Amid recent sexual abuse allegations against Harvey Weinstein, Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is revealing that the film mogul harassed her as well.
Nyong’o, 34, contributed a piece to The New York Times published Thursday extensively detailing her account of instances where she was in the presence of Weinstein. In 2011, not long after Nyong’o first met Weinstein in Berlin, she was invited to his family home in Connecticut to watch a film screening.
Nyong’o, a student at the Yale School of Drama at the time, said that at one point he insisted she leave the screening room with him. His young children were present at the time, she said.
“Harvey led me into a bedroom — his bedroom — and announced that he wanted to give me a massage,” she wrote.
“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.”
Nyong’o said body-massage techniques were a part of her drama school curriculum training to understand the connection between “body, mind and emotion.” She said she was trying to keep a “semblance of professionalism” in the “bizarre” circumstances.
But Weinstein then 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,’ I said.”
She said she “didn’t quite know how to process the massage incident. I reasoned that it had been inappropriate and uncalled-for, but not overtly sexual.”
Nyong’o later accepted an invitation from Weinstein to a stage reading of one of his new Broadway plays, but this time she brought friends with her and they had dinner with him afterward. She said Weinstein’s demeanor was much different than their encounter at his home.
“I left feeling that perhaps he had learned my boundaries and was going to respect them,” she wrote.
A few months later, Weinstein invited Nyong’o to a film screening, which she attended on her own. She agreed to meet Weinstein for drinks afterward but thought that a group of people would be attending as well.
But it was only Weinstein. Nyong’o said he blatantly told her she needed to comply with his demands because that’s how actresses get ahead.
“Let’s cut to the chase,” she wrote that Weinstein said. “I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal.” Nyong’o said he told her that if she wanted to be an actress, she had to be “willing to do this sort of thing.”
She said she “mustered up the courage to politely decline his offer.”
He eventually said, “So we are done here. You can leave.”
Nyong’o said the next time she saw Weinstein was in 2013 at the premiere of “12 Years a Slave,” the film that earned her an Oscar.
“He was ashamed of his actions and he promised to respect me moving forward,” she wrote. “I said thank you and left it at that. But I made a quiet promise to myself to never ever work with Harvey Weinstein.”
Million of women across the world have been sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse in an online campaign using the hashtag #MeToo on Twitter and with rolling posts on Facebook.
In the wake of allegations against Weinstein, on Sunday “Charmed” actress Alyssa Milano asked her followers to reply “Me Too” if they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted. Women around the world continue to use the hashtag #MeToo on social media sharing their experiences.
A number of women have said Weinstein sexually harassed or assaulted them in incidents dating back to the 1980s. The New York Police Department has said it is investigating a 2004 allegation of sexual assault by Weinstein. He has denied having non-consensual sex with anyone.