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Celebrities Join Michelle Obama To Support Sweeping Voting Rights Bill

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  • Former First Lady Michelle Obama and a slew of celebrities signed a letter urging the American people to reach out to their senators in support of the For the People Act. 
  • The bill was passed by the House of Representatives earlier this month and features massive expansions to voting rights, including increasing voter registration options, making Election Day a holiday, and requiring two weeks of early voting in federal elections.
  • In addition to encouraging U.S. citizens to organize, the letter also asked the Senate to move quickly with this bill and even eliminate the filibuster in order to do so. 
  • The letter was sent by Obama’s election non-profit When We All Vote. Liza Koshy, Janelle Monáe, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Selena Gomez, Tom Hanks, Kerry Washington, who are all co-chairs of the group, were among the big names attached.  

Celebrities Sign Letter Urging Voting Rights Expansions

Michelle Obama, Ariana Grande, Janelle Monáe, Selena Gomez, Liza Koshy, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and more stars signed a letter with When We All Vote on Tuesday urging Americans to contact their senators in support of the For the People Act, a bill aimed at expanding voting rights nationwide. 

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives in early March. Among other things, it will increase voter registration options by allowing same-day and online registration, require two weeks of early voting for federal elections, make Election Day a holiday, and restore the right to vote for people with felony convictions.  

Voting rights have become a priority for many Democrats as there are currently 43 states that have carried over, introduced, or pre-filed 253 bills with provisions that restrict voting access. 

“What’s happening is this: After more Americans than ever voted in the last presidential election, some state leaders believe that silencing them is the only way to maintain their grip on power,” the letter said. “They’re hoping to choose their voters, rather than the other way around.”

The signers of the letter — which also include Billie Eilish, Blake Lively, Jennifer Lopez, The Jonas Brothers, Tom Hanks, and Kerry Washington — encouraged readers to write to and call their senators to fight against these bills, which “particularly impact Black, Brown, and young people.”

“Some of these undemocratic measures have already become law, with others surely to follow,” the letter added.

The letter mentioned the Jan. 6 attacks on the U.S. Capitol and said that even though some of the insurrectionists are facing justice now, the threat to democracy still exists. 

“We write to you today as citizens who love this country and care deeply about its future,” the letter said. “And right now, the most important thing we can do to protect that future is to rise together in support of the For the People Act currently before the Senate—the most significant piece of legislation to strengthen our democracy since the Civil Rights movement.”

The letter also specifically called on the Senate to eliminate or reform the filibuster if that allows the For the People Act to be passed more swiftly. They described it as “a relic of Jim Crow and an arcane chamber rule increasingly abused to create gridlock and forestall progress.”

“We cannot continue to allow the will of the majority of Americans to be overshadowed by an oppositional few fixated on maintaining power,” it said. 

Stars Spread the Word Online

Many of the stars who signed the letter shared it on social media to encourage their followers to organize. 

“Now is our chance to protect and strengthen our democracy and put power back where it belongs—with the people,” Selena Gomez wrote. 

The issue remains in the Senate’s court. On Wednesday, Senators discussed the For the People Act during a hearing. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) said it should be a priority for the country.

“Instead of the Republican Party trying to win back voters they lost in this election, they’re trying to disenfranchise voters,” he wrote on Twitter. “The #ForThePeople Act is a priority of this Congress to fight this and renew Democracy.”

Still support is largely divided along party lines and the bill faces opposition from many Republicans, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-Ut.) who wrote an editorial dubbing it the “Illegal Voting Act.” Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky) called it a “solution in search of a problem.”

See what others are saying: (Complex) (The Independent) (USA Today)

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Disney Says Talent Deals Must Change Amid Pandemic as It Battles Scarlett Johansson Lawsuit

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CEO Bob Chapek said talent is Disney’s “most important asset” and claimed the company is undergoing a “reset” regarding its contracts.


Bob Chapek Says Talent Contracts Are Going Through a Reset

Disney CEO Bob Chapek said Tuesday that going forward, talent contracts at the studio “will have to reflect the fact that the world is changing.”

His remarks come as Disney battles a lawsuit from actress Scarlett Johansson alleging breach of contract for her work on “Black Widow.” While making his claims at a virtual Goldman Sachs conference, Chapek did not mention Johansson by name, but he did directly address the issues Hollywood is facing when it comes to compensating talent amid the pandemic.

As COVID-19 halted filmgoing, many movies expected to be box office hits were instead released directly to streaming, while others were released in theaters and on streaming platforms the same day. These models are drastically different from the exclusive theatrical release that films and the stars in them have come to expect over the last several decades.

“We’re sort of putting a square peg in a round hole right now where we’ve got a deal conceived under a certain set of conditions, that actually results in a movie that is being released in a completely different set of conditions,” Chapek said during the conference via numerous reports. “So there’s a bit of a reset that’s going on right now, and ultimately we’ll think about that as we do our future talent deals and plan for that and make sure that that’s incorporated.”

“But right now, we’ve got sort of this middle position where we’re trying to do right by the talent,” he added. “I think the talent’s trying to do right by us, and we’re just sort of figuring out our way to bridge the gap.”

Chapek also referred to talent as Disney’s “most important asset” and said that historically, the company has had a “very symbiotic” relationship with its talent regarding the deals they strike together. 

Scarlett Johansson Vs. Disney

That symbiotic relationship is now being put to the test by Johanssen, who hit Disney with a lawsuit in July over its decision to release her “Black Widow” standalone picture for a premium fee on Disney+ the same day it hit the big screen. The actress claims that her contract guaranteed an exclusive theatrical release for the film and that her salary was largely based on what it grossed at the box office. Because viewers had the option to purchase it for streaming at home, she claims she did not see “the full benefit” of her deal.

Disney claimed the lawsuit had no merit. It also released a scathing statement saying that Johansson’s legal effort showed a “callous disregard” for the harmful and prolonged effects of COVID-19, especially since she allegedly received $20 million upfront for “Black Widow.”

Disney is hoping to solve the matter via private arbitration. Johannson’s legal team wants to take the dispute to court. 

So far, “Black Widow” has raked in $377 million worldwide. It broke pandemic box office records during its opening weekend but still has not made nearly as much as it likely would have prior to the pandemic. 

As for whether or not the dual release strategy actually tanked the film’s earnings, that is hard to say. By comparison though, Marvel’s “Shang-Chi,” which was released exclusively in theaters, is already set to catch up to “Black Widow” at the box office. The film has been out for just under a month and has already made $306 million worldwide. 

While many expected to see other A-list actors follow Johannson’s lead and likewise file lawsuits against studios who threw their titles on streaming, so far Disney has had seemingly no issue striking more deals with its talent. In the past several months, it has locked in sequels with stars like Emma Stone, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, and Emily Blunt.

See what others are saying: (The Wrap) (The Hollywood Reporter) (Los Angeles Times)

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Alissa Violet Sues FaZe Clan Over Stock It Allegedly Owes Her

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The social media star says she was promised stock in FaZe Clan as part of a previous settlement but has yet to receive her shares.


Alissa Violet Sues FaZe Clan

Social media influencer Alissa Marie Violet Butler, known online as Alissa Violet, is suing digital entertainment and esports collective FaZe Clan over stock she is allegedly owed.

According to a Monday report from The Washington Post, Butler’s case stems from a previous lawsuit that involved both her and FaZe Clan. The report says that in 2018, Butler transferred her shares in a media company she co-founded called Clout Gang to a different company called Hubrick Limited as part of an agreement with FaZe Clan. At the time, Hubrick and FaZe Clan were partnering to develop both businesses. 

Per The Post, several other FaZe Clan members were part of a similar exchange where they transferred their FaZe Clan shares for Hubrick shares as well. The partnership between the two companies crumbled, however, leading to a legal frenzy. Butler, FaZe Clan, Clout Gang, and more ended up accusing Hubrick of fraud in a lawsuit. Hubrick tossed the allegation right back at them in a countersuit. 

To resolve the matters, The Post says Butler and FaZe Clan “entered into an oral agreement to settle the lawsuits with Hubrick,” which involved Butler giving up her Hubrick stock and dropping her claims against the company. In return, she would then receive FaZe Clan common stock.

Butler says that despite holding up her end of the bargain, she has still not received stock in FaZe Clan. 

Responses to Lawsuit

Butler has over 10 million followers on Instagram and another 3.7 million subscribers on YouTube. She has had a career in modeling and picked up a handful of acting credits in television shows and music videos. She previously dated the co-owner of FaZe Clan, FaZe Banks.

According to The Post, FaZe Clan is valued at around $300 million.

“If Faze Clan simply abided by its promise to compensate her, Alissa would not have had to sue Faze Clan,” Butler’s attorney, Bryan Freedman, said to The Post. 

FaZe Clan defended itself in a statement to the outlet, saying it “denies generally and specifically each and every allegation contained in the Complaint.”

FaZe Clan CEO Lee Trink also sent an email to The Post claiming that the matter will likely be resolved. 

“Stories get created out of any disagreement or dispute, big or small,” he wrote. “On this particular matter we’re in close communication and confident it’ll be resolved amicably.”

It is unclear how much Butler is seeking in her suit. 

See what others are saying: (The Washington Post )(Dexerto) (Esports.com)

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Priyanka Chopra Jonas Says “The Activist” Reality Series “Got It Wrong”

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The controversial series is now being reworked into a documentary, which Chopra Jonas hopes will better “highlight the actions and impact” of global activists.


Priyanka Chopra Jonas Apologizes For “The Activist”

Actress Priyanka Chopra Jonas responded to controversies surrounding “The Activist,” a CBS reality competition series she was slated to co-host that is now being reworked following widespread backlash. 

“The Activist” was going to show real activists competing against one another in various challenges in an effort to promote their philanthropic causes. After many expressed disgust at the premise, CBS said it would scrap the footage already shot and turn the idea into a one-time documentary special highlighting the work and impacts of different activists.

“The show got it wrong, and I’m sorry that my participation in it disappointed many of you,” Chopra Jonas wrote on Instagram. “The intention was always to bring attention to the people behind the ideas and highlight the actions and impact of the causes they support tirelessly. I’m happy that in this new format, their stories will be the highlight.”

“I’m proud to collaborate with partners who have their ear to the ground and know when it’s time to hit pause and re-evaluate,” she added.

Chopra Jonas closed her post by thanking the “global community of activists” for their hard work, which often goes unacknowledged. 

Controversies Surrounding “The Activist”

Musician Usher and dancer Julianne Hough were cast to host alongside Chopra Jonas. After a release announcing the show and their casting went out last week, it was slammed online by activists and journalists alike. 

Actress and activist Jameela Jamil wrote that the network would have been better off donating the presumably large production costs to charity instead of “turning activism into a game.”

Women’s activist Gina Martin thought turning charity into a competition was counterintuitive, arguing “the whole *essense* of activism is solidarity and community.”

Writers from The Verge, The Washington Post, Essence, and countless other outlets likewise published pieces slamming the program. The Post’s Michele L. Norris accused CBS of ​“trying to capitalize on the current avalanche of doom in the daily news cycle.”

Norris added that the show’s “prize,” which was to attend the G20 summit in Italy, boiled down to activists fighting “merely for the right to crash an international conference and try to shake down world leaders for cash.”

Responses From Those Involved

Chopra Jonas is not the only host to address the criticism. Before the idea was canned, Hough wrote a lengthy Instagram post saying she was listening to the dialogue regarding the program. 

“There is a feeling of insult, dehumanization, insensitivity and hurt that is being rightfully felt,” she wrote. 

“I do not claim to be an activist and wholeheartedly agree that the judging aspect of the show missed the mark and furthermore, that I am not qualified to act as a judge,” she added, though she stopped short of actually stepping down from the gig. 

CBS ended up releasing a joint statement with Global Citizen and Live Nation acknowledging the failings of the concept. 

“It has become apparent the format of the show as announced distracts from the vital work these incredible activists do in their communities every day,” the statement said. “The push for global change is not a competition and requires a global effort.”

The statement said the new documentary will “showcase the tireless work of six activists and the impact they have advocating for causes they deeply believe in” without any competitive element.

See what others are saying: (CNN) (Vanity Fair) (BBC News)

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