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Heidi Klum Says She Received Backlash for Defending AGT: ‘I Was Called a White Woman’

“I’ve only had an amazing experience,” Heidi Klum previously said of her experience on America’s Got Talent

Heidi Klum is opening up about the backlash she says she received after defending America’s Got Talent amid Gabrielle Union‘s controversial firing.

“A lot of people got mad at me,” Klum told Page Six. “I was called, for example, ‘a white woman.’”

Klum went on to explain that while she thinks it’s “important for everyone to speak their truth,” her experience with AGT was different.

“I think it is important for everyone to speak their truth. I think that when there is a story, it should be told. I had a different story,” Klum told Page Six.

When asked about Union’s reported claims of a toxic work environment, Klum told reporters last month at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour, “I’ve only had an amazing experience.”PAID CONTENT

“I can’t speak for her. I didn’t experience the same thing. To me, everyone treats you with the utmost respect. I’ve never seen anything that was weird or hurtful.”

The supermodel said any tension seen among judges during the show was simply for entertainment purposes.

“Of course, there’s always this cat-and-dog fight, but this is fun. You say something silly,” she said. “For me, being on television, I want to entertain people. I want people to have a good time. I want people to go away from their life for two hours and just have fun and enjoy.”

Days later Klum clarified her sentiments to PEOPLE.

Heidi Klum, Gabrielle Union
Heidi Klum, Gabrielle Union DIMITRIOS KAMBOURIS/GETTY IMAGES; MATT WINKELMEYER/GETTY IMAGES

“Recently, a reporter asked me to share my thoughts about Gabrielle Union’s experiences while working as a judge on America’s Got Talent. I told the reporter that I had not experienced similar issues while I was a judge on the show — my experience was a positive one. I can only speak of my own truth, and by no means is that meant to negate or question Gabrielle’s truth,” Klum told PEOPLE exclusively in a statement.

“I am aware that my experience may not be the same as Gabrielle’s. What I can tell you is that I am a fierce advocate for all people, no matter their race, age, religion, gender or sexuality. Everyone should be treated equally and with utmost respect. Personally, I have experienced very hurtful things while being married to a man of color and having three beautiful children with him. While everyone’s challenges are different, I want nothing more than for a just world and for people to be kinder to one another,” concluded the star.

Klum, who is now a judge on the spin-off America’s Got Talent: Champions, left the original series after she and Mel B were replaced by Julianne Hough and Union for season 14.

News broke on Nov. 22, 2019, that Union, 47, and Hough, 31, would not be returning for AGT‘s 15th season. The announcement stirred up a controversy over Union’s reported allegations of racial insensitivities on set.

A Nov. 26 report by Variety claimed that while working on the show, Union expressed concerns over a joke allegedly made by guest judge Jay Leno that was later edited out of the episode.

Heidi Klum on AGT
Heidi Klum on AGT TRAE PATTON/NBCU

The report also claimed both Union and Hough said they were subjected to “excessive notes” on their physical appearance. In one instance, Union reportedly said she was told her ever-changing hairstyles were “too black” for AGT‘s audience, while Hough reportedly said she received constant criticism on her hair, makeup and wardrobe.

In a statement to the publication at the time, Hough denied that she had a negative experience on the show and said she was “happy to continue my working relationship with NBC.”

Hough later spoke out in support of Union.

Union revealed on Dec. 4 that she had sat down with NBC and America’s Got Talent production companies, Fremantle and Syco Entertainment, show creator Simon Cowell‘s firm. In a joint statement, Syco Entertainment, Fremantle and NBC said: “We remain committed to ensuring a respectful workplace for all employees and take very seriously any questions about workplace culture. We are working with Ms. Union through her representatives to hear more about her concerns, following which we will take whatever next steps may be appropriate.”

Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough on AGT
Gabrielle Union, Julianne Hough on AGT TRAE PATTON/NBC

Union also tweeted about the talk, writing, “We had a lengthy 5-hour, and what I thought to be, productive meeting yesterday. I was able to again, express my unfiltered truth. I led with transparency and my desire and hope for real change.”

Show creator and judge Cowell has reportedly enlisted tenacious longtime Hollywood litigator Larry Stein as his legal representation. (Union is working with Megyn Kelly’s former attorney Bryan Freedman.)

Still, many involved are hopeful for a positive outcome.

“The initial conversation was candid and productive,” an NBC spokesperson said in a statement to PEOPLE about their sit-down with Union. “While there will be a further investigation to get a deeper understanding of the facts, we are working with Gabrielle to come to a positive resolution.”

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