Lupita Nyong'o stands with the women coming forward against Harvey Weinstein, explaining her own experience with the producer...
From the editors of InStyle US
Words by Jennifer Davis
‘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 wrote. ‘I had felt very much alone when these things happened, and I had blamed myself for a lot of it.’
‘But now that this is being discussed openly, I have not been able to avoid the memories resurfacing,’ she continued. ‘I have felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I have felt such a flare of rage at the experience.’
Nyong’o goes on to recount several encounters with Weinstein that are very reminiscent of other accounts from actresses who have come forward, starting with when she met him in 2011 in Berlin. After being introduced in Germany, Harvey invited Nyong’o, who was still in drama school at Yale, to a film screening at his home in Connecticut. Before they went to watch the movie, he took her out to lunch, where he forced her to order a vodka and diet soda. She refused to drink it, sticking to water instead much to his chagrin.
After the lunch, they arrived to screen the movie. Fifteen minutes into the film, he asked her to leave the screening to come with him because he wanted to show her something. Not wanting to have a back-and-forth in front of his children and his household staff, who were watching the movie with them, she complied.
He took her to his bedroom where her offered to give her a massage. It’s here she began to really panic and feel unsafe. ‘I 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.’
‘Part of our drama school curriculum at Yale included body work, using massage techniques on one another to understand the connection between body, mind and emotion, and so I felt I could rationalise giving him one and keep a semblance of professionalism in spite of the bizarre circumstance.’
While she was giving him the massage, he said he wanted to take off his pants. Nyong’o told him no, and was successfully able to extricate herself from the situation.
‘I didn’t quite know how to process the massage incident. I reasoned that it had been inappropriate and uncalled-for, but not overtly sexual,’ she said. ‘I was entering into a business where the intimate is often professional and so the lines are blurred. Though the incident with Harvey had made me uncomfortable, I was able to explain and justify it to myself, and shelve it as an awkward moment.’
The massage incident wasn’t her final encounter with Weinstein. After a fairly innocuous invite to watch Finding Neverland on Broadway, in which she was sure to bring two trusted male friends, he then invited her to a screening of W.E. Once it was over, he asked her to dinner. They ordered drinks and starters, but before the appetizers arrived he suggested they take the rest of their meal to his room.
She flat out refused. ‘With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass,’ she replied. He then escorted her to a taxi, offering a thinly veiled threat in parting. When she asked if they were good, he replied: ‘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.’
From there she refused to work with Harvey Weinstein ever again. A promise she kept, even when he came courting her with a role after her Oscar-winning turn in 12 Years a Slave.
With all of the women who have come forward, she now knows what she didn’t then: Her experience wasn’t isolated. ‘I was part of a growing community of women who were secretly dealing with harassment by Harvey Weinstein,’ she wrote towards the end of her essay. ‘But I also did not know that there was a world in which anybody would care about my experience with him.’
‘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.’