Ariana Grande Sues Forever 21 Over ‘Look-Alike Model’ in Ads

The pop star Ariana Grande is suing Forever 21, claiming that the fashion retailer sought to trick customers into thinking Grande endorsed its brand by posting photos of her on its social media accounts and using a model who looked “strikingly similar” to her.

The lawsuit, filed Monday in Federal District Court in Los Angeles, mostly revolves around imagery from Grande’s music video “7 Rings,” which depicts a pink-tinged house party for a bejeweled Grande and her friends. The lawsuit takes issue with posts from Forever 21’s Instagram account that include snapshots from “7 Rings” and advertisements in which the “look-alike model” — a brunette with a slicked back high ponytail — is dressed similarly to Grande in the video.

In one post on Forever 21’s Instagram account, the model wore a hairpiece with two pink puff balls. The caption echoed lyrics from “7 Rings” (“Gee thanks, just bought it”) and asked viewers to “shop our favorite trend.” In another post, the model wore camouflage capris and pink stilettos, urging users to “swipe up to shop.”

“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 said.

After Grande released the hit song “Thank U, Next” last November, Forever 21 reached out to her representatives to suggest an endorsement deal that would be centered on social media, the lawsuit said. Grande’s representatives considered the deal but ultimately declined because the fashion retailer wasn’t willing to pay Grande enough.

A single Instagram post by Grande, 26, is worth “well into the six figures,” according to the lawsuit.

In February, after the release of the “Thank U, Next” album, Grande noticed the images and contacted her lawyers. Though Forever 21 agreed to take down all unauthorized posts, the lawsuit claims, they remained on the store’s social media account until mid-April. Grande also sued Riley Rose, a beauty company owned by Forever 21, accusing it also of misusing images from the “7 Rings” music video.

In a statement on Tuesday, Forever 21 said that it disputed the allegations in the lawsuit but could not comment further on pending litigation. The company said that it was a supporter of Grande and had worked with her licensing company over the past two years.

“We are hopeful that we will find a mutually agreeable resolution and can continue to work together in the future,” the statement said.

“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,” Professor Rothman said.

That would be acceptable to the extent that “everyone knows it’s not Ariana Grande and that she’s not endorsing it,” she added.

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