From grovelling influencer Caroline Calloway to self-proclaimed ‘scam victim’ Ja-Rule: we’re rounding up the fuck-ups so you don’t have to
One of Mean Girls’ greatest lines is “I’m sorry I called you a gap tooth bitch. It’s not your fault you’re so gap-toothed.” It’s a line that comes to mind on an almost daily basis in the year of our Lord, 2019, when apologies are innumerable, with ridiculous faux pas, scandals, and statements of regret filling our timelines constantly. The cycle is pretty played out by now: someone does something scandalous or downright bigoted, then comes the online rage in response, which is tempered with some quick, pitiful penance faster than you can say “cancelled”.
It happens so often in pop culture now that we can barely keep track, or reflect on what we’ve learned. Any commentary that does happen rarely focuses on the banality of the outrage cycle. Take January: it was a sufficiently long and dry month, yet it was still full of sorrys. So, in our new Apologies of the Month column, we’re going to chart the good, the bad, and the ugly: everything from actual remorse to half-arsed nonsense. Strap in.
THE GOOD: CHANCE THE RAPPER AND LADY GAGA
When it comes to seasoned celebrities, missteps can really feel like a letdown. Take the friendly veneer of Chance the Rapper, or Lady Gaga, who is a known vocal critic of sexual assault. It’s confusing that either of them would work with disgraced R&B singer R. Kelly given how widespread the allegations against him were even before it reached a tipping point recently. With more molestation accusations coming to light in the docuseries Surviving R. Kelly this month, both artists quickly apologised. But they also did more than just saying sorry. Both musicians pulled their collaborative works with R. Kelly from streaming sites amid the news that streaming figures of his songs had actually jumped.
THE BAD: JA RULE
This month, we relived the doomed Fyre festival through not one, but two documentaries. Netflix’s offering was a high octane journey through the eyes of the people who worked and believed in the idyllic Bahamian festival, and laid bare how dire the situation really was. But the story of Maryann Rolle was by far the most touching. It brought brief focus to the true victims of Fyre – the local workforce who laboured tirelessly in the blazing Bahamian heat, and in the end we’re left with nothing. Rolle revealed that not only was she not paid, she then spent her life savings paying the workers who were left behind when the Fyre team bolted from the island.
Ja Rule, in an Instagram post, wrote: “My heart goes out to this lovely lady Maryann Rolle. We’ve never met but I’m devastated that something that was meant to be amazing, turn(ed) out to be such a disaster and hurt so many people... SORRY to anyone who has been negatively affected by the festival.” Er, Ja, that’s literally everyone who worked on or attended this festival. And yet, in the Netflix documentary, the rapper-entrepreneur can be heard saying “it’s not like anybody died,” on a crisis talk conference call.
Absolutely no one felt sorry for Ja Rule when he then took to Twitter to claim that he was a victim of Billy McFarland’s scam too, saying: “I too was hustled, scammed, bamboozled, hoodwinked, lead astray.” In the end what use is an Instagram apology from a man whose net worth is $8 million? It seems performative to not personally contact Rolle, or donate any funds. Thank God for GoFundMe.
THE BAD: CAROLINE CALLOWAY
Joining Ja in the cesspit of bad apologies was an Instagram star. It seems the tides are starting to turn a little on the influencer wave, and more scrutiny is being given to the way those with fame and reach use their platforms. Instagram influencer Caroline Calloway was publicly shamed earlier this month for embarking on a world tour at $165 a ticket. In return, she would teach her workshop attendees how to be their “most authentic and creative selves”, and gift them mini gardens in mason jars, handwritten personal letters, designed tote bags, crystals, oatmeal, and salad. She sold tickets worth more than $30,000 before she even had any venues.
The Instagram influencer started to attract accusations that she was either a fantasist or a scam artist when she began to go back on her promises. She was overwhelmed by the number of jars that were delivered to her (over 1000); she couldn’t find time to make salad; the letters became emails, and barely any were sent. Women who attended the New York dates (before the whole operation crumbled) sat on the floor eating lettuce for $165. There obviously would be no world tour.
In a statement on (where else) Instagram, Calloway apologised for letting her “total inexperience with event planning and GREED” create a situation where people were paying too much for too little. She said that she would refund everyone. This was, surprisingly, a good apology. She appeared like she had taken accountability for the clusterfuck and was set to return the money. Which would have been the bare minimum – Ja Rule and Billy McFarland should take notes. However, in a bitter twist, she reinstated her tour, promised more add-ons, and rebranded it as a session on “resilience” and remaining steadfast in achieving your goals. She’s even started selling merch emblazoned with the name of the journalist who uncovered this story. It reads: “STOP HATE-FOLLOWING ME, KAYLEIGH” and costs $20. So she’s not learned anything.
THE UGLY: THE BBC
Diane Abbott is the UK’s first black woman to hold a seat in the commons, and one day we will look back and analyse how she is routinely disrespected and humiliated by smug pundits. On Question Time, the Labour MP was mocked in the warm-up before filming. A sound expert on Twitter added further fuel to the fire when they said based on their experiences they believed the entire set-up was designed to silence her. “I can confirm that Abbott’s microphone was deliberately turned down (and the others turned up) to make her sound weaker,” he wrote. “And, to make it more difficult for her to defend herself”. In the Independent, Abbott called the treatment a disgrace saying she’d been interrupted twice as much as the Tory MP, had fewer chances to speak, and wasn’t allowed to defend herself against abuse. And, on air, she was repeatedly corrected by guests and the host – even when she was right. New host, Fiona Bruce, talked down to Diane saying that Labour were behind in the polls when Diane was right in saying that they are mostly either tied or ahead in polls. In response, the BBC issued a statement said that there was one poll where Conservatives were in the lead. “Diane Abbott was also right,” they said. “We should have made that clear.” That barely qualifies as an apology. “Also right” manages to bypass the fact that everybody else was definitely wrong for correcting Diane. Honestly, why was it so easy to say she was wrong on air, yet so hard for them to say they got it wrong in retrospect?
As an impartial broadcaster with such a wide reach, the BBC has the responsibility to give both parties an equal platform, and shouldn’t be so laid back with bullying and loose fact-checking. It’s ugly because the way she was treated lends legitimacy to bigots everywhere who get a kick out of belittling the most abused female MP. We’re still waiting on a proper apology for Aunty Diane.
We've reviewed what was said re polling on @bbcquestiontime. A YouGov poll published on the day of the programme suggested a lead for the Conservatives. Diane Abbott was also right that some other polls suggested Labour either as ahead or tied, & we should have made that clear.— BBC News Press Team (@BBCNewsPR) January 19, 2019