Over the years, we’ve grown accustomed to Ariana Grande’s signature look: gravity-defying ponytail, winged eyeliner, cat ears, baggy jumper or dress and thigh high boots. But according to the chart-topping singer, the distinctive style belongs to her, and her only.
Yesterday, the New York Times reported that Ariana Grande is suing Forever 21 for “tricking customers” into thinking she had endorsed the brand by using a model who looked “strikingly similar” to her.
Grande has taken particular issue with a series of posts on Forever 21’s Instagram featuring a “lookalike model” sporting a slicked back ponytail and wearing clothes similar to the ones the singer wore in the video for her song ‘7 Rings.’
According to CNN, Forever 21 had approached Grande to be part of an endorsement deal in late 2018 and early 2019, but she declined “due to Forever 21’s unwillingness to pay the fair market value for a celebrity of Ms. Grande’s stature.”
To make matters worse, Forever 21 even used lyrics from ‘7 Rings’ in the Instagram captions e.g. “Gee thanks, just bought it! Shop our favourite trend atm.”
“The resemblance is uncanny and Forever 21’s intent was clear: to suggest to the viewing public that Ms. Grande endorsed Forever 21, its products, and was affiliated with Forever 21,” the lawsuit states.
There is absolutely no doubt that Forever 21 took major inspo for Grande’s look, but the singer’s legal team might not have such a strong leg to stand on.
Professor Rothman told the New York Times that “Forever 21 could argue that they were simply mimicking a popular fashion trend and were protected by First Amendment rights.”
“We can imagine that teenagers who love Ariana Grande are looking at her Instagram, dressing up themselves, maybe wearing Forever 21 clothes and posting it on Instagram,” he said.
Rothman has a point. If Grande is suing Forever 21 for using a “lookalike model” she must also have a problem with the hundreds of thousands of teenage fans who follow her – and dress like her – every day.
As much as Grande has the right to be part of a deal making money off her appearance, the whole lawsuit comes across as somewhat narcissistic. It’s a massive milestone in the fame game to have fans (and brands) inspired by your look, and it’s not like Grande hasn’t taken style cues from other celebrities.
Last week, Forbes reported that Forever 21 was considering filing for bankruptcy after sales dropped by 20-25% last year. If Ariana Grande wins the lawsuit, will Forever 21 even be able to cough up?
You know what they say Ari: imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.