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Ariana Grande skipped the Grammys, but she gave fans a fabulous look at the princess-like ball gown she would’ve worn

Ariana Grande skipped the Grammys, but she gave fans a fabulous look at the princess-like ball gown she would’ve worn

  • Ariana Grande skipped the 2019 Grammys on Sunday, but shared a series of photos on Instagram of the princess-like gown she would have worn to the event.
  • The singer showed off images of her wearing a custom-made, pale blue Zac Posen dress and laying on a floor.
  • She also had her hair in her signature high pony and accessorized with a sparkling necklace.

Ariana Grande wasn’t present at the 2019 Grammys on Sunday, but she still showed off photos in her custom-made, strapless dress.

The 25-year-old singer took to her Instagram during the award show and shared multiple photos of herself in a princess-like pale blue gown designed by Zac Posen.

“when @zacposen makes u a custom gown it doesn’t matter if you’re singing or not,” she captioned one photo. “thank u.”

Grande wore her hair in a signature high ponytail, done by hairstylist John Liu. Her makeup was done by Rokael Lizama, who has worked with the singer in the past for her music video looks. The “Thank U, Next” singer also accessorized with a sparkling necklace and earrings.

In two additional photos, Grande looked like a literal sleeping beauty as she posed on the ground. Look at the images below.

Here’s a look at the outfit from head-to-toe.

And here’s a closer look at her jewelry.

Grande was supposed to perform at the Grammys, which were held at Los Angeles’ Staples Center and hosted by Alicia Keys, but she pulled out at the last minute. After Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich told the AP that Grande “felt it was too late for her to pull something together,” Grande hit back on Twitter.

Read more:Ariana Grande slams the Grammys for ‘lying’ about why she won’t perform and says the show ‘stifled’ her ‘creativity and self expression’

In a series of tweets, the “7 Rings” singer accused the producer of “lying” about her reason for dropping out.

“i’ve kept my mouth shut but now you’re lying about me,” she tweeted. “i can pull together a performance over night and you know that, Ken. it was when my creativity & self expression was stifled by you, that i decided not to attend. i hope the show is exactly what you want it to be and more.”

Variety previously reported that Grande felt “insulted” by producers when they refused to allow her to perform her new song “7 Rings.” According to Variety’s sources, the producers said that they would allow Grande to perform single as part of a medley, but insisted that they choose the second song she would play.

In another tweet, Grande said that she “offered three different songs” to perform.

“it’s about collaboration. it’s about feeling supported. it’s about art and honesty. not politics,” she said. “not doing favors or playing games. it’s just a game y’all.. and i’m sorry but that’s not what music is to me.”

Despite being a no-show at the Grammys, Grande took home the award for best pop vocal album for “Sweetener,” which was released in August 2018. It was also her first Grammy win ever. She reacted to her win with several tweets.

“F—,” she wrote. “I know I’m not there tonight (trust, I tried and still truly wished it had worked out tbh) and I know I said I try not to put too much weight into these things … but f— … this is wild and beautiful. Thank you so much.”

“But mostly thank y’all for being my main source of joy and inspiration always,” Grande added.

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Dancing On Ice’s Vanessa Bauer makes subtle dig at Megan Barton Hanson

Dancing On Ice’s Vanessa Bauer makes subtle dig at Megan Barton Hanson

Dancing On Ice‘s Vanessa Bauer made a thinly veiled dig at Megan Barton Hanson on Tuesday, as she suggested she would take the high road and not respond to things that have been said about her.

The professional ice skater, 22, seemed to suggest she is taking the high road and avoiding reacting to the Love Island star, 24, on social media.

Sharing an inspirational quote from martial arts legend Bruce Lee that was posted by her agent, it said: ‘You will continue to suffer if you have an emotion reaction to everything is said to you. 

Thinly veiled: Dancing On Ice’s Vanessa Bauer made a subtle dig at Megan Barton Hanson on Tuesday as she suggested she won’t react to the Love Island star on social media

‘True power is sitting back and observing everything with logic. If words control you that mean everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.’

Prior to sharing the quote, Vanessa had also gushed to her fans about how grateful she has been for their support.

She wrote in a message on her Instagram story: ‘Hey beautiful people. I’m so sorry but I can’t find the time to respond to all the DMs.

‘I read through them and they mean the world to me. I appreciate all the love so much and will over time do my best to respond! Some of your stories bring tears to my eyes and all your support is crazy and amazing.’ 

Earlier on: Her Instagram posts comes after Megan had her ample cleavage on display, at the same time that Vanessa was showing off her abs in a social media showdown

Subtle: Sharing an inspirational quote from martial arts legend Bruce Lee that was posted by her agent, seemed to suggest she is taking the high road and avoiding reacting to Megan

Her Instagram posts comes after Megan had her ample cleavage on display, at the same time that Vanessa was showing off her washboard abs in a social media showdown.

The Love Island star had her beautiful bust on full display as she filmed a now-deleted makeup tutorial for her fans, after she slammed Dancing On Ice bosses for pairing ex-boyfriend Wes with the ‘youngest and hottest’ skating pro.

Meanwhile Vanessa documented her latest workout with fans as she showed off her incredible abs in a white crop top, after weeks of claims that the pair are at war in a nasty feud.

In her sultry video, Megan showed off her amazing cleavage in the plunging black lace top whilst promoting a highlighter in a makeup tutorial.

Thankful: Prior to sharing the quote, Vanessa had also gushed to her fans about how grateful she has been for their support

However the star later deleted the video, after Vanessa took to social media herself to post a video of her revealing gym wear, as she told her followers where she could find the clips of her latest workouts.

The pair have been embroiled in a so-called feud since Megan accused Vanessa of tactically splitting from her boyfriend to gain publicity.

And two weeks ago Megan also announced that she had split from boyfriend Wes after six months together, shocking many fans.

The Essex beauty spoke about their breakup in an interview with OK! this week, where she also accused Dancing On Ice bosses of ‘stirring things up’ by pairing Wes with Vanessa.

At odds: Megan had her beautiful bust on full display as she filmed a now-deleted makeup tutorial for her fans, while Vanessa spoke about her ab workout

Incredible: Meanwhile Vanessa had her washboard abs on full display in a white crop top as she posted a workout video

She said: ‘The fact that the producers deliberately stirred things up by partnering Wes with the youngest, hottest girl annoyed me.’

In particular, she noted her ‘frustration’ with DOI judge Jason Gardiner who branded the skating duo a ‘lovely couple.’  

Megan didn’t hold back on the topic, reasserting her belief that Vanessa’s break-up with her own boyfriend Louis Nathaniel was ‘completely tactical.’

Meanwhile, Vanessa’s parents recently hit back at such accusations, as they insisted the skater is ‘rising above’ the drama generated by her nemesis.

In an interview with The Sun On Sunday, Vanessa’s dad Marco said: ‘Vanessa is trying to rise above the situation, ignore the jibes and carry on skating. She would never dump a boyfriend to get attention. That’s not the kind of girl she is. 

‘The truth is she separated from Louis in December. We were sad about it because we liked him a lot. Vanessa is not seeing her ice skating partner. Her only focus is on being at her best and trying to win this competition.’

Her mother Yayun told the newspaper that the German beauty and her boyfriend of three years went their separate ways after he landed a job on a cruise ship, which would have resulted in the lovebirds not seeing each other for six months.

She said: ‘They agreed it was best to separate. But they are still friends. All of these allegations flying round are completely ridiculous.’ 

In happier times: The couple only announced their split last weekend, shocking their fans, after a seemingly loved-up seven month long romance 

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CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Miller Value Partners CIO and Chairman Bill Miller Speaks with CNBC’s Brian Sullivan Today

CNBC Exclusive: CNBC Transcript: Miller Value Partners CIO and Chairman Bill Miller Speaks with CNBC’s Brian Sullivan Today

WHEN: Today, Thursday, January 31, 2019

WHERE: CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street“— live from the TIGER 21 Conference in Boca Raton, FL

The following is the unofficial transcript of a CNBC EXCLUSIVE interview with Miller Value Partners CIO and Chairman Bill Miller and CNBC’s Brian Sullivan on CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” (M-F 9AM – 11AM) today, Thursday, January 31st. The following is a link to video of the interview on

All references must be sourced to CNBC.

CARL QUINTANILLA: Let’s get over to our Brian Sullivan live at the TIGER 21 Conference in Florida sitting down with a big, big legend. Hey, Brian.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: Hey, Carl listen. It’s 65 degrees here in Boca Raton but somebody’s got to do it. So, you know, I was happy to suffer through this assignment. Bill Miller, great to see you in person. Thanks for joining us.

BILL MILLER: Great to be here.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: You have got to be — you’re smiling because, A) it is warm, but, B) you’re a big Facebook owner. Facebook is soaring. What do you think of the quarter, and are you adding to your Facebook position?

BILL MILLER: No, we’re not adding right now. We added in the 140s twice actually. Once, a year ago when Mark Zuckerberg was getting raked over the coals in front of Congress. And then again recently when the stock was again — suffering from a gloomy consensus, let’s call it, and trading around 14 to 15 times earnings. This is the worst quarter that Facebook has had in terms of revenue growth, up 30%. And, you know, 2.2 billion users. It’s hard to find fault with the economics of the business.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: Except that how much bigger can it get?


BRIAN SULLIVAN: How much growth is there?

BILL MILLER: Well, there’s not a lot of growth per say, and certainly in users, I think there’s still monetization of the users and monetization of Instagram and things like that. So, again, the company with that kind of global scope has an enormous moat around it and I think that’s – it’s going to be very tough – and with the new money being spent on security, it is going to be very tough for anybody to push them aside.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: You know, going into the commercial break, David Faber showed a chart of the best stocks this month. Xerox up 43% this month. GE up 38% this money. Okay, after the worst December since 1928, what do you make of these insane market and stock swings? Collapsing and then — is that a healthy market?

BILL MILLER: It’s a market that can be exploited. I think you can monetize the volatility in the market, which is what we try and do. There have been 23 corrections of 5% or more in the last ten years, so two per year. And corrections go deep enough to scare everybody out and also then the market — I guess market structure has been changed, in my opinion, by the combination of money in ETFs, — quant funds and risk parity products. And so they all tend to move together.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: Are they harmful?

BILL MILLER: They potentially are harmful. The late Jack Bogle, who — a friend of mine – you know, said that the ETF thing and the passive money is a potential threat. I don’t think it is now, but it could be down the road.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: We talk a lot with you about Amazon and Facebook. I want to ask you about a totally different name because we’re so concerned that housing is — I don’t want to say it’s collapsing, but it’s slowing down. One of your biggest positions is RH, Restoration Hardware. $4,000 sofas, Bill. What makes it attractive?

BILL MILLER: Well, part of why it’s attractive now is that they have kind of taken over the high end of that market with their 40,000 square foot stores. And so it’s — it’s a company that we started buying in the ’20s when Gary Friedman, the CEO, started buying a lot of stock. They bought back 50% of their shares last year and probably in an average cost of around $40 to $45. So it’s not as attractive at 130 as it was at 30 but it’s still a dominant company. The average furniture store in America is about 7,000 square feet.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: I’ll wrap it up with this. What’s the last, most exciting new stock that you’ve added?





BILL MILLER: Avon was at a 70-year low.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: AVP? We’re talking about the makeup company?

BILL MILLER: $1.59, or something like that, yes. Brand-new management, all up and down, a couple hundred million of free cash flow. The proper strategy now for the first time in years, if not decades. And we really think it’s a company that could be a ten-bagger in the next three five years.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: Avon is a ten-bagger?

BILL MILLER: Could be. Could be.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: A company that –

BILL MILLER: Coty offered 10 billion for the company I think in 2014 or ’15. It’s got an 800 million market cap right now.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: This is a company, you know, Bill — I don’t think it’s a, you know, TV, fake news to say there’s people who are worried about Avon’s long-term sustainability as a company.

BILL MILLER: Well, that’s pretty well reflected in the price of under $2 I think. But we think it’s a very interesting risk reward on Avon. And I think that — I won’t say worst case, but I’d say it’s going to be tough for you to lose money in the stock over the next few years given how much, you know, it’s down in the past couple of years alone.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: And you’re — Avon is moving right now. The stock is up 14% on your comments. Is this a long-term hold? You’re — listen, you’re a value guy, you’re a long-term guy, but even you would say ‘If I go from “x” to “y” and it’s this kind of a percentage move, I’ve got to rethink my position,’ no? How long would you hold at Avon?

BILL MILLER: We’d hold it as long as we think we can earn an excess rate of return by holding it.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: And still right now.

BILL MILLER: Oh, yeah. It was $2.50 I think about three or four months ago. So it’s kind of making a home here between the $1.75 and 2.25 level. If it breaks out around the $3 level it tells us the strategies are working. I think we’ll know by the end of the year.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: David Faber, I mean I know you’ve talked a lot about Avon, what do you think of this move? The bankers have got to be happy, or unhappy, but I don’t know.

DAVID FABER: By the way, we should tell Bill the stock is up 19% on, I think, in part on Mr. Miller’s comments right there. Of course I can remember when they were turning down a bid from Coty that they absolutely positively should have taken without a doubt. But Bill, I wanted to come back with you for a moment here on Amazon. I think we’re going to be hearing after the close. Obviously I remember you positive on the stock throughout, in the good and bad and particularly in some tough times where your opinion ended up, of course, being the correct one. What are you looking for after the bell? What should we be focused on overall in terms of both the earnings and on the conference call?

BILL MILLER: You know, it’s an interesting situation. I tend to focus on the advertising business and on AWS and then the mixed shift where the third-party sellers are now more than 50% of retail. So you’re not seeing the sales growth in retail that you use to see, but you’re seeing good margins. And I think also, you know, international is still losing money. And I think that’s — in the next couple of years, that will turn. But you know, Amazon is doing so many different things and it’s so dominant and it’s about 20% below its high. So I think it’s very attractive in here.

DAVID FABER: Why is it very attractive in here?

BILL MILLER: Because I think that the business itself on the top line is probably going to grow around 20% to 25% a year for the next at least three years. And so — and the margins should continue to expand. So if the valuation doesn’t change, and I don’t think the valuation should change, then in terms of enterprise value to EBITDA, price to sales, that kind of thing, then the stock will double in three years. And the market is not going to double in three years.

SARA EISEN: Hey, Bill. It’s Sara. I wanted to ask about Apple. I don’t think you own it in the fund but I’ve heard you talk about it in the past and view it favorably. We just came off an Apple quarter, which was well received by Wall Street but also showed that iPhone sales are declining. Is that a good bet after the big selloff that we saw from the last quarter?

BILL MILLER: Well, we sold — we had both bought and sold Apple well — I own Apple personally and have owned it for a long time. You know, it’s a– if you want a company with a fortress balance sheet that’s dominant, that is I would say safe, that generates 50 billion free cash flow, then Apple looks okay in here.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: Bill, and guys –I want to jump back in, because we had talked about Avon and you reference it, David referenced it as well that Coty, the consumer products cosmetics company, had made an $10 million bid. Just off-camera before we sat down, you told me that you started adding your — to Coty. Is that a new position for you, or are you adding to an existing position?

BILL MILLER: That’s a personal position of mine.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: Personal position of yours.

BILL MILLER: Yep. I started buying it around $8.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: Because that’s a stock down 50% in a 12-month period. Is that a similar story to Avon?

BILL MILLER: Coty is pretty highly leveraged. JAB, the– you know, the private equity firm–

BRIAN SULLIVAN: That’s buying everything.

BILL MILLER: — controls it. But they bought every share that was available in blocks around $8.50. The new CEO who just came in, he bought about $15 million worth of stock at 8.5, 7% yield on it. So I think most of the damage has been done.

BRIAN SULLIVAN: On Coty. Yeah, so you think most of the damage done has been done on Coty. But again, personal position for you, not in the funds at Miller Value Partners.


BRIAN SULLIVAN: Alright, so we’ve got, Apple tonight, Amazon, Facebook, you’re a happy guy, Avon, stocks moving. Bill Miller, real pleasure to see you at the TIGER – we’ve got to stop meeting like this or maybe we don’t have to stop meeting like this. Bill, thank you very much.

BILL MILLER: Thanks very much.

For more information contact:

Jennifer Dauble


t: 201.735.4721

m: 201.615.2787


Emma Martin


t: 201.735.4713

m: 551.275.6221


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Did Madonna get butt implants? Madge breaks her silence! – AOL

Did Madonna get butt implants? Madge breaks her silence! – AOL

Madonna is speaking out in response to rampant internet rumors that she got butt implants.

After days of building speculation over her ample bum, Her Madgesty took to Instagram on Thursday, January 3 with a message that seemingly addressed the body-shamers. “Desperately Seeking No Ones Approval………………. And Entitled to Free Agency Over My Body Like Everyone Else!! Thank you 2019! Its Going to Be an amazing Year!!! #2019 #freedom#respect #nofear #nodiscrimination,” the pop icon wrote.

The theory that the 60-year-old singer had physically enhanced her buttocks with plastic surgery came after a video of her surprise New Year’s Eve performance at NYC’s Stonewall Inn — and screen grabs showing a potentially enhanced hiny in tight black pants — went viral.

While the “Like a Prayer” singer’s latest Instagram post seems to address body-shaming trolls, fans immediately noticed she didn’t flat-out deny obtaining a rounder rear-end. “Your body, your rules, you are what you are now,” wrote one. Another said of her tush, “I’m a fan 4life and it’s you’re [sic] prerogative…I just wish the physician would’ve done a better job.” Others commenters were complimentary of both the keister and the celebrity. “Stunning as always,” one wrote.

Meanwhile, Us Weekly has heard whispers that the Desperately Seeking Susan actress did indeed get butt implants about six months ago. A rep for the singer has not responded to a request for comment.

Over her decades in the spotlight, the youthful-looking mother of six — Lourdes Leon, 22, Rocco Ritchie, 18, David Banda Mwale Ciccone Ritchie, 13, Mercy James, 12, and 6-year-old twin daughters, Stelle Ciccone and Estere Ciccone — has faced plenty of plastic surgery speculation, though the outspoken star has never confirmed going under the knife. She has, however, been very vocal about staying in shape and following a strict, clean eating regimen. Madonna was one of Hollywood’s early adopters in touting the benefits of a macrobiotic diet.


Madonna in the ’80s

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American singer-songwriter and actress Madonna (Madonna Louise Ciccone) posing on the set of the film Desperately Seeking Susan. New York, 1985 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

Canadian actor Robert Joy writing a note on a newspaper resting on American singer-songwriter and actress Madonna (Madonna Louise Ciccone)’s shoulder in the film Desperately Seeking Susan. New York, 1985 (Photo by Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE — Episode 1 — Air Date 11/09/1985 — Pictured: (l-r) Madonna as Marilyn Monroe, Joan Cusack as Calra (maid) during ‘National Enquirer Theatre’ skit on November 9, 1985 (Photo by Alan Singer/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

American singer Madonna in a loft on Canal Street, New York City, December 1982. (Photo by Peter Noble/Redferns/Getty Images)

LONDON – 1983: Singer Madonna performs on stage. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

LONDON – 1983: Singer Madonna performs on stage. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – 1983: Singer Madonna and Marilyn in 1983 backstage at a New York club. (Photo by Dave Hogan/Getty Images)

Madonna at Dallas Boesendahl’s party for Amadeus at Limelight. Wednesday, September 12, 1984. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – SEPTEMBER 14: Photo of MADONNA; Madonna after the 1st MTV Music Awards (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

American singer Madonna in New York, 1984. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

NEW YORK – 1984: Pop singer Madonna performs onstage at Madison Square Garden in 1984 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Lisa Robinson, David Lee Roth, and Madonna at David Lee Roth’s birthday party held at Area. 1984. (Photo by Patrick McMullan/Getty Images)

UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 30: Madonna in NYC in 1985 (Photo by Vinnie Zuffante/Getty Images)

VAN NUYS, CA – OCTOBER 5: Singer Madonna attends the PRO-Peace Public Service Announcement for the Great Peace March for Global Nuclear Disarmament on October 5, 1985 at Woodley Park in Van Nuys, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

7/13/1985-Philadelphia, PA: Madonna performing at the Live Aid Concert in Philadelphia.

UNITED STATES – JULY 13: Photo of LIVE AID and MADONNA; Madonna performing on stage at Live Aid (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

NEW YORK CITY – JUNE 11: Singer Madonna attends the After Party for the Closing Night Concert of the Virgin Tour on June 11, 1985 at the Palladium in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

NEW YORK CITY – JUNE 11: Singer Madonna attends the After Party for the Closing Night Concert of the Virgin Tour on June 11, 1985 at the Palladium in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Madonna at the The Palladium in New York City, New York (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

UNITED STATES – JUNE 01: Photo of MADONNA; Madonna performing on stage – Virgin tour (Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns)

1985 AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS – Backstage Coverage – Airdate: January 28, 1985. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

Singer Madonna and former Beatle George Harrison Beatles hold a press Conference for their film ‘Shanghai Surprise’ at the Kensington Roof Gardens in London on March 6, 1986. (Photo by Georges De Keerle/Getty Images)

Madonna walks among a crowd of people, on her way to the premiere of Desperately Seeking Susan, on March 29, 1985. She costarred in the film with Rosanna Arquette and Aidan Quinn. (Photo by � Bettmann/CORBIS/Bettmann Archive)

Madonna 1985 American Music Awards (Photo by Chris Walter/WireImage)

Madonna. March 02, 1985. (Photo by Charles Wenzelberg / (c) NYP Holdings, Inc. via Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – SEPTEMBER 20: Singer Madonna attends the Second Annual ‘Commitment to Life’ Gala to Benefit AIDS Project Los Angeles on September 20, 1986 at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

1985 AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS – Backstage Coverage – Airdate: January 28, 1985. (Photo by ABC Photo Archives/ABC via Getty Images)

384716 01: Madonna smiles during the American Music Awards, January 28, 1985. (Photo by Julian Wasser/Liaison)

American singer Madonna, circa 1985. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)

American singer Madonna, circa 1985. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)

NEW YORK CITY – AUGUST 13: Singer Madonna attends the Rehearsals for the Lincoln Center Workshop Production of ‘Goose and Tomtom’ on August 13, 1986 at the Mitzi Newhouse Theatre, Lincoln Center. (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

Madonna (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)

Madonna: (Photo by Lynn Goldsmith/Corbis/VCG via Getty Images)

File Photo of Madonna in Los Angeles on October 29, 1987 (Photo by Barry King/WireImage)

Madonna Performing At Wembley Stadium, London, Britain – Aug 1987, Madonna (Photo by Brian Rasic/Getty Images)

American musician and actress Madonna addresses fans outside the gala world premiere of her film, ‘Who’s That Girl’ (directed by James Foley) at the National Twin cinema, New York, New York, August 6, 1987. (Photo by Gary Gershoff/Getty Images)

Madonna (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

ST. PAUL, MN – JULY 29: Madonna performs on the Who’s That Girl Tour at the St. Paul Civic Center in St. Paul, Minnesota on July 29, 1987. (Photo by Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – JANUARY 26: Singer Madonna attends the 14th Annual American Music Awards on January 26, 1987 at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Singer Madonna, 1987. (Photo by Kypros/Getty Images)

(GERMANY OUT) Madonna *16.08.1958, eigentlich Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone, Saengerin, Schauspielerin, USA, im Film ‘Who’s that girl’, USA, 1987 (Photo by Röhnert/ullstein bild via Getty Images)

Madonna at the Hemsley Hotel in New York City, New York (Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./WireImage)

NEW YORK CITY – JUNE 16: Singer Madonna arrives for her performance in the Broadway play ‘Speed-the-Plow’ on June 16, 1988 at the Royale Theatre in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

NEW YORK CITY – MAY 3: Singer Madonna and makeup artist Debi Mazar attend the ‘Speed-the-Plow’ Broadway Play Opening Night Performance on May 3, 1988 at the Royale Theatre in New York City. (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Madonna (Photo by Ron Galella/WireImage)

Madonna (Photo by Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Madonna poses for photographs circa 1989 in New York City.



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Little Mix on Piers Morgan, body shaming and Simon Cowell

Little Mix on Piers Morgan, body shaming and Simon Cowell

“We’re not used to being dragged into all this drama,” giggles Jade Thirlwall, one quarter of the UK’s biggest girl band, nay pop band, Little Mix. “We’re getting it from all angles at the minute.” She is referring to the campaign for the band’s fifth album, the bluntly titled LM5, which has seen them dragged into the public spat between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B via the album’s first single Woman Like Me; part ways with Simon Cowell, the man whose talent show The X Factor birthed them in 2011, and his label Syco; and fall foul of ham-faced Twitter troll Piers Morgan over the feminism behind their recent empowerment anthem, Strip, and its accompanying naked photoshoot – in which their skin was daubed with the myriad insults they’ve received. At one point Jesy Nelson, very much the band’s mouthpiece, called Morgan a “twat” on Nick Grimshaw’s Radio 1 show. “Mate, it’s mental,” says Thirlwall, in summary.

This, it turns out, is the point when Little Mix make the risky shift from sugary, poptastic girl band to a group of young women well-versed in post-2013 Beyoncé. While their first self-penned single, Wings, was all about empowering young fans in general terms (“Don’t let what they say keep you up at night”), the Daily Mail-referencing, trap-infused Strip – inspired by a tabloid story attacking Thirlwall and Perrie Edwards’s looks – is a reflection of the experiences of four mid-twentysomethings trying to emancipate themselves from the focus of the media microscope. “We wanted to channel our anger [at the story] into a positive song saying: ‘Oh fuck off, this is me, and I’m going to love every single part of me and if you don’t like it sod off,’” roars Nelson when we meet in a London hotel suite in mid-November, the day before LM5’s release. Next to her sit Edwards and Leigh-Anne Pinnock, the three of them dressed-down, makeup-free and surrounded by the detritus of a lunch heavy in avocado. The absent Thirlwall has had a family emergency, but we speak later on the phone.

Prior to our chat I had been told they wouldn’t talk about the split from Syco (they’re now signed to RCA) or a bizarre Simon Cowell interview in which he’d suggested the fall-out was to do with Woman Like Me (“They didn’t want to record it,” he said). Without mentioning the X Factor overlord by name I ask if they didn’t want it be the first single? Silence. One by one, their eyes dart in the direction of their PR sitting in the corner. “No. OK, so … ” Nelson begins. There’s a short discussion about whether this is something we should be getting into. “So this is what happened,” Nelson continues, taking it upon herself to ignore the mood in the room. “We so wanted to write a song like Strip and were so passionate about releasing it as our first single. We’d co-directed the video, we’d done the [naked] photoshoot, so we were excited. Obviously when Woman Like Me was put on the table, in our heads Strip was going to be the first single, and [Woman Like Me] didn’t feel exactly like what we’d sing about,” she says, referencing an original version written solely by Ed Sheeran and Jess Glynne. “So we went in, tweaked the lyrics, changed the production, and got Nicki on it, which was an absolute dream. We didn’t despise it at all. It’s a banger.”

Even that dream Nicki Minaj collaboration almost turned sour. Lifelong fans of the Beez in the Trap hitmaker, the band were rattled when Cardi B claimed, via now-deleted Instagram videos, that she had been first choice to feature on the track. The band retaliated, posting a screenshot of an old WhatsApp chat mentioning Minaj as their sole choice alongside a caption that read: “Sorry Cardi hun but this is the T, we’ve always wanted the QUEEN”. To really underline the shadiness, it then had “no shade” written in brackets. I suggest the use of “hun” was the icing on the cake. There is a chorus of cackles, before they look sheepishly at each other. “People kind of assumed we were taking sides because of the way it was worded but we would never pick sides,” says Edwards. “We’d never want to tear Cardi B down, it’s not about that, it was more that she said something that wasn’t true.” When I speak to Thirlwall a week later she reiterates that point. “We just wanted to state the facts,” she says. “Everything’s OK now … I hope.”

We talk about the Strip furore that erupted shortly after the album’s release. “It’s not about sexualising yourself; it’s about having a voice and speaking out and being brave enough to stand up to people,” she says. And then along came Piers Morgan (on Good Morning Britain he asked: “What is empowering about this? … It’s using sex to sell records”). “Yeah, right on cue,” she laughs. “What was amazing, actually, is that we haven’t had to say much [to him], as women have rallied together and defended us,” she adds, referring to tweets from the likes of Ariana Grande and Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui. Does she have anything to say to Morgan now? “I mean, he’s, you know, ugh … I don’t want to dwell too much on it, and he doesn’t deserve a line on it because he’s obviously loving it.”

Rewind to a more innocent time, a Sunday in mid-October to be precise, and Little Mix are kicking off the LM5 campaign in the labyrinthine corridors of London’s Wembley Arena. They’re running 15 minutes late for their 1pm call time on the red carpet at Radio 1’s annual Teen awards, an event it feels as if they’re slowly outgrowing, and the gaggle of photographers are getting restless. Suddenly, Little Mix appear, dressed head to toe in variations of black business attire. Gone, for the time being at least, are the leotard-based outfits Mel C once criticised for being “too provocative”, and the beaming smiles that accompanied playful No 1 hits such as Black Magic and Shout Out to My Ex. Once the flashbulbs are off, however, they click into schmooze mode, goofing around on live radio with host Matt Edmondson and partaking in an on-camera Halloween-themed interview involving questions plucked out of a pumpkin.

We meet briefly, sandwiched between a stairwell and the disabled loo. They’re meant to be doing last-minute rehearsals ahead of their debut performance of Woman Like Me, but have time for a quick hello. It’s 2pm and they have been here since 8am. At one point, a bored-looking Thirlwall balances a bottle of water on her head, while the others organise themselves into height order. Suddenly they are engulfed by people – radio pluggers, PRs, thick-set security guards, a constantly primed glam squad – and shuffled off to prepare for the show.

Based on pop’s unwritten girl band laws, Little Mix should have announced a hiatus by now, one that involves a smattering of TV presenting, a tell-all book and, for one lucky member, a few weeks in the Australian jungle come November time. Their last album, 2016’s Glory Days, however, was their first to shift more than a million copies in the UK, while Woman Like Me became their 13th Top 10 hit. This year, they will turn their attention fully to the US, where their popularity has been on the wane (2012’s debut DNA peaked at No 4, while LM5 has so far reached No 40). “That’s our main aim: we really want to crack America,” Nelson says. “We’re willing to put the work in.”

That desire to prove people wrong has always been part of their, ahem, DNA ever since producers on The X Factor told them there was no point putting them through to live shows as viewers didn’t vote for girl bands. Expectations were so low that the paparazzi would shout “see you on This Morning, girls”, referring to ITV’s preferred dumping ground for discarded contestants the morning after live shows. The only people who seemed to believe in Little Mix were Little Mix themselves. “We set our goals very high from the start,” says Pinnock, slumping further into her hotel armchair. “We wanted dolls, we wanted bed sheets, we wanted makeup, absolutely everything, and obviously these things kept being ticked off.”

They also wanted the ultimate in music industry credibility: a Brit award, something they achieved in 2017 when they won best British single for Shout Out to My Ex. They also got to open that year’s show. “I cried when I found out we were performing,” laughs Nelson. “Oh my God,” shrieks Edwards. “Do you know that was one of the best moments of my life. I’d just fallen off my bike cause I was mortal and I’d split my head open a bit.” She senses confusion. “Did I ever tell you this?” The other two look shocked as Edwards rattles through the story: she was on holiday in the Maldives, she’d had “one too many Jack Daniel’s” and went over her handlebars and cracked her head on a tree. “I was a mess. My friend checked my head and was like: ‘Babe, just to let you know you’re bleeding,’ but I was reading me emails and was like: ‘I don’t care! I’m performing at the Brits.’”

We talk about LM5, the title. “That’s literally what the fans were already calling it,” says Nelson, matter-of-factly. A week before our interview, at a Julie Adenuga-hosted Apple Music event in east London – essentially the authentic flipside to the Teen awards – in which they performed stripped-back versions of their hits with an all-female band, they’d mentioned a different working title, one I’d noted down as “Wine and Wet Wipes”. “Ha!” shouts Edwards instead of actually laughing, a time-saving device they all use. “Wine and Makeup Wipes,” corrects Nelson, “but I hated it”. “It sounds like an Amy Winehouse album title doesn’t it,” adds Edwards. They’d also said that the creation of LM5 was lubricated by a healthy dose of alcohol. “It definitely helped,” Thirlwall tells me later on the phone, “and gave me the courage to sing about things I might have been scared to touch on before.”

As well as Strip’s self-empowerment, the album also touches on feminism (Joan of Arc), female friendship (the Destiny’s Child-esque Told You So) and, on the Thirlwall-penned Woman’s World, gender politics. “I remember years ago I did a political tweet and got absolutely annihilated by mostly male MPs who were furious that a pop star had an opinion,” she says, referring to her expression of sadness at the 2015 air strikes in Syria. “Now I feel more confident to write about things. With Woman’s World, I remember getting in the studio and the whole #MeToo thing was happening and I was really angry. I started talking about my mum and how she was always seen as less equal even though she worked just as hard as the men around her. I thought it was about time we did a female empowerment song that was very specifically about what was going on in the world.”

Thirlwall isn’t the only one who has felt emboldened to tackle issues head-on. In a recent interview, Pinnock discussed how she felt “invisible” in the band, and was told early on by Beyoncé’s creative director, Frank Gatson, that as a black woman she’d have to work twice as hard to make it in the music industry. “I’ve kept it in me for seven years and it just felt like such a weight was lifted when I said the words,” she says now. “There is such a problem with racism, so to actually just say it and have so many people of colour message me and thank me for saying something … ” She trails off. “I remember when I used to cry about it to my manager I used to be like: ‘Why do I feel like this?’ and she’d never say it, and I’d never say it. It was really strange. Now, though, oh my God, I’m so proud of this skin.”

We chat about the band’s favourite songs on the album, specifically the head-knocking R&B banger Forget You Not, a song Edwards partially leaked in October after filming footballer boyfriend Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain dancing to it. It’s a shame it’s only on the deluxe edition, I say. “No it isn’t,” snaps Edwards. “It is, babe,” soothes Pinnock. “No it isn’t,” maintains Edwards. This goes on for a few minutes. “You’re winding me up,” she continues. “I’m fucking fuming.” People will buy the deluxe, though. “Well I hope so because it’s got one of my favourite songs on there! That wasn’t the final decision.” The tension is diffused with a quick-fire Q&A. Favourite girl band of all time? “I can’t decide between Spice Girls and Destiny’s Child,” says Edwards. “Same,” says Nelson. “Growing up Spice Girls, but musically it was TLC and Destiny’s Child,” adds Pinnock. Thirlwall, meanwhile, goes with the Supremes, citing Diana Ross as her favourite girl band member ever. What five things should any good girl band have, I ask. “Friendship, unity, passion, drive and sass,” Nelson, Pinnock and Edwards say, almost as one. Thirlwall takes her time. “Friendship. Loyalty. Ambition. Talent,” A pause: “And balls!”

LM5 is out now

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