Yesterday, Academy Award winning actress Lupita Nyong'o added her voice to the list of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's accusers, in an op-ed she wrote for The New York Times.
Hers is a detailed, beautifully written and poignant account sharing an intimate look at her thoughts and feelings during multiple encounters she had with the executive. It also sheds valuable insight into how a manipulator can exploit the dark side of emotional intelligence, as well as to why many women are afraid to speak out about sexual harassment and assault.
I highly recommend you read Nyong'o's full piece, but here are five of the most powerful lines, along with the context that makes them so potent.
1. "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."
In the conversation that has emerged since The Times initially broke the story of allegations against Weinstein, many wonder why the victims hadn't previously spoken up. Nyong'o helps answer that question: "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."
Because of this, for many women, the default action is to try and forget.
They don't try to forget what happened. Not only is that impossible, they must remember such situations to help protect themselves from future encounters.
Rather, they try to forget the negative emotions, which threaten to consume a person's every thought...to fill them with a combination of fear, sadness and rage that eats them up from the inside.
But as Nyong'o now realizes, speaking up can not only help to manage those negative emotions, it can focus them into something positive by creating a culture where such behavior is no longer tolerated.
2. "In this first encounter, I found him to be very direct and authoritative, but also charming."
With this line, Nyong'o captures the essence of how emotional intelligence, the ability to recognize the power of emotion and use that knowledge to influence behavior, can be used for evil as much as it can be used for good.
Those who are skilled at using manipulation rarely attack their victims directly. Rather, they use a variety of techniques to create intrigue and curiosity. Despite a series of subsequent experiences that proved alarming (yet from Nyong'o was always able to escape), the actress says Weinstein always returned to being "charming and funny," which was complicated by the amount of power he held in the industry.
For example, Weinstein invited Nyong'o for dinner with a number of fellow Hollywood influencers, even inviting her to bring along whoever she'd like. (Nyong'o invited two trusted male friends.)
She explains her thought process:
"He was charming and funny once more, and I felt confused about the discomfort I had previously experienced. My friends had been equally charmed by Harvey. He knew when to turn it on if he wanted something. He was definitely a bully, but he could be really charming, which was disarming and confusing. I left feeling that perhaps he had learned my boundaries and was going to respect them."
But soon enough Nyong'o would find out that was not the case.
A couple of months later, after Weinstein invited Nyong'o to a restaurant for drinks after the screening of a film. "Feeling more confident about the new sense of boundaries that we had established in our last meeting, I attended the screening on my own this time."
According to Nyong'o, Weinstein than said the following:
3. "Let's cut to the chase. I have a private room upstairs where we can have the rest of our meal."
"I told him I preferred to eat in the restaurant," replied Nyong'o. "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."
And there it was: a person who is manipulating for selfish gain may be funny or charming, they may seem harmless for a time...but eventually, they attack.
In cases of assault, the attack may be physical. In instances like this, it is emotional, rife with heavy implications and complicated overtones, designed to pressure, overwhelm and pit your own emotions against you.
Nyong'o responded with the following:
4. "With all due respect, I would not be able to sleep at night if I did what you are asking, so I must pass."
How did she manage to speak so bravely? What enabled her to make the right choice?
Nyong'o gives us a hint:
"I was silent for a while before I mustered up the courage to politely decline his offer."
Here we see the value of what I describe as the pause: the action of taking a moment--whatever amount of time you need--to make sure what you say or do is in harmony with your true goals, priorities and values.
The pause may be simple in theory, but it can be extremely difficult in practice. At that moment, when one is caught up in a flurry of emotions, to stop and think becomes quite possibly the hardest thing in the world to do.
Kudos to Nyong'o for taking the time she needed to respond. In due time, this strong and talented actress also came to a conclusive decision:
"I made a quiet promise to myself to never ever work with Harvey Weinstein," she writes.
5. "Let us never shut up."
Nyong'o's conclusion is especially powerful. She acknowledges that she only found the courage to share her experience now because of a recent discovery, that "there was a world in which anybody would care about my experience with [Weinstein]."
But it is that discovery that has shifted the position of power.
"You see, I was entering into a community that Harvey Weinstein had been in, and even shaped, long before I got there," writes Nyong'o. "He was one of the first people I met in the industry, and he told me, 'This is the way it is.' And wherever I looked, everyone seemed to be bracing themselves and dealing with him, unchallenged. I did not know that things could change."
But Nyong'o now hopes things are changing.
"I hope we can form a community where a woman can speak up about abuse and not suffer another abuse by not being believed and instead being ridiculed. That's why we don't speak up--for fear of suffering twice, and for fear of being labeled and characterized by our moment of powerlessness.
Though we may have endured powerlessness at the hands of Harvey Weinstein, by speaking up, speaking out and speaking together, we regain that power...
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."
Bravo, Ms. Nyong'o. Bravo.