Lupita Nyong’o is a phenomenal actress, stunningly beautiful, and extremely likable. Seriously, you don’t get more endearing than revealing that you spent most of your first trip to America playing Final Fantasy.
Sadly, she has come forward as yet another woman in Hollywood with stories of her encounters with Harvey Weinstein.
Harvey Weinstein is being investigated for rape by law enforcement, but that doesn’t mean that women shouldn’t feel free to come forward with what they experienced. Every story helps. This is Lupita’s.
Writing in the New York Times, Lupita Nyong’o describes her Harvey Weinstein encounters in harrowing detail.
"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."
Not voluntarily or even really knowingly, however.
"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."
"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. I have felt such a flare of rage that the experience I recount below was not a unique incident with me, but rather part of a sinister pattern of behavior."
Lupita describes her first encounter with the now infamous mega-producer, from when she was still a Yale drama student.
"I found him to be very direct and authoritative, but also charming. He didn’t quite put me at ease, but he didn’t alarm me, either."
Lupita reports that she was invited to attend a screening with Harvey Weinstein and that he first took her to lunch, where he attempted to verbally strongarm her into drinking a mixed drink of diet soda and vodka.
Reflecting on this, Lupita didn’t first see it as a sign that he was attempting to groom her to follow his instructions.
"I found him to be pushy and idiosyncratic more than anything."
After that lunch, however, at his house, they had an encounter that had nothing to do with the film.
"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."
We can imagine so.
"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."
That was a smart way of exercising control, but she should never have been put in that position to begin with.
One, massages — like lunches and drinking — can be segues into sex but they can (and so often are) just massages and entirely platonic. Based upon numerous reports, it appears that to Harvey, they meant only one thing.
Two, while it’s not uncommon for people to invite someone over to watch something when they have more amorous intentions, Netflix and chill needs to be consensual. Like everything else.
Massages can be a great means of seduction, but if you’re planning on moving things beyond a massage or bringing nudity into the mix, you need to make certain that you’re both on the same page.
Lupita says that she didn’t quite know how to process that encounter.
"I reasoned that it had been inappropriate and uncalled-for, but not overtly sexual. I was entering into a business where the intimate is often professional and so the lines are blurred. I was in an educational program where I was giving massages to my classmates and colleagues every day."
A lot of predators rely upon corrupting activities that are usually innocent and upon blurred lines in order to give themselves plausible deniability.
Beyond that, they rely upon the victims whom they are grooming to justify what they’re doing, for themselves.
There was at least a degree of conscious apprehension on Lupita’s part.
"I didn’t know how to proceed without jeopardizing my future. But I knew I would not be accepting any more visits to private spaces with Harvey Weinstein."
That was smart.
Lupita describes innocuous encounters that she had with Harvey Weinstein in which he seemed to be immensely charming and non-threatening.
She was always careful to meet him with groups of people.
Like Lena Headey describes of Weinstein, Lupita had come to believe that the man was respecting her boundaries.
And then she describes meeting him for a meal that she had assumed would include others, and waiting with one of Weinstein’s assistants who, to Lupita, appeared adjitated.
At the time, Lupita chalked it up to working for a busy, powerful man. Obviously, in light of what we have all now heard, perhaps
"Again he was offended by my nonalcoholic beverage choice but he didn’t fight me on it as hard."
Here’s a tip, folks: if someone seems genuinely put out that you’re not drinking, there’s definitely something going on. Maybe it’s just alcoholism or maybe the person’s a strict traditionalist, but it could be something way worse.
"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 naive. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing."
Lupita declined, despite what she says were fairly blunt offers to boost her career.
At that point, the two of them were done. She left without eating, and Weinstein said that she, personally, would be fine, but he didn’t know about her career.
In a statement to E!, Harvey Weinstein’s spokesperson responded to Lupita Nyong’o’s allegations:
"Mr. Weinstein has a different recollection of the events, but believes Lupita is a brilliant actress and a major force for the industry."
So … whatever that’s worth.
(Now would not be a great time to be that guy’s spokesperson, you know?)
We’re so glad that Lupita shared her story.
We do worry, however, that some women who haven’t yet come forward about Harvey Weinstein sexual assaults might actually feel further undeserved shame when they read these stories of the women who got away.
But every story helps shed some light on the culture of harassment and sexual predation that has infested so many parts of our culture.