- Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Ariana Grande
- Ariana Grande is currently suing Forever 21 for $10 million, alleging the store “stole her name, likeness, and other intellectual property.”
- Since filing the lawsuit on Monday, Grande herself has been accused of stealing outfit designs from drag queen Farrah Moan, minority designers, and black artists like Rihanna.
- Moan accused Grande of directly copying one of her “RuPaul’s Drag Race” outfits and of “stealing from queer artists for profit.”
- The watchdog Instagram account Diet Prada then accused Grande of “appropriating black aesthetics” to create her performance looks for the “Sweetener World Tour.”
- Diet Prada also noted similarities between Grande’s onstage outfits and designs by the Asian designer Yeha Leung.
- Leung told Insider that she was “approached by the stylist to create custom pieces for that specific tour,” but she declined due to a “timing issue.”
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Since Ariana Grande filed a $10 million lawsuit against Forever 21 on Monday, she has been hit with accusations of hypocrisy and cultural appropriation.
The “RuPaul’s Drag Race” star Farrah Moan and the fashion watchdog Instagram account Diet Prada have logged the most high-profile complaints about Grande – both, notably, about her apparent habit of copying outfits from lesser known designers and minority artists.
Here’s everything you need to know about the controversy.
Grande is suing Forever 21 for allegedly using her likeness in advertisements
- @forever21/Instagram / Ariana Grande/YouTube
As Insider’s Amanda Krause previously reported, Grande’s lawyers filed a complaint on Monday accusing Forever 21 of attempting to sell products by hiring a model who looks “strikingly similar” to Grande and using clips and lyrics from her song “7 Rings” on social media.
The complaint argued that Forever 21 “stole her name, likeness, and other intellectual property to promote their brands for free.”
Images included in the complaint show “a look-alike model” who wore clothing, accessories, and a hairstyle that many would associate with Grande, her lawyers said.
- @forever21/Instagram / Ethan Miller/Getty Images
“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’s lawyers said in the complaint.
Grande and her lawyers are seeking damages, alleging copyright and trademark infringement, false endorsement, and violating her right of publicity.
In a statement provided to Insider, Forever 21 disputed the allegations and said the company is supportive of Grande’s career.
The lawsuit inspired Moan to accuse Grande of intentionally copying one of her outfits from ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’
On Wednesday, Moan posted a side-by-side of her entrance look for season four of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” and Grande’s bedazzled corset from her “7 Rings” music video – alleging that Grande’s team “literally sent a pic of me to the designer and paid them to copy my look from as4.”
Moan said she noticed the similarities when the video was released in January, but initially thought it was a “flattering coincidence.”
“It didn’t honestly grind my gears until I saw the lawsuit, to be fair,” Moan told “ET Live” on Thursday.
Ariana should give me a cut of that 10M since her team literally sent a pic of me to the designer and paid them to copy my look from as4. (Finally met the designer and got told the Tea) I guess stealing from queer artists for profit is fine tho ????????♀️ pic.twitter.com/1smGr8K4G0
— ???? Farrah Moan (@farrahrized) September 4, 2019
Although Moan claims she “met the seamstress that put together Ariana’s version” – who apparently admitted to copying Moan’s look – the drag queen said the apparent hypocrisy of Grande’s lawsuit is what ultimately inspired her to speak up.
“I’m not here to sue Ariana Grande, that’s so ridiculous. I am such a fan of hers,” Moan said. “But I do think, you know, you should cover your ground a little bit before you want to so intensely come for someone for taking something from you.”
“If you are feeling so inspired by somebody, give them a platform,” she continued. “If you like something that they did, or came up with, hire them to come up with something for you. Buy something from them. Don’t go behind their back and try to steal it and backpedal.”
Moan hopes that, given the media coverage of this controversy, big names and businesses will move to “incorporate the queer and other minority artists that are underground into the projects that they’re doing.”
On Thursday, Diet Prada shared a ‘mood board’ that allegedly inspired Grande’s tour outfits
Diet Prada, a fashion watchdog account with 1.5 million followers on Instagram, posted a slideshow of images labeled “Sweetener Mood Board.”
View this post on Instagram
*???????? ????????????????????????????????????* : If you've ever needed proof of Ariana Grande’s appropriation of black aesthetics (beyond the obvious), it's all here. Multiple designers approached by her team to create costumes for the 2019 Sweetener tour have shared with us a PDF moodboard sent to them by her team. 72% of the four page document features black women as a reference (mostly Rihanna and a couple Ciara images). It also features several images of @creepyyeha 's distinctive made-to-measure bondagewear, which Versace – despite having bondage in their house codes as well – seemed to have replicated with minor changes. Arianators, come at us lol. • #sweetener #arianagrande #appropriation #culturalappropriation #creepyyeha #sweetenertour #popstar #musician #costumes #bondage #hardware #leather #custom #madetomeasure #madeinnyc #versace #donatellaversace #madeinitaly #pastel #pink #rihanna #badgalriri #ciara #rihannanavy #blackgirlmagic #wiwt #ootd #dietprada
According to the account, which is run by Tony Liu and Lindsey Schuyler, the collection of images was shared with multiple designers, who were approached by Grande’s team to create onstage looks for her “Sweetener World Tour.” (Versace was ultimately chosen to design six custom-made outfits for the 2019 tour.)
Diet Prada claimed the mood board is ‘proof of Ariana Grande’s appropriation of black aesthetics’
“If you’ve ever needed proof of Ariana Grande’s appropriation of black aesthetics (beyond the obvious), it’s all here,” Diet Prada’s caption reads.
The caption notes that 72 percent of the images in the mood board “features black women as a reference.”
Indeed, the vast majority of the mood board features Rihanna. It also includes a few photos of Ciara.
Grande has been accused of appropriating black culture in the past, most notably with her popular single “7 Rings.” Some listeners say Grande lifted aspects of the hip-hop infused track from black artists like Soulja Boy and stole the video’s pink trap house aesthetic from 2 Chainz (who went on to collaborate with Grande for a “7 Rings” remix).
The rapper Princess Nokia was among many critics who denounced the specific lyric, “You like my hair? Gee thanks, just bought it,” claiming it whitewashes the politics surrounding hair in black communities.
Grande has also been scrutinized for her skin tone. Some critics say she has intentionally encouraged her own racial ambiguity in order to capitalize on the perceived “coolness” of blackness. Grande herself says her deep tan is thanks to her Italian heritage.
Grande’s stylist has come to her defense, saying he created the mood board
View this post on Instagram
Screaming Happy Bday to MOTHA….. Ari THANK YOU for trusting me with so many legendary moments! THANK YOU for challenging me! THANK YOU for being my friend! THANK YOU for loving me!!! THANK YOU for showing us all what a real BOSS looks like! THANK YOU for just being fucking YOU !!! …..ILYM ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️
Law Roach, the celebrity stylist and Image Architect, re-posted Diet Prada on his Instagram story and defended Grande.
“I don’t really understand this post,” he wrote. “This mood board was created by me (a black man) for her. So am [I] stealing from my own culture??? She didn’t style herself people. She has trusted me for years with her image and lets me do me. Also who [in] the fashion industry isn’t inspired by Rihanna?”
Many of Diet Prada’s commenters appeared to agree with Roach, arguing that drawing inspiration from black artists isn’t necessarily the same as appropriating black culture.
“I’m African American and I wouldn’t necessarily say these images are ‘black aesthetics’ where did you get that from?” one comment reads.
“Since when is drawing inspiration from a fashion icon like Rihanna considered cultural appropriation?” reads another.
‘OK but why didn’t she just ask Creepyyeha for a costume?’
Even as commenters defended Grande against accusations of appropriation, many do believe she has a “copy-cat problem.”
Aside from photos of Rihanna and Ciara, the rest of the mood board is comprised of screenshots from the Instagram account of Yeha Leung, a Brooklyn-based Asian designer who creates made-to-order bondagewear under the brand name Creepyyeha.
As Diet Prada notes, several of Grande’s custom-made tour outfits closely resemble some of Leung’s designs, which have been worn by stars like Lizzo, Cardi B, FKA Twigs, Kali Uchis, and Dita Von Teese.
- @creepyyeha/Instagram / Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Ariana Grande
For many, the similarities seemed to underscore Moan’s original point: Big names and companies should hire lesser known artists, especially minority designers, rather than using them just for inspiration.
“so annoyed that she didn’t just hire @creepyyeha for this, ariana’s copy looks like a sad boohoo bootleg,” one person wrote.
“why not just like … i dunno Hire the brand that you’re inspired by??? instead of having a different designer copy it?? shocking concept,” another person wrote.
Von Teese also commented, writing, “Thank you for standing up for @creepyyeha.”
Grande’s team did originally ask Leung to create costumes for the “Sweetener” tour – but she turned them down
- @creepyyeha/Instagram / Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Ariana Grande
“I was indeed approached by the stylist to create custom pieces for that specific tour,” Leung told Insider via email.
“Unfortunately, I had to turn it down due to a timing issue, since the majority of my work is hand-made to measure,” she continued. “Sadly, it is not my first time dealing with this. The music and fashion industry run in an unsustainable pace. I rather my brand live in its own time and collaborate with other creatives that respect that as well.”
All of Leung’s Creepyyeha products, which she sells via Storenvy online, are handmade to order. Shoppers can also provide measurements for a custom fit.
“I hope this situation shines a light into the amount of work independent designers go through when selecting materials, colors, and quality to create magic,” Leung told Insider.
Grande has a noted interest in Asian cultures, particularly the Japanese language
It’s not lost on critics that Grande’s team drew significant inspiration from an Asian designer after she was accused of exploiting Japanese culture “for the aesthetic.”
Back in January, Grande got a now-infamous tattoo of two kanji characters, meant to say “seven rings” in Japanese. Instead, it was misspelled and actually translated to mean “shichirin,” which is a small BBQ grill.
Grande has often expressed a love for Japan and Japanese culture. She began learning the language in 2015 and has demonstrated her progress on numerous occasions. Grande has even given online shout outs to her tutor Ayumi, who works at Fuji, a Japanese language school in little Tokyo, Los Angeles.
@ArianaGrande You are the greatest student!! てづくり(hand-made) クッキー(Cookies) 、ごちそうさまでした！ また、あしたね。
— FUJI SCHOOL (@fujischool) January 26, 2015
But after Grande admitted that she knew her tattoo was misspelled, critics thought her tattoo blunder indicated a disrespect for the language.
“I can’t read or write kanji obviously. What do you want me to do? It was done out of love and appreciation. What do you want me to say?” she wrote on Twitter. “There is a difference between appropriation and appreciation.”
Moan, the founders of Diet Prada, and representatives for Grande didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment.
This post has been updated to include Yeung’s comment, provided to Insider via email after the story’s initial publication.
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