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Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan calls out racist backlash to Leah Jeffries’ casting

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Percy Jackson & the Olympians is a five-book fantasy series in which Greek Gods are around in the present day and adventure ensures. The books were published in the mid-aughts and two movies based on them came out in 2010 and 2013. Now the books are being adapted into a Disney series and casting was recently announced.

A young actress named Leah Jeffries was cast as Annabeth Chase, who was portrayed by Alexandra Daddario in the movies. And wouldn’t you know, there was racist backlash against Leah’s casting because she is Black and Annabeth is described as having blonde hair and light eyes in the book. So-called fans really bullied this 12-year-old girl and got her TikTok banned because they were unhappy with her casting. Rick Riordan, the books’ author, wrote a detailed blog post speaking out against the backlash and its inherent racism.

Rick Riordan, author of the popular YA adventure novel series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, is speaking out amid backlash in casting one of his characters in Disney ’s upcoming series adaptation.

In a blog post Tuesday, Riordan criticized those “who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase,” saying “It’s a shame such posts need to be written, but they do.”

Jeffries, whose credits include Empire, was cast last week along with Aryan Simhadri to to star alongside Walker Scobell who will play Percy Jackson in the 20th Television-produced series. Simhadri and Jeffries will play Percy’s friends Grover and Annabeth, respectively. Production is starting soon in Vancouver.

In the book series, Annabeth is a true daughter of the Greek goddess Athena, a brilliant strategist with an active and curious mind. After having spent the last five years at Camp Half-Blood, she longs to test her mettle in the human world, of which she barely remembers. She trains Percy to survive the mythological world, and in turn, he helps her connect with her humanity. She is also portrayed in the books as white.

“I have been clear, as the author, that I was looking for the best actors to inhabit and bring to life the personalities of these characters, and that physical appearance was secondary for me,” Riordan wrote. “We did that. We took a year to do this process thoroughly and find the best of the best. This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.”

He added: “You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white.

“Friends, that is racism.”

He also called it bullying, saying, “Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.”

Riordan said the production followed Disney’s company policy on nondiscrimination, and that the casting process “was long, intense, massive and exhaustive.”

“The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength,” he wrote. “There is power in plurality. The things that distinguish us from one another are often our marks of individual greatness. You should never judge someone by how well they fit your preconceived notions. That neurodivergent kid who has failed out of six schools, for instance, may well be the son of Poseidon. Anyone can be a hero.

“If you don’t get that, if you’re still upset about the casting of this marvelous trio, then it doesn’t matter how many times you have read the books. You didn’t learn anything from them.”

[From Deadline]

The whole blog post is worth a read. Rick is very involved in the adaptation, including writing, production, and casting. And he’s completely supportive of Leah’s casting and diverse casting in general, saying that they was looking for “the best actors to inhabit and bring to life the personalities of these characters, and that physical appearance was secondary.” Which is exactly right since it’s a fictional character. And it’s a fantasy series. If you can suspend disbelief that Greek Gods and mythology are (a) real and (b) around in the 21st century, you can certainly suspend disbelief that someone may not look exactly as their character was canonically described. I’m really glad Rick stuck up for Leah and called it what it is: racism, whether or not the “fans” realize it. And I’m guessing they do. I don’t recall anyone being this upset (or upset at all) that Daniel Radcliffe was definitely not 6′ and didn’t have the green eyes that were such an important part of Harry Potter‘s story, or that Jennifer Lawrence was taller and healthier-looking than Katniss Everdeen was described to be. But I do remember people saying they were less sad when Rue died in the movie because they didn’t realize she was Black in the books.

Alexandra Daddario posted a message of support too. I can’t get over the fact that these fans — many of whom are presumably adults based on when the books and movies came out — bullied an actual child online.

Leah Jeffries is going to be an incredible Annabeth!!!

— Alexandra Daddario (@AADaddario) May 10, 2022

Leah Jeffries speaks out about her Tik Tok being banned following the announcement of her casting as Annabeth Chase in the upcoming Percy Jackson series. #PJOCastDeservesRespect


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— Off Colour (@OffColourOrg) May 10, 2022

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Ashton Kutcher Becky G Fashion Jessie Buckley Mila Kunis Oscars photos

Mila Kunis in Zuhair Murad at the Oscars: knocked it out of the park?




Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher have really redeemed themselves, post the “we don’t wash our kids until they’re visibly dirty” incident. Last summer they opened up a whole conversation in which white celebrities admitted they don’t bathe. That was wild. They’ve since raised over $35 million for Mila’s native Ukraine, and have been personally thanked by President Zelensky.

Mila Kunis announced the song “Somehow You Do,” performed by Reba McIntire and co-written by Diane Warren, from her movie Four Good Days. (Incidentally Diane Warren has been nominated 13 times and has never won. She seems OK with that.) She was in this phenomenal pink Zuhair Murad gown with a little belt, a side train and a delicately gathered bodice. She must have been sewn into this. What a stunner she is.

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Performer Becky G had on another of my favorite light-color gowns, a blush sequin Etro that fit her like a glove. Check out the way it’s cut straight across the top. This had cute little wing-like pockets sewn on, which really make the look.

Jessie Buckley just finished a movie where she played a mennonite woman, so maybe that explains her hair, but her hairstylist could have dyed it a better color. With different styling, this Erdem might have worked. If I was wearing this I would have been stressed out and having someone follow me with a steamer all night.

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Photos credit: Avalon.red and Getty Images

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Moderna & Pfizer will have Omicron-targeted boosters available this year

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A few days ago, Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel explained how the company was preparing to develop and provide a second Covid booster shot – and a fourth shot overall – to come out this fall. As in, when people are getting their annual flu shots this fall, we could get the newly developed Covid booster shot around the same time. Here’s more:

Moderna is working on a booster shot that will target the omicron variant of Covid for this fall as nations around the world prepare to distribute annual vaccinations against the virus.

“We are discussing with public health leaders around the world to decide what we think is the best strategy for the potential booster for the fall of 2022. We believe it will contain omicron,” CEO Stephane Bancel told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Monday.

Bancel said the omicron-specific booster will enter clinical trials soon, and Moderna is discussing whether the shot needs to contain any other components to fight the virus.

“We need to be careful to try to stay ahead of a virus and not behind the virus,” he said. Moderna has signed advanced purchase agreements with upfront payments worth $18.5 billion with the United Kingdom, South Korea and Switzerland recently ordering shots for this fall. Bancel said the company can supply 2 billion to 3 billion booster doses this year.

“There are discussions ongoing on a daily basis. We want to be ready with the best product possible for the fall of ’22,” Bancel said.

[From CNBC]

Which is good! But I also think that by the fall, we’ll probably be dealing with a hellish new variant, plus Delta and Omicron. But I appreciate that Moderna is trying. Anyway, I was happy enough with that news, but now Pfizer’s CEO says that they will probably have an Omicron-specific booster shot available in March!!!

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday said that his company is aiming to have a vaccine that targets the omicron variant as well as other COVID-19 variants ready in March.

“This vaccine will be ready in March,” Bourla said in an appearance on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.”

“We [are] already starting manufacturing some of these quantities at risk,” he added.

Pfizer will produce the doses to be ready in case countries want the shots, but Bourla noted that it was unclear if a vaccine targeting variants was necessary or how exactly it would be used.

“The hope is that we will achieve something that will have way, way better protection particularly against infections, because the protection against the hospitalizations and the severe disease — it is reasonable right now with the current vaccines as long as you are having let’s say the third dose,” Bourla said.

[From The Hill]

I’ve said this on Twitter a few times, but I would get a booster shot every month if they let me. My booster shot last November didn’t even knock me out that much – I was just sort of vaguely tired and out-of-it for a few days and that was it. If I get a fourth shot or a fifth shot, maybe I’ll start floating. Maybe I’ll never get sick again. Anyway, if Pfizer is updating their vaccine so it’s more effective against Omicron, does that mean people will be able to get their second booster shots this spring with Pfizer’s new formula? It sounds like it. Your move, Moderna!!

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The mistaken Thanksgiving text invitation is being made into a Netflix movie




After Cheeto won the presidency in 2016, many Americans needed a great story to lift their spirits. In walks Jamal Hinton, a high school senior who received an accidental text from Wanda Dench, who was inviting her grandson to Thanksgiving. Jamal took her up on the offer. Since that fateful text in 2016, Jamal has returned every year to Wanda’s for Thanksgiving. Last year, Wanda invited Jamal’s girlfriend and family to the festivities. Sadly it was the last year they all had with Wanda’s husband, Lonnie, who passed from COVID in April. But inviting a perfect stranger to Thanksgiving dinner and sort of making them an honorary family member wasn’t the end of this fantastical story. Now, Netflix is developing the “mistaken Thanksgiving text invitation,” into a feature film. Jamal made the announcement about the deal on Twitter and he and Wanda did a joint statement about the news. Abdul Williams, who wrote the Salt N Pepa biopic and The Bobby Brown Story, will develop the screenplay for Thanksgiving Text. We don’t have casting news yet and a director has not yet been tapped. Here is more on this story from NPR.

Now, weeks after celebrating Thanksgiving together this year, Hinton tweeted an announcement about an upcoming Netflix film based on their story of an unlikely friendship.

The feature film The Thanksgiving Text will follow the true story of strangers becoming friends after a text mishap.

“We are excited to share our story with the world,” Hinton and Dench said in a joint statement. “We hope it inspires more people to reach out and make connections that they wouldn’t ordinarily make.”

Abdul Williams, whose works include Lottery Ticket, Salt-N-Pepa, and The Bobby Brown Story, will write the film. Robert Teitel and George Tillman Jr. will produce the film; their works include The Hate U Give, The Barbershop franchise and Men of Honor.

[From NPR]

This was one of my favorite stories of 2016. Even though I wasn’t that shocked about the 2016 presidential results, 2016 just felt like such a heavy year. When I read the story about Jamal, Wanda, and Lonnie, somehow I felt hopeful about the next few years. I was sad to find out that Wanda’s husband Lonnie died from COVID last year. It was sweet to see that despite her loss, Wanda still continued her family’s new tradition of having Jamal and his girlfriend over for Thanksgiving. It was also not lost on me that we have yet to see a picture of Wanda and her actual grandson. I am so glad that Netflix has decided to make this sort of meet cute into a movie. We are all in need of a feel good story. The fact that the movie is based on a true story makes it that much more endearing.

This sort of story encourages others to do things outside of their comfort zone. Wanda could have easily apologized to Jamal and rescinded her accidental invitation but her giving heart and open mind helped her create a sort of second family with Jamal. I hope the film also includes everyone’s backstory. Wanda and Lonnie had been married 42 years when Lonnie passed away last year. I wonder how they met and started a family. It’s sad that we lost Lonnie to COVID but hopefully this film will immortalize his life and generosity. I want to place bets on who will star. I would love to see Diane Keaton (I know she is much older than Wanda but still) as Wanda and Kevin Costner as Lonnie. Jamal reminds me of John Boyega in a way but John is too old to play Lonnie since he was a high school senior at the beginning. I am totally looking forward to tracking the development of this film. I hope Netflix does this act of kindness justice.

Today marks our 6th Thanksgiving together💛 pic.twitter.com/6xas8EVsiM

— Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) November 25, 2021

I am very excited to announce our new partnership with Netflix. We thank every single one of you for your love and support in our journey the last 6 years. We can’t wait to tell our story on the big screen! 🎥🍾 pic.twitter.com/0heCmEWMDM

— Jamal Hinton (@Jamalhinton12) December 2, 2021

Looking forward to getting together with family and friends for Thanksgiving. Jamal said he’ll bring the pumpkin pie. pic.twitter.com/KQO9P8WMTZ

— Wanda D (@wandadench) November 25, 2021

For the first time since her husband Lonnie died of COVID-19, Wanda Dench sits down for an interview.

Wanda is the viral “Thanksgiving grandma” who sent the mistaken text to @kingjamal08 in 2016. Now, Jamal has made all the difference helping her heal❤️https://t.co/5wLyW51qCE pic.twitter.com/hMobqOaKYG

— Briana Whitney (@BrianaWhitney) May 21, 2020

photos via Netflix and social media

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Jennifer Lawrence wore custom Dior to the ‘Don’t Look Up’ premiere

Last night was the New York premiere for Don’t Look Up, the star-studded ensemble film directed by Adam McKay. It premieres on Netflix this coming weekend and I’m looking forward to seeing it. It looks like an enjoyable comedy and you can’t argue with the cast. Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio are the “leads,” they play scientists who discover the comet which is about to hit earth and kill everybody, leading to huge shenanigans. Leo honestly looked a bit nervous to be photographed with a heavily pregnant woman. There was panic in his eyes. Leo, it’s not yours!!

J-Law wore Dior, a customized gown to accommodate her pregnancy. It’s been a while since we’ve seen her in a Dior gown and this is one of the better ones. That sheer fabric isn’t a cape, those are just fabric panels which are supposed to look sort of like “sleeves.” The dress is very glittery and well-made and Jennifer looked elegant. I’m sure her feet hurt! This was her first premiere in two years. Her jewelry is Tiffany & Co.

There weren’t many solo pics of Meryl Streep, but her dress is Marc Jacobs. Jonah Hill is blonde and shirtless (but not jacket-less) and he attended the premiere with his girlfriend Sarah Brady. Florence Pugh isn’t in the film, but I guess she wanted to see it because she turned up at the premiere too. She wore an insane Dolce & Gabbana ensemble which was totally wrong for New York in December. Bonus: Kid Cudi wearing teddy bears on his feet.

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.

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Casey Wilson: I urge everyone to get a bedroom Christmas Tree, it is so comforting

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Casey Wilson was on Ellen promoting her new Apple TV comedy with Paul Rudd and Will Ferrell called Shrink Next Door. It’s based on the true story of a therapist moving in with his client’s family in the Hamptons. She also has a podcast about the Real Housewives called Bitch Sesh. Casey did a bit with Ellen where she campaigned to be People’s Most Beautiful 41-year-old next year. People put her in this year’s Most Beautiful issues as an example of a woman who was 40 and she claimed that made her the most beautiful 40-year-old. It was weird, and she said she qualified because she plays Sexiest Man Alive Paul Rudd’s wife on TV. I was more interested in Casey’s enthusiasm for Christmas. She showed photos of her two Christmas trees and explained that one is in her bedroom. Casey had decorated three weeks prior, meaning at the beginning of November. She also has fake trees and uses a pine scented thing to try to replicate what real trees would smell like. Get rid of it then! Here’s some of what she told Ellen.

On how much she loves Christmas


I’ve had [two trees] up for three weeks. I have a tree that I call my hero tree in the living room and I have bedroom tree. I urge everyone to get a bedroom tree. It is so comforting, life is so hard. Can’t we gaze upon some beautiful lights in our bedroom? I’m getting a third tree, a real tree, after Thanksgiving. It’s hard to get a real tree October first. I hang these scented things in them to trick your brain. It kind of wafts. It’s a strong scent. The smell makes feel a little sick.

[From Ellen on YouTube]

After that Casey talked about some texts to her husband she posted where she yelled at him for being too loud when coming in at night. They have two sons, Max, six, and Henry, four, and she said she was trying to get them to sleep when she sent those messages. I remember that time well! I only had one child but bedtime was tough.

As for Casey’s love of Christmas, I only have one artificial Christmas tree. We always had real trees growing up and one year my mom got a second one. It felt cozy to go to another room and see a second tree, however it’s a pain to put up Christmas decorations and take them down a month later. Maybe that’s why Casey decorates at the beginning of November. One year I went to a Christmas party in a mansion that was decorated with two enormous trees in the great room, two trees in a side room and three trees upstairs in a study! I’m sure they had staffers putting those things up. Kudos to all of you who go all out for Christmas. Between working, cooking and taking care of the house I feel accomplished to have one tree and some decorations up. Honestly I just put up my tree this weekend.

Here’s that interview! The beginning is awkward as hell.


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photos credit: Avalon.red and Instar

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Beyonce reveals 4-year-old Rumi, who looks exactly like 9-year-old Blue Ivy

Sarah Jessica Parker filming 'And Just Like That...' in Manhattan Sunday afternoon

Beyonce continues to churn out collections for her Ivy Park X Adidas collaboration. The latest is for “the holiday season,” but it’s not holiday-themed. It’s not Christmas-y, nor is everything red and green. No, the latest Ivy Park collection is called Halls of Ivy, and she’s playing around with a preppy, Ivy League-college look. There’s also a tennis theme, because Beyonce likes tennis and her latest single is for the Richard Williams bio-pic, King Richard. She’s also close to both Serena and Venus Williams. Sidenote: neither Serena nor Venus will end up wearing Halls of Ivy. Serena can’t wear any of it because of the very strict terms of her Nike contract. Venus won’t wear it because she has her own tennis-kit line, EleVen.

In the short commercial for the new collection, Beyonce grabbed James Harden, Natalia Bryant (Kobe’s daughter), Ava and Deacon Phillippe and Jalen Green. Beyonce also included her two daughters, Blue Ivy and Rumi Carter. I haven’t seen a photo of Rumi since she was a baby and I (along with everyone else) was shocked to see how much Rumi looks like Blue Ivy, and how strong those Carter genes really are. Rumi is just a mini-Blue!! Rumi is also 4 years old, because time has no meaning. Blue is already 9 years old. Have we seen a recent photo of Sir? I wonder if he got all of the Knowles genes?

Blue Ivy pictured with her mother/client Beyoncé and sister Rumi. On set of an Ivy Park shoot where she served as creative director pic.twitter.com/nY7P1uv7Pu

— TheLimitDoesNotExist (@sylviamphofe) November 30, 2021

Instagram & screencaps courtesy of Ivy Park.