Lupita Nyong’o Explains Why She and Other Harvey Weinstein Accusers Remained Silent Until Now

Lupita Nyong’o is the latest actress to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment, and in a piece she wrote for The New York Times, Nyong’o explained why it is that she and others remained silent for so long.

After going into detail about Weinstein behaving inappropriately and propositioning her on multiple occasions, Nyong’o explained that Weinstein was among the first people she met in the industry at a time when she was still in college, and she was under the impression that this is just how the business operated.

“You see, I was entering into a community that Harvey Weinstein had been in, and even shaped, long before I got there,” Nyong’o said. “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.”

Lupita Nyong’o | Matthew Eisman/Getty Images

She also said that she didn’t fully realize that there was a demand out there for people like Weinstein to be held responsible, but that changed over time, especially over the past few weeks.

“I was part of a growing community of women who were secretly dealing with harassment by Harvey Weinstein,” she writes. “But I also did not know that there was a world in which anybody would care about my experience with him…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.”

However, she said that by speaking up, women are making clear that there is indeed demand for change, and those who are victims of sexual harassment now have a community of people ready to listen and to help.

Finally, Nyong’o noted that another reason women do not come forward is that they do not want to be ridiculed and not believed.

“I hope we can form a community where a woman can speak up about abuse and not suffer another abuse by not being believed and instead being ridiculed,” Nyong’o said. “That’s why we don’t speak up — for fear of suffering twice, and for fear of being labeled and characterized by our moment of powerlessness.”

Lupita Nyong'o attends 7th Annual ESSENCE Black Women In Hollywood Luncheon February 27, 2014 in Beverly Hills, California.
Lupita Nyong’o in February 2014. |
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Lupita Nyong’o in her piece described being invited over to Harvey Weinstein’s house to watch a film with a group of people, only for him to bring her up to his bedroom and ask for a massage; he then began to remove his pants while Nyong’o said she was uncomfortable. In another instance, Nyong’o says that Weinstein invited her to dinner and immediately asked her to come up to his hotel room, making clear that this would be in exchange for career advancement, with Weinstein listing off all of the other actresses who he helped after they slept with him and saying, “You have no idea what you are passing up.” This was while Nyong’o was still in school and had not yet broken into the industry in a major way, although she did so just a few years later with 12 Years a Slave. Nyong’o never starred in a Weinstein Company film, and she says this was specifically because of these two incidents.

Nyong’o is only the latest actress to come forward with a similar story of sexual harassment by Harvey Weinstein; the vast majority of the stories involve actresses being invited up to Weinstein’s hotel room and him asking them for a massage. In some of the stories, the women have said that Weinstein exposed himself, began masturbating, or forced himself upon them. Some of the other actresses who have said they were victims of Weinstein’s harassment or assault include Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Cara Delevingne, and Rose McGowan.