PAPER, 14 Aug 2020 01:05:11 -0000 Cyrus, Cody Simpson Reportedly Split

Miley Cyrus and Cody Simpson have called it quits, according to a new report.

On Thursday afternoon, sources close to Cyrus and Simpson told TMZ that they had broken up within the last few weeks. However, the publication noted that no clear reason was given for why the former couple split.

The two began dating last October following the Midnight Sky singer's divorce from Liam Hemsworth and subsequent romance with Kaitlynn Carter.

Since then, they've gotten matching tattoos and been near-constant fixtures on each other's social media accounts — documenting everything from their six-month anniversary to filming a number of TikToks together.

Photos via Getty

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 23:27:19 +0000 cyrusCody simpsonSplitsFamous peopleLiam hemsworthKaitlynn carterSandra Song
Cardi B Responds to Carole Baskin's 'Ridiculous' Criticism of 'WAP'

Cardi B is hitting back at Carole Baskin's criticism of her "WAP" music video with Megan Thee Stallion.

Earlier this week, the Tiger King star and Big Cat Rescue CEO condemned the use of big cats within the Colin Tilley-directed music video, arguing in a statement that she was worried "WAP" could "glamorize" having them as pets.

"My guess is that most people won't even see the Photoshopped cats in the scenes because the rest of it is so lurid," Baskin wrote while also voicing concerns about the animals' welfare. "I was happy to see that it does appear to all be Photoshopped. It didn't look like the cats were really in the rooms with the singers. In fact, probably most of the rooms were Photoshopped in via green screen."

Related | Carole Baskin Also Hated Kylie Jenner's "WAP" Cameo

Now though, Cardi herself has dismissed Baskin's statement in a new interview with i-D, explaining that she's "not gonna engage with Carole Baskin on that."

"Like, that's just ridiculous you know? Oh, Lord. Like, girl you killed your goddamn husband," Cardi then added, referencing speculation surrounding Baskin's alleged involvement in the 1997 disappearance of her husband Don Lewis.

However, Baskin wasn't the only critic Cardi had a few words for. While speaking on the pearl-clutching conservative backlash surrounding "WAP," the star admitted that while she was "really surprised by the reaction," she always encourages people "to be confident, especially when it comes to your sexuality."

"Some of these men are uncomfortable, they're not even comfortable being sensual," she said. "Maybe you're conservative, but everybody got a little freak inside them, you know? Every single person. Everybody gets horny, everybody gets a little tingle down there, you know what I'm saying. Just embrace it. Don't be scared about it."

Read Cardi's entire interview, here.

Photos via Getty & Netflix

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 22:48:53 +0000 bMegan thee stallionCarole baskinTiger kingWapKylie jennerMusicFamous peopleSandra Song
Lady Gaga Will Perform 'Chromatica' Live at the VMAs

Lady Gaga will take the stage and bless fans at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards. This performance will mark Gaga's first VMAs performance since 2013 when she performed "Applause" from the ever-iconic ARTPOP.

Related | In Defense of Lady Gaga's 'ARTPOP'

Gaga, and "Rain On Me" collaborator Ariana Grande, are currently leading the nominations for the 2020 VMAs with nine nominations each. Gaga's nominations follow the release of Chomatica in June, and the debut episode of her Apple Music show Gaga Radio, featuring an interview with frequent collaborator BloodPop.

"I've been at home dreaming of #Chromatica, and it's finally time to take off for the first live performance," Gaga said in an Instagram post.

Related | Lady Gaga: Life on Chromatica

This latest announcement of Gaga's performance joins other performance announcements from earlier in the week, including The Weeknd, Roddy Ricch, Maluma and CNCO. Other previously announced performers include BTS, Doja Cat and J Balvin.

All of the artists are set to give performances from various outdoor locations throughout New York City after original plans of performing at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn were dropped earlier this month.

Related | How Richy Jackson Got America Dancing

Gaga and the other performers are sure to make the night one audiences will never forget. Tune in to MTV August 30 at 8 PM EST.

Photo courtesy of Interscope

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 22:21:51 +0000 gagaChromaticaVideo music awardsVmasMtvAriana grandeRain on meRiley Runnells
Jake Paul Addresses 'Absurd' Rumors About FBI Raid

Jake Paul has broken his silence on the FBI raid at his Calabasas mansion.

Last week, officials executed a search warrant in connection to a federal investigation tied to the YouTuber's alleged involvement in a "disturbance" at an Arizona shopping mall in May. And though Paul has kept quiet amid ongoing speculation surrounding the incident, he finally decided to try and "set the record straight" in a video uploaded to his YouTube yesterday.

Related | Jake Paul's Mansion Raided By the FBI

"Just to clarify things and set the record straight, the FBI raid is entirely related to the Arizona looting situation that happened," he said. "It's an investigation. There are rumors about it having to do with so many other things that have nothing to do with me or my character and the shit that people are making up is absolutely absurd."

Paul then went on to hint that the raid led him to realize that "someone around [him] is doing malicious things," which has since led to them being "immediately cut out of [his] life."

"I don't put up with bullshit, I don't surround myself with bad people," he added without naming any particular individuals. "If someone does something bad, they will be removed from my life."

Paul also thanked fans for their support and assured them that he's just trying to "focus on my life, myself, boxing, music" as the investigation continues.

Per previous reports, the raid stemmed from Paul's June arrest by Scottsdale police officers on misdemeanor charges of criminal trespassing and unlawful assembly during what was supposedly a protest over the murder of George Floyd — though he's since maintained he was "strictly documenting, not engaging." That said, the Scottsdale City Attorney's Office has since dismissed the charges brought against Paul in deference to the investigation currently being conducted by federal authorities.

The video itself has since been deleted, though it remains unclear why. In the meantime though, you can watch a fan-captured clip from it, below.

View this post on Instagram

Damn son - #jakepaul

A post shared by TheBreadBatch (@thebreadbatch) on

Photo via Getty

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 22:11:41 +0000 paulFbiRaidsFamous peopleInternet cultureSandra Song
Zuri Hall Takes Control

August is officially National Black Business Month and PAPER is showing love to some of our favorite Black-owned businesses throughout the entire month. Our dedicated series, Booked x Busy, is all about shining a light on the entrepreneurs and brands that embody Black excellence.

A former small-town girl from Toledo, OH, Emmy award-winning television host, actress and producer Zuri Hall made her Hollywood dreams a reality, broadcasting in millions of homes across the US through shows like E!'s Daily Pop, Access Hollywood and American Ninja Warrior.

Related | Topicals Skincare Wants You to Embrace All Your Flaws

But her impact on current culture can be felt far beyond her on-screen appearances. Hall stood in solidarity on behalf of the Times Up movement at the 2018 Golden Globes, acted as the AdCouncil spokeswoman for breast cancer awareness, served as a NAACP keynote speaker and now, she's created her own brand to continue her advocacy work.

Through her self-help startup, AlphaBabe, (which raised thousands for COVID-19 relief) and her hit online show, Hey Zuri Hall, the multi-hyphenate celebrity is using her platforms to be a voice for the voiceless.

PAPER sat down with Zuri to discuss her experience as a Black woman in Hollywood, what it takes to build your own brand and why every time is the perfect time to empower one another.

What does it mean to have a platform and opportunity as a Black influencer, especially when the Black Lives Matter movement is getting so much attention?

I'm grateful to have the opportunity and platform. It's always been important for me to speak my truth and stand up for what I believe is right. I've done that for years, on my platforms — whether social media, televised, or simply in the everyday interactions with those around me.

Tell me more. How have you managed to use your platforms to speak up and speak out?

From discussing the terrible events in Charlottesville on a national daytime talk show like E!'s Daily Pop to and giving my perspective as a Black woman on why we didn't need a controversial show like HBO's Confederate on the airwaves to advocating for and being a part of the more recent Black Live Matter TV coverage at Access Hollywood, I'm not afraid to speak up or speak out.

I've always used my social media platforms to speak up about social justice issues, even when at times it felt a little scary to do so. I even began doing this before speaking up was widely accepted in some spaces, or even encouraged. As a public figure, I've always felt a responsibility to do my part to help push important conversations forward and I'm just grateful to have the opportunity to do so.

We haven't been able to go out and socialize in-person much due to COVID-19. How has this affected your brand?

I think what it's definitely done for me (and many others, I think) is it opened my eyes to new, innovative ways to extend my brand... particularly my AlphaBabe social media initiative.

Because I've always worked a full-time job, I'd felt that I never had the time or resources to execute the women's empowerment events that were always a part of my vision. But when quarantine hit, virtual events became the new norm and I decided now was the time. I put together an AlphaBabe Power Panel and curated a panel of some of my industry friends and colleagues who are also amazing women from the industry.

It was also a great example of women supporting women, essentially dismantling the idea that women have to be against each other. It was nearly two hours of wisdom, positivity, mutual support and encouragement. We sold out almost immediately and 100% of the net proceeds from tickets sold went directly to COVID-19 relief efforts, during that peak/ initial quarantine phase. We raised thousands of dollars to donate and educated hundreds and hundreds of women and men.

In all, it affirmed my belief that there was a desire for this kind of content and expanded my mind on the ways I could make it happen. I'm excited to do more.

Tell me a little about AlphaBabe. Why did you start such an empowering initiative?

The concept of AlphaBabe is something I came up with nearly five or six years ago at a time when I didn't see strong, "alpha" women being celebrated and encouraged to be strong and unapologetic as much I thought we should be.

To be an "AlphaBabe" means being an unapologetically ambitious and mindful Millennial woman, who is designing a life she loves, and leads. She knows what she wants, and she's not afraid to work for it. That juxtaposition of "alpha" and "babe" is all about embracing our duality, as women: we can be smart and sexy; strong and soft; a hardworking badass and a self-care connoisseur; a balance of substance and style.

You also produce your online show, Hey Zuri Hall. What are the benefits of owning your own narrative and brand story as a Black woman?

At the end of the day, I wanted a narrative and platform that I was in complete control of. In my industry, you may bounce from network to network or show to show... but you don't necessarily take that audience with you when you leave. So, really dedicating myself to growing Hey Zuri Hall from the ground up, is really paying off. I have a home base to speak directly with my followers and supporters; no matter what twists or turns my professional career may take.

I've always produced, shot and edited almost all of my episodes; so, to have racked up over five million views is really rewarding. It hits differently when you have to do the daily grind of building something yourself, and it finally starts to pick up speed!

You also juggle so much as a TV personality, actress and everything in between. What are some ways you balance it all?

Really prioritizing work/ life balance is important to me. I no longer feel the need to do everything, and show up everywhere, and be everything to everyone. I now understand and appreciate the fact that rest is action. You can't pour from an empty cup, so I've learned to slow down and recharge. I'm trying to do less but do the things I commit to fully and mindfully.

Wine helps! [Laughs] The typical self-care stuff is nice, too, like bubble baths, candles and meditation.

I may technically be balancing it all, but it doesn't mean things don't get hectic or crazy with everything I'm juggling. Trust me, it gets crazy!

What's the best advice you ever received that helped you get where you are today?

The best advice I've received is, Don't go out into the world saying, "I'll take whatever you throw my way" — because it won't give you much. Go out into the world with a clear vision of what you want, and it's much easier for those doors to open.

In hindsight I've realized that advice was really just about setting intentions. This type of specificity allows you to get clear with the Universe about what it is you want. It's always easier to give someone something, if they can tell you straight up what that "thing" is.

You have an Emmy, which is so cool. Which celebrities do you name-drop for inspiring, mentoring and/ or supporting you in your "Thank You" speech?

Well when I won for "Outstanding Talent – Host," it was quite a few years ago before I really knew any A-list celebrities, let alone had any I was close enough to thank in an acceptance speech! [Laughs]

But it's always been my family and closest friends, who have been the real stars and are the driving forces in my life. I will add that Oprah is the ultimate inspiration — and since having the honor of meeting and interviewing her quite a few times, I can gladly say she has more than lived up to all the things about her that I admired.

Looking back, what would you tell little Zuri from Toledo, OH?

It's all going to work out! So, don't stress so much about the day-to-day of "how" you're going to get there. Just trust that you will and enjoy the ride.

Through your multiple platforms, how do you hope to impact people for the better over the next five years?

I hope to continue building on my work in women's empowerment in all aspects of life, including financial literacy and health. Overall, I just want to continue sharing my experiences, and helping lead, moderate and create space for conversations and content that help positively impact the lives of those around me.

Fill in the blank: My Black is...


Thanks to you, the world's a little more ambitious. What's next for Zuri?

I wish I could share right now because there's something very specific and very exciting in the works right now! Give me a month or so, and I'll come back for the big reveal? [laughs]

In the meantime, I'm still covering content on Access Hollywood and All Access. And I'm the sideline reporter for NBC's American Ninja Warrior, our new season premieres very soon, so stay tuned for that!

Keep Zuri Booked x Busy by following @ZuriHall and visiting and

Photography: Brett Erickson

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 21:54:10 +0000 entrepreneursBlack businessesEmmysE!American ninja warriorAccess hollywoodProducerHostActressHollywoodBlack lives matterTimes upAdcouncilAdvocacyCareNaacpHey zuri hallZuri hallCourtney Richardson
Kylie Jenner Called Out By Michael Costello For Not Tagging Designers

Former Project Runway star Michael Costello is the latest person to call out Kylie Jenner for not tagging fashion designers.

On Wednesday evening, Jenner took to her Instagram to share a photo of herself in a colorful Balmain dress from her recent 23rd birthday celebration.

Related | This Black-Owned Brand Is More Than Just Kylie Jenner's Latest Fit

"Thank you my love @Olivier_Rousteing for the most perfect bday dress," she captioned the snap — though Costello had something to say about it in the comments.

"Thank you Oliver for the perfect bday dress. And thank you to the no name designers who work tirelessly around the clock on custom looks who she won't tag , mention or @ . . . Unless it's paid," Costello wrote, before clarifying that there was "no shade to any of her team who styles her."

The designer then went on to explain that while he wasn't referring to his own designs — as Jenner "only wears something from me once a year and I'm lucky if i get a decent pic to post" — he felt like it was an ongoing affront to his hard-working peers.

"It's sad that designers work so so so so hard on these opportunities to dress these gorgeous popular women and they only tag the major high end designers like Oliver but forget about the other ones … why not tag at least one?" he added. "Not all the time but maybe once in a while."

Not only that, but Costello's comment also comes on the heels of accusations that Jenner had "refused" to tag Black-owned fashion brand, Loudbrand Studios. In response, Jenner herself tweeted that the allegations were "a reach," before going on to shout out Loudbrand and tag them in her original post.

Jenner has yet to respond to Costello's criticism.

Photos via Getty

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 21:39:12 +0000 jennerMichael costelloProject runwayOlivier rousteingLoudbrand studiosBalmainFashionFamous peopleSandra Song
Every Track on A. G. Cook's '7G' in Seven Words or Less

For any artist, putting out an album is a Herculean feat in and of itself, let alone packing seven albums' worth of music into one massive 49-track Goliath. But then again, A. G. Cook is no mere mortal. The founder of the highly influential net label and collective, PC Music, as well as Charli XCX's go-to producer for her last four full-length efforts, Cook's work has been pretty prolific over the past decade even if he hasn't always been front and center.

Related | You Wanted an A. G. Cook Album? Here's Seven

A little over seven years since PC Music released its first single, Cook is back and making up for lost time with his first full length project, 7G. The sprawling behemoth of an album, 7G is spread across seven discs, each compromised of seven tracks (sensing a theme here?) organized by instrument: Drums, Guitar, Supersaw, Piano, Nord, Spoken Word and Extreme Vocals. Featuring covers of everyone from Taylor Swift and Sia to The Strokes and Smashing Pumpkins in addition to vocals from Caroline Polachek, Tommy Cash, Hannah Diamond, Hayden Dunham, Cecile Believe and Alaska Reid, 7G ambitiously aims to encompass the full breadth of Cook's artistic oeuvre and honestly does a pretty good job of doing so.

There's nods to the classic PC Music sound with cuts like "DJ Every Night" and "Show Me What" sounding like they could've shown up on the label's early compilation. There is a healthy reverence for the canon of pop, with Cook paying homage in his own digitally augmented way on 7G's various covers. There is the more experimental electronic sounds playing with dissonance and distortion, and then contrasting that with glossy trance progressions that straddle the line between synthetic and euphoric, sometimes all in the same song. He leads us down multiple branching paths and on countless tangents throughout the project, but you could hit shuffle on any track in 7G and still tell that you were listening to a thoroughly A. G. Cook song.

Given the sheer size of this album, with its 49-strong tracklist and just how varied it is from song to song, it felt like the only way to truly do 7G justice was to review every single track — another Herculean feat for sure, but in the spirit of the project (and for my own sanity) limiting each track review to just seven words or less. So without further ado, A. G. Cook's 7G:

?A. G. Drums

A-Z: Hackers (1995) Starring Angelina Jolie.

Acid Angel: Defragging a corrupted Hannah Diamond.

H2O: Liquid mercury in an industrial blender.

Drum Solo: *rimshot*

Nu Crush: "In west Philadelphia born and raised."

Gemstone Break: Kakariko Village Internet Cafe.

Silver: Nerds need love too.

?A. G. Guitar

Gold Leaf: A. G(uitar Solo) Cook.

Being Harsh: PC Music Unplugged.

Undying: Maybe I'm an indie girlie after all.

Drink Blood: Put this on the Twilight remake soundtrack.

Lil Song: I'm crying?

Beetlebum (Blur cover): Can a song wear a leather jacket?

Superstar (Live at Secret Sky): Lighters Up!

A. G. Supersaw

Mad Max: Welcome to the Thunderdome, Tiesto's here.

Illuminated Biker Gang: Light bikes and big spikes.

Soft Landing: Singer-songwriter trance.

Overheim: Wow, this song is just gorgeous.

DJ Every Night: This one's for the PC Music stans.

Car Keys: Big Deadmau5 vibes.

Dust: Fireworks over a nuclear wasteland.

?A. G. Piano

Oracle: Dropping it low at a ballet recital.

Note Velocity: Woodpecker playing a hotel lobby piano.

Windows: The breakdown at 3:04 absolutely goes.

Feeling: Currently picturing AG as a lounge singer.

Waldhammer: Bach thought this was a banger.


Anything Could Happen: Scratched Natasha Bedingfield CD type beat.

A. G. Nord

Behind Glass: Space lullaby/interdimensional music box.

Oohu: Snow globe riding in a monster truck.

The Best Day (Taylor Swift cover): Wonder if A. G. pre-ordered the cardigan?

Triptych Demon: Chrome Cathedral.

Official (Charli XCX cover): Does A. G. Cook play weddings?

Crimson: Milord.

Life Speed: Full throttle.

A. G. Spoken Word

Could It Be: Acapella DnB.

The End Has No End (The Strokes cover): I am once again an indie girlie.

No Yeah: Why does this ASMR make me stressed?

Green Beauty: "Oh my god, Green Beauty."

Unreal: The simulation wasn't real to begin with.

2021: I'm running out of things to say.

Hold On: Hold me, I'm scared. Or am I?

A. G. Extreme Vocals

Today (Smashing Pumpkins cover): Billy Corgan x Dorian Electra collab when?

Chandelier (Sia cover): I bet A. G. is fun at karaoke.

Idyll (Life Sim cover): Nice to see "Pobbles" making a comeback.

Show Me What: Early PC Music vibes for 2020 life.

Somers Tape: Indecipherable bop tease.

Crimson and Clover (Tommy James and Shondells cover): Lighters Up! (reprise) [Open the Pit Edition]

Alright: The Chainsmokers want what this song has.

Cover artwork: Supermodel

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 20:39:24 +0000 musicCharli xcxPopElectronicExperimentalAlbumMusicHyperpopCaroline polachekHannah diamondTommy cashCecile believeAlaska reidTaylor swiftSiaThe strokesSmashing pumpkinsA. g. cookMatt Moen
Livestream This: Queerantine

Thanks to Ms. Rona, we're all trapped at home with nothing to do. Even Netflix is getting boring! But never fear. While they're technically out of work, our favorite entertainers are still out here bravely making virtual content in a scary new world. Going to the club or the theater is out of the question right now (self isolate! Ariana Grande says so) but here's PAPER's ongoing guide to the latest livestreams — featuring comedians, actors, musicians and more.

Who? Kisos began livestreaming on Twitch in 2018 and while the channel started as one for gaming, he later blended his two worlds by including acoustic performances. The pop musician was ready to hit the road for an "LGBT music tour" with fellow artist Cory Stewart when the outbreak of COVID-19 halted their upcoming travels. This abrupt change of plans inspired the idea for a digital transition, and Queerantine — a name suggested by another musician, Jxckson — was born.

Related | Livestream This: Wynwood Pride Online

The music video showcase features a fresh lineup of LGBTQ+ artists each week, all selected via a pool of self-submissions; show alumni include Rookes and Shea Diamond. And Kisos does not take on this project alone — a new co-host joins the show weekly, with Michael Medrano, Raquel Lily and, most recently, Miss Eaves appearing among the show's featured guests.

When? After a successful first run earlier this summer, Queerantine's second season premiered on August 9. The show, which will have 10 episodes in its second act, goes live on Twitch every Sunday at 3 PM EST (with the exception of an intermission, if you will, on August 23), and reruns stream on YouTube at 3 PM EST on Monday. In other words, the showcase provides an unmatched opportunity for unwinding on the weekend or discovering new-to-you queer artists over a lunch break.

Why watch? Not only are the co-hosts interacting with one another during the stream, but the live chat feature of Queerantine draws interactivity between artists and fans into the mix. Kisos explained that, because of this listener to musician interaction, he believes the show is, really, the only thing of its kind. "I feel like sometimes with a live set format, it's like in the physical world where people will come for their artists and then leave," Kisos told PAPER. "Versus, for Queerantine, because the purpose is completely to see artists that you haven't ever seen before... I think they're really coming specifically for the discovery, for the community, the chat and to meet new people."

For every show, Kisos emphasizes the importance of the community. Queerantine is more than a showcase for LGBTQIA+ artists' visuals, but also a place for people within the community to connect with others and discover those artists together. "I think there's a lot of people that are on social media that are finding Queerantine and might not have really had a 'queer family' before," Kisos said. "People have actually told me this, too, which melts my heart. They're like, 'Yeah, I felt like I didn't really know my place in the scene,' or 'I didn't really feel seen in the scene, and this has given me a community to branch out from.' I think that's definitely the appeal."

With season two comes some new developments. Queerantine now includes an after-show hosted by Kisos, Stewart and another musical co-host — this week, Zach Benson was on the air. Queerantine has also shaken up the self-submission process; presently, priority is given to musicians who apply using the password mentioned throughout the weekly shows. Artists interested in applying for the showcase can find more information here, and lineups are introduced on social media every Friday.

Kisos may have some music of his own ready to feature on Queerantine — the artist has a new EP titled sweet nothings out now, as well as an appearance on Power to the Queer Kids Vol. 2, a compilation album for which all proceeds go to The Trevor Project.

Catch up on every episode of Queerantine that you have missed so far here — the show raised more than $7,000 for G.L.I.T.S and Black Lives Matter with the help of previous co-host Jo Lee and Peter Ngqibs in June — and stream music from the show's featured artists below:

Photos courtesy of Queerantine/ Laura Harding

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 20:39:01 +0000 thisCovid-19LgbtqGlitsKisosTwitchLivestreamPower to the queer kidsSweet nothingsQueerantineLogan Potter
This Ultra-Discrete Community Tackles the World's Biggest Challenges

"The top conferences and communities out there have essentially become 'Coachella for professionals,'" Joshua Jordison explains. "Here's what I mean by that: People don't really go to Coachella to listen to music anymore. They 'do it for the 'gram;' they go so they can be seen by others." Though Jordison is diplomatic and doesn't "name names," it's hard not to look at something like Davos without seeing his point (especially when you're just as likely to read headlines about "Record private jet flights into Davos as leaders arrive for climate talk," as much as any news about important discussions or policies coming out of the conclave).

Along with speaker and author Wes Chapman, Jordison is the co-founder of The Human Gathering, an ultra-discrete members-only private community that gathers some of the most successful, influential people in the world to tackle global systemic challenges ranging from human trafficking and homelessness to institutional racism, the global food crisis and more.?

In its first iteration, THG would host biannual weekend gatherings for members at private properties in idyllic settings like Malibu where attendees could participate in discussions about global issues, connect with like-minded peers and take time and space to unplug, reflect and recharge in nature. More recently, Jordison and Chapman have acquired a private ranch in Idaho so as to have a permanent clubhouse of sorts for members to enjoy on their own, as well as convene at for gatherings.

For members who attend these events — much like the community itself — the weekend isn't distinct because of its swankiness (although with a private ranch, a chef and other amenities, the experience is certainly upmarket). Nor is it special because of the caliber of who you'll meet (though the group includes CEOs and leaders of major Fortune 500 companies, as well as fireside chats with people like the former president of the Oprah Winfrey Network Sheri Salata, X-Prize founder Peter Diamandis and Obama's former Deputy Press Secretary Bill Burton).

What sets it apart from anything else attendees are likely to experience in their day-to-day life, let alone at these other name-brand conferences, is the fact that thanks to careful planning and thoughtful, intentional execution, Jordison and Chapman have created an environment where members must set aside any type-A tendencies, go with the flow and put their trust in the founders' hands.

No one is given an itinerary in advance and everyone is expected to relate to other members as equals — something only enhanced by the fact that the Human Gathering's relative secrecy has prevented it from becoming a social calendar status symbol. "We don't kowtow to our members," Jordison says. "I don't care how seemingly powerful or impressive a person is. Inside of our community, everyone is equal. There is no social hierarchy between our members, perceived or otherwise." They also don't publicize the names of their members (and, as of 2019, have stopped taking photos at gatherings).

While these large-scale gatherings remain on hold due to the pandemic, and Jordison and Chapman are re-envisioning how these retreats could both become more intimate and more frequent going forward, the community itself is continuing to thrive as members sustain their connections and relationships year-round, rather than over the course of a single weekend.

PAPER spoke to Jordison about the enigmatic and unconventional community he started, and about how our surreal times have brought members closer together than ever.

In your own words, how would you describe The Human Gathering?

We are a private community that brings together some of the most incredible executives, founders and amazing people in the world. We value [a member] being a genuinely good, decent person above all else. Regardless of how prominent a prospective member may be, if they aren't a genuinely good, decent person who can be trusted, they cannot be a part of our community. We are the only community in the world, with members of our caliber, that curates for this. Our focus is authentic human connection, building real relationships and combining forces to make the world better in tangible, measurable ways. We provide an environment of trust, in which our members can connect.

Initially, The Human Gathering was just a conference but now it's a year-round membership community. How did that pivot come about?

When we first started The Human Gathering, it was an annual, exclusive conference. That grew into a biannual, exclusive conference. Over time, people kept telling us they wanted to stay connected year-round. It became obvious that the relationships formed at our conferences were like seeds that wanted to grow into trees. There was a special magic to the way people interacted in the environment we created. And so we decided to scale that environment, evolving into a private community that operates year round. When we did that, things really took off.

Why would someone want to become a member?

There are three main benefits to being a member of The Human Gathering:

1. The Network: Through our network of members, any person and resource can be accessed. And it simply does not matter how lofty or arduous our members' goals and dreams are: Being a part of The Human Gathering makes it far easier for our members to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve and in less time than they otherwise would be able to. It changes their professional lives, forever.

2. Authentic Relationships: We do not allow members to join our community unless they are a genuinely good, decent person who can be trusted. Because of this, all of our members are like-minded. They choose to live their lives in a specific kind of way. Because they all believe they should treat others well, our members form real, authentic relationships. Members find new best friends in our community. And for many of them, it has been years since that has happened. It impacts their personal lives, forever.

3. Change The World: As a community, we believe in the principle of combined leverage for good. All of our members care about leaving their mark on the world, by helping others. Our members all feel incredibly fortunate to lead the lives they lead. And so, we like to tackle large, systemic problems. Whether it's human trafficking, civil rights or homelessness, our members combine their powers to make insane things happen.

Where did the idea for The Human Gathering first come from?

The Human Gathering was born out of frustration. Possibly more now than ever before, human beings are starving for authentic human connection. The trouble is that authentic human connection is insanely difficult to find. This is especially the case for successful founders, executives and otherwise well-connected individuals. For both my co-founder and myself, referring to one another as "successful" or "well connected" still feels bizarre. We both came-up from the bottom and worked hard to get to where we are today. No matter what station I reach in life, I will always feel like that kid whose parents couldn't afford to buy milk. Still, we saw clearly that our needs and the needs of our peers were not being met. And so we decided to create something new.

There is no shortage of conferences and networking communities that cater to successful founders, executives etc. Over the past decade, both my co-founder Wes and myself joined dozens of these "elite" communities and conferences. Over time, we noticed that all of them shared the same two problems. First, people tend to join these types of elite communities because they serve as status symbols. This creates a culture of pretentiousness, in which members are constantly trying to impress each other. I find this to be particularly annoying. I'm not a pretentious person. I'd much rather go for a hike in my 3-year-old Nikes than strut around in a new, shiny pair of Balenciaga sneakers.

Second, none of the conferences or communities we were a part of did anything to vet their members for things like integrity, character or trustworthiness. In the past few years it has become glaringly clear that there is absolutely no connection between how successful a person is and whether or not they are a good, trustworthy person. And I only need to say one person's name to illustrate this point: Harvey Weinstein. I spent over a decade working in the music industry and met a lot of Harvey Weinstein-esque individuals. Unfortunately, I met many of these people through the most prestigious conferences and communities out there. It became clear that no one was even acknowledging, let alone trying to address this problem.

From a practical standpoint, how did you go about creating The Human Gathering and finding members?

The first thing we did was lock ourselves in a cabin for two days, in Lake Arrowhead, California. We white-boarded the entire vision for The Human Gathering, forgetting to eat or sleep for much of the time. At its inception, it honestly looked like we had a very slim chance of pulling it off. No one had ever created anything like it before. We had to figure out how to solve several seemingly unsolvable problems. And the first one of those was how to find potential members for the community. We knew we would never be able to advertise, as doing so would cast too wide of a net. To this day, we have never spent a dime on advertising. This community has grown entirely through word-of-mouth and organic outreach. In the beginning, what we did was call some of our friends at various companies like Nike, Omnicom, CAA, the Recording Academy and others. About 15 people formed a committee. And through that committee, we started gathering names of individuals and companies that could be a good fit for our community. If we think someone may be a good fit for The Human Gathering, we simply reach out. Anyone can apply to be a part of The Human Gathering. Many of our members find us through word-of-mouth. Each prospective member goes through an application and vetting process. We take it very seriously.

What is the membership application process like?

We have several layers to our application process. In some cases, our research into an applicant begins before they even apply. After a potential member begins their online application our community manager spends hours researching every applicant. We do extensive online research, far beyond what a prospective member writes in their application. That information is then compiled and passed onto our host committee. If our host committee approves an application, it goes directly to myself and my co-founder. We make the final decision, without any exceptions. The entire process takes weeks from start to finish.

Once someone is a member, what can they expect?

Our membership is designed to help our members authentically connect with each other. We have figured out how to engineer serendipity, to the extent one can do that. Serendipity can never be fully engineered, because then it wouldn't be serendipity. However, it is possible to create an environment where the maximum number of serendipitous collisions take place. We do exactly that.

Members get access to our private online portal that can't be Googled. This password protected portal allows members to message each other, email each other directly and interact in other ways. We also provide members with curated introductions to each other, multiple times throughout their membership. A big part of our team's job is to get to know members and introduce them to each other, based on what they want for their lives and care about.

Members also have access to the private ranch, throughout the year and at curated ranch gatherings. These intimate experiences provide an incredible way for our members to connect, in one of the most beautiful, serene places in the world.

Why do you intentionally want to keep membership numbers low?

When a community gets too big, authentic human connection breaks down. I've watched it happen over and over again. Many communities before us have made the mistake of growing too big, too fast. It always drives out the members who were there from the beginning. We want to stay relatively small and exclusive forever, because that will allow our members to form deep, long term relationships with each other. By sticking to our vision, we are providing an environment for our members to truly connect. And nothing is more important than that. We will always be the smallest, most exclusive community of our kind.

Since The Human Gathering has been intentionally discrete, how do you combat skeptics who may think the whole premise is "fake" or "elitist" or "cult-y"?

First, I don't think it's our job to convince everyone. Apart from doing interviews like this one from time to time, we don't really worry about it that much. Instead, we focus on the people who just get it. We aren't trying to grow our community too quickly, so there's no reason to try and convince everyone that we are what we say we are. Word of mouth has been spreading for years and that makes a big difference.

In addition to that, time is always on our side. It is one of our biggest assets. We have been patient in growing our community, focusing on quality over quantity. We knew it would take time to build this community the way we were doing it. We have now been building this community for 6 years. Each passing year we have to worry less and less about skeptics. We knowingly went into this with the understanding that we were doing this the "hard way," but we knew it was the only way to build what was missing in the world.

While the country still navigates the pandemic, what kinds of changes have you been making and what will in-person events look like going forward?

Like every business in the world, COVID-19 has impacted us. What we have chosen to do with this impact is innovate. When we secured the ranch, long before COVID-19 came on the scene, we had a 3-5 year plan to move away from the biannual gatherings and move to more curated and smaller gatherings multiple times per year.

COVID-19 showed us that we did not need to wait years to do this. We took the plan we had and the obstacles that COVID-19 presented and we innovated. We added a full-time Community Manager to our staff, whose solo occupation is to connect members inside our community. We doubled down on preparing the ranch to safely host our members. We added more virtual options inside our community and we empowered our members to help each other through this unprecedented time.

What kind of impact has COVID had on members and the work they're doing together?

Our community has come together more via COVID-19 than we could have ever imagined. We have continued our work in the areas of civil rights and human trafficking. Members have supported each other on every level. While what happened to George Floyd has certainly renewed global interest related to civil rights, we have already been deeply engaged in it for years. We've gotten to know the families of Nelson Mandela, Frederick Douglass, Rosa Parks, Harriett Tubman and many others over the past several years. It has definitely been interesting to watch how engagement has changed. Many of the people (non-members) we reached out to who were "too busy" a year ago are now clamoring to come onboard our initiatives. I anticipate this increased level of engagement from the general public tapering off, as it always does in these kinds of situations. This is one of the reasons our community exists: to sustain that level of engagement, always.

What is the most rewarding part, for you, about The Human Gathering?

Without question, it is being able to connect some of the most influential people in the world and then step back to watch the magic that comes from that. In my early twenties, I realized that I had a gift for connecting interesting, powerful people. I just started doing it. And because I didn't come from a particularly influential family, it was one of the ways I lifted my family out of poverty. The Human Gathering allows me to make high level connections at scale. I get to watch the ripples of impact from those connections, for years to come.

Those connections are truly powerful. Seeing what can come from truly like-minded, diverse and good people is astounding. From the philanthropic works, to the partnerships our members develop; watching our members shape the world is truly remarkable.

What do you hope will be the legacy of each Human Gathering?

While our mission statement — "We are a private community of connected leaders with one mission to impact the globe unheralded leaving a mark for generations to come" — is truly our cornerstone approach, we also live by the statement, "Making the impossible possible."

As a community, we love to tackle large, systemic problems. Due to the caliber of our members, we have the ability to solve problems that few others can solve. All of our members care deeply about leaving their mark on the world — a positive mark. Walt Disney once said, "It's kind of fun to do the impossible." That quote really resonates with our team and all of our members. Alone, there's no doubt that each and every one of our members are extraordinary individuals. But together, we have the power to change the world for the better and leave behind a legacy that is carved into the history of humanity, forever.

Photos courtesy of The Human Gathering

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 19:10:28 +0000 human gatheringWes chapmanJoshua jordisonAbby Schreiber
Hood by Air Looks Back at its Legacy With New Capsule

The latest chapter in Hood by Air's evolution looks back at the label's 13-year legacy. H13A, the first capsule under the brand's archival arm Museum, drops today and features items that reinterpret classic HBA images, logos and silhouettes.

Related | Shayne Oliver Is Finally Bringing Hood by Air Back

Founder Shayne Oliver is also releasing a new film project called Genesis, debuting this fall, and presenting his first full Hood by Air collection in four years.

"H13A, symbolic of Shayne Oliver's past as a designer and the 13-year history of HBA, will manifest as a human character in Genesis, a new film," says a release. "Weaving together Oliver's past works as the DNA for the new Hood by Air collection, Genesis will premiere the new collection through Oliver's innately unique lens."

H13A draws inspiration from the classic "Cookie" and "Spiral" logos HB is known for while also introducing a new "Matrix" logo. The collection will be delivered in two drops, the second of which is slated for September.

Earlier this summer, the brand announced that Hood by Air's relaunch will comprise of four distinct channels: HBA will be a direct to consumer platform, MUSEUM will be the home to archives from the brand's first incarnation, HOOD BY AIR will set the theme each year with an event or activation and ANONYMOUS CLUB will act as an independent platform supporting the cultivation of emerging talents.

The first drop of H13A, which is priced from $55 to $295, is available on Hood by Air's new site, HOODBYAIR.WORLD.

Photos courtesy of Hood by Air

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 18:37:35 +0000 by airShayne oliverRelaunchStreetwearHbaMario Abad
Jason Derulo Is Right, 'CATS' Did Change the World

Remember the collective fever dream that was Tom Hooper's unintentionally warped adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Weber's Cats for the silver screen? The one that brought together Hollywood heavyweights like Jennifer Hudson, Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Ian McKellan, James Corden, Rebel Wilson and Taylor Swift, and turned them into CGI monstrosities that looked neither human nor cat-like? The film that was panned by critics as an "exhausting," "half-digested hairball of a movie"? Yes, we're talking about that Cats.

Related | The World Is in Shambles, Watch 'Cats' Online

It turns out that audiences weren't the only ones feeling let down by Cats flopping. In a new interview, Jason Derulo, who made his silver screen debut as Rum Tum Tugger (which is its own can of worms that we don't have time to fully address right now) said that he genuinely believed it had the potential to "change the world." Arguably it did, but probably not in the way Derulo had initially envisioned.

Derulo's had a rough year. He chipped his teeth in an ill-advised TikTok stunt, he chipped Will Smith's teeth in a different TikTok stunt and not only did Instagram censor his package, but apparently Cats CGI'd that out too. His lead role in Cats was supposed to be Derulo's big break, but it turns out that it might have actually been an omen of the misfortune that was yet to come.

Related | Jason Derulo's Bulge Tragically Removed From Instagram

"For the longest time, I was trying to figure out what's the perfect first role, Cats checked all the boxes," he explains. "You can't get a more start-studded cast, you don't get a more respected director than an Oscar winner (Tom Hooper), and Rum Tum Tugger is a legacy role, a standout character in a classic musical... Even when I saw the trailer, I got chills down my spine!"

On paper, Derulo is right. From the top shelf talent to Weber's longstanding Broadway legacy all but guaranteeing crowds of die-hards, Cats really did have everything going for it. However, success was not in the cards. In addition to being absolutely shredded in the press and online, the box office reported a net loss of $113.6 million, even with a revised "less creepy" CGI version being issued weeks after the premiere.

Photo via Getty/ Taylor Hill/ FilmMagic

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 18:33:30 +0000 tum tuggerTaylor swiftJudy denchTom hooperFlopIdrs elbaAndrew lloyd weberJason deruloMatt Moen
Buscabulla on Protecting Puerto Rico From Pandemic Tourism

Puerto Ricans who migrate from the island are typically never far from it emotionally, culturally or mentally — the connection to their homeland is a muscle memory of the heart. But while resettling in the Caribbean US colony after a decade living in idiosyncratic New York, Buscabulla's Raquel Berrios and Luis Alfredo Del Valle found a reintroduction was needed.

The footage in "Mío," Buscabulla's latest video, out today, is a patchwork of cuts from an upcoming documentary short — slated for release by end of summer — centered around the theme of coming home, as is the song's corresponding full-length album, Regresa.

Related | Buscabulla on Making Club Music Through Catastrophe

A lot can change in 10 years, and that's certainly the case for Puerto Rico, even in just the past few: consider the 2017 crisis following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, last summer's mass protests that ousted then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló, this January's devastating 6.4-magnitude earthquake centered in the south and now the stress of a pandemic on a healthcare system that's regularly characterized as debilitated.

Opening "Mío" with swaths of land for sale and a sign announcing the construction of a tourist mega-resort in Aguadilla at Playuela — which activists have been fighting against for two decades — is telling.

Berrios and Del Valle knew that, post-Hurricane Maria, disaster capitalism had glued itself to the economically devastated colony like a barnacle, threatening to further bog down an already sinking ship. Seeing these land grabs, the major influx of expats capitalizing on tax incentives intended solely for outsiders and the continued deterioration of quality of life for Puerto Ricans in person, though? That's something else.

"There's a lot of people from outside buying a lot of land," Berrios tells PAPER. "A lot of people come not really wanting to understand the culture or language, but trying to impose themselves."

Related | Meet Puerto Rico's Queer and Trans Change-Makers

Covid-19 constrictions led Berrios and Del Valle to splice together and edit footage — a combination of work by Chris Gregory-Rivera, Michael Kirby Smith and some shots by Ed Mariota and Thomas La Grega — on their own. Contrasting the swimming tourists with local traditions like the Festival de las Mascaras in el pueblo de Hatillo was intentional.

"It's not a touristy thing," Berrios says of the annual event. "It's so rowdy and loud, and that's what attracted us to the festivity, that it was very much for the people, mostly working-class people of Arecibo and Hatillo."

You might remember this festival theme from the video for "Vámono." Shown in "Mío," though, is the actual event itself, as well another mask-centric tradition, the Vejigante Festival, in Ponce.

Despite the pandemic — or maybe because of it even, as extra-cheap flights are widely available — tourists continue to land in Puerto Rico. The CDC recommends essential travel only, and after a failed campaign to reopen tourism, the Puerto Rico Tourism Company is now echoing the same plea. Activists concerned about the spread of Covid-19 have been rallying for the shutdown of the San Juan airport, even. (Because of Puerto Rico's status as a territory, the Federal Aviation Administration would be the entity to make this call—not local government.)

Related | Puerto Rico's Skate Mamis Empower Girls to Skateboard

Still, they come. And among them, there are people who are adamantly anti-mask, who refuse to cooperate with Puerto Rico's government mandate that masks must be worn in public spaces. Businesses also enforce this rule.

As Berrios and Del Valle collaged together "Mío," reports of escalations between tourists and locals hit a high. After refusing to wear a mask in La Perla, the historic neighborhood made tourist-famous as the setting of the video for Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's 2017 hit "Despacito," featuring Justin Bieber, a woman posted a photo of the physical backlash she received. In another incident, a group of tourists trashed a Zara at a San Juan mall to the sum of thousands after employees refused to allow them inside without masks.

Another guy was clubbed — literally with a golf club — by a security guard at a local grocery store after he spit in an employee's face. The altercation, unsurprisingly, was a result of the man's refusal to wear a mask.

The anti-masker of the latter incident was a US-born resident of Puerto Rico.In a local interview Berrios saw afterward, he recalled a time "when everything was chill, and people would welcome us." He added, Berrios says, "that lately all the young people are having a problem with Americans coming here. And he was just complaining about it."

Del Valle notes, "He said something very curious: That maybe [Puerto Ricans] should have done something back in history when they had a chance. To me, that's wild he would say that."

This man must not know that fierce nationalist and independence movements have been ongoing — and remain today — ever since the US invaded Puerto Rico in 1898. Indigenous peoples like the Taínos fought the Spanish occupation before it, too.

Berrios wrote "Mío" not long after returning to Puerto Rico, specifically its west coast. "These two American families that live in Aguada and Rincón were showing us the way to this secluded beach," she says. "I remember hanging out with them and just feeling like a total dummy. Like, why are these two American families showing me the way?"

People have confused "Mío" for a love song, or an exploration of identity. The latter is closest to the truth.

"I think that we're kind of exploring, in a way, what is ours? What's our true identity?" Berrios questions. It's also about "the need for locals to reclaim" the land. "To speak out loud to say, this is mine, and I have to be respected, and whoever comes here needs to know their place."

Photography: Supa Kid
Header image: Mara Corsino

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 18:33:00 +0000 ricoMioDocumentaryCoronavirusPandemicCovid-19Disaster capitalismTourismBuscabullaJhoni Jackson
SNATCHURAL How-To: Flawless Hair at Home

Hi Uglies...

Today, I'm excited to share with you a comprehensive product guide on how to get SNATCHURAL hair. This is not an everyday moment, but it's my go-to glam hairstyle with humidity-proof bombshell curls.

Related | Introducing 'SNATCHURAL' With Beauty Expert XOXOETHAN

I have naturally super curly hair and I love it, but sometimes I want a little more. If you have a different hair texture, this guide still works for you and shows how I blow out, straighten, clip my extensions in and curl my hair.

Make sure to scroll down to see all the products I recommend and where to buy them.

Stay glam,


Thu, 13 Aug 2020 18:16:19 +0000
Hunter Schafer Is Shiseido's New Global Brand Ambassador

Euphoria's Hunter Schafer is making waves in the beauty world. On August 12, Shiseido Makeup announced Schafer as its newest global brand ambassador. The 21-year-old will make her first campaign appearance for an entirely new product from the brand in early 2021.

"We are so thrilled to collaborate with someone as creative, expressive, and authentic as Hunter," James Boehmer, Global Artistic Director for Shiseido Makeup, said in a press release. "She really represents the current zeitgeist of beauty in that there are no rules, no boundaries, and no restrictions."

Schafer is most known for her role as Jules Vaughn, a transgender teen in the groundbreaking HBO show Euphoria. Apart from this role, Schafer is a highly accomplished artist, even being named finalist in the National YoungArts Foundation competition in 2017 while attending college, as well as walking on runways for brands like Dior, Rick Owens, Marc Jacobs, Miu Miu and more.

Related | Hunter Schafer: Leading the Charge for Femme Representation

Schafer said accepting the brand ambassador offer was as easy a decision as it was fulfilling. "When I look at Shiseido, I see a level of artistic energy that is really unique," Schafer said in a press release. "As someone who likes to be artistic with makeup, that was something that instantly attracted me to the brand. Shiseido is about more than trying to look petty or appeal to a specific standard of beauty. Shiseido is parallel to art."

See Schafer's Instagram post of praise for Shiseido, below.

Photography: Bryan Huynh for PAPER

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 17:47:28 +0000 schaferEuphoriaBeautyShiseidoRiley Runnells
Ciara Filmed 'Rooted' Two Days Before Giving Birth

In the midst of an ongoing racial justice movement, Ciara has unveiled an empowering and compelling Black pride protest anthem, "Rooted," featuring vocals from Ester Dean, who co-wrote the track.

In the Annie Bercy-directed music video, Ciara pays homage to her ancestry, Atlanta hometown and historical heroes such as Harriet Tubman and Martin Luther King. Icons and images of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and John Lewis are honored, as well. "Young girl stay rooted," Ciara sings over heavy percussion as the video opens, featuring choreography scenes from a stellar all-Black cast, "Brown skin poppin' I'm rooted."

Related | This Portrait Series Destigmatizes Black Men in Durags

Ciara then dances throughout its four minutes with her pregnant belly exposed, swaying and singing, proving her strength has no limits. "Mother of a child and God I invest in 'em," Ciara continues, acknowledging her pregnancy and maternal love. "Nutritionin', brown milkin' em (Brown milkin' 'em)."

Clips of Black hairstyles and natural hair are featured in montages — an art subject that director Bercy has honored in other photography projects. The video also features footage from Black Lives Matter protests as Ciara powerfully tells listeners that their life does matter. Like other visuals from Ciara, "Rooted" centers on Black bodies moving and dancing, as she explains in its lyrics that "all of" her songs are "rooted in the melanin."

Ciara gave birth to her son, Win, in late July. She explained in a recent Instagram caption that she shot the "Rooted" visual "two days before delivery," making it a true testament to her power as a mother and artist.

"I am blessed to be able to carry seeds of new life into this world," Ciara explains in a press release. "The foundation of love for my family and the pride for my culture has made me feel rooted in my life, and nothing can knock me down. I am also reminded through my trials and triumphs, everything I need to survive and thrive is rooted in me. Gender nor color of your skin can limit how far you will go in life."

The video ends with a message to viewers from Ciara as her artist statement: "To All My Young Rosa's and Luther's, Keep Marching. Don't Stop Fighting For What You Believe In. To All My Black Queens and Kings, Continue To Plant And Spread Seeds Of Love, Hope And Pride In Your Tribe. Everything You Need To Survive And Thrive Is Rooted In You. Stay Rooted."

She also indicates that a portion of the proceeds from the track will support Grantmakers for Girls of Color, a philanthropic organization dedicated to "cultivating investments in support of girls of color in the U.S."

"That's evidence, of Black excellence," as Ciara sings in "Rooted," and after watching the visual, we couldn't agree more.

Stream Ciara's "Rooted" (feat. Ester Dean), below.

Photo courtesy Brandon Hicks

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 17:30:30 +0000 deanMusic videoAnnie bercyMarissa Matozzo
Another Live Action 'Avatar' Remake Might Be Doomed

For many, one of the few bright spots in this bleak quarantine has been Netflix bringing back the original Avatar: The Last Airbender. Making the full series available for the first time on the streaming giant, the beloved show's return was a much needed nostalgic pick-me-up for a generation that grew up on it and a new obsession for those that missed out the first time around. The fandom was revived, discourse and ship wars started back up.

Bringing back Avatar: The Last Airbender has been a run away success for Netflix, so much so that they even decided to bring back the series' sequel, The Legend of Korra, which hits the service tomorrow. But they aren't stopping there, it turns out Netflix has been working on their own live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender too. We all know how well that went the first time around, so news that Netflix had tapped the animated show's original co-creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, to steer the ship was a promising step in the right direction. Now it looks like that once again may be jeopardy.

Related | In Conversation: Rebecca Sugar and Noelle Stevenson

In a statement released by DiMartino, the co-creators announced that they would be leaving the show citing frustrations with Netflix over creative differences. "When Bryan and I signed on to the project in 2018, we were hired as executive producers and showrunners" he writes. "In a joint announcement for the series, Netflix said that it was committed to honoring our vision for this retelling and to supporting us on creating the series. And we expressed how excited we were for the opportunity to be at the helm. Unfortunately, things did not go as we had hoped."

DiMartino goes on to acknowledge that setbacks and roadblocks are a reality of any production process but explains that it reached a point where he needed to just cut his losses and leave. "I started to reevaluate what is truly important in my life and what I wanted to do with what's left of it. I took some advice from Uncle Iroh. I looked inward and started asking myself the big question: 'Who are you and what do you want?'"

Related | Nickelodeon Reveals Spongebob as an LGBTQ+ Character

DiMartino stresses that his departure does not mean that he won't continue to be involved with the Avatar universe but adds, "what I can be certain about is that whatever version ends up on-screen, it will not be what Bryan and I had envisioned or intended to make." He ended his open letter with one last kernel of Iroh wisdom, "Sometimes life is like this dark tunnel. You can't always see the light at the end of the tunnel, but if you just keep moving you will come to a better place."

Netflix responded to DiMartino and Konietzko's departure with their own statement saying,"We have complete respect and admiration for Michael and Bryan and the story that they created in the Avatar animated series. Although they have chosen to depart the live action project, we are confident in the creative team and their adaptation." And as long as they keep M. Night Shamylan nowhere near the project, there still might be hope.

Photo Courtesy of Nickelodeon

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 16:41:03 +0000 actionAdaptationMichael dimartinoNetflixBryan konietzkoThe legend of korraKorraM night shamylanAvatar: the last airbenderMatt Moen
Ziwe Fumudoh Is Writing a Collection of Essays

If you're as obsessed with comedian Ziwe Fumudoh as we are, then you'll be overjoyed to hear that the Baited creator and host officially has a book on the way!

Earlier today, Ziwe announced via her Twitter that she's currently working on a collection of humorous essays called The Book of Ziwe.

Billed as a "subversive take on an anti-racist guide, offering a window into her life and her takes on pop culture and social dynamics," the book is slated to come out January 2022 via Abrams Image. And though that's quite a ways away from now, knowing Ziwe, the wait will be well worth it. Here's to hoping that's it's just as sweat-inducing and side-splittingly funny as Baited!

See her announcement for yourself, below.

Photo via Getty

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 01:00:22 +0000 fumudohBaitedDesus and meroThe book of ziweBooksInternet cultureEntertainmentSandra Song
Hype House Accused of 'Scamming' Fans With 'Free' Jewelry

Hype House is currently under fire for allegedly "scamming" fans with a new merch promotion.

On Tuesday, the LA-based TikTok collective released their new "Hype" Chain with co-founder Thomas Petrou advertising the necklace as a "free" product on his own Instagram. Not only that, but on the merch website, Hype House even went so far as to claim that the chains were worth $100 and say that fans would only be able to get one chain per order — though "if you want multiple free chains, make multiple orders."

However, it didn't take long for eager fans to conclude that something strange was afoot when it came to the $20 shipping and handling cost — an unusually high rate for a package of that size. Plus, as noted by Twitter user @DefNoodles, the same $20 shipping cost was applied to different mailing addresses in Miami, NYC, and even the nearby LA area when "mailing chain of similar weight can cost as low as $3.80, according to USPS."

"This is the Free + shipping scheme where the product costs wholesale @ $1.50 and they charge for it in the shipping SO IT NOT FREE," YouTuber Vice Versa wrote. "Oldest [e-commerce] game in the book."

Meanwhile, others took more issue with who the underhanded promotion was aimed at, with many accusing Petrou and the rest of the Hype House crew of taking advantage of their "young, naive" fanbase.

"The thing that bothers me about this hype house chain scam is that Thomas knows the hype house has a younger audience, so he knew they'd buy into the whole 'it's free' scenario," user @frenchxxy added. "He's literally manipulating them. Sketchy as hell if u ask me."

That said, this isn't the first time popular influencers have allegedly attempted to pull a similar stunt. Last September, Jake Paul faced criticism for his own "free" chain which came with an extra $14 in shipping costs. Additionally, according to Insider, Paul also promised that buyers would be entered into a competition to meet him — though his vlog about the topic was subsequently deleted and the issue was never brought up again.

Petrou and Hype House have yet to comment.

Photo via Getty

Thu, 13 Aug 2020 00:29:23 +0000 houseScamJewelryFashionInternet cultureThomas petrouSandra Song
Cardi B Addresses Backlash Received After Use of Racial Slur

Following the release of the highly anticipated collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, "WAP," Cardi B was featured on the cover of Elle's September issue. In the cover interview, Cardi discussed her love of politics, her marriage to rapper Offset and some of her most controversial moments — including recent backlash she received after using a racial slur comparing her daughter Kulture's eyes to those from people of Chinese descent.

Related | Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion Release 'WAP' Music Video

In a now deleted Instagram post, Cardi shared a superimposed image of herself and Offset to reveal what Kulture would look like in the future. After one fan commented that the photo looked a lot like Cardi's sister Hennessy, she replied saying: "I think cause Hennessy got ch*nky eyes like Offset and so (does Kulture). It's the only (thing) I could think (of)."

Of course, fans were quick to call out the original post and shortly thereafter, Cardi issued a response via Twitter, saying "I don't know fuckin' everything. We don't even use that as (an) insult and I don't use it as (an) insult. I'm sick of the internet," according to Buzzfeed.

Related | Cardi B Responds to Criticism of Her Daughter's Looks

Seeing as the Twitter response wasn't really the penance or apology that fans had hoped for, Cardi used her time with the Elle interview to rehash the discussion. She said she wasn't aware of the history behind it and its negative and hurtful connotations.

"Never in my life, my 27 years, I never even knew that was a racial slur," Cardi said. "I was describing my husband's and my sister's eyes, and my daughter's eyes... I don't even know how to describe their eyes anymore because that's how I used to describe their eyes. I don't even know the word. That they're almond-shaped? But it's like, I never knew that. And for people to be like, 'She's using a racial slur. She's disgusting.' And it's like, 'Bro I didn't even know that was a racial slur. I didn't say it... with no bad ill intention.'"

Though Cardi claims to have been unaware of the word's true meaning, the discourse that followed is a testament to the importance of listening to peoples' concerns, and owning your mistakes.

Photo via Getty/ Victor VIRGILE/ Gamma-Rapho

Wed, 12 Aug 2020 23:18:13 +0000 slurBacklashCancel cultureControversyElleCardi bRiley Runnells
Jodie Turner-Smith Had a Home Birth Because of Systemic Racism

Jodie Turner-Smith decided to have a home birth because of the systemic racism that leads to disparities in care for Black mothers.

This past April, the Queen & Slim star and her husband Joshua Jackson welcomed a baby girl in the comfort of their home together. However, as Turner-Smith told British Vogue recently, their decision stemmed from well-founded concerns over the quality of care she would receive at a hospital given the high risk of pregnancy-related deaths for Black women in America.

Related | Jodie Turner-Smith and Joshua Jackson Won't Raise Children in the U.S.

"We had already decided on a home birth because of concerns about negative birth outcomes for Black women in America," she said. "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths is more than three times greater for Black women than for white women, pointing, it seems to me, to systemic racism."

Additionally, Turner-Smith explained that Jackson was able to be present with her for the 4-day birthing process — something that wouldn't have been possible in a hospital during the pandemic.

"We never imagined that in the coming weeks, hospitals around the country would begin restricting who could be present in the birthing rooms, forcing mothers to deliver without the support person or people of their choice," she said. "Delivering at home ensured that I had what every single woman deserves to have: full agency in determining my birth support."

Not only that, but she then went on to share a touching anecdote about the intense labor to further illustrate how much it meant to have Jackson by her side throughout the entire process.

"[On the third day], I was fatigued and beginning to lose my resolve. Josh ran me a bath, and as I lay in it contracting, I talked to my body and I talked to my daughter," she recalled. "In that moment, he snapped a picture of me. An honest moment of family and togetherness — a husband supporting a wife, our baby still inside me, the sacred process of creating a family."

Read Turner-Smith's entire account, here.

Photo via Getty

Wed, 12 Aug 2020 23:09:32 +0000 turner smithJoshua jacksonSystemic racismBlack mothersHome birthCareFamous peopleSandra Song
Avenue Beat Is 'Just Vibing' With 2020

Small town boredom, an online band name generator and a seven-year friendship proved to be the recipe of success for genre-less Gen-Z musical trio Sam Backoff, Savana Santos and Sami Bearden of Avenue Beat.

Related | Will Reels Replace TikTok?

You've likely heard the group's overnight trending TikTok track, "F2020," which chronicles the artists' experiences living through one of the most challenging years of their lifetimes. From a beloved cat dying to the sudden onset of the global pandemic, the lyrics prove to be the perfect formula of humor and vulnerability, voicing the grief and confusion an entire generation has been feeling since March. Though many have taken on new hobbies or attended virtual happy hours to make quarantine feel more bearable, the chorus' lead-in of "lowkey fuck 2020" has practically become the year's universal mantra.

For Avenue Beat, the words prove even more intimate. "And I put out some music that nobody liked/ So I got really sad and bored at the same time," heard in the first verse, is a direct result of their single being pulled from country radio just months ago.

But "F2020" wasn't written to launch Avenue Beat's pop career, rather it came more as a much-needed catharsis. "That day, I was just creating something that felt the most 'me,'" Savana explained. "I didn't care about genre or what we were doing because we were in this weird limbo space." That lyrical outlet quickly became group therapy, creating an essential addition to quarantine playlists everywhere.

Fast forward to August, just a month after the song's July 10 release, and the track has over 12 million global streams. Against all odds, 2020 may somehow become Avenue Beat's year.

PAPER caught up with Avenue Beat on Zoom (where they popped multi-vitamins mid-call) and talked about finding their place in a new genre, using writing as quarantine therapy and what it means to have a viral release.

Let's kick it off with a check-in. How are you all? What's on your minds?

Sam Backoff: What is on my mind?

Sami Bearden: I feel like I'm fine.

Sam: You know, you go through waves during all of this junk where one day you're like, "This is the best day of my whole life!" And the next day you're like, "I am devastated for no reason."

Savana Santos: Yes, I know exactly what you mean.

Sam: Right now, I'm just somewhere in the middle, which is good. I'm on the up, you know?

I want to dive into the year. Very ironically, despite the sentiment of "F2020," it has definitely been your year. How are you handling such a fast-paced upward climb in the last month?

Sam: It was so weird. We were talking about it yesterday; we put out a single to country radio and they pulled it. We put it out right at the beginning of quarantine, and they had just pulled it, and I was sitting on my couch and I was devastated. I was like, "My career is over, oh my god." And then literally a couple of days later, Sami's cat died. All of a sudden, Savana had written the first verse and chorus of that song, we threw it on TikTok, and then we had five million views and I was like, "I can't even handle what's going on at all." It was just the weirdest roller coaster of emotions.

Sami: It's not real in my brain yet. I don't know how to act. It's moment by moment for me; I'll remember some horrible thing that's happened and I'll be sad, and then I'll remember that this is happening and I'll be like, "Woo!" Then I just keep going back and forth.

Savana: Same for me. I forget that this happened until there will be a moment like yesterday. Sami and I ordered Postmates and then our Postmates delivery girl was like, "Are you guys Avenue Beat?" And we were like, "What?!"

Sami: That was literally the first time I've ever been recognized by somebody. Sweet, sweet Sarah. It was so weird.

Sam: She DM'd us yesterday.

What a feeling that must be though, right? And that's actually a really great segue into my next question. You've done something already that can be really challenging for new musicians, which is that you've created a group identity with a viral song in less than two months. How did Avenue Beat come to be, and how did you choose the name?

Savana: Online band name generator when we were 14!

Sam: That's how we chose the name. But we're all from the same small town in Illinois; Savana and I have known each other since we were babies, and then I met Sami when we were 14 doing musical theater in our hometown. We basically have been singing together ever since.

Sami: A third of our lives! I did the math.

Savana: We never meant to make this a career, though. It just kind of happened. We were just chillin,' vibin,' hangin' out and then we just fell into doing this for our life, I guess.

Sam: There's nothing else to do in our hometown, so we would just sit in my kitchen and write songs or make covers or whatever. And here we are!

Sami: And play bars at 14.

Sam: Yeah, we played a lot of three-hour cover gigs and stuff like that.

I grew up in a small town where there was nothing to do, so I get that. I did not make a music career out of it though, so y'all are at least one step ahead of me. Speaking of, pop stations have been picking up "F2020" since it went viral. Can you describe to me what it was like the moment you heard your song on the radio for the first time?

Sam: Where was I? I was driving. I went for a moody drive just for fun and I put the radio 'cause I was like, "Maybe I'll hear it, probably not though, whatever." And I was driving around and I stopped to take a video of the sunset and then the song started playing. I literally almost threw my phone out the window; it was so exciting. I'm glad I was parked because I probably would've crashed my car. It was crazy.

Savana: I remember this because it was the earliest I had ever woken up in my entire life. For some reason, I checked my phone at like 6:58 in the morning, and there was a radio host in Nashville for 107.5 The River who was like, "I'm going to play your song in two minutes, go to your car." And I was like, "What?!" I bolted to my car and then I turned it on and it was on!

Sami: I'm so mad! I still haven't heard it organically yet, I'm mad.

Sam: Just go sit in your car and listen to the radio.

Sami: I'm just going to do that. The Prius won't cost me any gas, so I can just sit in there all day.


freaking the f out!!!!! THANK U TIKTOK, ur makin our dreams come true ?????? we love u guys so so so so so much ##F2020 ##avenuebeat

? original sound - avenuebeat

You all essentially created the song from scratch. The three of you wrote it, Savana handled production, which I do want to talk about a little bit. When you produced and mixed the song, what inspired you to take such a divergence from the group's usual country sound? Can you walk me through that process?

Savana: At the time, our single did just get pulled, so we were in this weird limbo of "What are we going to do next?" Deciding what we wanted to do, where we wanted to move forward. That day, I was just creating something that felt the most "me." I didn't care about genre or what we were doing because we were in this weird limbo space. I was like, "You know what? I'm just going to produce a song, I'm not going to give any thought to what it needs to be or any perception of what it has to be." And that's what came out.

Sam: Who would've thought? When you just listen to your heart, things work out.

Sami: Unless your heart's a dumbass.

Sam: But that also might be fun!

That's going to be the quote, the only one I'm using. "When you listen to your heart, things work out." Have you produced music before? Was this a thing where you sat down in front of your computer and you were like, "This is going to be the first I ever produce" and it's going to go viral?

Savana: For our country stuff, I co-produced with these two dudes, Ashley Gorley and David Garcia. It was a really great learning experience for me; I didn't really do as much on those projects, it was more of me just figuring out how to create a song. From that, I think I learned how to do everything myself.

Sami: Once the song was finished and it had kind of popped off, our label was like, "Hey, get this out immediately." I feel like you didn't have time to overthink it. There was no talk of another producer, you were just like, "Okay, I guess I'm going to do this." You didn't have time to doubt your dopeness, so you just got it done.

Savana: I think we finished the song in 48 hours or something.

That's really fast, but it worked out quite well for you. You've taken the track to top viral charts; in this moment, you're #4 on Spotify's United States Viral 50.

Sami: Oh, that's wack!

Savana: That's wack.

All three: [yell excitedly]

Savana: What the heck?!

Sam: I don't understand what's going on.

You're really topping viral charts. You were playlisted on Pop Rising and Pop Sauce on Spotify in particular. What is it like starting in the country world, now becoming part of the pop world and crossing genres so early in the game?

Savana: It just kind of happened and we didn't really need to have a sit-down discussion with everyone on our label and be like, "We want to do this."

Sami: We've always just made...

Sam: Music that we like.

Sami: We're lucky that people nowadays aren't really concerned with genre with all the ways that we can curate our own playlists, and everybody has this really eclectic music taste. So I don't think we've ever really thought like the binary terms of genre, we just kind of made. So whatever we make, wherever it's supposed to live, we'll hang out there. And then if it ends up going somewhere else, we'll hang out there. We're just going with the flow. We're just vibing.

Savana: We're just vibing.

This pop space, pop world, however you want to imagine it, is that somewhere you envision yourself continuing to experiment in?

Savana: Definitely.

Sami: Whoever wants us! [laughs]

Savana: Whatever the music wants to be is what it will be. I don't think we're going to put any restrictions on what we create.

Sam: No rules from here on out.

Looking back at the song, I want to dig into some lyrics. There's the iconic first verse which was in the original TikTok, "Yo, my cat died and a global pandemic took over my life/ Put out some music nobody liked/ Got really sad and bored at the same time." It's all very real, very emotional in a song that had a tinge of humor to it. You listen to the song, and you're like, "Yeah, F 2020!" Did writing the song help you all cope with this collective grief that 2020 has brought all of us?

Savana: Yeah. The lyrics when I was writing the first verse and chorus, I didn't have to think about the lyrics because the lyrics were just what had happened in our lives.

Sam: She was just venting.

Sami: I think there's something about putting your problems on an easy-to-digest plate for other people. It's so weird that all this tragic stuff happen, but now people are just singing, "My cat died..." It's like, "Yes, you know my pain!" You know it. Even if you don't know it, you know it.

How did the second verse come to be? The line I was really intrigued by was, "The problems I got are honestly probably not that bad/ When I compare 'em to some shit y'all had." Where did that lyric come from?

Sami: That's kind of a problem in and of itself, wanting to complain about it but also feeling guilty for complaining about it because you know that...

Sam: Everybody else is going through all kinds of shit that's probably way harder than the shit that you're going through, and then you're like, "Why am I complaining when these people have it so much worse?"

Sami: We just had to acknowledge our own privilege as people who do not have to face half the shit that people are facing right now.


day 1 of tryna get this song we wrote to pop off so our manager will let us release it lol heLP ##avenuebeat ##originalsong ##fktrump ##blm ##viral ##2020

? F2020 - Avenue Beat

I want to make sure we talk about the TikTok video that introduced the song. It featured some imagery created to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and so many more Black lives that have been lost just this year. How are you all prioritizing activism during this challenging time?

Savana: I think it's not a coincidence that the time in which we're stuck at home and we have to think about things is the time that all this stuff is being brought to light. It's a really important time for us to get educated, first of all.

Sam: Do a lot of soul-searching, a lot of self-reflection.

Savana: Yeah, and get involved as much as we can because we have the opportunity and the time.

Sam: When will we all ever collectively as a community ever have this much time to really do all of this work again? Life has kind of taken a pause, so it's given everybody such a good opportunity to really work on these things that we definitely should have been trying to fix a lot sooner.

Sami: And Nashville, the songwriter community in general, has really hit the ground running with educating and taking action. A friend of ours, Parker McKay, started the Nashville Action Committee. She sends out one easy-to-do but impactful action for everyone to do a week, and then you just tackle it. What people are doing here especially is just so mind-blowing, seeing a community band together... The Nashville songwriter community is very white, but everyone is acting as allies, which I think is very telling of the empathy that defines this community.

Nashville had a protest that attracted 10,000 people in June, so there is this outwardly physical type of activism that's happening right now, but there's also the social media side of things, and y'all are very well versed on TikTok. What are your thoughts on TikTok as a platform for activism?

Sam: I think TikTok is such a great platform for activism. The biggest hashtag on TikTok for the longest time was the Black Lives Matter hashtag; people could go online and look at all of the peaceful protests and see the change and feel the community, even if you went to your protest in your city, you saw there were so many people in these other cities. You can spread information and education so quickly because everybody can upload and see it.

Sami: TikTok is such a great format for education because it boils down things to small, easy-to-digest little bits. If you get a large influx of hard-to-process information, it doesn't stick with you or you'll see it for the lump sum that it is and just be like, "That's a lot right now, I need to go to this." I think it really helps educate people because the platform can be fun, it can be quick, it can be educational, and creators on TikTok are so brilliant in how they use it. Viva la TikTok.

There is no confirmation that this is going to happen and things might change, but what are your thoughts on a potential TikTok ban, and how would that change music promotion for the group?

Savana: I think TikTok is amazing, and what makes TikTok amazing is the community. I feel like, if it gets banned, we'll just pick up and move somewhere else.

Sam: Everyone's already like, "Alright, if TikTok gets banned, we're all moving to Byte!" The people are still there, or they'll find us on our Instagram or our YouTube videos or whatever. It would suck and I would be so sad if TikTok got banned because it's my source of joy, but we'll find somewhere else to go.

Sami: It'll be the year 2021, looking up TikTok compilation videos just like we did with Vine. I don't want to go back.

Savana: RIP!

You were set to open for Rascal Flatts on some shows this year. What were you looking forward to most about that touring experience, and how are you feeling about the live stream situation right now?

Savana: For touring, I'm excited — if we ever get to go back out — that there might be a song that people know the words to. That's never happened before.

Sam: That's never happened. That's always been our goal. Whenever people are like, "What's a moment you guys want to have?" Hearing your song on the radio, one, and then two, having a crowd full of people sing your lyrics back to you. I feel like that's everything.

Do you think that because the song went viral, it inspired you to want to make more music like it? What are your plans for music moving forward?

Sami: There's definitely this pressure a bit to recreate the success of the first song, and your natural instinct is like, "Okay, is there a format that I can copy and paste?" But I think we're all trying really hard to block out that noise and still just do what we've always done, which is create stuff that we want to listen to and stuff that we enjoy, stuff that's true to us. There is sometimes, in the corner of my brain, like, "Is this it?"

Do you think that, based on our current trajectory, 2021 is going to be a better year?

Savana: No expectations! [laughs] I don't want to jinx 2021, I'm going to let it be.

Sam: It can be whatever it wants to be; hopefully, it's kind to us.

Sami: No expectations. We are going in blind, cautiously optimistic, but hoping for the best and preparing for the worst. How about that?

Photography: Delaney Royer

Wed, 12 Aug 2020 22:48:09 +0000 2020ViralTiktokCovid-19Global pandemicGen zSam backoffSavana santosSami beardenCareAvenue beatLogan Potter
Topicals Skincare Wants You to Embrace All Your Flaws

August is officially National Black Business Month and PAPER is showing love to some of our favorite Black-owned businesses throughout the entire month. Our dedicated series, Booked x Busy, is all about shining a light on the entrepreneurs and brands that embody Black excellence.

One in four Americans live with chronic skin conditions, like eczema, hyperpigmentation or psoriasis. But that's about to change thanks to Topicals, a skincare brand that wants Gen Z to embrace its flaws and is quickly becoming all the buzz when it comes to inclusive beauty.

Recently launching its two signature products, Like Butter and Faded, Topicals' clinically backed line is compatible with all skin tones and contains targeted formulas packed with key ingredients that address dry, stressed out, discolored and inflamed skin. Available online and at Nordstrom, the brand is not only transforming the taboo around imperfect skin, but it's creating a community around authentic skincare conversations, too.

Topicals features real-life womxn in campaigns with their skin conditions on full display. And because chronic skin conditions can take a toll mental health due to society often associating them with embarrassment and shame, Topicals is donating 1% of profits to various mental health organizations; it's already donated and partnered with groups like Sad Girls Club.

Topicals is founded by Olamide Olowe and her bestie Claudia Teng. At 23, Olowe is the youngest Black woman ever to raise more than $2 million in venture capital funding. With support and a co-sign from Hollywood cool kids like Issa Rae, Yvonne Orji and DJ Hannah Bronfman, Olowe and Topicals are in the skincare game for the long-haul.

PAPER had a chance to kick it with Olowe to chat about what it's like to be a young beauty boss, the power in creatives of color collaborating, and the importance of being the CEO of both a business and your life.

Skin is something that often is glorified as having to be flawless. Why is Topicals deciding to upend that tradition in beauty?

We're all about celebrating and embracing our skin and its conditions. That's why it's important for us to showcase people with their skin conditions to change the idea that you need to have perfect, clear skin to feel beautiful and confident. At Topicals, we like to say that "YOU make skin look good," not the other way around.

Can you both briefly share an experience you had with "bad" skin?

Olamide Olowe: I have post-barbae folliculitis, which is another term for ingrown hairs. I grew up very self-conscious about it so much so that I wasn't comfortable wearing a swimsuit until my first year of college.

Claudia Teng: Growing up I dealt with severe eczema to the point I was in and out of hospitals. Teachers used to send notes home to my parents because they noticed I was more concerned with itching rather than interacting in class. I also would skip out on sleepovers because I felt embarrassed about having to bring my topical steroids.

"For women of color, there's a huge lack of funding and resources to help jump start your business."

Can people without eczema, seborrheic dermatitis and other chronic skin conditions use your products?

Yes, they can. Our ingredients generally help to improve your skin's moisture barrier or brighten your skin tone so even if you don't have a skin condition, you'll enjoy using Topicals products.

What are some of the challenges for starting a Black-owned business from scratch?

For women of color, there's a huge lack of funding and resources to help jump start your business. It was definitely no walk in the park, especially when it came to investors. I was turned down from over 100 different investors since I began reaching out back in August 2018 until I was able to secure the investors I have alongside me today. I feel fortunate though to have the group of people supporting us that we do. It was important to me to have strong, Black women on our cap table, and we were able to do that.

Where did you find the strength to take the leap and launch your own skincare company?

Claudia and I have a great support system. Claudia's mom is one of the certified dermatologists behind the science of our products. My father is also an entrepreneur who has launched several businesses. Claudia and I have made numerous connections with people with similar interests who believed in our mission. Having each other side-by-side with the same passion to change the way we look at and care for skin conditions has really helped us make this happen.

What is it like to have a squad of influential Black women in the industry backing and believing in your vision?

When Black women support Black women, magic happens! I'm so grateful to have the most influential Black women backing our vision to transform the way people feel about skin.

Related | This Durag Designer Turns People Into Superheroes

What does it mean to be a Black-owned business, especially when the Black Lives Matter movement is getting so much attention?

Our brand is all about being inclusive and listening to our community even when it's not about skincare. It's important to support one another especially during these times.

As women of color, what does representation within the beauty industry mean to you?

Growing up as women of color with skin conditions, we began to notice that many of the products didn't serve us and our skin conditions. Historically the skincare industry has not been inclusive, not only when it comes to representation but also when it comes to formulation. 75% of dermatology clinical trials are conducted on lighter skin tones, which results in a lack of understanding of how certain ingredients affect darker skin tones.

Topicals is donating a percentage of profits to various mental health organizations. Why is it so important for you to give back?

We're all about building an inclusive community that has real and authentic discussions about skin. Chronic skin conditions can often lead to serious mental health issues. At Topicals, we're about self-care and that includes taking care of your mental health. I've experienced the mental health effects of dealing with my own skin conditions and that's why we've built a brand that encourages and supports those who may be experiencing the same thing — even if it's not entirely related to skin.

"We are creating a new kind of cool that's rooted in empathy for yourself and others."

How did you come up with the names of your two hero products, Like Butter and Faded?

Everything we do at Topicals is rooted in fun. Chronic skin conditions have been way too serious for too long so when we were thinking about naming the products, we didn't want to call out the skin conditions themselves, but rather focus on the experience that the product provides.

What's the inspiration behind the packaging?

When you have a visible skin condition, you grow up using prescription products that are usually kept under your bathroom sink. We wanted to design products that you could showcase right alongside all of your favorite brands on your shelf, hence the bright packaging.

You just hit the market. Who are some of your favorite celebrities you'd love to have get their hands on Topicals?

I'd love to get Topicals in the hands of Yara Shahidi, Keke Palmer, Adele, Kerry Washington, Tia Mowry and Naomi Smalls. They all either have hyperpigmentation or eczema.

You've been able to already secure a major retail partnership at Nordstrom. What other shelves would you like to see Topicals on?

Our goal is to always be where our customers are. This can be online, in-store or in a different country. We'd love to partner with any retailers that will allow us to continue doing that.

You are both the co-founder and CEO of Topicals. How do you balance being a beauty boss?

I lean on my amazing support system who always has my back. I'm the daughter of two Nigerian immigrants, so I don't take the immense privilege I've been afforded for granted. I'm a voracious reader, so I always keep my finger on the pulse of cutting-edge research in the e-commerce, health and wellness industries to better create new and exciting experiences for our community. I also pray a lot. Building a business is a very mentally taxing exercise, so meditating and praying help to keep me grounded.

Related | Proper Gnar Is Proving That Black Girls Skate, Too

Skin conditions can sometimes have a negative effect on our self-esteem. What advice do you give to someone not feeling their best?

At Topicals, we embrace that perfect skin doesn't exist, that's what makes it even more beautiful. By creating a community of people who buck the status quo, we are creating a new kind of cool that's rooted in empathy for yourself and others.

Fill in the blank: My Black is...


Thanks to you, the world can love the skin it's in. What's next for Topicals?

You'll continue to see us transform the way people feel about skin through products, experiences, and social impact. Stay tuned for more!

Keep Olamide and Topicals Booked x Busy by following @MyTopicals and visiting

Photos courtesy of Topicals

Wed, 12 Aug 2020 21:49:22 +0000 x busyBeautyCourtney Richardson
The K-Pop Fans Who Tweet Fake News

We're living in the golden age of fandom, where social media has allowed stans to interact with their idols on a daily basis. Whether you're a barb, lamb, belieber, or registered bardi gang member, you're probably @-ing somebody. On Stan Stories, we meet the internet's most dedicated followers and delve deep into their obsessions.

On a Sunday night in May, 19-year-old Ellie, an NCTzen from New York City, tweeted that Taeyong, her favorite member of K-pop group NCT 127, had a collaboration in the works with Puerto Rican trap king Bad Bunny. The news quickly took off, garnering over a thousand retweets from fellow stans within hours and igniting her mentions with a maelstrom of replies ranging from keyboard smashes in all caps to genuine confusion. Buried amongst the chaos was a single question, sans punctuation and pretense: "are we clearing searches."

Insiders knew the answer was yes. Taeyong and Bad Bunny weren't planning to drop a banger in July. The collab was a mistruth created by Ellie to clear up Taeyong's search results on Twitter, which had been flooded with the phrase "Taeyong bully" due to a middle school incident that has since become fodder for online fanwars. To pull it off, Ellie had changed her Twitter name and image to match that of a popular K-pop translator. These big accounts regularly translate breaking Korean entertainment news for English-speaking international audiences, so NCTzens who were aimlessly scrolling through their timelines saw what appeared to be a legitimate story from a historically reliable source — even complete with a misleading Naver link that redirected to a Korean article about Taeyong's airport fashion. Astute fans may have caught Ellie's real handle, but that doesn't mean they didn't play along. Her cunning plan had worked.

"I cleared the searches within a couple hours," she tells PAPER from her Brooklyn home. "Taeyong fans are always clearing searches. We always have to, or so we think we have to."

Fellow Taeyong stan Varshini knows the feeling. "His searches are always a mess," the 16-year-old Londoner says. So, about twice a week she helps clear them, replying to tweets with positive phrases. "I'm comfortable clearing the searches if an idol hasn't done anything wrong," she says. "In Taeyong's case, I don't think the one comment he made when he was a [young] teen should define him now."

Within recent years, clearing the searches has become an inescapable part of K-pop standom on Twitter. When an idol or group's "searches" — or the associated keywords that generate when someone looks up a name or phrase in the platform's search bar — are overrun by negative results, driven either by fan-made feuds or real-life scandals, fans take swift action to inundate their timelines with positive keywords and seemingly harmless misinformation to drown out what they perceive to be a blemish on their idol's reputation. (Some have even made detailed guides on how to do it most effectively.) So for Ellie, getting thousands of accounts to tweet about "Taeyong Bad Bunny" was a clever way to clear "Taeyong bully" from the searches, which the algorithm identifies as "topics that are popular now," as opposed to over a long stretch of time, a Twitter spokesperson clarifies.

Related | The Swifties Who Think Taylor Has 'Voodoo' Powers

Fans of Korean idol music have long established their social media savvy by dominating charts, trending hashtags and efficiently mobilizing to reach streaming goals and organize global fandom projects. Recently, K-pop fans have also made headlines for their political activism on the platform. Following George Floyd's murder on May 25, they've spammed police surveillance apps, flooded racist hashtags with fancams and raised money for Black Lives Matter and other pro-Black organizations. They even teamed up with TikTokers, YouTubers and Facebook moms to troll President Trump by inflating the registration numbers for his June Tulsa rally. But often lost in this conversation are the voices of Black and POC fans who experience rampant anti-Blackness and racism in these fandom spaces. Many see clearing the searches as just another way to silence minority voices, especially when fans would rather bury important issues than actually acknowledge an idol's wrongdoing.

In recent months, there have been several instances of cultural appropriation and racial insensitivity across multiple K-pop fandoms. ATEEZ leader Hongjoong sported cornrows in the group's latest album packaging; BLACKPINK placed a small statue of Hindu god Ganesha on the ground in their music video for "How You Like That"; and in a July video, SEVENTEEN rapper Wonwoo sang two words of "Curry," a famous Korean song that stereotypes South Asian culture. For Varshini, who likes SEVENTEEN's music but isn't a full-blown fan (known as a Carat), the fandom's response to the controversy was off-putting. "I saw how some fans tried to excuse the group and silence other South Asians, and it just made me think, 'If people are excusing them then how will being in the fandom be for me as a South Asian?'" she says. "I just get a bit confused about how some fans so blatantly don't care about other people and cultures."

While these themes aren't new to K-pop, there's now more attention being paid to issues of cultural appropriation, racism, misogyny and bad behavior — in part because of K-pop's growing popularity around the world — and as a result, idols and their companies are being held accountable like never before. And in some cases fans' voices are being heard; ATEEZ's management KQ Entertainment released a statement saying they were taking concerns of appropriation seriously, while YG Entertainment quietly removed Ganesha from "How You Like That" completely.

But for every fan who tries to hold their idol accountable for their actions, there's someone trying to clear the searches and protect the artist's image, despite the fact that most stans agree that clearing the searches often brings more attention to the issue. Just as easily as "Hongjoong cornrows" popped up in his searches, a group of fans started spamming Twitter with keywords like "Hongjoong best leader" to keep the scandal at bay. They didn't believe that Hongjoong, someone with a history of social awareness, deserved the criticism. But Black fans just wanted to help educate him so that it wouldn't happen again.

"We should be confronting the issue instead of clearing the searches because clearing the searches doesn't help Hongjoong," says Ahomari, the co-host of 106 & Seoul: A Black K-Pop Podcast. "It's silencing the people who are most hurt by these situations." A multi, or fan of multiple groups, Ahomari has been into K-pop for 11 years, so they weren't surprised by the cultural appropriation itself. "It's kind of sad that I'm used to this by now," they say wearily. But having only recently rejoined Twitter to promote their new podcast (after a brief 2019 stint as a BTS stan account that ended after being "ratioed to hell" for speaking out about the anti-Blackness they experienced as a fan), Ahomari is still getting used to stan dynamics on the platform. For starters, they have both "BLM" and "racism" muted.

"I was having so much fun with K-pop before I found Twitter," they say. "It feels like shit sometimes. People with Black Lives Matter in their [Twitter] name were calling me all kinds of names, and it's like I guess my Black life doesn't matter."