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“Friends” Reunion Cameos by Lady Gaga, BTS, and Justin Bieber Have Been Censored in China

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Each star cut from the program had previously faced backlash in the country.


Parts of “Friends” Reunion Censored

Segments of the “Friends” reunion special have been censored in China, including cameo appearances by A-list stars. 

The classic sitcom is incredibly popular in China, where many credit the show for teaching them English and major cities have their own Central Perk coffee shops for fans to visit. Because “Friends” is so beloved in the country, three Chinese streaming services, iQiyi, Alibaba’s Youku, and Tencent Video, all got the rights to air the highly-anticipated reunion.

When fans tuned into the program, however, scenes with stars like Lady Gaga, BTS, and Justin Bieber had been cut, along with a had a handful of moments referencing the LGTBQ+ community.

Why Cameos Were Cut

Each cameo star pulled from the program had previously faced backlash in the country. Popstar Lady Gaga, for instance, was banned in China in 2016 after she met with the Dalai Lama, who China accuses of being a separatist. Her scene singing “Smelly Cat” with Liza Kudrow, who played Phoebe, was thus removed from the special.

Like Lady Gaga, singer Justin Bieber was also banned in China in 2017 but for unspecified “bad behavior.” The ban notably came after he posed at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, which is a controversial landmark to many in China. His scene dressed in the Spudnik costume that David Schwimmer’s Ross wore in a Halloween episode of the show was taken out of the reunion.

A brief clip of K-pop superstars BTS discussing their love of the show was also deleted because the band previously faced trouble in the country for comments they made about the Korean War in 2020. Specifically, they mentioned the “history of pain” the U.S. and South Korea share but did not mention the loss China suffered. 

It is unclear if the streaming services were ordered to cut these bits or if they did so on their own as a precaution. 

The reunion special has become a hot topic on the Chinese social media app Weibo, where the hashtag #Friends has been viewed 1.24 billion times. While some are discussing the censorship and sharing the clips that were deleted on Chinese streamers, most are largely praising the “Friends” reunion for the nostalgia and emotion it stirred in them. 

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Guardian) (Variety)

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Victoria’s Secret Drops Signature “Angels” for a More Inclusive Rebrand

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Stars like Megan Rapinoe and Priyanka Chopra will be the new faces of the company as it begins a major rebranding effort.


Victoria’s Secret Ditches Angels

Lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret announced Wednesday that it is phasing out its signature “Angels” for a more inclusive campaign that will feature “accomplished women who share a common passion to drive positive change.”

The initiative is called Victoria’s Secret Collective. In a statement, the company introduced a slew of new partners, including soccer star and gender-equity activist Megan Rapinoe, actress and entrepreneur Priyanka Chopra, body positivity advocate and model Paloma Elsesser, photographer and GirlGaze founder Amanda de Cadenet, and many others. In addition to appearing in advertising for the company, they will also advise the brand on its messaging. 

This rebrand marks a stark change for Victoria’s Secret, whose tall and thin Angels have become the hallmark of their business.

Victoria’s Secret Angels Catered to Male Gaze

Since the ‘90s, some of the world’s most iconic models — including Gisele Bündchen, Tyra Banks, Adriana Lima, and Gigi Hadid — have dawned the famous wings. In doing so, they also set impossible female beauty standards that catered almost exclusively to the male gaze. 

The company has faced no shortage of criticism for using its models to promote what is ultimately a dangerous and unrealistic fantasy. It has had to change its slogan from “The Perfect Body” to “A Body for Every Body.” It also canceled the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show in 2019. Still, “sexy” was the goal of the brand, and even though the products are for women, many argued that it used a man’s definition of the concept. 

“When the world was changing, we were too slow to respond,” Martin Waters, the company’s new chief executive, told The New York Times. “We needed to stop being about what men want and to be about what women want.”

Waters told The Times he has long known that Victoria’s Secret was overdue for a shift, but the company has just now gained the control to do so. Now, he says he does not see the old approach, or the Angels in particular, “as being culturally relevant.”

Rapinoe told The Times that Victoria’s Secret’s old messaging was “patriarchal” and “sexist.” She also said that it was trying to achieve sexiness “through a male lens and through what men desired.” 

“And it was very much marketed toward younger women,” she continued, saying this was “really harmful.”

Victoria’s Secret has found itself wrapped in a handful of controversies over the past several years. In 2019, it was revealed that its former chief executive Les Wexner was closely tied to Jeffrey Epstein. In 2020, a report uncovered that men at the top of the company built its culture upon misogyny and harassment. 

The store’s sales have also been falling. According to The Times, the company’s share of the women’s underwear market in the country dropped from 32% to 21% in 2015. 

Company Will Have New Focus On Real Women

Now, more women will be in charge of the company and its major effort to rebrand. The brand’s new chief marketing officer, Martha Pease, released a statement saying its new goal is to develop deeper relationships with the women it caters to. 

“We’re bringing new dimensions to our brand experience,” Pease said. “In marrying our new partners’ energy, creativity and perspectives with our network and scale, we can transform how we connect with and show up for women.”

On top of replacing Angels with outspoken and accomplished women of all sizes and backgrounds, other changes include expanding mannequins to a variety of sizes, replacing the Angels imagery that currently appears in every corner of the store, and expanding products in areas like sportswear. 

The company will also focus more on depicting and servicing real womanhood. Up until this year, the store had never celebrated Mother’s Day, as it did not mesh with the “sexy” brand image. Last month, for the first time, the company celebrated the holiday and featured a pregnant model in its campaign. The store will also soon begin selling nursing bras.

Rapinoe told The Times that while she was initially shocked the brand wanted to work with her, she was convinced to do it because the company was committed to owning up to its past errors and changing its narrative, and she liked that she could be a part of creating that change. 

Elsesser was likewise excited to use her voice to shape the company’s messaging and reach a large audience. 

“With platforms like VS, where you enter the living rooms of all people, that’s where you make radical change,” she told The Times. Her goal is to use her role to push the company to expand its sizing

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (Insider) (People)

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Rita Moreno Defends Lin-Manuel Miranda Amid “In The Heights” Colorism Criticism

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“You can never do right, it seems,” the actress said during an appearance on “The Late Show” Tuesday night.


Lin-Manuel Miranda Addresses “In The Heights” Controversy

Actress Rita Moreno defended multi-hyphenate Lin-Manuel Miranda on Tuesday after the film “In The Heights,” which is based on his Tony Award-winning musical, faced criticism for its lack of representation within the Afro-Latino community. 

While the musical has been met with wide critical acclaim, it has also faced backlash for its casting. The story takes place in the predominantly Latino New York neighborhood of Washington Heights, however many were upset that it largely represents lighter-skinned members of the Latino community and excludes darker-skinned members of the Afro-Latino community. 

Miranda, who was also a producer for the film, addressed the controversy in a Twitter statement on Monday. He said he wrote “In The Heights” because he felt he had never been seen and wanted that to change for others who felt the same way. 

“I can hear the hurt and frustration over colorism, of feeling unseen in the feedback,” he wrote. “I hear that, without sufficient dark-skinned Afro-Latino representation, the world feels extractive of the community we wanted so much to represent with pride and joy.”

“In trying to paint a mosaic of this community, we fell short,” he continued. “I’m truly sorry…I’m trying to hold space for both the incredible pride in the movie we made and be accountable for our shortcomings.”

Rita Moreno Defends Miranda

Moreno — whose stage and screen credits include “West Side Story,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” and “The Ritz” —defended Miranda during her Tuesday appearance on “The Late Show,” implying that the playwright had nothing to be sorry for. 

“You can never do right, it seems,” she told host Stephen Colbert. “This is the man who literally has brought Latino-ness and Puerto Rican-ness to America.” 

“I’m simply saying, can’t you just wait a while and leave it alone?” she continued. “There’s a lot of people who are Puerto Rican who are also from Guatemala who are dark and who are also fair. We are all colors in Puerto Rico. This is how it is.”

“It would be so nice if they hadn’t come up with that and left it alone, just for now. They’re really attacking the wrong person.”

Her response ignited backlash on Twitter, where she was a trending topic on Wednesday morning. Many were upset that she not only brushed the criticism aside but seemingly told Afro-Latinos to “wait a while” when it comes to representation.

Cast and Director Speak Out

Since “In The Heights” came out last week, issues of colorism have dominated conversations about the film on Twitter. Members of the cast have addressed the situation in an interview with Felice León at The Root. 

“I didn’t realize until making this movie that I didn’t really get to see myself or people that looked like my siblings, that are darker than me, onscreen,” said Leslie Grace, who plays Nina in the film and is Afro-Latina. 

“I hope that this is cracking that glass ceiling because I do hope to see my brothers and sisters that are darker than me lead these movies,” she later added. 

Melissa Barrera, a Mexican-born actress who plays Vanessa told León that during the audition process, there were many darker-skinned Afro-Latino people being considered, but production ended up going with the actors they felt aligned most with the characters. 

“I think they were looking for just the right people for the roles,” she explained. “For the person that embodied each character in the fullest extent.” 

Director Jon Chu, who previously faced similar criticism regarding colorism in his film “Crazy Rich Asians,” acknowledged that he learned a lot in the process of making the film and is open to learning more.

“That’s a fair conversation to have,” he said. “I mean listen, we’re not going to get everything right in a movie. We try our best on all fronts of it.” 

Chu’s response received some criticism, as at one point he mentioned the diversity of the background dancers to León.

“Those are roles that historically, we’ve been able to fill,” León, who is Black and Cuban, explained. “Right, we’ve been able to be the dancers and we’ve been able to be in the hair salons, and this and that”

“But a lead, that’s the breakthrough,” she continued. “You want to see Black people in the Heights. We want to see Afro-Panamanians, Black Cubans, Black Dominicans. That’s what we want to see and that’s what we were yearning for and hoping for.”

“I hope that at least encourages more people to tell more stories and get out there and do it right then,” Chu added.

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“Call Her Daddy” Podcast Lands Exclusive Deal With Spotify

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The deal between host Alex Cooper and Spotify is reportedly valued at over $60 million.


Spotify Inks Deal With “Call Her Daddy”

Spotify announced Tuesday that it has reached a deal to exclusively host the popular “Call Her Daddy” podcast with Alex Cooper starting July 21. 

Variety reported that the agreement is valued at over $60 million dollars, making it “Spotify’s biggest exclusive deal for a woman-led podcast to date.” The partnership allegedly lasts three years and includes a first-look agreement for Cooper to develop other projects with the platform.

According to Spotify, the sex and dating podcast was the No. 5 most-listened-to podcast on the platform in 2020 and was the second-most popular female-created podcast as well. The audio streaming platform will now co-produce the show, in addition to exclusively airing both old and new episodes for free on its service. 

Barstool Sports, which previously aired the show, is reportedly not involved in this deal. The sports and bro-culture-based media network first picked “Call Her Daddy” up in 2018 when Cooper hosted the show with her roommate Sofia Franklyn. In 2020, contract negotiations between the two hosts and Barstool Sports turned sour, resulting in Franklyn stepping down to start her own podcast while Cooper continued to host “Call Her Daddy” on her own.

Since then, Cooper has focused more on sexuality and mental health, bringing on guests Mia Khalifa, Miley Cyrus and Dr. Orna Guralnik. In May, Cooper posted an episode called “The Season Finale” where she announced a brief hiatus. It now appears that the episode marks the end of her working relationship with Barstool Sports, opening the door for a new chapter with Spotify. 

“I’m incredibly thankful for everyone who has supported, helped, and been a part of ‘Call Her Daddy,’ Cooper said in a statement. “From its start three years ago, the show has always been about challenging the status quo and manifesting conversations that previously only happened behind closed doors. I can’t wait for this next chapter with Spotify, where I will continue raising the bar with great content and guests for the Daddy Gang.”

Spotify’s String of Major Deals

This decision comes as Spotify has been signing a slew of deals to exclusively host major podcasts. The network inked partnerships in 2020 with Kim Kardashian, as well as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. Earlier this year, it also scored a deal with Dax Shepard’s celebrity interview podcast “Armchair Expert.”

The platform made its largest deal in 2020, exclusively securing “The Joe Rogan Experience” which is regularly the number one podcast on the platform’s charts. That deal was worth $100  million and furthered Spotify’s ranks as one of the top podcast streamers in the world.

Making Spotify the sole home of “Call Her Daddy” is just the company’s latest move in dominating the podcast sphere. It also is a major step in reaching young listeners, as most “Call Her Daddy” fans are young women.

“We’re beyond excited to welcome ‘Call Her Daddy,’ one of the most wildly popular podcasts in the world, to Spotify,” said Dawn Ostroff, Spotify’s chief content and advertising business officer, in a Tuesday statement. “The level of enthusiasm and buzz from listeners generated after each episode is emblematic of the magic of the podcast. Alex connects with the millennial and Gen Z generations while empowering her audience to openly express themselves.”

See what others are saying: (Variety) (The Verge) (Axios)

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