.
She explains why she’s telling her story now — for all the women who are like she was:
“I share all of this now because I know now what I did not know then. I was part of a growing community of women who were secretly dealing with harassment by Harvey Weinstein. But I also did not know that there was a world in which anybody would care about my experience with him. You see, I was entering into a community that Harvey Weinstein had been in, and even shaped, long before I got there. He was one of the first people I met in the industry, and he told me, “This is the way it is.” And wherever I looked, everyone seemed to be bracing themselves and dealing with him, unchallenged. I did not know that things could change. I did not know that anybody wanted things to change. So my survival plan was to avoid Harvey and men like him at all costs, and I did not know that I had allies in this.”
“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.
You can read her full op-ed HERE.
[Image via Apega/Michael Wright/WENN.]