Former Teen Idol Says She Was Told Not to Hug Black Co-Star During '90s TV Special

Gabrielle Carteris took a stand when she was warned not to embrace Alfonso Ribeiro.

In the early '90s, Gabrielle Carteris and Alfonso Ribeiro were on two of the biggest shows on TV. Carteris starred as Andrea Zuckerman on Beverly Hills, 90210, while Ribeiro played Carlton Banks on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. As TV actors, they were both invited to take part in a 1991 special full of celebrities. But while the two stars got along just fine, Carteris has revealed that producers told her explicitly not to get too close to Ribeiro during filming.

The 90210 alum told the story during a 2020 panel, including the reasoning she was given and how she decided to protest the racist request. Read on to find out more.

READ THIS NEXT: Will Smith Made Things "Very Difficult" for This Co-Star: "I Lost Everything."

Ribeiro and Carteris appeared on Circus of the Stars.

Alfonso Ribeiro at NBC Summer Blast in 1990
Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

Ribeiro and Carteris both took part in Circus of the Stars in 1991, when he 20 and she was 30. The annual TV special aired from 1977 to 1994 and featured celebrities trying their hand at circus acts. Carteris and Ribeiro teamed up for a tightrope performance.

"It was a very, very challenging act—a lot of tricks," Carteris said during the SAG-AFTRA "Race & Storytelling" panel in 2020, as reported by Deadline. At the time of the panel, she was the president of the actors' union SAG-AFTRA—a position she held from 2016 to 2021.

Producers told her not to hug him on the show.

Gabrielle Carteris at the 1992 Golden Globe Awards
Ron Galella/Ron Galella Collection via Getty Images

When Carteris and Ribeiro rehearsed for Circus of the Stars, she hugged him at the end of their act. Afterwards, she was taken aside and told not to repeat the action when they were broadcasting live. It became clear to her that it was because Carteris is white and Ribeiro is Black.

"And they came up to me later and they said, 'Gabrielle, that was an amazing show. That was wonderful. When we go live tomorrow, just make sure you don't hug Alfonso,'" Carteris recalled. "And I said, 'Why?' And they said, 'Well, middle America, they just won't like that.'"

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She ignored the request.

Will Smith, Karyn Parsons, and Alfonso Ribeiro at the NBC Allstars Party in 1990
Barry King/WireImage via Getty Images

Carteris said on the panel that she went straight to Ribeiro and told him what happened. "You won't believe what they just said to me. They don't want me to hug you. So I just want you to know, when we go out there live tomorrow, I'm gonna hug you," she said.

"I hugged him and gave him a kiss [during the live show]. And for me, it was an important moment," Carteris said on the panel. "There are so many times in this industry when we're told what we're supposed to do and we just know it's not the right thing to do. It was not organically correct, it wasn't just, and it wasn't fair."

The hug and kiss came as a surprise to producers, because the 90210 star did not protest the request to their faces. She knew she couldn't let on in advance that she'd be disobeying them.

"And I couldn't say it to them because they would have just found another way to block it or cut it out," she continued. "So I agreed and then just did what I wanted to do. And I will never regret that moment."

Carteris was asked to share the story as an example of how to be an ally.

Gabrielle Carteris at the 7th Annual Ed Asner Poker Tournament in 2019
Kathy Hutchins / Shutterstock

Jason George, who hosted the panel, asked Carteris to share the story because it was an example of someone being an ally for their nonwhite co-worker. George explained that an experience like hers is something that would alert a white person to the sort of bias that their peers of color are already well aware of.

"You have a choice," the Grey's Anatomy star continued. "You can either be a bystander, say nothing, and therefore be complicit in maintaining that implicit bias. Or you can actually be an ally and say something and give the hug."

Lia Beck
Lia Beck is a writer living in Richmond, Virginia. In addition to Best Life, she has written for Refinery29, Bustle, Hello Giggles, InStyle, and more. Read more
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