Ariana Grande Sues Forever 21 for Using a "Look-Alike Model" on Social Media

The pop superstar alleges in a $10 million suit that the retailer stole her likeness after failing to come to an endorsement deal.
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Ariana Grande has filed a lawsuit against Forever 21 and claims at least $10 million in damages after the fashion retailer allegedly hired a look-alike model for a social media campaign.

According to the complaint filed in California federal court, Forever 21 contacted Grande's representatives in anticipation of her latest album — thank u, next — for the purpose of an endorsement deal.

"Notably, the endorsement deal Forever 21 sought with Ms. Grande centered around social media marketing, including, but not limited to, Twitter posts, Instagram posts, and Instagram stories," states the complaint.

Grande, who asserts that the market value for her imprimatur, even a single Instagram post, is "well into the six figures," says negotiations commenced but that deal "never came to fruition because the amounts that Forever 21 offered to pay for the right to use Ms. Grande’s name and likeness were insufficient for an artist of her stature."

"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," continues the complaint. "The campaign capitalized on the concurrent success of Ms. Grande’s album Thank U, Next by publishing 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."

Grande adds that Forever 21 — which has a history of going to court over knockoffs although not quite like this — didn't just take a model with a similar look and hairstyle. Instead, she asserts, the "strikingly similar" model wore the hairstyle and hair accessory she did in the 7 Rings video, dressed in a top worn by her in numerous well-known photographs, and struck a pose for which Grande is known. Additionally, the 7 Rings audio is said to have played in conjunction with the post along with captions containing lyrics from that song.

The pop superstar is being represented by a legal superstar — Daniel Petrocelli at O'Melveny, who is claiming Forever 21's activity constitutes a violation of California's right of publicity statute, false endorsement under the Lanham Act, trademark infringement and copyright infringement.

In some ways, Grande is following in the footsteps of Kim Kardashian, who once sued Old Navy parent The Gap for using a look-alike in an advertisement. That case aggressively explored whether Kardashian's reputation was tarnished before it eventually settled.

Here's the full complaint from Grande.

A statement from Forever 21 reads: " Forever 21 does not comment on pending litigation as per company policy. 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."