popculture

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    There is no question that last night’s Billboard Music Awards stood out from previous years. Not only did the event, which takes place in L.A.'s Dolby Theater, happen without a live audience, but stars such as Demi Lovato, Lizzo, and Killer Mike used their platforms to highlight important current and political issues. In case you missed it, here are some of the most noteworthy moments.

    1. Demi Lovato performed her newest song, “Commander in Chief,” a protest against President Trump.

    Lovato’s performance was illuminated in front of a message, displayed in block letters, which read "VOTE!" and was not broadcasted on NBC. However, Lovato still got her message across. “Commander in Chief, honestly/If I did the things you do/I couldn't sleep, seriously/Do you even know the truth?" she asked. "We're in a state of crisis, people are dying/While you line your pockets deep/Commander in Chief/How does it feel to still be able to breathe?”

    Despite receiving backlash on social media, with fans advising Lovato keep politics out of her performance, she fired back. “You do understand as a celebrity, I have a right to political views as well?" she wrote on her Instagram Story. "I literally don't care if this ruins my career. This isn't about that. My career isn't about that. I made a piece of art that stands for something I believe in.”

    Following the song’s debut, Lovato released the music video, with the caption on Instagram: “I'm calling on all of you, please join me in voting for this year’s election. Find your voter information at iwillvote.com.”

    2. Lizzo accepted the Top Song Sales Artist Award while reminding fans to channel their inner power and get out and vote.

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    “When people try to suppress something, it’s usually because that thing holds power. They’re afraid of your power. There’s power in who you are, there’s power in your voice, so whether it’s through music, protest, or your right to vote, use your power, use your voice and refuse to be suppressed,” Lizzo said. She also wore a one-shoulder black dress with “VOTE” printed in bold letters throughout.

    3. Killer Mike received the first-ever Billboard Change Maker Award for his activism in social justice.

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    The award was presented by Keisha Lance Bottoms, the Mayor of Atlanta, Killer Mike's hometown. In his speech, Mike said, “Kids out there that sing and dance: What you do is worthy…You are artists and your goal should be to express the very reality around you in the very most beautiful or ugliest of ways you see fit. Kids who run and dance and sing and jump and all that, all the things they tell you don't matter -- you matter more than you know.”

    4. Bad Bunny accepted the Best Latin Artist Award and dedicated his win to Latina and Puerto Rican women.

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    The singer said, “Without you, there wouldn’t be anything, nothing, nothing; not music, not reggaeton, nothing.” Behind him stood Ivy Queen and Nesi, two prominent women reggaeton performers.

    5. John Legend dedicated his performance to his wife, Chrissy Teigen, following her pregnancy loss.

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    Legend performed his song “Never Break,” off of the album Bigger Love, starting, “This is for Chrissy.” The couple recently shared news of the loss of their son, Jack, only a month into Teigen’s pregnancy, and Teigen was praised for openly discussing her miscarriage, and the grief surrounding it, on social media.

     
     
     
     
     
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    We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we’ve never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn’t enough. . . We never decide on our babies’ names until the last possible moment after they’re born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever. . . To our Jack - I’m so sorry that the first few moments of your life were met with so many complications, that we couldn’t give you the home you needed to survive. We will always love you. . . Thank you to everyone who has been sending us positive energy, thoughts and prayers. We feel all of your love and truly appreciate you. . . We are so grateful for the life we have, for our wonderful babies Luna and Miles, for all the amazing things we’ve been able to experience. But everyday can’t be full of sunshine. On this darkest of days, we will grieve, we will cry our eyes out. But we will hug and love each other harder and get through it.

    A post shared by chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) on

    Legend sang, “Whenever life is hard/We'll never lose our way… I just know I'll always follow the light in your heart/I'm not worried about us/And I've never been/We know how the story ends… We will never break/Built on a foundation strong enough to stay… You are the explanation of what love really means/It's bigger than you and me/It's one plus one equals three/When we talk about forever/Then forever's what we mean.” 

    Images: Screenshots of the BBMAs from NBC's YouTube livestream

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    Britney Spears has declared on Instagram that she's done with performing until her dad steps down from her conservatorship. "For those of you who choose to criticize my dancing videos... look I'm not gonna be performing on any stages anytime soon with my dad handling what I wear, say, do, or think!!!!” Britney announced in her post. She then went on to say that she would rather dance in her living room than be controlled on stage. Jamie Spears has been left as the sole conservator of Britney Spears’ finances following the resignation of Britney’s manager, Larry Rudolph, and Bessemer Trust, a professional wealth management firm that was meant to become the co-conservator of Britney’s estate along with her father.

    Spears and her new lawyer, Mathew Rosengart, both want dad Jamie Spears to take a hike and relinquish his role as his daughter’s conservator. Former federal prosecutor Rosengart was chosen a few weeks following Judge Brenda Penny’s ruling that Spears be able to select her own legal representation. This decision came about after the resignation of Spears’ previous lawyer Samuel Ingham III who asked to be dismissed as a result of the public court hearing in which Spears condemned her conservatorship, calling it “abusive.” 

    Screen Shot 2021 07 20 at 4.35.42 PM 56ff8Screenshot via Youtube

    The pop-icon has made it abundantly clear that her father is the main ringleader in the battle to keep her under lock and key. Papa-Spears has maintained an iron grip over what his daughter wears, her diet, and what she posts, in addition to enforcing 70-hour work weeks. The conservatorship also bars her from marrying or having more children. She told NBC News that she wants to get rid of her dad and charge him with conservatorship abuse, adding that “this conservatorship has allowed my dad to ruin my life." 

    Spears’ new attorney Mathew Rosengart, told CNN reporters just outside of the courthouse that they will “be moving promptly and aggressively for his removal.”  For now, Spears is trying to make the best of her situation: posting videos of herself doing cartwheels, horseback riding, and dancing from the comforts of her home.

    Top Photo: Screenshot Via Youtube

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    POSE returns to FX on June 11 and we are OBSESSED. And helping us to talk about this amazing show on BUST’s Poptarts podcastis Our Lady J! She is currently a writer and producer on Pose and was previously writing and producing on Amazon’s groundbreaking show Transparent. Before becoming the first out trans writer to be hired in a television writers’ room, she made a name for herself as a pop and classical pianist, working with Sia and the American Ballet Theatre and was the first out trans woman to perform at Carnegie Hall. Our Lady J is a true trailblazer and we were so honored to have her here with us at BUST HQ!


     

    About:  BUST's Poptarts is a twice-monthly podcast hosted by BUST  Magazine editors Emily Rems and Callie Watts that celebrates women in pop culture. The first half of each episode is devoted to a hot topic in entertainment, and in the second half, a segment called "Whatcha Watchin'?," Callie and Emily dig into all the shows, movies, books, music, videos, and podcasts they've enjoyed since the last episode, and either praise or pan each experience.

    Check out every episode on iTunes, and don't forget to rate and review! 

    This podcast was produced for BUST by Cait Moldenhauer and Jessy Caron at More Banana Productions and was recorded by Logan del Fuego.

     

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    The Trends! The Celebs! The Dating Advice!

    While the ways in which media communicates to adolescents has transformed, being a teenager is still rough. Worries about the number of people showing up to your party have been replaced by worries about the number of ‘likes’ and followers you have on Instagram. And as technology and algorithms continue to advance, increasing the subsequent demand for the latest information, print media has taken a hit. Many of our teen staples like ElleGirl, YM, and Teen Vogue have either folded or made the complete transition to digital.

    But the rise of the restless 24-hour news cycle and the immediacy of ‘like/subscribe/share’ has spawned a cultural yearning for nostalgia and its ensuing feelings of stability and hope. For those teen-mag enthusiasts mourning print’s absence, the IG account @thankyouatoosa is your perfect resource for the good, the bad and the ugly of youth-focused media from the 1990s’ and 2000s.’ Think kitten heels with jeans. Distressed denim cargo pants. Room makeovers. Color tinted sunglasses. Boy bands. Laguna Beach. The Hills. It-Girls. It-Boys. Celebrity first kiss stories. And, dating advice that’s a little well... dated. Aside from being a fun scroll through memory lane, on @thankyouatoosahighlights the ways in which cultural attitudes have shifted and teen content has progressed and how it has stayed the same.

    Described as an “ode to teen magazines,” @thankyouatoosa is the brainchild of NYC-based writer, teen-mag enthusiast, and now, practically bona fide archivist and historian, Casey Lewis. While growing up in a small town pre-internet, magazines were Lewis’ “lifeline to a larger world.” “They were my bible," she states. "The magazines I grew up reading certainly weren't perfect, and they really shaped me as a person, for better or for worse. But I wouldn't have ended up as a writer in New York if it hadn't been for the Teen Vogues and the Seventeens and the ElleGirls.” Casey interned at Teen Vogue in college. After graduation, she went to work for Alloy, the media company which published books like the Gossip Girl series. “Very OG teen media.” Lewis returned to Teen Vogue and also worked for MTV before cofounding Clover Letter, an e-newsletter for teen girls, in 2016.

    But by 2018, youth-focused media was in a depression. “Last year it seemed like teen media couldn’t catch a break,” Casey recalls. Rookie Magazine had just folded and other teen magazines were announcing the end of their print runs.
    During a trip home for the holidays, she revisited her extensive collection of magazines, and “snapped pictures of a few of the funnier spreads.” Back in New York, she started the Instagram “on a fluke.” “I really don’t even know what compelled me. It seemed like a good distraction, and you know what? It was! But it’s become so much more than that.”

    The account is dedicated to Atoosa Rubenstein, founding editor of CosmoGirl! and former editor-in-chief of Seventeen. For many readers including Casey and myself, the authenticity Atoosa brought to the gloss of magazines was what set her apart from other editors. “Atoosa was so unapologetically herself, and that felt really radical to me,” raves Casey. In her editor's letters, Atoosa shared stories of awkward, embarrassing, and sometimes painful moments of her teens. She spoke about feeling misunderstood at school and growing up in an immigrant family in addition to the saga of maintaining out-of-control curly hair. As a lonely teen, I found solace in the stories and her creativity, glamour and fierce work ethic helped me see a light at the end of the tunnel. Atoosa was the cool big sister reminding you that things were going to work out. Casey shares similar sentiments, “I had frizzy hair and was just constantly uncomfortable in my skin. Because of her, I believed I, too, could be a top editor at a magazine when I grew up. She allowed me to dream big!”

    Concerning her extensive collection of magazines, Casey jokes, “I now feel forever indebted to my parents--for many things, of course, but especially for not throwing away my hundreds of teen magazines. It's been more than a decade since I've lived in my parents' house, and they've sat pretty much untouched. I had them ship me a ton (literally, the box probably weighed a ton), so now I have a bookcase full of them here at my apartment in Brooklyn. I hope I never have to move.”

    Casey loves that the teen media that’s still around has gotten much more inclusive but is disappointed in how few outlets exist for teens. “I think that's something about a certain generation of women, or at least a certain generation of women writers in New York--we all grew up worshiping Atoosa and then ended up here ready to take on the media world, only to see that world crumble below our feet. Maybe we should all band together to start something new.”

    Whether she knows it or not, Casey is creating something new that’s spawned from what she originally loved about magazines; finding a supportive community through exchanging ideas and dialogue. When I reached out to Atoosa regarding the account, it was evident that her readers continue to make an equally profound impact on her like she for us. “Casey just blows my mind," she enthuses. "Obviously, the thankyouatoosa Instagram and tiny letter were and are super flattering and make me feel great. But what makes me feel best of all is to talk to Casey and other young women like her who are just as brave, bright and kind as I hoped they would be."

     

    The baton has been passed and those who once got their tips from Atoosa are now giving them to her. "I also love reaching out to various former readers to get their help now. Like, I'm not sure I would have figured Instagram out without Casey. That poor girl - I would text her the dumbest questions (and I hope she kept them so she can publish them one day to tease me). But it's not just Casey. I have one former reader who is super fit who I've asked for advice to help me get back into shape after I had a chronic illness. I have former readers who help me when they come across me whether I'm shopping, at a restaurant or anywhere else they work. It's really a full circle moment. I was there for them. And now they're here for me when they can be and it means so much to me.”

     

    Header photo, cropped for size, courtesy of Lisa Fotios via Pexels

     

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    The original Gossip Girl filled the early 2000s teens and young adults with yearnings for sprawling skylines, the temptations of big city living, and the privileges of old money. The Gossip Girl reboot once again launches us into a world of high school drama, betrayal, forbidden love affairs, and an insider look at the lives of Upper East Side elite but with a 2021 glow up. Rather than centering around frenemies Blair Waldorf and Serena Vanderwoodson, this reboot throws the spotlight on high school junior and affluent social media influencer, Julien Calloway (Jordan Alexander), and her half-sister, high school freshman and activist in the making, Zoya Lott (Whitney Peak).

    The Gossip Girl Reboot boasts a pretty diverse cast with the characters hailing from all different racial backgrounds, sexual orientations, and gender identities. In the main cast alone, there is pansexual play boy, a "bitchy" lesbian, a queer/questioning boy with a pink buzzcut, and a transwoman with killer style. This is really exciting, especially when you consider the all white main cast of its 2007 predecessor. Backlash for this choice in casting was definitely heard and there has been an obvious and mostly successful effort at fixing past mistakes with the reboot.  It was this diversity that drew me to watch the reboot in the first palace. That being said, as entertaining as the show is, it misses the mark in some major ways. 

    gossip 36e29Screenshot Via HBO Max

    Other diversity points aside, the reboot really missed an opportunity to cast either a brown skinned or dark skinned actress in a leading role. The show explicitly makes Zoya fully Black while Julien is mixed white and Black. The pair share a Black mother but Julien’s father is white and Zoya’s is Black. Zoya is canonically fully Black and yet is played by someone of mixed race (Whitney Peak is Ugandan and white Canadian). Historically, due to colorist beauty standards,  in TV and movies mixed race Black women have been chosen over Black women to act as fully Black characters. Mixed race actresses Zendaya, Yara Shahidi, and Amadla Steinberg are common casting choices for characters made to be young Black women. They are often cast alongside fully Black families and usually every other member of their family ranges from brown skin to dark skin. This reinforces the colorist idea that, in order to be considered beautiful (and worthy of the lead role) Black women need to have European features i.e. a looser curl pattern, lighter skin, and a slim nose. Julien is also played by a mixed race actress but that makes sense because her character is canonical biracial. 

    There is no reason why a Black actress who reflects fully Black beauty with dark skin and African features couldn’t have been cast as Zoya. By making casting choices that play into colorism, the Gossip Girl reboot is continuing and upholding a legacy of Black women’s beauty being limited to features deemed “white” enough. Upon further investigation, I also found that Monet (Savannah Lee Smith), a friend of Julien’s who also acts as her publicist, is played by a mixed race actress. Monet’s parents have yet to be revealed and her character may also be intended to be mixed, which is fine. However, the fact that there are three Black women in the main cast of eight, and all are played by mixed race women makes me question whether the diversity on this show is legitimate or surface level and performative.

    who plays zoya lott in gossip girl whitney peak 1625607527 view 0 8d45bScreenshot Via HBO Max

    The show is hyperaware, as many in 2021 are, of cancel culture and trying to flex it’s woke muscles so it isn’t ridiculed as so many past shows of the early 2000s were for being problematic. This fear is how we ended up with lines like “private school teachers get paid substantially less than public school ones. It’s criminal how little they make. Less than customer service representatives, executive assistants, retail salespeople,” which reads like something out of an afterschool special. Being associated with the legacy of the OG Gossip Girl comes both with name recognition and a shady history. 

    The show attempts to counteract past complaints by pumping up the diversity and inclusion this generation is known for. Unfortunately, the dialogue makes the characters sometimes seem like three millenials stacked on top of each other in a trench coat. It’s all name-dropping and references to the pandemic and throwing in random words 300-year-olds think teens use. Spoiler: they don’t. No one uses “unsubscribe” as an attempting-to-be-witty one liner, and I pray that it never catches on.

    But the real problem is that the reboot wants to keep the conniving rich people doing terrible things to each other while making them weirdly self aware. It doesn’t make the characters empathizable, it just confuses the audience and gives them emotional whiplash. The problematic shit wasn’t taken out, they just think that if they have a girl with a buzz cut pointing out that it’s not politically correct then they can get away with doing it anyway. Any attempt the show makes at being morally above comes off as forced, insincere, and preachy. 

     

     

    One of the most glaringly obvious and painful examples of this performative wokeness is Julien’s “I Am a Bully Speech” in episode 4. Julien decides, after a day of trying to sabotage Zoya’s birthday, to share a video on a huge projector at Zoya’s birthday party of Zoya vandalizing her old school. The video spirals into Zoya being traumatically bullied and called a “mother killer” by a group of girls, ultimately ending with Zoya setting a fire after being locked in a room (it’s a lot). Julien, who hadn’t seen the second part of the video, immediately realizes the error of her ways and makes the following speech: 

    “Hey everyone. I know that video was traumatic. You’re probably wondering why I played it. I’m wondering that too… I didn’t know she was being bullied but I guess when you’re a bully yourself you don’t see that. Since I can’t turn back the clock, the very least I can do is tell the truth. I’m a bully. And whether I do it to your face or through your phone without you realizing, it’s the same thing... But never again. Take out your phones. Do it, hit record. I am a bully. I bully my sister, I bully my friends, my fans and I’m never gonna do it again so long as I live. You have this video. Dubsmash it, DeuxMoi it. Gossip Girl it for all its worth. Now how about we put this pain behind us and bow down to the princess. She's why you’re all here. Z, I love you.”

    This is supposedly meant to make up for what she did and has been doing up until literal seconds beforehand. Not everyone gets immediate forgiveness if they ever get it at all. Acknowledging that you fucked up isn’t a cure all. The only thing that could possibly explain this speech would be that maybe the writers wanted to teach a lesson to young viewers. Showing kids that bullying is inexcusable is important but I must remind you that this isn’t aimed at kids. Gossip Girl has shown full frontal nudity, a student performing oral on a teacher, and minors doing hard drugs. This is a show about teenagers for adults and rated TV-MA. I’m sure that there are some teens bingeing this show on their family’s HBO Max account, but even if they are, the “I Am A Bully” speech was so silly. In no world would people pat Jullien on the back for that shitty apology. She did a terrible thing, acknowledged it 15 seconds later, and pinky promised that she learned her lesson. 

    eric daman gossip girl reboot costumes outfit7 88e5eScreenshot Via HBO Max

    Rather than Julien telling us that what she did was wrong, we could have figured that out for ourselves.  A better way to make this scene more believable would have been showing the fallout and having Julien face consequences for being a bad person. She’s an Instagram influencer, she should have lost followers and been cancelled. Instead, not only was she praised for her “bravery,” she actually GAINED followers.

    As clueless as the show seems at times, the writers do actually know how to broach controversial topics in a way that doesn’t sound like a PSA. They did it wonderfully with the “love” story between Rafa (Jason Gotay), a teacher at the school, and Max (Thomas Doherty), his flirty socialite student, and it turned out to be one of the best parts of the show. 

    Rafa and Max are both hot, played by adult actors, and have incredible chemistry and sexual tension. Hollywood loves a good student-teacher fantasy evidenced by shows like Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, and the original Gossip Girl.  Audiences often find themselves pulled in by this titillating if extremely problematic trope, yet things like laws and abuse of power and predatory behavior linger in the back of their mind. The Gossip Girl reboot seemed to understand this very well.

    The thing that sets the Gossip Girl reboot apart is how they resolved this plotline. Max and Rafa didn’t run off into the sunset, instead, Rafa is revealed to have had sexual relationships with several other students in the past. Far from being the charming man who couldn’t help but fall for Max’s advances, Rafa turned out to be a repeat offender. This is far more realistic than other examples of the trope. The tea is, if your high school teacher is trying to fuck you, they are probably a predator and you may not be their first victim. 

    Screen Shot 2021 08 17 at 2.30.18 PM 89a1fScreenshot via Youtube

    The reboot managed to give us everything we actually want from a student-teacher love story: tension, forbidden romance, hot sex, and moral comupance. We get an edge-of-your-seat scandalous love story wherein the story comes to a dramatic (and arguably more entertaining) end when it is revealed that Rafa “I don’t fuck my students” Capparos does, in fact, fuck his students. A lot.

    But the villain didn’t give a speech about the dangers of talking to strangers and they didn’t turn this into an after school special. They let the story speak for itself and didn’t try to spoon feed us. This reboot needs to take notes from itself because it is capable of some really great things.  They need to educate themselves on the nuances of race and representation and trust that their audience doesn’t need to have everything spelled out for them. I know it saves time to just have the characters throw out half baked apologies, and it’s easier to just go along with current backwards beauty ideals, but it is certainly worth the effort to commit to being groundbreaking.

    Top Image: Screenshot Via Youtube

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