Teachers file class action suit against Reese Witherspoon, Draper James
Reese Witherspoon's attempt to show some love for educators during the pandemic with a free dress giveaway continues to backfire. First, the actress and her Draper James clothing line faced online criticism. Now, they have a class action lawsuit to contend with. To backtrack: In early April, Reese hosted a free dress giveaway for teachers via Draper James as a "thank you" for "working harder than ever to educate our children" under challenging circumstances created by the pandemic. Advertised on Instagram, the offer promised one free dress to each participating teacher who provided contact, education employment and other information via Google Form. Teachers had to respond within a three-day window, the ad stated, and the offer was valid only "while supplies last." As it turned out, the demand far outstripped the company's supply of 250 dresses. According to an April New York Times report," the application form crashed almost immediately" and "by the close of the application period, Draper James had almost one million applications … [or] approximately seven times the total number of dresses they had sold in 2019." This week, TMZ reported three women are now filing a class action suit against Reese and Draper James on grounds the giveaway was misleading, as it did not mention that only a fraction of respondents to the offer would actually walk away with dresses. In spite of the Times' comparison on Draper James' 2019 dress sales to dress giveaway applicants, the class action suit slams the defendants for being less generous than others who have made donations to support coronavirus relief efforts. The plaintiffs claim the 250 free dresses would amount to an "estimated paltry $12,500 in actual cost … at a time when other individuals of Witherspoon's renown were offering millions of dollars to COVID-19 victims," according to TMZ. The suit also claims Reese and Draper James benefited from the PR generated by the giveaway. A lawyer for the clothing brand called the lawsuit "an unjust attempt to exploit Draper James' good intentions to honor the teacher community" in a statement to TMZ. "The fact that supplies were limited, such that a free dress could not be provided to every teacher who responded, was disclosed and is no basis for a lawsuit," she added, noting that Draper James "looks forward to .. continuing its efforts to acknowledge the extraordinary contributions made by teachers during this time of need, and to being vindicated in court."
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Is Kim Kardashian behind Kanye West's apparent political change-of-heart?
A new report from Page Six alleges Kim Kardashian West "was the catalyst" for Kanye West — who remained an avowed supporter of Donald Trump as recently as April — to align himself with the Black Lives Matter movement. Since George Floyd was killed by police in May, Kanye has marched in protest of police brutality and racism, siding with demonstrators Trump has condemned. He's donated $2 million to Black Lives Matter organizations. And he recently established a college fund for Floyd's young daughter, Gianna. Some of Page Six's music sources reportedly think Kim inspired 'Ye's change of heart. A rep for Kim, however, denied that claim, telling the tab, "Kanye fully made the decision to donate and peacefully protest in Chicago on his own accord." A source close to Kanye said the rapper's recent actions don't represent a turnabout, and that he's "always been fully engaged," according to the outlet.
Kerry Washington wants to shake up how we teach kids about race and Black History in America
For Kerry Washington, the eruption of protests in the wake of George Floyd's killing means people have started to get that you can't be passive when it comes to making a democracy work. "Democracy works if we all show up and we all express our values whether it's voting or in the streets protesting," she said on "Jimmy Kimmel Live!" this week, according to E! News. During her visit, the "American Son" star spoke with Jimmy about the conversations she's having with her kids about what's happening in our country, but said she's really been focused on how kids learn about race to begin with. "… For a lot of kids, kids are introduced to race at Black History Month or in the concept of change-makers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks," she said. "And I think it's really important that we start to introduce the idea of race with a Black History that begins before teaching kids what black people were told they couldn't do, right?" she continued. "So, there's Maasai Warriors and the kingdoms of Ghana and Queen Nefertiti and the pyramids of Egypt." Ultimately, she said she's focused on seeing children learn "that Black History and black people were a lot of things before segregation and Jim Crow and the Civil Rights Movement … so that we understand the beautiful complexity and elegance and richness of Black History before refusing to be put in the back of the bus."
Mark Hamill, Jimmy Kimmel surprise COVID test site nurse and 'Star Wars' fan with signed lightsaber, $10M
As the at-home version of Jimmy Kimmel's talk show continues, so does his habit of surprising healthcare workers who've been fighting COVID-19 with cash donations and visits from their pop culture heroes. On Monday, the host welcomed "Star Wars" superfan-nurse Chloe Ducose to the show, according to People. A resident of San Diego, California, Chloe's now working at a test site tent, testing people for COVID-19, but Jimmy was equally interested in her obsession with a certain galaxy, far, far away. "How many times have you watched the 'Star Wars' movies — all of them — from beginning to end?" he asked. More than 10 each, she admitted. "I thought it might be fun to introduce you to somebody to say 'hello' who would like to thank you for all the work you're doing," he told her. Suddenly, the theme from "Star Wars" played and Mark Hamill, clad in a black cape, called in to the video chat. Looking stunned, Chloe blurted out, "What the heck? Oh my god, hi!" Mark then went into full Luke Skwalker mode: "Chloe, Chloe. The Force is strong with you," he said, in character, before joking, "I applaud you for having seen the 'Star Wars' movies more than I have." Mark said he'd been reading about her contributions — "six years as a nurse, teaching at night, you're in the tents … that's so great," he told her. "To me, I'm a pretend hero, you're the real-life hero. Thank you for your service." Chloe couldn't deal and covered her face. "I'm having palpitations," she said. Before she signed off, Mark presented Chloe with her very own signed lightsaber replica, and Jimmy thanked her for all her efforts fighting the coronavirus, both with his words and with a $10,000 donation from PayPal's "#PayPalItForward" fund. He also gave Chloe PayPal vouchers for her to share with her coworkers.
Smitten dad Anderson Cooper calls fatherhood 'a new level of love'
Anderson Cooper's infant son Wyatt is ready for his closeup — at least, we hope he is, because the 1-month-old is on the cover of People magazine's latest issue with his extremely smitten dad. The CNN anchor announced on his show on April 30 that he'd just become a first-time father with the help of a surrogate. He's now doing the new-parent shuffle, complete with heightened emotions, a newfound concern for the future of the world and, of course, very little sleep (though he says he "wouldn't change it for the world"). "When I was 12 years old and knew I was gay and thought about my life, it always upset me because I thought, 'I will never be able to have a kid.' This is a dream come true," Anderson, 53, tells People for its Pride issue. "It feels like my life has actually begun," he explains. "And I sort of wonder, what was I waiting for? This is a new level of love. It's unlike anything I've experienced, and yet it's also very familiar and incredibly special and intimate. It's really extraordinary." Anderson, who is raising Wyatt with his former partner Benjamin Maisani, 47, also opened up about the impact fatherhood is having on his perspective on the historic news he's been covering lately. "I feel invested in the future in a way I hadn't really before," he says. As Anderson looks ahead, though, he's also mindful of the past, telling People he's grateful for, "all the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people who struggled for generations and have died never thinking this was a possibility."
Janelle Monae on her 'Homecoming' lead role and her character's romance
On May 22, Janelle Monae kicked off her first lead role in a TV series in Amazon's "Homecoming," playing a veteran who wakes up on a small boat with no idea who or where she is. As the season continues, her character falls for Audrey, played by Hong Chau, who is Asian. In a new interview with Variety, Janelle says it's storylines like that one that can foster real change when it comes to increasing the diversity of voices and stories in pop culture. "To have a Black woman and an Asian woman in a relationship on TV is the type of representation that we need," she tells the magazine, adding that, "being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community is an honor." Janelle first discussed her sexuality publicly in a 2018 interview with Rolling Stone. "Being a queer black woman in America … someone who has been in relationships with both men and women — I consider myself to be a free-ass motherf—er," she said at the time. Later, she shared, "I read about pansexuality and was like, 'Oh, these are things that I identify with too.' I'm open to learning more about who I am."
'Fuller House' takes one last dig at the Olsen twins for not doing the reboot
The fifth and final season of "Fuller House" has now aired all its episodes on Netflix — and in keeping with a trend that started in 2016, the last season did manage to squeeze in one Michelle Tanner joke. The playful digs began as a nod to the fact that Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen did not return for the "Full House" reboot after sharing the role of Michelle on the hit '90s series. (They told WWD at one point that they were kept out of the loop on the reboot; John Stamos has said they opted to skip it.) As Andrea Barber, who plays Kimmy, previously told TVLine, "Michelle gets at least one little poke per season, so we had to do it one last time. It's not meant to be mean, obviously. It's all good-natured, in good spirits. We poke fun at everybody." According to JustJared, the final Michelle "poke" comes when Kimmy, along with sisters DJ and Stephanie, are going through old belongings in the attic. When Kimmy finds Michelle's old bike that she thought had been stolen, Kimmy asks the sibs, "How long are you going to keep Michelle's bike?" She gives the moment a second to hang there. "If she hasn't come for it by now …," she says, then turns to the audience, "she's not coming."
Ava DuVernay to fund new media projects dealing with police accountability and storytelling
Ava DuVernay sees art as a means of holding police accountable for their actions — and she's ready to fund at least 25 artistic projects to make that happen. On Monday, the "Selma" director announced on "Ellen" that her Array media company is launching an initiative called The Law Enforcement Accountability Project (LEAP), and will soon begin commissioning film, literature, theater, dance, fine art and music projects that tell stories about police violence and abuse, according to THR. She hopes to encourage activism through narrative expression. "When I look at George Floyd's tape, I see my uncles. Not just in a general sense, but he looks like people in my family, like literally the facial features," she told Ellen DeGeneres. "Every time that that video plays on CNN or anything else, I see people that I love on the ground begging for their life." Ava said she's been interested in probing into the "images" we see in those situations and "the storytelling around" them. "We need to change what those stories are and change the way that we tell them," she said. Speaking to THR this week, the director elaborated: "LEAP is specifically looking at storytelling through the lens of police accountability. There is a lack of accountability happening at police departments, police unions and in the courts, a lack of laws on the books that really protect citizens from officers who have a certain number of grievances. The idea is that if the courts won't do it, if the police unions won't do it, if the departments won't do it, then people can do it."
Natalie Portman explains why she now supports defunding the police
Natalie Portman has been sharing perspectives on the Black Lives Matter movement and protests against police brutality on Instagram for much of the past week. Plenty of those posts have been hit with backlash from conservative IG users. Among the most commented-on updates so far, though, appears to be the actress' take on calls to "defund the police." In the post, Natalie explains how and why the platform has gained so much traction recently, sharing a breakdown of how the idea would translate into more adequately funded services and protection for poor communities. She also admits she initially didn't support it. "My whole life, police have made me feel safe," Natalie writes. "But that's exactly the center of my white privilege: the police make me as a white woman feel safe, while my black friends, family and neighbors feel the opposite: police make them feel terror. And for good reason. Police are the 6th leading cause of death for black men in this country. These are not isolated incidents. They are patterns and part of the system of over-policing of black Americans. Reforms have not worked," she continues. Her post delves into specific examples of those reform attempts, including in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was killed, and where the mayor recently announced plans to dismantle the police department. It also invites readers to consider the benefits of living in a country that "invested in nourishing people; (in their education, healthcare, environment, shelter)— rather than putting all of our money into punishment." She concludes by writing: "I've gotten to the age in my life, where if my gut feels uncomfortable, I take the situation as wrong. But this concept initially made me uncomfortable because I was wrong. Because the system that makes me feel comfortable is wrong."
Meghan McCain responds to criticism after Kamala Harris interview
Meghan McCain once again found herself on the defensive after she was accused of being "unprepared" for an interview with Sen. Kamala Harris on "The View" about calls to defund the police. During the exchange (via JustJared), McCain pressed the senator as if Harris was not replying to her question, which was, "… do you support defunding and removing American police from communities and if not, why do you think there's such a hard time being differentiated right now between defunding and reforming?" Harris said she supports reforming the police, reimagining public safety and reallocating funds traditionally funneled into police departments into things like education, mental health care and job training programs. When Harris asked how McCain was "defining defunding the police," McCain said she assumed "it means removing" them. At that point, Sunny Hostin jumped in to explain: "It means taking some of those funds that are typically one third of a budget of a city and giving some of those funds to services like mental health, education and mental health resources." Viewers quickly attacked McCain on Twitter, questioning her preparedness, among other things. She finally replied by posting this statement: "1. It is not my job to explain the radical policies of the left most Americans are confused by. 2. If 'defund actually means 'reform', why are you saying defund? 3. Ilhan Omar is calling 'to completely dismantle the police department because it is a cancer, rotten to its core' 4. I think we should be having as many conversations as possible about real police reform and almost every American I know wants this. 5. I am happy to listen to anyone and talk to anyone who wants a respectful dialogue. 6. I am never unprepared, ever, on our show. It's my job."