Divorce Court Judge Mablean Ephriam Discusses Recent Separation from Show
Subject: 'Divorce Court' Judge Mablean Ephriam Discusses Details of Recent Separation from Show
'Divorce Court' Judge Mablean Ephriam Discusses Details of Recent Separation from Show
LOS ANGELES--Popular television "Divorce Court" Judge Mablean Ephriam held a press conference at the Los Angeles Sentinel
discussing details of recent separation from show.
Judge Mablean Ephriam Statement
Good morning. Thank you all for coming. I called this press conference today to address the issue of my departure from Fox Television as the Judge of Divorce Court. It is true. I will no longer be the Judge of Divorce Court as of the Fall Season, 2006. However, it is not true that I "decided to step down after seven years".
The truth is that Fox and I were unable to reach an agreement, after several months of negotiations. I was willing to stay. Fox was unwilling to pay.
After seven years of a successful show run, the deal Fox offered me was substantially less than all of the other court show judges. Though I made several offers of reduction from my initial demand, in an effort to reach a settlement, Fox remained firm in its "low-ball offer" and finally, its "take- or -leave it offer" which contained a very small increase from its initial position, coupled with some other unreasonable demands. Fox took the position that in order to receive this small increase (which was still unequal); there would be "significant production changes". I simply requested equal pay for equal work. Is this too much to ask?
The most unacceptable demand to me was when Fox said, "There will be no changes in the current hairstyle to avoid time consuming issues regarding her hair," I found this to be offensive. The requirement also comes very close to a violation, if it does not in fact violate, the Fair Employment Practices Act. An employer cannot demand one to wear a particular hairstyle unless it directly affects or impacts the employee's ability to perform his or her employment duties. My hairstyle does not meet this criteria, it is, however, a racial and ethnic issue. Suddenly, after seven years of a show that has run neck- in- neck with the other top rated court shows, why is my hair an issue. Why, I ask? Because of my ethnicity - African American, Black, Negro, whatever term you prefer to use. Because of my genetics (short, curly, hair) which requires the use of chemicals and/or a hot pressing comb to straighten and curlers to style. It cannot be styled by a wash, blow dry and set. Therefore, in Fox's opinion, it is a time consuming issue. I wore a short hairstyle which was my own hair. Due to a misapplication of a chemical process, I lost a substantial amount of hair in season six. Out of my desire to maintain continuity, and the image I had created (for the last five years), I elected to wear a wig last year for continuity. Had Fox asked me to maintain a short hairstyle for continuity and for image, it would have been a different issue. But they are saying I must continue to wear the wig because that would expedite the hair styling process. However, my hair has now grown. I had not yet decided what hairstyle I would wear for season eight. If I were to accept their demands, I would have been unable to make that decision.
I therefore ask the question, when will Fox and the rest of America accept our cultural differences as African Americans and embrace us with all of our different hairstyles, hair textures, hair color, skin color, skin differences, whatever it may be? We take the time to learn about them, to learn about the different cultures in our society. They however have still chosen to neglect us, to disrespect us, and refuse to see us. We are still the invisible person. The fact that it takes more time to style my hair than my Caucasian sisters, in general, should not be an issue. What is more interesting about this demand is that I have never caused time to be an issue because of my hair. I have been conscious and aware of the fact that it does take more time to style my hair. Therefore, I set my call time earlier than any of the other staff to assure that I was ready in time for the schedule. More importantly, I had the chemical work done off the set at my expense. The only thing that had to be done on set was the pressing and styling. It has worked for seven years. There were several other demands, which in my opinion would diminish the quality of the show.
Tape seven shows per day (sometimes eight), instead of six. In meeting with Fox executives early this season, we had discussed seven shows. I indicated at that time that I could not do this effectively and produce quality shows. Divorce is a very emotional issue. For me, when I am handling these shows it's not about entertainment, it's about making life changing differences in the lives of those standing before me. As well as ultimately the viewers. Divorce has a lot of issues and you see them on Divorce Court, but they affect all of us race, color, creed, regardless of economic status. The issues that we addressed on Divorce Court affects America.
No vacation time during tape schedule. My national church convocation in November is the only vacation I take during tape season. Will I now not be allowed to observe my religious practice? "This was non-negotiable for me. I believe this infringes on my freedom of religious belief? The other times-off from taping were promotional appearances. These I did at the request of the civic groups, schools, churches, women groups, and non-profit organizations such as the Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage, which benefits Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU's) based on my celebrity status. These were engagements which came by my publicist, personal assistant, and me. They promoted DIVORCE COURT. It was work, not vacation. More importantly, the majority of them were done on weekends, or nights and did not interfere with the taping of Divorce Court schedule. However, FOX did not appreciate this and insisted that I would be unable to make these appearances during the tape schedule.
There were several other issues related to the tape schedule and taping itself which were unfair to the staff and crew of Divorce Court, as well as me. For instance, "we no longer will be able to pay for the holiday luncheon" stated Fox. Divorce Court has one catered meal the entire season, the Christmas holiday luncheon, before hiatus. This would be cut out if I were to be paid the small increase. This would not be fair to the staff and crew.
Not only have I been impacted but my personal assistant Princess and my daughter, Darlene Allen. Darlene was head of the wardrobe department. She too now has been terminated. I bring up these issues not out of the desire to seek any legal actions toward Fox, but to raise awareness, to appreciate cultural differences, and diversity.
I thank Fox for the last seven years, for the opportunity, for the exposure. I also thank Fox for refusing to pay me what I know I was worth. It set me free to ascend to higher ground. To go beyond before. I firmly believe that God has a better plan for my life.
I thank my family, my friends, my fellow church members, and my fans. Thank you for your love and support. Thank you for watching Divorce Court. Thank you for allowing me into your homes, your lives, and your hearts for seven years. Don't shut off that dial. Keep watching, I have not left. Eyes have not seen, ears have not heard, what good things God has in store for me. Stay tuned for more. In the words of Maya Angelou, "And still I rise.
(Last edit:: 9/18/2006 15:20)
If I could have convinced more slaves that they were slaves, I could have freed thousands more. - Harriet Tubman