Kenya’s Oscar winning actress Lupita Nyong’o is the latest addition to the list of women who are opening up about being abused by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
In a long and emotional opinion piece for The New York Times published on Thursday, Lupita gives a candid personal account of how Weinstein intimidated, harassed and openly asked her for sex during their interactions.
Her voice joins those of several other women in the acting industry who have recently talked about being assaulted by Weinstein.
“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,” read Lupita’s revelation.
She explains how Weinstein preyed on her when she was a young clueless student seeking for ways to get into the big screen. He dangled a promise to help her; but hooked it on asking for sexual favours.
Lupita says she first met Weinstein six years ago at an awards ceremony in Berlin while she was a student at Yale School of Drama. They exchanged contacts, with Lupita hoping to be involved in some of his projects. What she did not know was the exchange would lead into what she describes as an encounter that makes her sick in the pit of her stomach.
Soon after their meeting in Berlin, Lupita got an invitation from Weinstein to attend a screening of a film. Weinstein suggested they meet at a restaurant before heading for the screening.
“I did not think much of this. It was a busy restaurant,” she says.
Forced to drink vodka
She ordered for juice. Weinstein demanded that she orders for vodka. They went back and forth before Weinstein turned to the waiter and said:
“Get her what I tell you to get her. I’m the one paying the bill.”
Even though Lupita was adamant about her choice of drink, she knew Weinstein was trouble. At the screening, he interrupted the show by telling Lupita he had something to show her.
“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,” says Lupita.
She says she thought it safe to be the one to give the massage, as it would give her a sense of control. She proceeded to massage him, feeling she could rationalise it and keep a semblance of professionalism in spite of the bizarre circumstance.
Weinstein asked if he could strip. Lupita said no. He proceeded to do it anyway, making her bolt out.
“I didn’t quite know how to process the massage incident. ...I was entering into a business where the intimate is often professional and so the lines are blurred,” says Lupita.
Lupita’s confession dovetails with those of other Hollywood actresses like Asia Argento, Rose McGowan and Mira Sorvino who allege abuse from Weinstein. Angelina Jolie also told media Weinstein made advances at her in the 90s, but she rejected his advances. In a statement, Weinstein apologised for his conduct.
Meanwhile, the hashtg #MeToo emerged on social media shortly after the accusations. The original tweet encouraged anyone who has been sexually abused to put #MeToo as a status to show the magnitude of sexual abuse in the world.
In 24 hours, Twitter says they recorded close to 1.2 million tweets under #MeToo with Facebook analytics showing close to 1 million people talking about their experiences. Lupita’s confession got many comments, with many people lauding her for daring to speak up. Even though there were other comments that blamed her for putting herself at risk for associating with Weinstein after he showed signs of abuse.