So many judges. Since America’s Got Talent debuted in June 2006, the show has gone through many changes. Not only have the rules tweaked and the settings changed, but there have been a ton of celebrities who have taken a seat at the judges’ table.
The series, created by Simon Cowell, kicked off with Piers Morgan, David Hasselhoff and Sharon Osbourne calling the shots. Later, the show expanded to four judges and the creator ended up taking a seat at the table.
That said, the competition show is not without its controversies. In 2019, NBC announced that season 14 judges Julianne Hough and Gabrielle Union would not be returning after only one season. Following the shocking exits, reports surfaced that the Being Mary Jane star was let go from the show for urging those on set to speak up against an offensive joke made during filming. Additionally, staffers reportedly complained that the actress’ hairstyles were “too black” for the show’s audiences.
In an interview in May 2020, Union spoke out against the “toxic” culture at the show.
“I’m shape-shifting to make myself more palatable. I’m contorting myself into something I don’t recognize. I had to look at myself and say, ‘Do you want to keep it easy? Or do you want to be you, and stand up?’ Because I’m not the only one being poisoned at work,” she told Variety at the time, also claiming that Cowell smoked in his dressing room next to hers, even though she was allergic to smoke and had asked him to stop.
“I couldn’t escape. I ended up staying sick for two months straight,” the We’re Going to Need More Wine author said. “It impacted my voice, which affects my ability to do my job. I felt isolated. I felt singled out as being difficult, when I’m asking for basic laws to be followed. I want to come to work and be healthy and safe and listened to.”
Fremantle, Syco and NBC launched an investigation following her claims but found no evidence that the environment wasn’t inclusive.
“Through the investigation process, it has been revealed the no one associated with the show made any insensitive or derogatory remarks about Ms. Union’s appearance, and that neither race nor gender was a contributing factor in the advancement or elimination of contestants at any time,” the statement released at the time read. “We continue to remain committed to having an inclusive environment for everyone associated with the show, and to upholding AGT as one of the most diverse programs on television.”
In June 2020, the Bring It On star filed an official complaint alleging that she witnessed “racist jokes, racist performances, sexual orientation discrimination, and excessive focus on female judges’ appearances.”
The Welcome to the Party writer also alleged that NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy — who has since been let go from the network — threatened her when she spoke out about the racism she experienced.
Scroll down to look back at all the stars who have acted as judges on the show over the years.