NBC released an official statement that both women were busy working on their respective projects. Union has an audacious side-hustle, starring opposite Jessica Alba in the Bad Boys television reboot, L.A.'s Finest. As for Hough, she can also be seen on the Netflix series Dolly Parton's Heartstrings. Insiders, however, are saying something else was behind the departures.
According to BET, "[Union's] contract was not renewed after being the No. 1 talent on the show, NBA, and network TV." This is according to a source at NBC who exclusively spoke with LoveBScott, saying:
"They only replace the women and Blacks at Simon [Cowell's] whim. She wouldn't walk away from $12 million because she's 'busy.' Based on weekly interactions on social media, by the time AGT finale aired, Gabrielle was the No. 1 talent on network TV for 2019. Why not pick up someone's option in extreme success?"
Fans of America's Got Talent may recall that host Nick Cannon left the show after a well-publicized falling out with producers. He was replaced with former model and TV host Tyra Banks, who lasted two seasons on the show herself before abruptly leaving. As for Hough, she walked away from a seat at the judge's table on Dancing With the Stars in 2017. Her move to America's Got Talent seemed to parallel brother Derek's jump to NBC for his role on World of Dance. Klum's notoriety suffered a huge hit when her other reality competition show Project Runway switched networks amid the Harvey Weinstein controversy. Hough and Union were both highly respected and adored by viewers, making this latest shakeup a questionable one.
This story sounds a little too familiar to be a mere coincidence. The same narrative about Heidi Klum and Mel B wanting to "work on other projects" was served up as a reason for Hough and Union's departure from America's Got Talent months later. While it wouldn't be a surprise if both women were busy, this show is a steady paycheck. That's the Holy Grail for any working celebrity. It appears that America's Got Talent has a habit of unloading judges to shake up the panel and silence controversial opinions. It's a shame, too, because Union is personable, fun, and incredibly engaging. Hough is bubbly, but also to-the-point when it comes to her critiques. It seemed like Cowell had finally found his dream team. Since he hasn't, perhaps he'll inject the panel with a bit of youthful relevance by bringing on JoJo Siwa or Yara Shahidi to spice up the ratings. He could even entice married duo Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell to the show for a unique take on critiquing contestants. Sadly, Hough and Union will be two tough acts to follow.