Rowena Chiu, a former assistant of Harvey Weinstein, was haunted by a nondisclosure agreement she signed after the disgraced producer allegedly attempted to rape in 1998. And in an exclusive interview with Variety, Chiu breaks her over 20-year-old NDA to share just how invasive, disappointing, and intimidating the entire process was.
Chiu explained that going after the Weinstein machine was harder than she ever could have imagined. A 24-year-old Chiu—with the help of Zelda Perkins, a colleague she confided in—hired lawyers and reported the incident to Miramax. But Weinstein’s team intercepted and got the women to sign NDAs instead.
“We just wanted to walk away, and we would try, and they would say things like, ‘We know where your parents live,’” Chiu said. “So, I felt that we were forced to sign the NDA because of the safety of our friends and family.”
Chiu’s loved ones were also in the crosshairs of the Weinstein team when Chiu and Perkins fought for specific clauses in the NDA that would prevent Weinsten from harming other women.
“We fought really hard to have a really simple clause that said Harvey must either travel with one male assistant at any one time,” Chiu said. “We had to give that clause up because they insisted that we provide them with a list of the names and addresses of our friends and family, which is just evil. Why would we give them a list of names and addresses of our friends and family? Now, we all know about Black Cube and The Red Flag list, but even then, I thought that I would literally be putting them in danger.”
The Red Flag list consisted of names Weinstein provided private investigators who were hired to dig up dirt of Weinstein’s rivals. Both Chiu and Perkins were on it.
The two women also tried to add clauses to the NDA that would require Weinstein attend sex therapy and that if another woman comes forward with an accusation within two years of the signed NDA and Weinstein wanted to settle with her for upwards of $35,000, he would have to resign from his post at Miramax and report his conduct to Walt Disney Co. The Disney clause made it into the NDA. Whether Weinstein complied is another story.
Meanwhile, Chiu kept up her side of the bargain, despite its extremes. “If the tax authorities contacted us, we had to send them back to Harvey’s lawyers in London,” she said. “We couldn’t even admit to its existence if Her Majesty’s Government sent officials to ask us about it.”
Chiu also told Variety that she believes her race played a role in the control Weinstein believed he had over her, characterizing her as a stereotypical docile Asian woman who wouldn’t cause a stir.
“In the ‘90s, he had told Zelda that he ‘doesn’t do’ Chinese or Jewish,” Chiu said. “Then later, when he attempted to rape me, he told me that he had never had a Chinese girl before. First of all, that’s a really disgusting statement, and reveals a lack of understanding of the nuance of racism. Then, he started saying that he liked Chinese girls because they’re ‘discreet.’”
She continued: “What is amazing about this whole complicated racial dynamic is that I actually did play into it because it is true that I was raised as someone who didn’t complain and who was obedient. For all of his faults, Harvey was good at reading people and manipulating situations.”
But now, Weinstein is serving a 23-year prison sentence after a jury convicted him on two charges of rape in the third degree and a criminal sex act. It feels like a victory after years of silence, and Chiu credits the backing of the countless women with similar stories about Weinstein who helped legitimize her story. But Chiu isn’t convinced that the MeToo era dissuades other Weinsteins from preying on women and skirting the consequences.
“I think some things have changed, but I wouldn’t say it’s a sea change and things are going to be much easier for accusers going forward,” Chiu said. “This is just the beginning of what we hope to see as a long-term societal, cultural change.”
Read the rest of the interview at Variety here.