LOS ANGELES (CN) – In a federal lawsuit filed Monday, pop star Ariana Grande claims fashion retailer Forever 21 blatantly stole her image, music and “intellectual property” by hiring a look-alike model for a promotional campaign.
The Grammy Award-winning artist, born Ariana Grande-Butera, says in the 21-page complaint that in early 2019, Forever 21 and Riley Rose – a beauty company started by the daughters of the company’s founder – sought her endorsement for their fashion line.
With 163 million Instagram followers, Grande is the most followed woman on the platform worldwide, according to the lawsuit. That and Grande’s singing and acting talents allow her to be selective over which brands and messages she endorses, she claims.
The market value for a single promotional post on Instagram by Grande is several hundred thousand dollars, Grande says in the lawsuit, adding that she “commands in the mid-seven figures to over eight figures” for long-term marketing and licensing deals.
Forever 21 – which was founded in 1984 and now has more than 800 stores in 57 countries – offered Grande an endorsement contract after weeks of negotiations.
Grande and her company GrandAri Inc declined the offer due to the retail giant’s “unwillingness to pay the fair market value for a celebrity of Ms. Grande’s stature,” according to the lawsuit.
But Forever 21 published nearly 30 images and videos on Instagram for a promotional campaign that the lawsuit alleges was meant to capitalize on the success of Grande’s album “Thank U, Next.”
The posts included images of Grande in her distinctive fashion as well as photos of a look-alike model wearing clothes and accessories that resembled Grande’s style.
“Rather than pay for that right as the law requires, defendants simply stole it by launching a misleading campaign across its website and social media platforms primarily in January and February 2019,” Grande says in her lawsuit. “The resemblance is uncanny and Forever 21’s intent was clear: to suggest to the viewing public that Ms. Grande endorsed Forever 21, its products, and was affiliated with Forever 21.”
Grande spotted the posts and immediately informed her attorneys and her licensing agents at Bravado International Group Merchandising Services, who sent the companies a cease-and-desist notice.
Grande and GrandAri Inc seeks $10 million in damages, claiming Forever 21 and Riley Rose’s infringement lasted for 14 weeks and violated the artist’s rights under the Copyright Act and Lanham Act.
Grande is represented by Daniel Petrocelli of O'Melveny and Myers.
In a statement, Forever 21 said it does not comment on pending litigation but added: “That said, while we dispute the allegations, we are huge supporters of Ariana Grande and have worked with her licensing company over the past two years. We are hopeful that we will find a mutually agreeable resolution and can continue to work together in the future.”
Over the weekend, Forbes reported the privately owned Forever 21 is considering bankruptcy due to sales that have fallen as much as 25% in the last year.
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