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Ariana Grande sues Forever 21 over look-alike ads

CBS News logo CBS News 9/3/2019 Caitlin O'Kane

Ariana Grande et al. posing for a picture

  
© Provided by CBS Interactive Inc.

Ariana Grande is one of the most popular singers in the world, and her style inspires millions of followers on social media — but in this case imitation is not a form of flattery. Grande is suing the clothing chain Forever 21 and its spin-off cosmetics brand, Riley Rose, alleging the company used a look-alike model to impersonate her in a new ad campaign.

The singer filed the lawsuit in federal court in California on Monday. Grande claims the company falsely made it look like she was backing the brand by using imagery from her "Thank U, Next" album and hiring a model that looked just like her to recreate scenes from her "7 Rings" music video.

According to Grande's lawsuit, Forever 21 continuously ran the campaign on their website and social media. An ad posted on February 8, which is still up on Forever 21 Facebook page, shows a clothing collection promoted with a slogan that plays off the lyrics from "7 Rings."

"You want it. We got it!" the ad reads. A model whose facial features look similar to Grande's wears her hair in the pop star's signature ponytail, with accessories that match the ones Grande wears in the "7 Rings" video. The color scheme of the ad also matches the music video: neon pink and purple.

The clothes promoted in the ad look strikingly similar to outfits Grande wears in the video as well.

Grande claims the company capitalized off of her success to sell products — even though she never signed a deal with them. Grande and her team were in talks with Forever 21 and Riley Rose from late 2018 to early 2019, but the endorsement deal was never finalized, according to the suit.

That's because the brand would not pay Grande enough for her name and likeness, the suit alleges — and her endorsement commands top dollar.

"As of February 2019, Ms. Grande became the most-followed woman on Instagram in the world, amassing more than 160 million Instagram followers; a title she continues to hold through the date of filing this Complaint," according to the suit. "Even a single social media post by Ms. Grande can garner fees of several hundred thousand dollars, and her longer-term endorsement arrangements command fees in the millions of dollars," the suit reads.

Forever 21 might not be able to afford to employ the influential superstar — or to deal with her lawsuit.  The company is preparing for a potential bankruptcy filing, Bloomberg reported last week.

Grande's lawsuit against the company is seeking at least $10 million in damages for copyright and trademark infringement, false endorsement and violating her right of publicity.

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