20/10/2017 07:22 SAST | Updated 20/10/2017 18:32 SAST

Lupita Nyong’o Says Weinstein Pushed Her To Massage Him: 'I Panicked'

The Oscar winner writes that she was a part of a “community of women” who were secretly dealing with the producer’s abuse.

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12:  Actress Lupita Nyong'o attends the inaugural Image Maker Awards hosted by Marie Claire at Chateau Marmont on January 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Marie Claire)
Rich Polk via Getty Images
LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 12: Actress Lupita Nyong'o attends the inaugural Image Maker Awards hosted by Marie Claire at Chateau Marmont on January 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rich Polk/Getty Images for Marie Claire)

Two weeks after investigative journalists exposed decades of accusations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein, Oscar-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o has come forward with her own allegations against the disgraced producer.

In an op-ed for The New York Times, Nyong’o, 34, said Weinstein invited her to lunch, then to his Connecticut home for a private movie screening, where he brought her up to his room, offered to give her a massage, then said he wanted to take off his pants. She also accused the Hollywood mogul of abruptly ending a dinner with her after she declined his invitation to come up to his hotel room.

These encounters, Nyong’o wrote, happened when she was still an aspiring actress and student at the Yale School of Drama. 

“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,” wrote the actress, who won an Academy Award in 2014 for her supporting role in the acclaimed film “12 Years a Slave.”

“But now that this is being discussed openly, I have not been able to avoid the memories resurfacing.”

More than 40 women have accused Weinstein of using his power in the industry to manipulate, harass and sexually abuse them. The alleged incidents span decades. Police in Los Angeles, New York and London are investigating claims of sex crimes, including rape, against the producer.

Many of Weinstein’s accusers’ stories have a similar pattern: Weinstein lured them into a room under the guise of a business meeting, then pressured them into an intimate act. In some cases, Weinstein is accused of rape. In others, he is accused of humiliating them after they rejected his advances.

His alleged victims include Asia Argento, Ashley Judd, Kate Beckinsale, Ambra Battilana Gutierrez and Rosanna Arquette.

In her op-ed, Nyong’o described Weinstein’s bullying and unwanted advances on her. She explained how he made it difficult when she told him no, and what she had to do to try to take back control of the situations he put her in.

During a lunch with Weinstein, Nyong’o said, the producer insisted that she order a vodka and soda, ordered one for her and then told her she needed to drink it even after she declined it more than once.

“We went back and forth,” the actress wrote, “until finally he turned to the waiter and said, ‘Get her what I tell you to get her. I’m the one paying the bill.’”

Later at a movie screening at his house, Weinstein interrupted the movie and led Nyong’o up to his bedroom, where he told her he wanted to massage her. Feeling uncomfortable and uncertain, the actress said she offered to give him one instead so she could be in control of the situation.

She rationalized that decision: It would be just like her body work classes in her drama department, in which students massage each other to understand the connection between body, mind and emotion. 

Nyong’o recalled:

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.

The massage ended when Weinstein said he wanted to take off his pants.  Nyong’o left the room and eventually his house. 

At another dinner with the producer, Nyong’o said, Weinstein cut their meal short after she rejected his invitation to go up to his hotel room:

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.

I was silent for a while before I mustered up the courage to politely decline his offer.

Nyong’o ― who’s starred in several blockbuster films in her career, including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and the upcoming “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” ― said that she hasn’t faced any such harassment since her encounters with Weinstein. She attributes this to choosing projects led by women and “men who are feminists in their own right who have not abused their power.”

Weinstein isn’t the only powerful figure in Hollywood accused of abuse. Former Playboy model Carrie Stevens and actress Patricia Arquette have accused director Oliver Stone of abusive behavior. Weinstein’s brother Bob has also been accused of being abusive and a bully.

The actress said the industry’s “intimate nature” is why insiders must stay vigilant about abusers in the industry.

“Now that we are speaking, let us never shut up about this kind of thing,” she wrote. 

“I speak up to contribute to the end of the conspiracy of silence.” 

Read Lupita Nyong’o’s op-ed here.

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