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Ariana Grande sues fashion firm for using lookalike model in social media marketing

By | Published on Wednesday 4 September 2019

Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande has sued American clothing chain Forever 21 alleging that, after the fashion firm failed to negotiate a brand partnership deal with the pop star, it instead used a “strikingly similar” model to promote its brand on social media.

The multi-million dollar lawsuit primarily accuses Forever 21 of infringing Grande’s publicity rights, a principle that exists in the US – but not the UK – which allows people to stop the commercial use of their name or likeness by other parties. Though the lawsuit also includes some claims under trademark and copyright law too, just for fun. It also reckons that a single post on Grande’s Instagram feed can be valued at “well into the six figures”.

Noting that Forever 21 had approached Grande about a possible brand partnership deal around the release of her recent album ‘Thank U, Next’, the legal filing says that, when she chose not to do that deal, “defendants did not simply use a model with a similar look and hairstyle; they used a model who looks strikingly similar to Ms Grande, wearing a similar hairstyle to the one Ms Grande wore in [the video for a recent single], dressed in a top designed to look like a top worn by Ms Grande in numerous well-known photographs”.

It then goes on to talk up the value of social media for brands like Forever 21, it being the forum of the alleged publicity right violations. “The importance and influence derived from social media marketing to consumers in today’s market cannot be overstated”, it says. “Indeed, platforms such as Instagram and Twitter are premiere forms of marketing for most companies today, and paying influential celebrities with large social media followings such as Ms Grande is the modern-day equivalent of buying television ads 20 years ago”.

With all that in mind, Grande would like $10 million to compensate her for the all damage she suffered when a lookalike flogged some shitty clothes on Facebook.

For its part, Forever 21 was pretty diplomatic in its response to the lawsuit, it having worked with the pop star’s licensing company in the past and seemingly hoping it can still secure new partnership deals with her in the years ahead. A spokesperson told Law360: “We are hopeful that we will find a mutually agreeable resolution and can continue to work together in the future”.