Hollywood manager who worked with Halle Berry, Taraji P. Henson will close agency after accusations of sexual harassment
By Tracy Jan
Vincent Cirrincione, who helped propel Halle Berry and Taraji P. Henson to Hollywood stardom, shut his management agency on Monday followingallegations that he sexually harassed aspiring black actresses over a period of two decades.
Cirrincione, 70, read a statement to The Washington Post saying that he made the decision to close after 40 years in business to protect the careers of the two dozen actors and actresses he represented.
“It is with incredibly great sadness at this time that I believe it’s in the best interest of all my actors and actresses that I represent to close my management company,” Cirrincione said. “This business is hard enough, and I don’t want to distract in any way from their careers or opportunities in the entertainment field. I wish all my clients the very best in all their endeavors.”
The Post reported last week that nine women of color accused Cirrincione of dangling Berry’s and Henson’s names and achievements before them as he pressed them for sex.
The nine women said Cirrincione, who is white, used his role as a gatekeeper for black actresses in a fiercely competitive industry to prey upon young women of color seeking an entry in Hollywood.
They alleged that Cirrincione pushed for sex as a condition for representing them, and that he did not take them on when they refused. Those he did work with say he made regular requests for sex, at times masturbating in front of one woman during their meetings in his office.
The Post has since heard from 12 additional women, three of whom are white, who allege that Cirrincione made sexually inappropriate advances toward them, as well. The new accusations, dating back to New York in 1989, come from women who auditioned for him and those he represented, as well as from one of his former employees.
Notified of the new allegations, Cirrincione said, “I apologize for my bad behavior. It was never my intention to disrespect anyone.”
He said last week that he accepts responsibility for pursuing sexual relationships but denies allegations that he sought sexual favors in exchange for representing actresses. He apologized to the women but characterized all of his interactions with them as “consensual.”
Barbara Stark, a former agent-turned-manager who said she worked with Cirrincione for more than three decades, called his behavior toward women “absolutely unconscionable” and questioned how consensual any of the interactions could be.
“It’s not a two-way street,” she said. “When these men say it’s consensual, it’s really not an even road because the pseudo power lies with the one behind the desk.”
Stark said she met Cirrincione in New York in the 1980s when she was an agent and worked in his Los Angeles office as a manager for about five years in the 1990s representing lower-profile clients.
She said that Cirrincione always treated her professionally — “nothing but a gentleman” — and that she witnessed him working hard for Berry and Henson at a time when “it was hard to get a black actress on anything.” But she said she left his company because of the “climate in that office.”
“If there’s nine, there’s 90,” Stark said, “because it’s been going on many, many years. But it’s the climate of Hollywood. Actresses were going in and out of his office all day long, every hour. I and other employees would just get totally disgusted. We all knew what was going on.”
She said she never spoke with Cirrincione about his behavior. “It was not my job to supervise him,” Stark said. “I wasn’t brave enough to say anything.’’
Cirrincione did not dispute Stark’s account.
Tamika Lamison, who had accused Cirrincione of kissing her forcefully during an audition in his hotel room in 1996 when she was a stage actress in New York City, said she had “mixed feelings” about his decision to shut his management company.
“While it is true this company has built and supported the careers of many women of color, it hasn’t been without collateral damage,” Lamison said in a statement.
She said it pains her that her friends who were his clients may be affected negatively by his decision to close. But “it also pains me to think of the unknown number of women who may have suffered in the future had this story not come to light.”
She said she hopes the closing will bring “some solace to the women” who were harassed.
Cirrincione’s decision to close comes one day after Henson, his most high-profile client, delivered her first public response to news that Cirrincione had used her celebrity —and that of Berry — to bait actresses of color seeking to break into Hollywood.
“I feel saddened, disappointed and ashamed. We deserve better,” she wrote in an Instagram post. “THIS HAS TO STOP!!!”
Henson, who plays a hit woman in the action movie “Proud Mary,” accused Cirrincione of putting professional women in a position not to trust the men they work with.
“Everyone knows how difficult this industry has been for women and my hope is that all of these unspeakable events ignite true change in the treatment of women in this entertainment business,” Henson wrote.
Cirrincione has also been Henson’s producing partner. And his longtime girlfriend, Pam Sharp, is Henson’s publicist. The dissolution of their two-decade business partnership helps Henson protect her lucrative brand, built strongly upon female empowerment. A Washington, D.C., native, Henson studied theater at Howard University and achieved success in Hollywood while raising her son on her own.
Henson, in an interview last week, credited Cirrincione with much of her Hollywood success, and said she regarded him as a “father figure.” She said he would at times pay for her rent, child-care fees and, later, her son’s school tuition.
“He saw a single mother trying to make her dreams come true, and he nurtured that,” Henson said. “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.”
She said she never experienced, witnessed or heard about any inappropriate behavior by Cirrincione toward women until contacted for comment last week.
“I’ve never had any issue with this on any level,” Henson said. “He totally respected me.”
Actor Jussie Smollett, Henson’s “Empire” co-star, was the first of Cirrincione’s clients to publicly announce over the weekend that he has left the management company after learning of the allegations of sexual harassment.
Cirrincione was also Berry’s manager for more than 25 years. Berry said last week that she immediately terminated her relationship with Cirrincione more than three years ago after hearing a radio report about a misconduct allegation against him — a story that had not been previously reported. Cirrincione disputes her account of how their relationship ended.
Berry, too, said that Cirrincione had never made any inappropriate gestures toward her. Nor did she hear about any such behavior from anyone during the time they worked together.
Hours after the story was published Friday, Berry posted a public note on Twitter and Instagram saying that she was “sick after reading the horrifying detailed accounts of [Cirrincione’s] abuse toward 9 women.”
“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,” Berry wrote in her post. “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.”