“These songs tell stories and it’s our job to make those stories really, really clear,” she said. “I like for my performances to have meaning on many different levels; costuming, emotions, in my face, and then kind of visual stage pictures that explore the kind of emotions of the story of the song in really beautiful visual art ways. I kinda wanted to do something clever like that with these performances.”
Singer and YouTube star Austin Jones was arrested and charged this June for procuring pornographic videos from two 14-year-olds. The criminal complaint lists interactions he had with one girl in the summer of 2016 and another girl just last month; the court documents say, for instance, that in August 2016, Jones told one girl she was “so lucky” to be talking to him and that she should send him nude images to “prove” she was his biggest fan. At a hearing on June 14, a judge ordered the 24-year-old entertainer to stay offline.
Allegations of this nature should be shocking. But for a group of teen girls on the internet, the conversations described in court documents sound all too familiar.
Two years ago, in May 2015, several young women began publishing personal accounts on social media alleging that Jones, known for his a cappella covers of pop songs, had used his fame to solicit sexually suggestive videos from his fans. Unlike the current case, these were not pornographic videos, but the girls did say that he asked them to twerk for him in private messages, and that the older, more powerful man had made them uneasy, sometimes pressuring them into these performances.
The girls came forward because they wanted Jones “exposed,” as several put it to BuzzFeed News. And, at that time, they wanted him off the Vans Warped Tour, the traveling all-ages rock festival, which featured Jones in the summer lineup. These girls’ stories exploded within the YouTube community — and yet the allegations didn’t stick. Although he was quickly removed from the 2015 Grow Wild Tour lineup midway through the tour and, weeks later, booted from Warped Tour before his dates began, his career rebounded: When Jones was arrested this month, he was at an airport returning from a European tour; he had half a million subscribers on YouTube.
The girls said in 2015 that the singer had been inappropriate with them. Before posting about her experience, then–14-year-old Ashley decided that “he shouldn’t be able to have a huge following because it’s just easier for him to take advantage.” A mystified Chicago girl, who also said Jones requested that she twerk for him, told BuzzFeed News, “All that happened was he got kicked off Warped Tour and he went to therapy.” (Jones’ attorney did not respond to a request for comment on a detailed summary of this story.)
Two years ago, the girl from Chicago posted a video she’d gotten when she was 14 or 15 of Jones saying it was a good idea for them to stop talking because he was “horny”: “I’m horny, like, all the time, so if we just keep talking, I’m probably gonna ask for videos on, like, a daily basis,” he said in the clip. “So, it’s just, like, easier this way. Yeah. Sorry I’m a guy.” A third girl, Ashlee, who said the YouTuber asked her for twerking videos when she was 15, believed that if Jones had faced greater consequences in 2015, “It would have saved a lot of girls from being in that situation of ‘proving’ that they’re his biggest fan.”
The scandal first began in a haze of internet rumors. Damon Fizzy, a YouTuber who was on the Warped Tour lineup with Jones that year, told BuzzFeed News, “The stories were out there, but they were being ignored.” He remembered seeing comments online about strange interactions girls said they’d had with Jones, although he couldn’t remember exactly where he first read them. “I saw that he was manipulating underage girls for his own sexual gain,” he said, and he felt he had to do something. “I know the demographic of Warped Tour: It’s all underage girls.”
Fizzy told Jones’ manager at the time — another YouTuber named BryanStars — that Jones was asking his young fans for twerking videos; Jones recalled that BryanStars changed the subject. (BryanStars did not respond to a request for an interview.) Fizzy said he sent an email to Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman on May 8 that was full of stories he’d collected from young women online. He recalled Lyman saying he would look into it.
Things escalated quickly because on May 7, 2015, the day before Fizzy emailed Lyman, a bizarre video appeared on Twitter. It was posted by a girl named Star, who got the video from Ashley, who said she got the video from Jones about a year prior, when she was just 13. The footage shows Jones leaning into the camera smiling and saying, “Hey, cutie. So this is like, the first basic twerk move.” He laughs, and says gently, “This is what you do.” He turns around, demonstrating as he continues: “You stand with your legs apart, and bend your legs, and then you arch your back, and you unarch it. You do it faster. So it’s like this.” He twerks directly into the camera, and then in profile. He turns to face to the camera again, and says with a shy laugh, “Now it’s your turn.”
The tweet went viral, and Tiff — another girl who knew Jones in passing — saw it. “I contacted [Star] asking about how she obtained the video, etc. I was then directed to Ashley, who I spoke to, and we both decided we were going to try to get Austin kicked off his tours,” she said. Ashley said, “When I exposed him with the help of [Tiff], so many girls” — at least 20 — “came forward and had similar stories.”
“I thought Ashley was the only victim,” the original poster, Star, told BuzzFeed News. She was surprised when the tweet was met by a chorus of “me too.”
Fizzy also saw Ashley’s video the same day Star posted it. In response, he tweeted, “I do not feel comfortable touring with this dude.” Later that night, he tweeted about feeling “anxious,” and then he said, “Do what’s right.” The next day, “Why can’t people just be good people? Is it really that hard?”
And then on May 9, the day after contacting Lyman, Fizzy posted a tweet that went viral: “Austin Jones excuse for asking 13 year old girls for videos of them shaking their asses is because he found it funny…great excuse man!” A followup: “I feel like it is my responsibility to help protect people. That kind of behavior SHOULD NOT be tolerated.”
“If he was asking for these videos from the two of us, we knew he would have been asking others.”
Many other girls saw Fizzy’s tweets about Jones over the next few days, including Ashlee. She said she had tweeted about Jones’ twerking requests a year prior, in 2014, but he pressured her and her friend to delete their warnings; she said that, in private messages, Jones told them they were making his “anxiety and depression worse.” She and her friend had previously tried to publish their accounts after they realized he had asked both of them for videos, “because we knew we were not the only ones anymore. If he was asking for these videos from the two of us, we knew he would have been asking others.” After Fizzy had a hand in making these new allegations against Jones go viral, “My friend and I both posted our stories about Austin to show more proof of how disgusting he is,” Ashlee told BuzzFeed News. This time, with greater numbers and louder allies on her side, Ashlee tweeted her screenshots on May 10.
The day before, Tiff had sent Lyman a detailed email that contained links to tweets full of allegations and screenshots that seemed to show Jones asking for twerking videos from young fans. Tiff told Lyman that Jones “was attempting to solicit questionable videos and photos from minors while he was of legal age … many brave girls have began tweeting their experiences with Austin and expressed concern.” He had no place on the tour, she continued.
According to screenshots Tiff sent to BuzzFeed News, Lyman asked her, “[Tiff] do you have copies of the police reports? I have not been able to find them.” Then he sent her a second email: “You seen [sic] like a very caring person and are speaking with them. Please encourage them to go to their parents and police. It is the right thing to do, and being a ‘vine star,’ should not deter them.” Lyman also asked multiple people on Twitter for the “police reports.” The girls BuzzFeed News spoke with did not go to the police. (Notably, it’s unclear what the girls would have reported, since no one said Jones was soliciting — or sending — nude images, unlike the allegations in court documents from this month.)
BuzzFeed News could not find a contemporaneous announcement stating when Jones was kicked off Warped Tour, but a spokesperson for the tour said Jones was informed he was removed from the lineup on May 29, 2015 — at least 21 days after Lyman was informed of the controversy. Before making his final decision, Lyman had decried a “Salem witch hunt mentality” in the Alternative Press on May 11.
In an email to BuzzFeed News, Lyman wrote that the Warped Tour investigation entailed “phone calls, yes people still make them. Talked to a lot [of] people which might have taken those 2 [sic] weeks. … Kinda like the comey, Russia investigation but we did it a whole lot quicker.” He later added that he “it all comes down to due process. … Sometimes it takes time but usually comes to the right end.”
For Ashley, it was disappointing that it took so long to get Jones off Warped Tour. “People didn’t take it seriously enough back then,” she said. She read through the court documents published this month; she said she was horrified by the parallels between what Jones allegedly told the victims and what he told her when she was 13. After Ashley declined to send him a twerking video when he asked for one, “he told me that I was lucky to be even talking to him, similar to what he said in the police report … it’s crazy and disgusting.” (According to the documents, Jones exclaimed last summer to a 14-year-old girl online, “I bet you had NO IDEA when you met me that just 1 day later you’d get to show me your butthole how special do you feel?!”)
The first time around, Ashley said, “So many people defended him saying, ‘It’s just a dance! This isn’t a big deal.’” The sexual nature of these exchanges was minimized; there was no particular emphasis, for example, on the the evidence that he’d allegedly told a young girl, “Your body is nice. I like it.” Indeed, after the stories were made public, Jones himself emphasized multiple times that “nothing ever went further than twerking videos” and that he wrongly thought these conversations were “just fun and goofy.” For the most part, he didn’t deny the girls’ stories: He reframed them as youthful “mistakes.”
On June 29, 2015, Jones posted a video called “Setting The Record Straight.” In it, he talks for nearly 17 minutes — about how sorry he is; about how all the inappropriate messages happened in the past; about his sister’s death when he was a small child; about his absentee father’s death when he was 16; about his house burning down; about how, after the allegations emerged, he became suicidal. He repeatedly says he wasn’t trying to excuse his actions, but to explain that he asked underage girls to twerk for him because of “depression piling up into me searching for attention.”
In the video, Jones never refers directly to the sexual aspect of his requests. In this video — designed for a wider audience — he presented himself as a man reborn. “I don’t know how to show you guys that, but I think with time, you’ll see,” he said. “You’ll see that I’m better now.”
Some of the girls found “Setting The Record Straight” compelling, to a degree: the Chicago girl said the controversy “kind of died down after Austin pulled the I-almost-committed-suicide-about-it. … I stopped tweeting because I was like, Okay, I don’t want to be the cause of that.”
It seems the singer who now could face 15 to 30 years in prison for each count of child pornography was believed at the time, which is haunting to one girl who came forward in 2015. “It’s just so frustrating, how all of us presented pretty clear evidence that what he was doing was at least predatory,” said Taylor, who posted a video that described her experience with Jones. Taylor said that, once Jones emerged from the controversy effectively unscathed, she had to stop thinking about him: It was too upsetting to see his rise. “He continued to book national tours. … He was making money off the girls he was targeting. Just thinking about it — I cannot.”
Ariane Lange is an entertainment reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Ariane Lange at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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You can read Obama’s full remarks about Chance below, and watch her speech here:
“Thanks so much, Debra, and hello, BET family. Barack and I are so sorry that we cannot be there tonight in person, but please know that we are with you in spirit and we are so incredibly proud of you, Chance. We have known Chance and his family since he was a wee little baby rapper and it has been a thrill watching him come into his own in so many ways. In addition to making some really amazing music, Chance has been taking that big, bright spotlight that follows him around and he’s shining on young people in our hometown of Chicago. Time and again he has been standing up, speaking out, and doing the work to get kids in our community the education they deserve. And with these passionate efforts, Chance is showing our young people that they matter, that they have something inside of them that is worthy of being expressed, and that they have so much to contribute to their communities, and to our country. Chance, you are an outstanding role model and an inspiration to all of us who care about our next generation. Because of you, countless young people will grow up believing in themselves, fulfilling their god-given potential and then reaching back and lifting up other people along the way. I can think of no better legacy to leave and I am thrilled to celebrate you tonight and call you my friend. Thanks so much for everything you do. Congratulations, and god bless.”
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Which Disney dude with thick ass eyebrows would you rather?
Prince Eric from The Little Mermaid
Aladdin from Aladdin
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But, who knows, maybe I’m the crazy one. Would you attend this screening?
That explains why Woody is such a rare toy…Andy Sr. could’ve been the only kid to actually get his hands on one before the show was cancelled. In fact, Mozart’s tale says that all the other kids that sent in got a space toy instead, and a secretary fished Woody out of the trash to send to Andy Sr.
According to CBS, he’s there filming segments there for upcoming episodes of The Late Show.
During a drinking game of Russian roulette with host Ivan Urgant — where all the shots were apparently vodka — Colbert stopped for a second to make an announcement.
“I am here to announce that I am considering a run for president in 2020,” he joked, as the audience cheered.
“And I thought it would be better to cut out the middleman and just tell the Russians myself.
“If anyone would like to work on my campaign in an unofficial capacity, please just let me know,” he deadpanned. The Russian host then said they would do everything in their power to help.
Earlier Colbert raised a toast “to the beautiful and friendly Russian people.”
“I don’t understand why no members of the Trump administration can remember meeting you,” he joked.
Colbert also told Urgant he was “so honored” to be a guest on his show.
“This is the state TV, so you’re officially an employee of the state,” Colbert said.
“I look forward to going back to America and testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee about colluding with Russia,” he joked.
Watch the full interview (without subtitles) here:
DeMario Jackson will not return for Season 4 of Bachelor in Paradise, a source close to the contestant has confirmed to BuzzFeed News.
A representative for Warner Bros., which produces The Bachelor franchise for ABC, had no comment and a representative for ABC directed BuzzFeed News back to Warner Bros. A representative for Jackson also had no comment.
The news Jackson would not return to the show was first reported by TMZ. A source close to Jackson told BuzzFeed News that he could potentially return for a future season of the series.
Jackson and fellow Bachelor in Paradise Season 4 contestant Corinne Olympios were at the center of an alleged incident on the set earlier this month that led Warner Bros. to shut down production after complaints were filed by two producers.
On Tuesday, Warner Bros. announced that its investigation into the alleged incident revealed no evidence of misconduct.
As we previously stated, we recently became aware of allegations regarding an incident on the set of “Bachelor in Paradise” in Mexico. We take all such allegations seriously. The safety, security and well-being of the cast and crew is our number one concern, and we suspended filming so that the allegations could be investigated immediately and thoroughly. Our internal investigation, conducted with the assistance of an outside law firm, has now been completed. Out of respect for the privacy interests of those involved, we do not intend to release the videotape of the incident. We can say, however, that the tape does not support any charge of misconduct by a cast member. Nor does the tape show, contrary to many press reports, that the safety of any cast member was ever in jeopardy. Production on this season of Bachelor in Paradise will be resuming, and we plan to implement certain changes to the show’s policies and procedures to enhance and further ensure the safety and security of all participants.
Warner Bros. shut down production on Season 4 on June 11, pending an investigation into “allegations of misconduct.” As reports about the alleged incident took numerous lurid turns and cast members began speaking out, Jackson and Olympios both retained publicists and attorneys.
Olympios’s publicist did not immediately respond when BuzzFeed News asked about her status on Season 4 of Bachelor in Paradise.
But it seems unlikely that she would return, considering that on Tuesday, her attorney, Martin Singer, issued the below statement that calls into question the credibility of Warner Bros.’ findings:
It needs to be made crystal clear that production of Bachelor in Paradise was shut down because of multiple complaints received from BIP producers and crew members on the set. It was not shut down due to any complaint filed by Corinne against anyone.
It comes as no surprise that Warner Bros., as a result of its own internal Investigation, would state that no wrong doing had occurred. Our own investigation will continue based on multiple new witnesses coming forward revealing what they saw and heard.
Bachelor in Paradise Season 4 was originally scheduled to premiere on Aug. 8. A new premiere date has not been announced.
“I initially became interested in this bill because as an Afro-Latina immigrant, I knew what it felt like to grow up feeling invisible in American culture. It was so rare to see a character of color on television, and when you did see one, it felt like they were tokenized, stereotyped, or killed off quickly,” she said. “And while the industry has made some strides on representation in front of the camera, diversity behind the camera is still sorely lacking. I think the overall quality of television, the different kinds of stories that can be told, the overall landscape of the art form will benefit greatly from having opportunities for diverse people to tell their stories. It was a tough battle, but I stuck with the bill because of the future generations of talented women and people of color who would otherwise remain undiscovered, and the inspiration their stories could bring to countless young people and immigrants like myself.”
BuzzFeed News also reached out to representatives for Assemblymember Crespo for a statement.
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Who do you think will take home the crown tomorrow night?