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Reality TV Grapples With Racism Amid Calls for Change

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  • Several Vanderpump Rules” stars were fired by Bravo for racist behavior, including old tweets, and false criminal accusations against the show’s only black cast member.
  • Dee Nguyen from MTV’s “The Challenge” was fired after making insensitive remarks about Black Lives Matter and the death of George Floyd.
  • On top of that, Rachel Lindsay, the only black lead in the 40- season history of ABC’s “The Bachelor,” said she will dissociate from the franchise if they do not pledge to make the show more diverse and acknowledge its racism.

Vanderpump Rules Cleans House

As most facets of American culture are beginning to grapple with the racism that permeates them, reality television is no exception. Shows like “Vanderpump Rules” and “The Bachelor” are either ridding themselves of racist cast members or discussing how to prioritize diversity moving forward. 

On Tuesday, Bravo’s “Vanderpump Rules” fired four of its stars. Stassi Schroeder and Kristen Doute, who have been on the show since it began in 2013, were let go after former castmate Faith Stowers said the two called the cops on her, accusing her of being a wanted thief. Two others who just joined the show this season, Max Boyens and Brett Caprioni, were let go after old tweets with racist slurs resurfaced.

Stowers was the only black castmate when the incident happened over two years ago. She recounted the story in a discussion with Candace Renee Rice on Instagram last week. She claimed that Schroeder and Doute saw an article in the Daily Mail about a black woman who was at large, accused of drugging and stealing things from people. 

“They called the cops and said it was me,” she said. 

“It was just funny because they thought it was me because they saw a black woman with a weave so they just assumed it would be me,” she added. 

Stowers said they then called the cops who did not respond, not believing their claim. She initially learned this happened because Schroeder talked about it during a 2018 appearance on the Bitch Bible podcast, recounting the story as though she was a sleuth. 

In the podcast, Schroeder said the woman in the photo had tattoos in the same spot as Stowers. She also claimed that one of Doute’s friends had accused Stowers of stealing her credit card that night and that another “Vanderpump Rules” cast member accused Stowers of stealing his jacket. This prompted them to look through Stower’s Instagram to confirm that she was the girl featured in the article.

“We find a wig, she has a photo with the same wig that she had on because she likes her fucking wigs,” Schroeder said on the podcast. 

“So we’re like, we just solved a fucking crime,” she added. 

Schroeder said that when they called they cops, they dismissed their claim. She added that later down the line, Doute saw Stowers at a club and called the police again. According to Schroeder, the police claimed to know who Stowers was but did not feel the need to respond to Doute’s allegations.

Stowers said she left the show after all of this happened. After telling her story on Instagram, fans put a ton of pressure on Bravo to fire Schroeder and Doute for their behavior. Some claimed that their actions could have gotten Stowers killed because police have a history of disproportionately harming black people. 

The two issued apologies on Instagram. Schroeder said she “did not recognize then the serious ramifications that could have transpired.”

“What I did to Faith was wrong. I apologize and I do not expect forgiveness,” she added. In addition to being fired from the show, she has also been dropped by her agent. 

Doute stated that her actions were not “racially driven,” but she now knows they were irresponsible.

“I am now completely aware of how my privilege blinded me from the reality of law enforcement’s treatment of the black community,” she said. “It was never my intention to add to the injustice and imbalance.”

Boyens and Caprioni have both also apologized for their racist tweets, which included slurs and derogatory remarks about Black and Asian people. 

“I just want to say I’m just really, sincerely sorry. I’m not even…there’s no excuse,” Boyens said during the “Vanderpump Rules” reunion.

Caprioini echoed that statement, saying he was “ashamed” and willing to take responsibility for his actions. Bravo has not indicated what the show plans to do moving forward without four of its cast members. 

The Challenge Star Fired

“Vanderpump Rules” was not the only one letting go of stars accused of racist behavior. MTV’s “The Challenge” will now be moving forward without Dee Nguyen, who made insensitive remarks about Black Lives Matter following the death of George Floyd. 

When someone criticized her for still posting photos of herself on Instagram, she responded by saying, “People die every fucking day. U don’t know me or what I do.”

On Twitter, she also wrote “Idk why some of u think I’m anti BLM. I’ve been saying that since the day I lost my virginity.” Both of those remarks have since been deleted, but screenshots are still being shared. 

“We strongly condemn systemic racism and stand with those raising their voices against injustice,” the show said in a statement announcing that it would be severing ties with Nguyen. 

Nguyen also apologized in an exclusive story with Us Weekly and said she would take her words back if she could. Her friend and co-star Wes Bergmann also said he is trying to educate her and that she is focusing on her mental wellbeing right now. He claimed she is in a “mental health lodge” to attend daily psychotherapy sessions.

Change Demanded Within Bachelor Franchise

While there have yet to be any similar firings in “The Bachelor” franchise, there is a massive discussion among the fanbase and stars about racism and a lack of diversity on the show. The Bachelor and its spinoffs have become staples for ABC’s primetime slots. In its nearly two decade run, spanning 40 seasons, there has only been one lead of color, Rachel Lindsay. 

Lindsay wrote a blog post demanding that the show address the racism embedded in it. 

“Black people know historically and presently that the show is not formatted for their success,” she wrote. 

“It is a naive expectation to believe that leads will authentically start an interracial relationship for the first time on national television,” she added. “The sad reality is that people of color become placeholders as the token person of color to add some flavor to the second half of the season.”

Lindsay elected to go on the show and take center stage as “The Bachelorette” in hopes that she could be a trailblazer and start change for the show. 

“Well, I am sad to say that after almost four years in this franchise, we still don’t have the diversity that this show needs, and that our audience deserves,” she wrote. 

“If changes are not made on the inside and outside of the franchise, I will dissociate myself from it. I am tired of asking for change and my requests have been ineffective,” Lindsay stated.

While Lindsay’s season finished airing several years ago, alumni from the franchise often come back for segments, specials, finales and reunions. Lindsay has attended several herself, often lending her voice as the show’s only black lead to conversations about the show and its impact.

Lindsay said that if the show wants to really address change, they need to cast leads who are truly interested in dating outside of their race, fix the lack of diversity on the show instead of excusing it, hire more diverse producers, and stop creating problematic storylines for people of color. She also said that the franchise needs to make a statement acknowledging their systemic racism. 

Lindsay is not alone in calling for change. Online, fans are demanding that the franchise start diversifying the cast. One petition calling for “Anti-Racism in the Bachelor Franchise” has over 70,000 signatures. 

“As creators of one of the most popular and influential franchises on television, ABC and Warner Bros. have an opportunity and responsibility to feature Black, Indigenous, People of Color (“BIPOC”) relationships, families, and storylines,” the petition states. “The franchise, and all those who represent it, should reflect and honor the racial diversity of our country–both in front of and behind the camera.”

Other leaders on the show are supporting this movement. Former Bachelor Nick Viall shared the petition on his Twitter, saying that he signed it himself. 

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (LA Times)

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Netflix Reinstates Employee Who Crashed Director-Level Meeting After Criticizing Dave Chapelle

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Terra Field had publicly accused Chappelle of making transphobic remarks in his new stand-up special “The Closer” just days before she was suspended.


Netflix Reinstates Terra Field

Netflix reinstated a transgender employee who was critical of Dave Chappelle’s new stand-up special after suspending her for attending a director-level meeting without an invitation. 

Terra Field tweeted on Tuesday that she was reinstated once the company determined “there was no ill-intent in” her decision to attend the meeting.

“I’m going to take a few days off to decompress and try to figure out where I’m at,” she added. “At the very least, I feel vindicated.”

Field also shared an email Netflix sent her regarding her suspension being lifted. 

“Our investigation did not find that you joined the QBR meeting with any ill intent and that you genuinely didn’t think there was anything wrong with seeking access to this meeting,” the email said. “Additionally, when a Director shared the link it further supported that this was a meeting you could attend.”

Field’s suspension came just days after she tweeted a viral thread criticizing Chappelle’s latest program on Netflix, “The Closer.” She was one of many activists who claimed Chappelle’s set was transphobic and encouraged Netflix to take action. Field wrote that his comments attacked “the very validity of transness.” Netflix insisted those tweets had nothing to do with her suspension. 

Field reportedly attended the director-level meeting with two other employees who were also suspended. A spokesperson for Netflix told Deadline that those two staffers have likewise been reinstated and the company “will be distributing broader guidance about meetings and clarifying which are for which people.”

Netflix’s Response to Dave Chappelle Controversy

Netflix, for its part, has defended Chappelle and rejected calls to remove “The Closer” from the streaming service.

“It never feels good when people are hurting, especially our colleagues,” Netflix co-CEO Ted Srandos wrote in an internal memo. “You should also be aware that some talent may join third parties in asking us to remove the show in the coming days, which we are not going to do.”

“We don’t allow titles on Netflix that are designed to incite hate or violence, and we don’t believe The Closer crosses that line,” he added. “I recognize, however, that distinguishing between commentary and harm is hard, especially with stand-up comedy which exists to push boundaries. Some people find the art of stand-up to be mean spirited but our members enjoy it, and it’s an important part of our content offering.”

Among other things, Chappelle took time in his special to defend author J.K. Rowling, who previously faced backlash over a series of transphobic remarks she made. Chappelle said he agreed with Rowling.

“I’m team TERF,” he added. “I agree. I agree, man. Gender is a fact.”

Chappelle went on to make jokes about Caitlyn Jenner before comparing the genitalia of transgender women to Beyond and Impossible meat.

Many employees at Netflix are still frustrated with the way the platform has handled the controversy surrounding “The Closer.” According to The Verge, a trans employee resource group is planning a walkout on Oct. 20.

“Trans Lives Matter. Trans Rights Matter,” the group said in a memo. “And as an organization, Netflix has continually failed to show deep care in our mission to Entertain the World by repeatedly releasing content that harms the Trans community and continually failing to create content that represents and uplifts Trans content. We can and must do better!”

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (Deadline) (The New York Times)

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Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch May Have Abandoned Plans To Participate In TikTok NFT Program

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Lil Nas X’s TikTok NFT was scheduled to debut a week ago and is still not available to the public.


Creators Allegedly Leave TikTok’s NFT Program

Musicians Lil Nas X and Bella Poarch may have quietly exited TikTok’s new NFT collection, according to a report from Rolling Stone.

TikTok first announced the line, which is called “TikTok Top Moments,” at the end of September. It involves a series of creator-led NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, which are unique and tradeable digital assets. TikTok’s NFTs can be purchased with the cryptocurrency Ethereum. According to a press release, the money will “largely go directly to the creators and NFT artists involved.”

TikTok said that creators like Poarch, Lil Nas X, Grimes, Curtis Roach, Brittany Broski, and more would be participating in the program. The company called NFTs an “empowerment tool” that will allow these creators to “be recognized and rewarded for their content.” It planned to debut the collection on Oct. 6 with Lil Nas X’s NFT, but that token has still not been made available. A source told Rolling Stone that it may never be released. 

NFT Rollout Described as “A Mess”

The outlet also reported that Poarch is “actively contemplating pulling out of the program due to worries about its execution.” According to Rolling Stone, three sources familiar with the rollout of the program have described it as “a challenge,” “a mess,” and “a complete joke.”

Those sources claimed that in order to secure Poarch’s initial participation, TikTok offered her marketing support worth potentially $4 million for her next release. The company also allegedly promised to use one of her songs in an end-of-year campaign. A spokesperson for TikTok, however, described these claims as “not accurate.”

Neither Poarch nor Lil Nas X has commented on their participation yet. Meanwhile, TikTok declined to answer Rolling Stone’s questions about the status of their NFTs. 

Some of TikTok’s announced NFTs have gone public, though. Throughout Tuesday, Roach’s “Bored in the House” video was up for auction on the platform Immutable. 

NFTs took the internet by storm in early 2021, but their popularity peaked in May and declined throughout the summer. Celebrities, tech moguls, and everyday people featured in viral memes have hopped on the trend and made millions doing so. 

According to Rolling Stone, TikTok has valued some of its own NFTs at $1 million. Now, it’s unclear if those tokens will ever hit the market.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Dexerto)

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Ariana Grande, Bella Hadid, and Others Honor World Mental Health Day

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A slew of stars acknowledged the day by sharing personal stories and making hefty donations to organizations that offer mental health resources.


Celebrities Donate to Mental Health Organizations

Major celebrities honored World Mental Health Day on Sunday by speaking candidly about their mental health struggles and donating to nonprofits.

Singer Ariana Grande announced that she is donating $5 million worth of free therapy through the online counseling platform Better Help. The star previously partnered with the company over the summer to give $1 million in therapy to fans and opted to throw more money at the program following its success. 

“I acknowledge that there are very real barriers when it comes to accessing mental health resources, and while this is only one small gesture (and a much larger systemic problem remains) I wanted to do this again with @betterhelp in hopes of bringing access to a few more people and perhaps inspiring a few of you to try something new and prioritize your own healing,” Grande wrote on Instagram. 

Those interested can sign up for a free first month of Better Help and get an additional 15% off the second month. 

Model Bella Hadid also pledged to donate to mental health resources. She teamed up with the beverage company Kin Euphorics, which will donate 10% of its October sales to Gurls Talk, a nonprofit that gives adolescent girls a space to talk about mental health, along with various educational tools to aid those discussions. Hadid will match those donations.

“Dealing with mental illness for most of my life, bringing awareness to the education of mental health through my platform is something that I will continue to do until our mental is just as respected as our physical,” Hadid wrote. “I want everyone who struggles daily to know that you are not alone.”

Stars Share Resources and Personal Stories

Meanwhile, actress and singer Selena Gomez used her new makeup brand Rare Beauty to share statistics about the prevalence of mental illness and the efforts to combat it. The company, which has previously focused on several mental health initiatives, shared that just 1.3% of philanthropic investments go towards supporting mental health.

The company additionally cited information from an American Psychological Association report, which revealed that young people are particularly vulnerable to mental health struggles. It found that seven out of 10 Gen Z adults are more likely to report experiencing depression symptoms compared to other generations. 

Gomez shared Rare Beauty’s post to her own story as well. 

Singer Olivia Rodrigo similarly opened up about mental health and therapy during an interview with CBS that aired Sunday. In it, she said she has been in therapy since she was 16, which she believes has helped her both personally and professionally.

“That was a really big, life-changing moment,” she said. “I’ve learned so much about myself.” 

“I think there’s sometimes a stigma around it, too, like I was saying,” the singer continued. “Sometimes people are like, ‘Oh, you don’t need that. You have so much. Your life is so great. What are your problems?’ I think that’s definitely a thing that sometimes older people can do to younger people to kind of trivialize what they’re going through.” 

See what others are saying: (Billboard) (E! News) (Complex)

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