The #MeToo Movement is hitting a little closer to home in Black Hollywood.
Vincent Cirrincione, the former manager of Halle Berry and current manager of Taraji P. Henson, has been accused of sexual harassment by nine women of color, mostly who are African-American.
According to the Washington Post, the nine women–eight of which are Black and one who is Asian-American–came forward to the newspaper accusing Cirrincione of making sexual advances toward them. These accusations spanned almost 20 years from 1993-2011.
The Post reported that three of the women claimed that the Hollywood manager propositioned sex as a condition of representing them. Another woman claims Cirrincione offered to help her advance her career if she agreed to have sex with him on a monthly basis. In addition, another actress swears that he masturbated in front of her in his office while she was a client.
Even worse? Since Cirrincione was one of the few managers who pushed Black actresses into the spotlight in Hollywood, he would “dangle” his success with Berry and Henson in front of these newcomers like “bait,” the women said.
Of course, Cirrincione denies that he sexually harassed or used his power and position to get women to have sex with him. He claims that his only bad deeds were having affairs and cheating on his girlfriend.“We live in a time where men are being confronted with a very real opportunity to take responsibility for their actions. I support this movement wholeheartedly. I have had female clients and employees my entire career in this industry. I have built a reputation for advancing the careers of women of color,” Cirrincione said.
He added, “I have had affairs while in committed relationships, ones I am now ashamed to say are coming to light and shading my past and my reputation. I can say without a doubt that I have never used favors, sexual or otherwise, as a reason for managing anyone. I want to make it clear that not one of those relationships were anything but consensual.”
On Friday (Feb. 2), Halle took to social media to address the situation and remind the women that she stands by them.
”Yesterday I was saddened by the allegations against my former manager, Vincent Cirrincione, but today I’m sick after reading the horrifying detailed accounts of his abuse towards 9 women,” the 50-year-old Oscar winner said.
“I’m livid that he used me, and the role model he helped me become, to lure and manipulate innocent, vulnerable women of color for his predatory actions,” she continued.
“I’m deeply hurt and I want these women and countless others to know I see you. I hear you. You matter. I will fight for you.”
Berry ended her 25-year professional relationship with Cirrincione three years ago when she heard a disturbing story about him on a radio show that didn’t sit right with her.
“Over three years ago, a woman was on the radio saying that Halle Berry’s manager was her worst casting couch experience ever. That news literally stopped me in my tracks. I immediately confronted Vince about it, and he denied it completely. But even with his denial, something didn’t feel right in my spirit, and with the possibility that it could be true, I immediately ended our over-25-year relationship,” Berry said in a statement.
But she also stressed that Cirrincione had never been inappropriate with her.
Meanwhile, Taraji, who is currently a client of Cirrincione, isn’t talking about walking away from him, at least not yet.
She told the Post, “I’ve never had any issue with this on any level. He totally respected me…He saw a single mother trying to make her dreams come true, and he nurtured that.”
She added, “He wrote checks and wouldn’t ask for anything in return. It wasn’t coming from a creepy place. If anything, it empowered me. Like this man believes in me. I love him for that.”
“He is always brutally honest with me about black women’s space in this industry… I just looked to him as a man who understood the black woman’s plight in the industry. I never looked at him as a magical, mythical creature.”
It’s not a secret that Black women in Hollywood face steeper obstacles than their white counterparts. As The Post pointed out, a UCLA study found that of the top 168 U.S. films ranked in 2015, Black women starred in just two films; white women starred in 44.
Tamika Lamison, a director and one of the nine women accusing Cirrincione of sexual harassment, stressed that these disparaging numbers make Black actresses even more vulnerable to this type of harassment.
“Any kind of sexual misconduct or harassment that’s talked about from women is automatically suspect,” said Lamison. “For black women, it seems like we are even more marginalized when it comes to something like that. Historically, how we have been treated and looked at — and to some degree oversexualized — makes it difficult.”
In terms of Cirrincione, she was clear: “You have people who say he just made a pass, that he was just making an offer. But that’s not just what happened,” said Lamison, whose mother also recounted Lamison’s experience.
“He is abusing his power in a way that is really damaging.”