Lupita Nyong'o: How Harvey Weinstein tricked me to his bedroom and wanted to 'massage me'
Lupita Nyong'o has come forward about her encounters with Harvey Weinstein in an op-ed in the New York Times , writing that not only did Weinstein attempt to ply her with alcohol when she met with him at a restaurant, but after they moved the meeting to his home to watch a film screening, tried to give her a massage. At a later meeting, the Oscar-winning actress wrote Weinstein propositioned her in a hotel restaurant.
According to Nyong'o, she met with Weinstein for the second time — after having initially met him in 2011 at an awards ceremony in Berlin while she was still in school at Yale — when he asked her to attend a screening at his home after sharing lunch at a restaurant. When she arrived at the restaurant in Westport, Conn., where Weinstein lived, Nyong'o described Weinstein ordering her a vodka soda and insisting that she drink it.
“Harvey told me that I needed to drink the vodka and diet soda. I informed him that I would not,” she wrote. “'Why not?' I remember him asking. 'Because I don't like vodka, and I don't like diet soda, and I don't like them together,' I said. 'You are going to drink that,' he insisted. I smiled again and said that I wouldn't. He gave up and called me stubborn. I said, 'I know.’”
After finishing their meal, she and Weinstein relocated to his home, where Nyong'o was introduced to his domestic staff and children. Nyong'o wrote that she, Weinstein, and his children all began watching the film together. About 15 minutes into the film, however, Weinstein asked her to accompany him outside the room.
“I protested that I wanted to finish the film first, but he insisted I go with him, laying down the law as though I too was one of his children. I did not want another back-and-forth in front of his kids, so I complied and left the room with him. I explained that I really wanted to see the film. He said we'd go back shortly.
“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. 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 wrote that after he removed his shirt and she began giving him a massage, he asked if he could remove his pants. She said she would prefer that he didn't and that it would make her extremely uncomfortable if he did so. Despite her protests, Weinstein got up to remove them, at which point Nyong'o moved toward the door.
“I opened the door and stood by the frame. He put his shirt on and again mentioned how stubborn I was,” she wrote. “I agreed with an easy laugh, trying to get myself out of the situation safely. I was after all on his premises, and the members of his household, the potential witnesses, were all (strategically, it seems to me now) in a soundproof room.”
Nyong'o wrote that she “didn't quite know” how to process the massage incident, and rationalized it. “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.”
Nyong'o continued that after the encounter, she met up with Weinstein once more, this time accompanied by friends as well as some of Weinstein's colleagues, for dinner and a staged reading of his new Broadway show “Finding Neverland.” During this meeting, Nyong'o experienced no untoward attention, and the fact that Weinstein was accompanied by other female actresses made her even more inclined to brush off the previous incident as an awkward encounter.
A couple of months later, Nyong'o wrote, Weinstein invited her to have drinks with him after a screening of “W.E.” According to Nyong'o, a male assistant arranged her transportation from the reading to the Tribeca Grill, where she would meet Weinstein for drinks. Although she assumed it would be a group of people, as it had been for the reading, when she arrived at the restaurant, she was informed by a female assistant that it would just be her and Weinstein. The assistant waited with her until Weinstein appeared, at which time she left.
“Again he was offended by my nonalcoholic beverage choice but he didn't fight me on it as hard,” Nyong'o detailed. “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 naïve. If I wanted to be an actress, then I had to be willing to do this sort of thing. He said he had dated Famous Actress X and Y and look where that had gotten them.”
Nyong'o said she was silent as she tried to think of something to say, and eventually declined politely, to which he responded: “You have no idea what you are passing up.” Nyong'o replied, “With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass.”
At that point, Weinstein's demeanor changed and he said, “Then I guess we are two ships passing in the night.” Nyong'o, not having heard the phrase before, asked him what it meant. He explained, and then said, “So we are done here. You can leave.”
Weinstein and Nyong'o left the restaurant, and Weinstein insisted on paying her cab fare. “Before I got in, I needed to make sure that I had not awakened a beast that would go on to ruin my name and destroy my chances in the business even before I got there,” she wrote. “'I just want to know that we are good,' I said. '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.”
The next time she saw him, Nyong'o said, was in 2013 at an after-party for the premiere of “12 Years a Slave.” Weinstein found her and commended her for her rapid progress in the industry. “He said he couldn't believe how fast I had gotten to where I was, and that he had treated me so badly in the past. He was ashamed of his actions and he promised to respect me moving forward. I said thank you and left it at that. But I made a quiet promise to myself to never ever work with Harvey Weinstein.”
Nyong'o finished by explaining that she had no idea at the time that this behavior from Weinstein was something other women were dealing with as well. The fact that he was one of the first people she'd met in the industry also prevented her from coming forward sooner, and the fact that no one else seemed to be challenging him. “I wish I had known that there were women in the business I could have talked to. I wish I had known that there were ears to hear me. That justice could be served. There is clearly power in numbers. I thank the women who have spoken up and given me the strength to revisit this unfortunate moment in my past.”
She also issued a call to action: “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.”