Insiders reveal how celebrities are responding to recent dating app profile leaks

Ben Affleck (left) and Matthew Perry (right)
Ben Affleck and Matthew Perry (are two celebrities whose purported interactions were leaked online by people they matched with on dating apps.

  • Videos that appeared to show Matthew Perry and Ben Affleck matching with dating app users recently went viral.
  • Dating apps and celebrity advisors are dealing with increased concern over privacy and security.
  • Insider spoke to experts, celebrities, and influencers who explained how online dating is changing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A string of videos that appear to show celebrities like Ben Affleck and Matthew Perry connecting with dating app users are sending chills through both the entertainment and dating app industries.

Since its launch in 2015, invite-only dating app Raya has advertised itself as an elite platform catering to the needs of celebrities. But in early May 2021, Nivine Jay, an actor and model, posted an explosive TikTok of a video purportedly sent to her by Ben Affleck after she says she unmatched with the actor on Raya. A few days later, Kate Haralson, a TikToker who is a personal assistant for reality TV stars Spencer and Heidi Pratt, similarly went viral by uploading a purported recording of a FaceTime session she said she had with Matthew Perry after matching with him on Raya in May 2020.

These incidents haven’t just happened on Raya. In early June, Twitter user @Stardewlegend posted purported screenshots of “iCarly” actor Jerry Taylor’s verified Bumble profile along with a tweet, “I did not expect dating in LA to be like this.”

These videos have made headlines and received millions of views on social media, shattering any assumption of privacy on dating apps. As dating apps adjust to the reality of leaking, the features and innovations they implement may have a broader impact not only on their most high-profile users, but also everyday people looking for the perfect match.

Insider talked to publicists, dating apps, matchmakers, and influencers to explore how these recent exposures could transform online dating.

Celebrity insiders and experts are more involved in their clients’ dating lives than they may seem

Kelly Cutrone standing with microphone
Publicist Kelly Cutrone.

Kelly Cutrone, the founder of People’s Revolution, a public relations agency, told Insider that celebrities using dating apps is a “bat—- crazy idea.” She said that publicists should generally stay out of their clients’ love lives, but that by using dating apps, celebrities were not just opening themselves up to potentially embarrassing scandals, but they were also making themselves vulnerable to people with bad intentions.

Don Aviv, the president of Interfor International, a security consulting service that works with celebrities, echoed Cultrone’s stance and said he advises high-profile people to avoid these apps altogether. He cited concerns over hacks, fraud, and scams, and argued that regardless of how the app advertises itself, online platforms come with too many risks.

Other experts signaled that they were adjusting to stars seeking love in the digital realm. Howard Bragman, a Hollywood crisis manager, told Insider he believes celebrities are drawn to these platforms because they offer the chance to meet people outside of the entertainment industry. Since stars can’t go to bars and nightclubs anonymously like civilians, they may relish the opportunity to find someone from the comfort of their home, he said.

“Celebrities are actual human beings who have feelings and would like to go out on dates and meet a loved one, so I don’t see any reason they should be denied that,” he said.

Bragman said his celebrity clients have told him about their dating app usage, so he’s prepared for the media fallout in the event of a leak. Matt Yanofsky, a PR and brand specialist, told Insider that in the past, he and other publicists have assisted with curating clients’ dating app profile pictures and interests and that in numerous cases, it’s become an extension of their job of managing a client’s public image.

Influencers and celebrities are moving away from dating apps and using social media to meet people instead

Some influencers have found ways to navigate public-facing apps. Kazzy, a YouTuber with almost 470,000 subscribers, told Insider he refuses to give out his phone number and personal address.

Similarly, Gwen Singer, an Instagram influencer, told Insider that on Bumble and Hinge she goes by an entirely different name, doesn’t link to her social media, and uses non-model photographs because of privacy concerns and to see if she can find a genuine connection without the anxiety that people are treating her differently.

A post shared by GWEN ⚡️ (@gwensinger)

“Let’s see if you’re really interested in talking to me and getting to know who I am,” she said.

Others are moving away from traditional dating apps entirely.

Comedian Ashwin Jacob said he used to prefer Raya when it was more “curated,” but that now, with more chats about networking and fears of being secretly recorded, Instagram is becoming the preferred dating app for many of his influencer friends.

TikToker Gene Park, who has over 460,000 followers, echoed Jacob’s sentiment that Raya has started to lose its allure. He said that for many influencers, Instagram’s direct messaging platform works as a dating app, although he’s dealt with catfishing and scamming attempts on it “multiple times.” He said he hoped ther was “another Raya that comes out soon, that is a lot more exclusive,” with a better filtering process.

According to reporting from The New York Times, in 2018 Raya had an 8% acceptance rate and there were 100,000 people still on the waiting list.

Raya did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.

Security concerns on apps are changing the face of online dating

Regarding celebrities’ concerns over privacy, a Bumble spokesperson highlighted the app’s Incognito Mode. Included in Bumble Premium, a subscription service that comes with a myriad of features and costs $32.99 a month, Incognito Mode allows users to only be visible to other users whom they swiped right on.

While this may make the app feel more exclusive and curated, it doesn’t account for user behavior and hypothetically, Incognito matches are able to leak celebrity profiles to social media under the company’s current privacy policy.

Some apps are trying to solve this problem. Founded in late 2020, Lox Club, a members-only dating platform for Jewish people, has drawn some buzz and celebrity investors like Bhad Bhabie and Lil Yachty.

According to co-founder Alex Lorraine, there are “around 50,000 people” on the app’s waitlist. He cited his Lox Club’s security measures, such as suspending users who screenshot too many times, and making it easy for people to contact his app to report abusive behavior. Lorraine told Insider there haven’t been instances of leaks and believes that is thanks to the Lox Club’s highly selective curation process which maintains its culture of privacy.

“If you curate your community from the start, you get people that aren’t as willing to leak celebrity profiles,” he said.

Lizz Warner, the founder and CEO of Gleam, a video-chat dating app that is currently only available in Los Angeles and New York City, told Insider that she had discussed the possibility of celebrity leaks with her team of developers. On Gleam, users can only communicate via scheduled video chat dates that solely exist within the app, and later, if there’s compatibility, texts.

According to Warner, since the video chats live on the app and automatically turn off if someone starts a screen recording, it can potentially be helpful for celebrities who are concerned with privacy. She told Insider that in Los Angeles, a number of influencers have already joined.

Haralson, who leaked the purported video of Matthew Perry, said that while some people accused her of being the catalyst for Perry’s split with his then-fiance, which she refutes, others responded positively, telling her she was highlighting the dating dynamic of how “easy it is for young girls to be wooed by these older men with money.”

Multiple sources told Insider that they noticed that celebrities became more drawn to dating apps during the COVID-19 lockdown. As restrictions are lifted, dating will potentially go back offline, with people returning to mingling in dimly lit bars and parties. But these concerns of safety and privacy will surely persist, leaving an opening for the next crop of members-only apps to continue to sell the elusive promise of digital exclusivity.

To read more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital culture coverage here.

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A woman who applied for a job at a Michigan boutique store outed its boss for calling her ‘not that cute’ in an accidental email

TikTok user exposes hiring manager after sexist comment
Gracie Lorincz, 21, made a TikTok video about an email she accidentally received from the VP of Operations at Ava Lane Boutique in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

  • A girl who applied for a job at a Michigan boutique store outed its boss for calling her “not that cute” in an email.
  • In a viral TikTok video, Gracie Lorincz said she was hurt after receiving the email accidentally.
  • The owners of the store apologized on Facebook Live and said they’re receiving online abuse.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A hiring manager at a beauty boutique in Auburn Hills, Michigan, has publicly apologized after a prospective employee outed him for saying she shouldn’t be interviewed because she was “not that cute,” according to the New York Post.

Gracie Lorincz, a 21-year-old recent college graduate, posted a TikTok video on Thursday in which she showed an accidental email sent to her by the vice president of operations of family-owned beauty boutique Ava Lane Boutique.

The email, sent by Chuck DeGrendel, says: “This girl is fresh out of college (Hope College) and not that cute. She applied to the sales model position. Are you sure you want me to interview her?” The email was actually meant for DeGrendel’s wife and co-owner, Laura DeGrendel.

Read more: From ‘vanilla’ skirt suits to ‘too-tight’ shirts: Female lawyers describe how it’s impossible to win when it comes to professional dress codes

Lorincz, who applied for a position as a brand representative, posted a screenshot of the email on TikTok alongside the sarcastic caption: “Feeling amazing.”

The video has since gone viral, amassing more than 1.7 million views at the time of writing.

Watch it below.

On their Facebook group, which has since been set to private, Ava Lane Boutique purports to have built an “amazing community of women who empower each other through positivity and fashion.”

The video sparked backlash online and prompted many angry social media fans to inundate the company’s Google Play page with one-star reviews.

Chuck DeGrendel has since made a tearful apology video on Facebook Live video.

“I sent a reply back to Laura that said that she was a recent college grad, and I didn’t feel that she was that cute, so I wasn’t sure if we wanted to proceed with an interview,” Chuck says in the video. “I don’t know why I said that, but I did, and I’m very, very sorry for saying that because it was very unprofessional and really not in line with our core values here, or my core values in general.”

His wife, Laura, also appeared in the apology video and claimed that the family’s phone numbers and address had been shared and that their children were receiving death threats, the Post reported.

Laura claims Lorincz urged her TikTok followers in the video to make these threats, although there is no mention of this.

Lorincz’s mother, Heather Lorincz, told Fox News that the email made her daughter “feel terrible” and that the Facebook Live apology was not enough.

“She is a sweet kid, she is not an attention hog, she is not a social media personality and didn’t anticipate what this turned into,” Heather said, according to Fox News. “I don’t want this woman’s business to suffer. I don’t. But I feel my daughter deserves a real apology, not a Facebook Live.”

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QAnon followers are already spreading Epstein-like conspiracy theories about John McAfee’s reported suicide

  1. John McAfee, with dark hair and a dark mustache and beard, stand amid reporters holding microphones.
    John McAfee answers questions from journalists in Guatemala City on December 4, 2012.

  • Antivirus software company founder John McAfee reportedly died by suicide in prison on Wednesday.
  • QAnon believers quickly began suggesting conspiracy theories about his death.
  • QAnon notably spread a similar theory when Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in 2019.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Just minutes after the news broke that John McAfee reportedly died by suicide in a Spanish prison, QAnon conspiracy theorists baselessly suggested that the antivirus software pioneer died by other means.

Several top QAnon influencers on Telegram, some of whom have hundreds of thousands of followers on the far-right-favorite messaging platform, shared posts on Wednesday afternoon including the word “suicide” in quotes.

“Word on the street, only time will tell if this report was true or not,” an account with 61,000 subscribers shared on the app. Conspiracies alleging that McAfee had a “dead man’s switch,” or a device that activates when its owner dies, were also being shared online.

McAfee was imprisoned in Spain pending extradition on tax evasion charges before his death was reported on Wednesday.

A 2019 tweet from the antivirus software mogul’s verified Twitter account appeared to be emboldening some of these claims: “If I suicide myself, I didn’t,” the tweet said.

QAnon, a wide-ranging, far-right conspiracy theory based on the false notion that former President Donald Trump had attempted to take down a “deep state” cabal of human traffickers and pedophiles, notably spread a similar theory when disgraced financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein died by suicide in 2019: “Epstein didn’t kill himself” eventually became a major online meme.

Hours after McAfee’s death, a similar phrase became a popular hashtag on Twitter.

Online discourse over the McAfee Associates software company founder also focused on an Instagram post from McAfee’s verified account on Wednesday afternoon – hours after his death was reported by Reuters – that showed the letter “Q.”

A post shared by John McAfee (@officialjohnmcafee)

It was not immediately clear who had control of McAfee’s Instagram account. Instagram told Insider it was “looking into” the situation.

McAfee was an American software engineer who founded the anti-virus software company McAfee Associates and ran it until he resigned in 1994.

In 2012, Belize police considered him a “person of interest” in the murder of Gregory Viant Faull, a neighbor of his while he lived on the island. McAfee denied he was involved in the death and fled Belize.

McAfee also ran for president in the US as a libertarian in 2016 and 2020.

In March 2021, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York indicted McAfee on charges of fraud and money laundering for running what they said was a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme. Federal prosecutors Tennessee later charged him with tax evasion.

QAnon leaders weighing in on McAfee’s death comes as no surprise, as the conspiracy theorists frequently repackage news stories to promote their own beliefs. When a rare winter storm hit Texas this year, QAnon influencers claimed that Bill Gates was behind the inclement weather; QAnon hotshots were infuriated Lil Nas X made headlines for grinding with the devil in a music video and selling shoes that reportedly contained a drop of human blood.

Connor Perrett contributed reporting.

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E3 2021 couldn’t live up to the hype, but people tuned in anyway

halo infinite
The next chapter in the “Halo” video-game franchise, “Halo: Infinite.”

  • E3 2021 is finally over and fans are still processing the week.
  • Major titles for Microsoft, Nintendo, Bethesda, and more debuted at the conference.
  • But gamers expect more than can be delivered from the video game convention.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When I was in middle school, I looked forward to E3 more than any other holiday or birthday combined. The weeklong video-game industry convention featuring reveals and press conferences from gaming’s top studios offered a constant source of whimsy and potential in my adolescent mind.

Ahead of the annual conference, I’d prepare lists of the games expected to debut and scream gleefully at my standard definition television when executives or G4TV hosts confirmed my predictions with actual release dates.

In 2018 and 2019, I got to attend the convention for the first time, attending those same press conferences that used to be the highlight of my summers as a kid.

So when it was announced that the convention would return after a year-long pandemic hiatus, I was thrilled.

This year, while attending the virtual conference, I believed that one good, solid game announcement could return the light from my childhood to the dark apartment inhabited by my now nearly-30-year-old self.

While I was watching the return of “Master Chief,” “Wario,” and so many other games, the hype did feel real, but it didn’t necessarily live up to my expectations.

E3 2021 came with a lot of anticipation

Fan expectations for E3 2021 had to be tempered due to it being remote. Some new games were announced before the convention, like “Hollow Knight: Silk Song” and the latest “Call of Duty,” meaning those titles wouldn’t make an appearance. Still, gamers were left with a near-infinite amount of possibilities. Naturally, many were let down.

“Everyone is looking towards one big date in the gaming calendar, but we already know E3 can’t possibly provide everything we’re hoping to see,” gaming writer Melindy Hetfeld said in PC Gamer.

Still, there is no hype like gamer hype, and the week started off strong with the Summer Games Fest on June 10. There, fans got a better look at the “Left 4 Dead” successor “Back 4 Blood,” as well as “Elden Ring,” the highly anticipated fantasy role-playing game (RPG) written by George R. R. Martin.

Over the next week, at their own official E3 conferences, game studios showed off their best content coming in the next few years.

Xbox and Bethesda aired cinematics for the space explorer game “Star Citizen” and the legacies shooter game “Halo Infinite.”

Ubisoft introduced us to shooter “Rainbow Six: Extraction” and the second installment of the plumber’s RPG “Mario + Rabids: Sparks of Hope.”

Gearbox had cheeky reveals for the shooter games “Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands” and “The Outer Worlds 2.”

Square Enix gave us a confusing string of new games, like “Strangers of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin” and an in-depth gameplay trailer for a “Guardians of the Galaxy” game.

Not all studios lived up to the convention’s hype

While those studios brought just enough hype, others fell short.

“I expected it to look and feel kinda messy, and that’s what we got,” VentureBeat video games reporter Jeff Grub told Insider. “Gaming fans always expect the moon, but if you talk to them long enough, they’ll admit that they really just want an exciting presentation from big companies.”

Studios Capcom and Bandai barely had enough content to fill their conference slots, and even Nintendo fell victim to the hype when rumors about a reveal of a pro version of its Switch failed to materialize. Though the company showed off the minigame collection “Warioware: Get It Together,” the latest character from “Tekken” coming to “Super Smash Bros. Ultimate,” and the first gameplay footage of “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2,” it just wasn’t enough to keep their stock from falling five percent.

Despite the existence of social media, which gives companies the capability of talking directly to their fans, E3 still has mystical clout in the gaming world.

“It’s a single event that gets a massive audience to willingly tune in to watch a series of commercials,” Grubb said. “People take time off work to watch. Hundreds of content creators that normally do one video a week are creating multiple videos per day. Mainstream media outlets watch and listen. And everyone buys into that because of the E3 branding.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

Naomi Osaka’s anxiety concerns make perfect sense – mental health issues in athletes are wildspread, according to experts

Naomi Osaka
Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open this week.

  • Naomi Osaka announced she would be withdrawing from the French Open, citing mental health reasons.
  • She initially boycotted post-match press conferences, before pulling out altogether.
  • Media attention can exacerbate anxiety and depression and “impostor syndrome,” according to experts who spoke to Insider.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Naomi Osaka withdrew from the French Open this week after saying she gets “huge waves of anxiety” when dealing with press. The 23-year-old tennis pro was fined $15,000 for skipping a post-match press conference, and then pulled out of the tournament altogether when she was threatened with expulsion.

“I get really nervous and find it stressful to always engage and give you the best answers I can,” Osaka, who is currently the number two female tennis player in the world, wrote on Instagram. “So here in Paris I was already feeling vulnerable and anxious so I thought it was better to exercise self-care and skip the press conferences.”

Osaka’s words highlight the pervasiveness of high-functioning anxiety.

Psychiatrist Dr. Leela R. Magavi, who has worked with many student and professional athletes, told Insider media attention can exacerbate insecurities in sports players, which can lead to “debilitating anxiety as athletes may feel pressured to look, speak or present a certain way.”

It can also increase the chance of developing, or worsen feelings of “imposter syndrome” – a psychological phenomenon where people doubt their skills and talents and constantly worry they will be exposed as a fraud.

“Many athletes ruminate about what they said during an interview or how they were portrayed in an article or television segment,” Magavi said. “They may replay portions of what they expressed and blame themselves for the content of their speech.”

Some athletes have told Magavi in therapy sessions they felt that one comment or statement they made could ruin their professional careers or personal lives, she said. This means some will agonize over questions they might be asked in interviews for hours, and prepare how they might respond if controversial topics are brought up.

“This anticipatory anxiety could adversely affect their processing speed and their performance during the match, game or tournament,” Magavi said. “This kind of pressure can cause demoralization and cause or exacerbate self-esteem concerns, eating disorders, depression, anxiety, insomnia, and suicidal thoughts.”

Osaka’s decision could be a turning point in what is expected from athletes

Ronald Stolberg, PhD, a licensed clinical and sports psychologist and professor at Alliant International University, told Insider Osaka’s situation may be a “watershed moment” for awareness around mental health issues in athletes.

“A young, female, international superstar being bullied by the four major events in her sport because of a mental health condition has awful optics for the tennis tour and sport in general,” he said. “This incident highlights the pressure placed on athletes to participate in press conferences right after competing in their sport.”

Interviewees in other areas of expertise have time to prepare, while tennis players have questions fired at them straight away when they are still full of adrenaline – running on a high of their success, or potentially beating themselves up for under-performing. It could be especially difficult for them if those questions focus on topics they would rather avoid, such as their dating life, finances, lawsuits, or political issues.

Scottish tennis player and former number 1 in the world, Andy Murray, for example, admitted in 2013 he would give bland post-match interview answers on purpose, so he wouldn’t have to deal with “the aftermath of any scandals.”

andy murray 6
Former world number 1 tennis player Andy Murray has been a notoriously prickly interviewee.

Psychotherapist Amy Morin, the editor-in-chief of Verywell Mind who specializes in mental strength, told Insider anxiety is most likely an evolutionary trait that has stuck with us from the early days of humanity, when we developed “fight or flight” in response to danger. It probably used to serve us well when we were faced with a predator, but the adrenaline response in modern-day life is sometimes disproportionate.

Morin said in if an athlete’s body is in a heightened state of awareness, and they’re distracted by looming worries about public speaking, it could be difficult for them to perform at their best.

Sometimes it takes just as much strength to give up on something than to force yourself to keep going

Athletes are masters of self-discipline, but this can feed into a misconception that nothing ever bothers them. Just because someone is an excellent sportsperson, doesn’t mean they will be equally skilled at delivering a talk in front of a crowd.

Morin said she is a big believer in people facing fears in life, but not when it costs them more than it’s worth. It’s about figuring out where your boundaries are and not stepping over that line if the costs are not worth it.

While a common mantra in sports is to never quit, Morin thinks we should actually give up on things far more often than we do. She said ego gets in the way sometimes and forces us to complete a task we set out to do, when it would serve us much better to throw in the towel.

“It takes courage to say to people, I’m not doing this anymore, and facing backlash from people who are going to say, ‘You’re a quitter, you gave up, you didn’t try hard enough,'” she said. “Sometimes it takes a lot more strength to quit something and then it does to keep going.”

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Elf Cosmetics apologized 3 weeks after an attempted pivot to Twitch that featured no Black creators

The first stream on Elf's Twitch channel was heavily criticized for only featuring non-Black creators.
The first stream on Elf’s Twitch channel was heavily criticized for featuring only non-Black creators.

  • Elf Cosmetics apologized three weeks after a controversial Twitch stream.
  • The cosmetics brand attempted to pivot to streaming but didn’t include Black creators.
  • One Black creator said she was snubbed despite getting the most community support on Twitter.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Elf Cosmetics is the first major makeup brand to launch a Twitch channel, but the creator-marketing pivot to streaming didn’t go as planned. The popular drugstore line, an acronym for “Eyes, Lips, Face,” issued an apology on Twitter for not including Black creators and other underrepresented demographics among the influencers featured in its launch.

“At e.l.f., we firmly embrace diversity and inclusion and we commit that our talent and partners will reflect our commitment in future streams,” the brand said. It also solicited suggestions and feedback.

The apology, posted more than three weeks after the launch, was met with continued fallout. The first event on the channel on May 9 featured multiple guests and segments to promote the brand’s products, and Elf has since streamed additional conversations between creators, including one with a Black creator.

Elf Cosmetics did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A Black creator who received community support said she was ‘snubbed’ by the brand

Before the launch of the “twitch.tv/elfyou” channel, the brand asked its Twitter following to volunteer their “favorite beauty influencers who game.” A Black Twitch streamer who goes by Milady Confetti posted four of her looks underneath the tweet and received the most engagement by far, with 1,000 likes.

But when Elf launched its stream, commentators were quick to point out there were no Black creators. Confetti wrote that she was “snubbed” despite getting the most fan support.

“That was so hurtful, then only working with white women in my field, heck in the same gaming category as me. Why be so cruel,” she wrote in response to the brand’s apology tweet. Her response got more likes than the apology tweet.

Confetti did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

A creator of color who isn’t known for beauty was invited

A former Twitch streamer posted that Elf reached out to her and invited her onto the stream following the backlash against the launch. But according to Sleepy Mia, she no longer streams and has “never been known” for doing makeup looks, identifying another area where viewers said the brand could have done more research.

“I’m so confused why @elfcosmetics reached out to me to stream with them instead of working with the slew of Black women and POC who called them out,” Mia wrote.

A drag performer criticized Elf’s stream

Elf was also criticized by Twitch streamers like It’s Lucille, a drag performer who posted a Twitter thread outlining what she said were other issues with the launch stream. She pointed out that Elf’s launch stream kept using the word “females” to describe makeup consumers, despite there being men and nonbinary makeup wearers.

“For over three hours, you’ve only used the term ‘females’ when talking about your consumers and audience,” Lucille said. “When you finally mention non-binary people, you don’t even use the right tense. We aren’t ‘a non-binary.’ Non-binary is an adjective, not a noun.”

Lucille also noted that Elf still worked with the makeup influencer Jeffree Star. Insider’s Amanda Krause said in an analysis that makeup customers judged brands based on more than just the product itself.

“Now, beauty fans say they’re heartbroken watching their favorite companies seemingly choose sales and publicity over allyship,” Krause wrote. “And experts argue that brands should cut ties with problematic influencers – regardless of their fame – to back up their words with action.”

To read more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital culture coverage here.

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The racist trolling of an iCarly star follows a pattern of online abuse against Black women in television, experts say

Actress Laci Mosley
Laci Mosley is set to star in the upcoming “iCarly” reboot.

  • Laci Mosley, a Black woman, was cast as the character of Harper in the upcoming “iCarly” reboot.
  • She said she received a barrage of hateful, racist comments on social media.
  • Experts explain how widespread this behavior is, and why it remains pervasive.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

A writer on the upcoming “iCarly” reboot tweeted that one of the stars of the show was being targeted with hateful, racist comments.

“Hey #iCarly tweeps!” Franchesca Ramsey, who has over 230,000 followers, wrote on May 17. “I’m seeing a looooot of racist abuse being hurled at one of our stars & I’d love if you’d join me in calling it out when/if you see it.” The tweet was widely shared and received over 12,000 likes.

“iCarly,” which is set to premier on Paramount+ on June 17, is a remake of the Nickelodeon show that ran from 2007 to 2012. It stars Miranda Cosgrove as Carly Shay, who runs a web show with her friends. In the new series, Carly and her friends will be “navigating work, love, and family in their 20s,” according to EW.

A post shared by Miranda Cosgrove (@mirandacosgrove)

Following the tweet and subsequent comments from Laci Mosley, a Black actor set to join the cast of “iCarly”, Insider spoke to experts with experience in the way people of color are treated in the entertainment industry. They highlighted the pervasive racism from online trolls, many of whom struggle to accept diversity being newly introduced into television shows, and the importance of speaking out in order to effect change.

Laci Mosley spoke out about racist abuse she’d received from fans who were angry she was joining the ‘iCarly’ cast

It was announced in March that Mosley, an actor best known for her role in the sitcom “Florida Girls” and her podcast “Scam Goddess,” would be joining the cast in the role of a new character called Harper, who will live with Carly.

While many of the original cast, including Cosgrove, Jerry Trainor, and Nathan Kress, are returning to the reboot, fans noticed that the character Sam Puckett, played by Jennette McCurdy, was missing.

This appears to have led to backlash towards Mosley on social media, with fans angry that a beloved white character is not present, but a Black woman is.

“Laci’s character Harper isn’t replacing Sam,” Ramsey tweeted, following up with statements from her fellow writers condemning the racism. “No one could replace Jeanette McCurdy or her incredible talent! But it’s both racist as hell & completely unfair to decide that Laci hasn’t earned her role especially since the show isn’t even out yet!!”

Mosley tweeted that she had received racist TikTok videos and social media comments since the announcement, and it had broken her heart. She said “being a Black woman is exhausting” and “we all deserve better.”

She also posted a statement to her Instagram, saying that she loves being Black, but hates “how Black people are treated on this planet.

“I was shocked when a celebration of all the hard work we’ve put into making this reboot was overshadowed by the most racism I’ve ever experienced in my life over the course of 72 hours,” she said. “I felt silly being so upset because I’ve been in this little brown body my entire life and racism isn’t new but it still hurts.”

A post shared by Laci Mosley (@divalaci)

‘When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression’

The issue of racist backlash against women of color in entertainment is widespread. Amina Smith, a former Stadium Sports Network host who is now the on-air talent for NBC Boston Sports, told Insider she has experienced racism in many different ways. She’s had people calling her the N-word slur in messages, and has been told she’s not qualified for her job because she is simply filling a “Black quota.”

“It sickens me to see that people who have never met you have so much hate for you just based on what you look like,” she said, adding that anonymity makes it easier for people to be comfortable spewing hate.

“I think people often detach celebrities from being actual humans that can hear, see, and feel the hate that comes their way,” she said. “All of this just shows that racism isn’t something of the past and unfortunately, very much a reality in this country.”

Cheryl L. Bedford is the founder of social action organization Women of Color Unite, which focuses on fair treatment and fair pay for women of color in the entertainment and media industries. She told Insider that racism directed at the success of Black people is a blatant example of “when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression.”

Seeing more Black talent taking starring roles can cause an angry reaction from some white people because they are so used to being centered in every conversation, she said.

“Content has always been seen through the white male cis-gender heterosexual gaze,” she said. “So as we get more and more diverse, you will have that backlash.”

iCarly reboot
Many of the original cast are returning to “iCarly.”

It’s particularly apparent when shows are rebooted because people tend to have a nostalgic attachment to them, she said, and don’t like to see them changed – especially when the show wasn’t initially diverse.

“They have these feelings from childhood that come up,” Bedford said. “What they fail to realize is that people like me, we never saw ourselves in that. You might be attached to it. We’re not. And if you want our dollars, you got to put us in it.”

That fallout is a spectrum, from casually racist comments to rampant, hateful abuse. And it will continue to increase until diversity is the norm, Bedford said.

“The work that I do is exhausting. The emotional energy that comes from calling things out over and over and over again is exhausting,” she said. “But it’s the work that needs to be done because we have to get to the point where it is normalized.”

The hateful campaign highlights a gendered form of anti-Black racism

Tyler Parry, an assistant professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Nevada, told Insider that directing racist hate towards people of color cast in television shows is common.

“This has been a pretty consistent thought process amongst racists on the internet,” he said. “Where even before the show begins, it is doomed for failure in their minds, simply because the network had the audacity to recast the part for better representation.”

He thinks campaigns of targeted harassment can be intended to psychologically damage the actor, but also to put pressure on the studio to recast them with another white person.

“We also have to consider that this is a gendered form of anti-Black racism, and this is just the most recent manifestation of that,” he said. “And I think that’s important because it does seem that Black women are the ones most targeted by these campaigns.”

For example, the same kind of vitriol was seen when a Black actor was chosen as the character of Rue in “The Hunger Games,” or when Javicia Leslie was cast as Batwoman.

Support from allies is vital to send a message that racism should not be tolerated

Philip McKenzie, the chief strategy officer at MediaVillage and the executive director of AdvancingDiversity.org, told Insider that when racist abuse happens, it is important for casts, productions, and studios to have a united front against the hate “to not only support the talent that is under attack but to send a clear message to fans this behavior is not tolerated or welcome.”

The Instagram account for “iCarly” on Paramount+ shared a statement following the tweets, saying the racist attacks were “not acceptable.” It was shared by Mosley’s costars Cosgrove and Trainor, who added that he never wanted to hear the phrase “iCarly fans are racist” ever again.

“Our company is proud to uphold the values of inclusivity and collaboration, where we work to embrace new and diverse voices, act with care, and work together,” it reads. “The upcoming Paramount+ iCarly series is one of many examples of this commitment, and we support our entire cast and crew and stand against all instances of hate and racism.”

Some experts think studios could do more. Marc Morial, the president and CEO of the civil rights organization National Urban League who has fought against racism in Hollywood, told Insider that in order for people of color to see themselves in the stories that shape our worldview, diversity and inclusion needs to be pursued “at every level and in every facet of the entertainment industry.”

“It is just as important for white America to see people of all races, ethnicities, and cultures represented realistically in the media they consume,” he said.

Bedford said this means hiring more people of color as writers, producers, and directors because “the marginalized can write for the ones in power.”

“The opposite is not true,” she said.

Insider has reached out to Paramount representatives for comment.

A post shared by Jerry Trainor (@jerrytrainor)

Parry said that with the rise of social media, even a small collective of online trolls “can have a very big voice.”

“It does amplify people who have prejudices that they want to let loose and unleash on specific groups,” he said.

The support shown for Mosley has also been huge though, according to her recent tweets.

“I just want to thank you all for being so kind and uplifting me over the past few days,” she said on May 19. “I can’t believe how a scenario that started out so negative has become SO overwhelming positive.”

To read more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital culture coverage here.

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Pokémon card influencers explain how scalpers, nostalgia, and YouTube have boosted the value of the collectables to hundreds-of-thousands of dollars

GettyImages 1213135304
Pokemon Cards

  • Pokémon card prices are on the rise and scalpers are becoming an issue in the collector community.
  • Card prices soared over the course of 2020 due to nostalgia and YouTuber influence.
  • Target recently stopped selling the cards in their stores.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Over the course of 2020 and 2021, Pokémon card scalpers have been waiting for hours at stores to buy up large numbers of cards that they can flip for a profit. The scalpers are profiting from a new wave of trading card hysteria, stemming from a pandemic spike in interest in profitable collectibles and a sense of nostalgia hitting Millennials with disposable incomes.

Tins, starter decks, and expensive playsets containing cards can be sold for quite a bit more on auction sites and third-party retailers than in stores. For example, an Elite Trainer Box of the February expansion set Shining Fates, featuring 10 packs and exclusive cards, costs $49.99 at retail. On eBay, those same boxes can go for $80 to $100 with the rarest card in the set, a shiny holographic Charizard, going for hundreds of dollars on the auction site.

Videos on TikTok of scalpers waiting hours in line just to get product have gone viral, some with comments full of vitriol and anguish. Others, showing scalpers waiting in long lines only to fail in purchasing the entire stock, have inspired comments full of schadenfreude.

“Thanks for ruining the hobby for collectors,” wrote one TikTok user. “This is why there’s nothing at Target, because of people like this.”

The resale issue has become so contentious, that Target stopped selling Pokémon cards on May 14 after massive lines appeared and fights broke out over the shiny cardboard.

Pokémon card scalpers are making product hard to find

Scalpers, who oftentimes purchase items before anyone else has the chance, have thrived during the coronavirus pandemic, capitalizing on a general decreased willingness to purchase products in real life.

Scalpers “have taken something already in short supply and made it even more inaccessible,” Lee Steinfeld, who opens Pokémon cards on his YouTube channel for over 1 million followers, told Insider. “The worst thing about it is that it’s not allowing people to continue collecting, build their competitive decks, or simply play for fun due to lack of supply.”

The YouTuber, who goes by Leonhart online, has found it difficult to get “product” and has stopped opening newer expansions and sets on his channel.

Like game consoles, trading cards have seen a massive rise in popularity and scarcity, though Pokémon cards have always had some popularity – in 2016 2.1 billion cards were sold.

Online card retailer TCGplayer told Insider that they shipped over 16.2 million single Pokémon cards over the course of 2020 and that some older cards have tripled in value over the past 12 months.

“We have a lot more serious collector money influencing the market than what we had previously,” John McDonald, Senior VP of Product at TCGplayer said in February.

Scalpers know what value cards have and are capitalizing on their demand

Demand in Pokémon card sales is increasing because of a number of factors.

The franchise just celebrated its 25th anniversary, with over a dozen games, movies, and television shows featuring these pocket monsters. That nostalgic feeling from older players, combined with a new abundance of content creators and videos focused on the market has created a renewed level of hype around the cards. Without disposable income going towards travel and other pre-pandemic activities, owning the fanciest Charizard from your childhood could seem like a worthwhile purchase.

In October 2020, YouTube star Logan Paul hosted a live stream opening up vintage Pokémon cards, pulling in millions of views. Soon, other internet denizens and celebrities like Steve Aoki started to buy up old supplies to collect. A PSA 10 Charizard from the original 1999 cards sold for over $200,000 to rapper Logic and Paul has said on his Instagram that he’s spent over $2 million on vintage cards. Though these old sets can’t be purchased by scalpers at big-box store, their influence on scarcity of current products remains unmatched.

Teddy (who asked not to disclose his full name for privacy concerns), who runs a Pokémon investment TikTok channel with 80,000 subscribers where he visits stores to search for products and opens card packs, believes that there’s no single reason for the recent boom in popularity, but that scalpers will take advantage of any market that they know they can capitalize on.

“There are always going to be people that buy products, strictly for reselling, that’s everywhere and it’s life,” Teddy said. “I’ve met people that don’t even know what they are buying, they just know what the price on eBay is.”

The pandemic has created new challenges for manufacturing and obtaining new products. Items like Sony’s highly anticipated console the PlayStation 5 have had massive demand but low stock, caused by hype and a shortage of semiconductor chips. This hiccup hasn’t stopped the console from flying off shelves, selling 11.5 million units since launching in late 2020.

Wholesale retailers are changing how they sell cards because of the demand

This demand has created a new breed of scalpers who comb the shelves of big-box retail stores in an attempt to find a rare card that they can flip for a profit on sites like eBay and TCGPlayer. When General Mills ran a promotion in March with Pokémon to include cards in cereal boxes, people started ripping open Lucky Charms in the supermarket just to find a Pikachu. A month earlier, McDonald’s included cards with their Happy Meals that led to a collector-driven shortage of children’s meals which caused the fast-food chain to encourage franchisees to limit what they sell.

“Pokémon could not keep up with the ever-growing demand and with their limited printing functions eventually ran into a point where they could not meet distribution demands for stores, big or small,” Steinfeld said. “Scalpers decided to take advantage of the limited supply but growing demand and thus left us in the situation we are in.”

Lines outside of stores like Target, became commonplace for collectors. Signs posted from social media users claiming to be from Target stores showed that some locations were only restocking at 8 a.m. on Fridays, causing massive lines to appear overnight. According to Vice, other Target locations had to limit the amount of product to three pieces per person before changing it to one piece on April 30. Just two weeks later, Target announced that they would be discontinuing sales of all Pokémon and sports trading cards inside their stores “out of an abundance of caution.”

The news comes after a fight broke out over “sports cards” and a gun was pulled out at a Target parking lot in Brookfield, Wisconsin on Friday according to WSIN.

Still, Pokémon resellers are flourishing online.

Twitter accounts like Pokémon Drops, chronicle when certain items go on sale and when stock is available, allowing those with a pulse on the industry a chance to buy first. The Pokémon TCG and TCG Deals Reddits are flooded with tips and stories. Discord groups with thousands of members discussing where they can purchase and flip product, as well as showing off their massive collections, have become go-to spots to keep the community stitched together.

On Friday, the Pokémon Company posted an update on their website about the scarcity of their product, noting that they are “aware that some fans are experiencing difficulties purchasing…due to very high demand and global shipping constraints impacting availability.” To support the demand, they are “actively working to print more of the impacted Pokémon TCG products as quickly as possible and at maximum capacity to support this increased demand.”

“Once we have more supply, thus able to meet the demand, then scalpers will go away,” Steinfeld said. “People are tired of not being able to walk into a store to be able to get a pack to open.”

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Writers for Valorant fan website THESPIKE.GG allege their CEO spent thousands on ‘strippers and cocaine,’ and owes them $40,000 in back pay

thespike.gg valorant fan site gamingt
The logo of the THESPIKE.GG

  • Writers of THESPIKE.GG, a fan site for the video game Valorant, announced they are leaving the site.
  • Two writers and a developer said they’re owed over $40,000 by owner Artur Minacov.
  • Minacov has been accused of spending thousands on other expenses like “strippers and cocaine.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Two former writers of the news site THESPIKE.GG, which is known for covering a video game called Valorant, have come forward on Twitter in the past week claiming they and others who worked on the site are owed over $40,000 in total back pay from owner Artur Minacov.

Valorant is a shooter video game developed by Riot Games, where players take control of agents with unique abilities, inspired heavily by Valve’s Counter Strike Global Offensive (CSGO), a game released in 2012.

Since the site launched in mid-2020, THESPIKE has become a central hub for fans who want to learn about the stats, matches, and breakdowns of Valorant esports. Though the scene is small, it is growing and the site has amassed nearly 15,000 Twitter followers and a devoted readership. Though the site is still running, it currently has no writers after they departed amid the payment controversy and an interim CEO says that he is still waiting to get paid.

Insider spoke to 3 current and former workers for the company who told their stories.

THESPIKE.GG started off as a promising Valorant fan website despite Minacov’s previous professional issues

Prior to THESPIKE.GG, Minacov had a history of supposed payment issues.

In 2014, Minacov founded OPSkins, a popular skin trading platform for “Counter Strike: Global Offensive” that closed dramatically in 2018. In 2017, Minacov left the company to found EnVision esports, a professional Overwatch team that lasted for one year. The following year, he admitted to Dot Esports to not paying the EnVision esports team thousands of dollars in late payments, though in April 2021, former EnVision player William Hernandez told Dot Esports that “he believes players were ‘eventually’ paid by Minacov.” Hernandez didn’t return Insider’s request for comment.

But any previous allegations didn’t stop the creation of THESPIKE.GG in April 2020 by Minacov and a group of developers and writers passionate about esports. The site, Minacov said on a May 14 Twitter Spaces, where users can host Clubhouse-like discussion rooms, was inspired by HLTV, a decades-old website cataloging the stats, games, and stories of the CSGO esports scene. CSGO esports has evolved into a massive industry, with worldwide competitions watched by hundreds of thousands of viewers and a collective prize pool of tournaments of nearly $22 million in 2019.

According to Minacov in Twitter Spaces, he thought Valorant had similar esports potential and there was a niche in the market. Minacov said he invested $400,000 of his own money on the site with no investors and spent $20,000 a month on servers. When asked for documentation of this, Minacov did not return a request for comment.

Josef Orland, who goes by hex4MT online and is the current interim CEO of THESPIKE.GG, told Insider that he had left his previous job as a “Dev Team Lead in an IT company” after Minacov had promised him a six-month contract to work on the site. He added that he started “coding the site from scratch” and took care of a lot of the day-to-day maintenance, like taking care of servers and checking to see when writers are posting stories.

Soon, others started to join the team. Esports writer Mostafa Hossam said he joined in June 2020 and Shawn “Germanicus” Heerema said he joined in May. Hossam told Insider he was tasked with writing roster moves, match recaps, and “anything to do with Valorant esports” and agreed to a rate of $500 a month without a contract. Heerema received a contract seen by Insider, promising him around $200 per month. Both have work still published on the site.

Things took a turn when Minacov was said to have paid to fly some of the site’s employees to Malta where he reportedly procured ‘cocaine and strippers’

In September of 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, Minacov paid to fly a select group of the site’s employees to Malta, according to an employee that asked to remain anonymous, whose identity Insider confirmed. They said that Minacov had procured “cocaine and strippers” and that their “phone and Snapchat were checked at the end of the trip.”

Esports website Upcomer reported that several staff members speaking under the condition of anonymity said that “two strippers were brought into the villa for the first two nights,” Minacov had “passed out half the time from too much drugs and alcohol,” and one former contributor said “cocaine was everywhere.”

Minacov wasn’t just spending money on lavish trips for his employees. He told Dot Esports that he had spent “‘over $400,000 of his own money, different than the money invested in the site, in subscriptions and donations to ‘small streamers in the community.'” He also tweeted in January that he had spent $12,000 on a PC that didn’t work with his games.

In the Upcomer article, sources reportedly raised issues with Minacov’s workplace behavior as well. Upcomer reported that Minacov said over Slack, in messages the publications says it reviewed, that “a contractor of Afghani and Indian descent looked ‘like a terrorist'” and he “called a former staff member a “b—- after he did not create a graphic to the CEO’s liking.”

As 2021 continued, Minacov’s funds for his website dwindled and payments weren’t going out, according to Orland, who said he was owed a low five-figure sum, telling Insider that two months into his six-month contract, Minacov said he was “broke” which he believes was “a big lie.”

Hossam told Insider that he hasn’t been paid for his work since November of 2020 and is owed $3,500. Heerema said he is owed a little over $2,000 since he was last paid on January 11, 2021, according to invoices seen by Insider.

Writers of THESPIKE.GG sent an ultimatum to Minacov asking for the money they say they’re owed

On May 12, 2021, Orland sent a group message on Slack, which was viewed by Insider, to Minacov and the rest of the writers.

“Artur M. pay the people what you promised them,” Orland wrote. “Some people are ready to go public with this if there is no action from your end about the matter (and by action I mean actual money transfers and not more promises).”

After no contact or response from Minacov, Hossam and Heerema posted long messages to Twitter on May 14 about the money they say they were owed.

Minacov responded on Twitter with expletives and vitriol, calling those that questioned him “ignorant” and “hypocrites.” He released a statement that night confirming that he did owe money to the workers and that he “will leave this community that I love.” In an edited version of the statement, he wrote that “dues will be taking care off as soon as I can” and that he was “no longer involved at THESPIKE.GG on any capacity.”

On the May 14 Twitter Spaces, Minacov said he hadn’t paid the writers because the company “ran out of f—ing money” and “financially wise I’ve always been s— at it.”

“I didn’t have my phone for a few weeks and when I got a new phone in a new city I didn’t put Slack on it,” he said.

“We ran out of money, did we do it on purpose not to pay them? No,” Minacov said in the Twitter Space. “But I’m trying to do everything in my power to give them what they are owed.”

It’s unclear where THESPIKE.GG goes from here

Orland announced on Twitter on May 15 that he is taking over as “interim” CEO of the website and that “the ultimate goal is to keep going with the project but the future is not defined yet.” Orland told Insider Minacov’s equity is in the process of being “bought off” and that “the deal will have in place that all the ex/current workers are paid.”

As of publication, Minacov has not paid THESPIKE.GG contributors, according to those interviewed awaiting payment.

Minacov did not return a request for comment.

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The viral ‘I ain’t never seen two pretty best friends’ TikTok is being auctioned as an NFT

Jordan Scott's "I ain't never seen two pretty best friends" video
Jordan Scott

  • The “I Ain’t Never Seen Two Pretty Best Friends” TikTok will be auctioned off as an NFT.
  • The video, which has over 54 million views, first went viral in October 2020.
  • Selling viral videos as NFTs has become a lucrative option for creators.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The original “I ain’t never seen two pretty best friends” viral TikTok video is being auctioned off as a non-fungible token (NFT), a unique digital asset purchased with cryptocurrency. The move follows several high-profile sales of viral videos or memes as NFTs.

Jordan Scott, the video’s creator, said in the October 2020 video, “I ain’t never seen two pretty best friends, always one of them gotta be ugly.” The video quickly went viral, reaching over 54 million views as of Wednesday, and the audio was used by 66,000 users. Some creators have used the sound in an effort to disprove Scott’s thesis, while others used it to playfully make fun of their friends.

Scott is auctioning off his viral video in NFT form on June 2 through a partnership with NetGems, a digital agency working with creators to sell their viral videos in the crypto market. The sale will begin on June 2 and last for 72 hours, ending on June 5.

NetGems will also be auctioning two early viral online hits the same day – the “Honey Badger Don’t Care” video from 2011 and the “Numa Numa” video from 2004 – though the TikTok differs from the others due to its recency.

Selling viral video hits as NFTs has become an attractive option for creators, some of whom have sold their content for large sums of money. The family behind the “Charlie Bit My Finger” video made over $760,000 on an NFT sale; Chris Torres, the creator of the “Nyan Cat” gif, made nearly $600,000; and the “Disaster Girl” meme earned close to $500,000.

Screenshot from the "Charlie Bit My Finger" video
Screenshot from the “Charlie Bit My Finger” viral YouTube video

The video will be taken down from TikTok after the sale, according to NetGems. “We’re trying to provide value to the NFT buyer by taking it off of TikTok, ” Connor Flannigan, the co-founder of NetGems, told Insider.

Scott, the video’s creator, told Insider that the co-founders of NetGems reached out to him and encouraged him to take advantage of the cryptocurrency boom. He said it was a “big thing” for him that NetGems wanted to partner with him, because he doesn’t currently have a job or income, being that he just graduated from college with hopes of becoming an actor or model.

“I thought it was a great opportunity for me,” Scott said.

Scott said he would be gifting the red jacket he wore in the original TikTok to the purchaser, who will have the opportunity to collaborate with him on a video.

While he said he’s not going into the auction with any financial expectations, he said he was slightly nervous for the sale because his video doesn’t have the same nostalgia factor that almost all of the other viral video NFT auctions have had. “I can’t control what it would go for or what someone thinks the value is,” he said.

Scott mentioned he remained hopeful because Nathan Apodaca – the man behind the viral video of himself drinking cranberry juice on a skateboard while listening to Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams” – auctioned off his recent TikTok as an NFT. (Apodaca’s publicist told Insider in an email that there was a problem with the file and it has not yet been relisted.)

The money he makes from the sale will go towards helping him achieve his goal of being a full-time model and actor, according to Scott. “It could set me up to do great things and also just help me create something for my family one day,” he said.

To read more stories like this, check out Insider’s digital culture coverage here.

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