TikTok, the ultra-popular short-form video app, has hired a top Walt Disney DIS Co. executive to be its new CEO.
Kevin Mayer, who ran Disney’s video-streaming business, will also serve as the chief operating officer of ByteDance, the Chinese-owned parent company of TikTok. Mayer was seen as a favorite to get the top job at Disney but was passed over to replace Bob Iger in favor of Bob Chapek earlier this year.
“Kevin has had an extraordinary impact on our company over the years,” Chapek said in a statement. “Having worked alongside Kevin for many years on the senior management team, I am enormously grateful to him for his support and friendship.”
Disney has been badly damaged by the pandemic as Covid-19 forced it to close its lucrative parks and cruise line businesses. Iger has taken back some control over the company—he remains the executive chairman—while Disney rushed to assemble a $6 billion debt offering in March. It has furloughed workers and cut pay with Chapek agreeing to halve his salary and Iger agreeing to forgo one entirely.
Mayer could not be leaving for a more different environment. TikTok was already a big hit before lockdown—and has seen its popularity soar since. It was downloaded more than 315 million times in the first quarter, according to data from SensorTower, which tracks app downloads. That figure represents the most downloads in a single quarter that SensorTower has ever counted up.
Mayer was the deals guy at Disney, acquiring Pixar, Marvel, Lucasfilm and Fox. And there was nothing more important to Disney recently than the expansion of its streaming business, which has proven a success. Disney+ launched last year and was downloaded 14.1 times in 2019, more than even Netflix NFLX (11.9 million) or Hulu (8.1 million). Disney said it would spend $1 billion in the first year alone on original content for the streaming service, building out a line-up that already includes the Star Wars series The Mandalorian and soon a recorded version of the musical Hamilton.
Mayer will face some challenges ahead at TikTok. It has become an off-and-on-again target of criticism that its Chinese ownership makes it a security risk. And a group of 20 advocacy groups last week filed an FTC complaint that it hadn’t lived up to a deal reached with regulators last year to better protect children using its app.
He replaces Alex Zhu, one of the founders of Music.ly, the China-based app that ByteDance bought in 2017 and turned into TikTok. Zhu had made efforts to do what Mayer will now have to do: convince America that TikTok isn’t a threat.
Kendall Jenner Settles Fyre Festival Instagram Post Lawsuit For $90,000
TOPLINE Trustees working to claw back money owed to investors, lenders and attendees of the 2017 bankrupt music extravaganza Fyre Festival settled a lawsuit with model and influencer Kendall Jenner for $90,000—less than half of the $275,000 she was sued for in connection to a promotional Instagram post.
- Jenner is among entertainers such as Blink-182 and Pusha T who were paid for their involvement in the festival—which promised days of parties, luxury accommodations and gourmet food, but was instead a complete flop, and generated multiple lawsuits.
- Bankruptcy law allows trustees to recover, or claw back, payments made before a company filed for bankruptcy, and Jenner and other entertainers were sued by Fyre Festival trustees to recover money for creditors.
- According to court documents, Jenner was allegedly paid $250,000 to promote the festival in a single, now-deleted Instagram post, along with an additional $25,000 a few days after the post went live.
- “So hyped to announce my G.O.O.D Music Family as the first headliners for @fyrefestival,” Jenner wrote in the deleted post, according to court documents. “Use my promo code KJONFYRE for the next 24 hours to get on the list for the artists and talents afterparty on Fyre Cay.”
- The lawsuit alleges that Jenner did not indicate she was paid for the Instagram post, and “intentionally led certain members of the public and ticket purchasers to believe” her brother-in-law Kanye West, G.O.O.D’s founder, could attend or perform at the festival.
- Jenner, who has 129 million Instagram followers, denied any liability connected to the lawsuit, according to court documents; the settlement still requires a judge’s approval, and, as the Wall Street Journal reported, will avoid spending more time and money on litigation.
Over $26 million. That’s how much money Fyre Festival investors ultimately lost, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Fyre Festival—which promised attendees (who paid anywhere from $500 to over $250,000) a two weekends-long party full of marquee music acts and models like Jenner and Bella Hadid—was a failure. The reality, as chronicled in two documentaries and mocked extensively, involved FEMA tents, cheese sandwiches in foam containers and stranded festival-goers. None of the promised entertainers showed. The Fyre Festival fallout resulted in multiple lawsuits. Its founder, Billy McFarland, is serving a six year prison sentence for multiple fraudulent schemes. He requested compassionate release in light of the coronavirus pandemic. It was denied.
In 2019, Forbes reported that Jenner held 34 U.S. trademark applications among the over 700 owned by the Kardashian clan (that’s Kim, Kanye, and sister Kylie, along with Kendall).
Beyoncé And Tina Knowles-Lawson Are Accelerating Coronavirus Testing In Underserved Communities—And Challenging Other Celebrities To Do The Same
Last weekend, close to 1,000 residents flocked to two middle schools in predominantly black Houston communities, waiting patiently in their cars to receive free COVID-19 testing.
Unlike many other cities nationwide, Houston has had free testing available to the public but “some people, definitely minorities because we are overlooked, just aren’t aware or aren’t taking it seriously,” Tina Knowles-Lawson, a Houston native herself, tells Forbes.
That lack of awareness in the community inspired Knowles-Lawson to create the #IDIDMYPART campaign. Launched in partnership with daughter Beyoncé and her BeyGOOD initiative, the campaign encourages black and brown residents—the demographic that’s dying at a faster rate than any other in the state—to seek free COVID-19 testing. The campaign ran two testing locations on May 8 and 9, 2020, with plans to recruit celebrities in other cities to continue the initiative in the weeks and months to come.
“It’s associated with Beyoncé, in some way, so it’s a cool thing, you know?” says Knowles-Lawson. “And it’s working, because people are still going to testing sites.”
The testing locations kept that cool factor in mind. As volunteer medical professionals from the United Memorial Medical Center administered tests (the hospital is following up with each individual attendee), DJs spun the latest hits from Beyoncé and other artists. And on their way out, attendees were given vouchers to two of Houston’s most popular restaurants: Frenchy’s and Burns Original BBQ. “You didn’t have to get in your head about the test; it wasn’t so sterile,” says Knowles-Lawson. “It was almost like a celebration of getting tested. We wanted to take away the stigma.”
Knowles-Lawson also wanted to stress health and wellness more holistically, so other products including vitamins, grooming supplies, toilet paper, gloves and masks were also handed out, thanks in part to the campaign’s partners including Procter & Gamble, Matthew 25 Ministries, supermarket chain H-E-B and TWC Logistics Trucking.
“People are getting upset when they see people with no mask on, but a lot of people just don’t have them,” says Knowles-Lawson.
That the campaign took place on Mother’s Day weekend was just a coincidence, but was still a fitting time for the mother-daughter collaboration to launch. Knowles-Lawson, who grew up impoverished in Galveston, Texas, has always sought to instill the give-back mentality in her daughters, Beyoncé and Solange. “It was five kids at home, and my sister had eight children, and they were always at our house—our little two-bedroom house,” recounts Knowles-Lawson, with a laugh. “But my mom could stretch a piece of steak. She just shared all the time. I never forgot that.” Once they were old enough, Beyoncé and Solange were continuing the family’s acts of service, spending their Sundays feeding Texas’ homeless community after church.
Beyoncé’s also teamed up with Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to donate $6 million in support of mental health and wellness organizations in Houston, New York, New Orleans and Detroit.
And the #IDIDMYPART campaign isn’t limited to Houston. It’s challenging other celebrities to continue the initiative in other cities nationwide. Several have already answered the call. Tyler Perry has vowed to implement the initiative in Atlanta, Octavia Spencer aims to set up sites across Mississippi, and Cookie and Magic Johnson will lead the charge in Detroit.
“Nothing would make me happier than to see people use their platforms to get this information out,” says Knowles-Lawson. “People are getting testing who wouldn’t otherwise. We can keep the momentum going.”
A Story Of Separation And Return
Zimbabwe-born, Canadian-resident Natasha Heschélle, who was once homeless on the streets of Paris, has now produced a new web series that merges many genres.
From being a migrant worker in Paris to sleeping at a shelter run by a Catholic priest, Natasha Heschélle’s career has taken her through some of life’s most uncertain experiences.
Now a film producer and actress in North America, her inaugural series, Zahara – The Return, premiered in April on Amazon Prime Videos, reaching viewers in the United States far from her country of birth, Zimbabwe.
Heschélle says her life story has been that of determination and sacrifice.
Like most of her countrymen, hers too started with separation from her family. Her mother, Marisa Moyo, left the country at the height of President Robert Mugabe’s misrule in 2004, and found a new home in Canada.
“I was seven when my mother left. Her move helped send me to a good school and take care of the rest of the family. I lived a privileged life compared to my peers. I could afford going shopping in South Africa and Botswana; only the privileged few could do this.”
Most Zimbabweans at this stage were living in penury but the worst was to come in 2008.
Heschélle often skipped school to attend dance classes, leaving her family unimpressed.
“When my grandmother died, I suffered severe depression and this worsened as my dreams of becoming a dancer were not materializing. I decided to move to Canada to live with my mom. During the application period, I temporarily moved to Paris in 2013 with the plan to work and pay for my dancing classes.”
That plan didn’t work.
“I ended up homeless and on the streets as I ran out of money with no job, until a priest took me into a shelter where I lived for three months. For a week, I slept at Gare du Nord street in central Paris and with no basic French language skills, things could not be any better. I had to wait until my Canadian documents came out in 2014 when my mom paid for my air ticket,” she recollects.
Once in the Land of Maple Syrup, her dreams started taking shape.
“I got a job, went to acting school, the Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology, along the way landing my first acting role as a supporting actress in a film produced by a Tanzanian. Unfortunately, that movie was not aired due to the producer refusing to pay casting staff.”
Heschélle drew inspiration from her mother.
“My role model is my mother; she is the strongest person I have ever met. She pushes me not to give up. Through her support, I produced my own television series.”
Her television drama, Zahara – The Return, is a three-part romance web series, which showcases rebellion and racial tensions.
The 23-year-old even has advice for budding filmmakers.
“Being a producer takes courage, it takes risks. As an actress in Canada, I am a visible minority and I have an accent which has worked against me.
“I have lost so many roles due to this reality, so I have learned to speak with the North American accent, it’s not easy. I don’t want to lose my accent because that is my identity, but if I have to work in North America, I have to make that transition.”
Says the University of Free State’s Film Studies Professor and film critic, Nyasha Mboti, about the series: “It is a merging of genres playing on racial politics and the horror genre. For black people, the horror genre is increasingly holding an emerging fascination due to the fact that their lives blur the line between horror and biopic, tragedy and comedy, and highlight that there is a thin line between horror and everyday life.
“Black directors, in order to have cross-over appeal, are starting more and more to fictionalize and stylise the racialised horror of everyday life, turning it into a genre that audiences can enjoy.”
– By Trust Matsilele
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