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The Legali(teas) of Today’s Pop Culture:
Ariana Grande Sues Forever 21 – A Legal Analysis

On September 2, 2019, Ariana Grande, through her attorneys, filed a complaint in United States District Court Central District of California, suing Forever 21 for $10 million in damages. The complaint alleges that the teen fashion retailer used Grande’s likeness in a branding campaign designed to “suggest to the viewing public” that they were collaborating.

According to the complaint, Forever 21 had previously asked Grande to partner with them, but she declined due to "Forever 21's unwillingness to pay the fair market value for a celebrity of Ms. Grande's stature." However, this didn’t stop the retailer from using her image anyway. The complaint alleges that Forever 21 published at least 30 unauthorized images and videos "misappropriating Ms. Grande's name, image, likeness, and music in order to create the false perception of her endorsement."

One post on Forever 21’s social media account showed a model, bearing a striking resemblance to Grande, down to the signature high ponytail, with hair accessories almost identical to the ones Grande wore in her 7 Rings music video. The retailer even went as far as to caption the image with “Gee thanks, just bought it!” – lyrics from 7 Rings.

Another post showed a model wearing an outfit matching Grande’s from the same music video. Forever 21 also posted multiple images of Grande from her Thank U, Next music video. Considering Grande allegedly charges “well into six figures” for a sponsored post on her social media, it is understandable that she would file a suit for damages.

Grande is alleging that the resemblances are “uncanny” claiming “Forever 21’s intent was clear: to suggest to the viewing public that Grande endorsed Forever 21, its products and was affiliated with Forever 21.”

Prior to filing the Complaint, Grande’s attorneys were in touch with Forever 21, and they agreed to remove the unauthorized posts, but took a good few months to do so. The complaint lists various counts, including that her right to publicity was violated, along with false endorsement, trademark infringement, and copyright infringement. It claims that Forever 21 was looking to boost its fortunes as the company prepares for a potential bankruptcy filing.

In response to Grande’s claims, Forever 21 disputes the allegations, but would not comment on the pending litigation.

We will be sure to keep you in the loop as this case progresses.


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