We’re pleased to bring you “While You Were Out”—Verily quick takes on the happenings of this week.
Prince Andrew's Accuser Appears in Dramatic Interview on BBC
The British royal family’s crisis deepened this week as Virginia Roberts (now Giuffre), who has accused Prince Andrew of sexual abuse in the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, gave an interview to BBC Panorama.
Giuffre says she was just seventeen when trafficked to the prince and other wealthy, powerful men. She allegedly slept with Andrew three times during rendezvous arranged by sex offender Epstein’s former girlfriend, Ghislaine Maxwell. “I just didn’t expect it from royalty,” Giuffre told BBC in a program aired on Monday. She described how the morning after her first encounter with Andrew, Maxwell patted her on the back and told her, “You did a really good job,” and “you made him really happy.”
Both Maxwell and Prince Andrew have strenuously denied the allegations, but the prince’s credibility took a major hit following his own interview with BBC in November. Public reaction was volcanic after Andrew said he’d stayed at Jeffrey Epstein’s mansion in New York despite Epstein's sex crime conviction because Andrew was “too honorable” to end their friendship over the phone. He also made a feeble attempt to contradict details of Giuffre’s story, saying that her comments about him sweating on a dance floor couldn’t be true, because he supposedly couldn’t perspire due to an old war injury.
In the aftermath, Queen Elizabeth II removed Prince Andrew—long rumored to be her favorite son—from performing public duties. This barely seems an adequate response, given the sordid acts he is accused of. —Margaret Brady
Five Thousand Dead in World's Worst Measles Epidemic
The World Health Organization is sounding the alarm as global infection rates for measles are seeing a significant rise. In the world's most dangerous outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, casualties include nearly five thousand dead victims and almost 250 thousand who have been sickened.
Measles is a virus that causes a red rash that spreads over an affected person’s body. Although most who get infected survive the disease, it can cause lifetime disability and turn deadly if it affects the lungs or brain. It’s particularly dangerous for pregnant moms and babies in the womb. About 25 percent of patients need hospitalization.
An effective vaccine for measles exists but unfortunately many areas of the world have vaccination rates that are less than ideal. In the DCR, the rate stands at about 80 percent. In the tiny Pacific island nation of Samoa, meanwhile, more than 4,000 people have been infected with the virus, causing a state of emergency in which children are banned from public events, all schools have been closed, and vaccines are now mandatory. The BBC reports that families who aren’t vaccinated have been asked to hang red flags outside their homes to help inoculation teams going door to door. Even with these efforts, the vaccination rate currently stands at only 55 percent. Sixty people have died. —MB
Cycling Fitness Brand Peloton Flubs Its Holiday Commercial
The cycling fitness brand Peloton has become a trending topic on social media due to the company’s recent holiday ad. In a thirty-second commercial, a woman documents her year-long fitness journey after receiving a Peloton stationary bike as a Christmas gift from her husband. Critics called it tone-deaf and sexist, claiming that it sent the wrong message. "A year ago, I didn't realize how much this would change me," the woman says. People on social media jokingly compared the ad to the dystopian Netflix show Black Mirror and expressed sympathy for the “Peloton Wife,” whose husband thinks she needs to lose weight.
According to Bloomberg, the backlash against the ad was so intense that Peloton’s stock dropped at least ten percent. Fans of the stationary bike have responded in support of the company and the ad, and Peloton responded saying that the commercial was misinterpreted. “Our holiday spot was created to celebrate that fitness and wellness journey,” a company representative wrote. “While we’re disappointed in how some have misinterpreted this commercial, we are encouraged by—and grateful for—the outpouring of support we’ve received from those who understand what we were trying to communicate.” —Gabriella Patti
'The Devil Wears Prada' is Coming to Broadway . . . and Elton John is Writing the Music
Reports this week said that Tony-winning actress Beth Leavel has been cast in the role of Miranda Priestly for the upcoming musical adaptation of The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep collected one of her many Academy Award nominations when she took her iconic turn as Miranda in the film version, bringing to life the powerful and ultra-demanding fashion editor not-so-subtly based on Vogue’s Anna Wintour.
Andy Sachs, the heroine who finds herself in an unenviable position as Miranda's second assistant and thus, directly in her line of fire, will be played by Taylor Iman Jones. The music is being written by Sir Elton John. If this production is anything like the film, attendees will also get to feast their eyes on incredible designer clothes—back in 2006, The Devil Wears Prada was believed to be the most expensively-costumed film of all time, featuring copious garments from Prada, of course.
Fans should save the date for July 2021 when the show is scheduled to open on Broadway in Chicago’s CIBC Theatre, running into August before switching to a New York venue. We can only imagine what great show tunes will be built around one-liners like “Florals? For spring? Groundbreaking.” —MB
Convicted Terrorist Attempts Killing Spree on London Bridge and Is Disarmed by Witnesses
Last Friday, a convicted terrorist stabbed and killed two people, injuring three more, in London. Usman Khan, released early from prison last year, had attended a criminal rehabilitation program at nearby Cambridge University before he went on a rampage on the London Bridge. He had just participated as a volunteer speaker on prison reform in the school’s “Learning Together” program, which seeks to provide support and resources for reformed criminals.
The two people whom he stabbed to death, 25-year-old Jack Merritt and 23-year-old Saskia Jones, were working that very event as part of the “Learning Together” program. It would seem, for reasons not quite understood, that he sought to kill the very people who wanted to help him most.
Fortunately, passersby on the busy bridge quickly became aware of the rampage and ran towards the violence, pinning down and disarming the stabber. Police, responding to reports of multiple stabbings on the London Bridge, noticed his "suicide vest" (later determined to be fake), and immediately killed him.
Alarmed as London citizens are, there has been much talk about the heroism of those who raced to the scene of the crimes and took matters into their own hands. In the words of one responder, Lukasz, a porter at Fishmonger’s Hall who was wounded in his attempt to stop the stabber, “I and several others tried to stop a man from attacking people inside the building. I did this using a pole I found. Someone else was holding a narwhal tusk [taken off a wall hanging]. . . The man attacked me, after which he left the building. A number of us followed him out but I stopped at the bollards of the bridge. I had been stabbed and was later taken to hospital to be treated. I am thankful that I have now been able to return home.” His story is a reminder of the heroism it takes to risk one’s own life to save others. —Mariel Lindsay
Victoria's Secret Canceled Its Fashion Show
The Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show was canceled this year by the lingerie brands parent company L Brands, following years of controversy, low ratings, and criticism. “We think it’s important to evolve the marketing of Victoria’s Secret," L Brands Chief Financial Officer Stuart Burgdoerfer said. "We’re figuring out how to advance the positioning of the brand and best communicate that to customers."
The company has continued to lose customers and has reported declining sales, especially as competing companies such as ThirdLove, Savage X Fenty, and even Target have produced lingerie brands that celebrate realistic and diverse body types. Furthermore, the company has had to perform damage control due to the ties between L Brand founder and CEO Leslie Wexner and Jeffery Epstein.
Victoria’s Secret's lack of diversity and the presentation of models as angels with unattainable body types is troubling, but the show’s exploitation of women and their sexuality was even more so. The show objectified women, both the models and the viewers, and reduced beauty to the superficial. At this time, it is unclear as to whether or not this will be a permanent cancellation, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. —GP
'Supergirl' Star Melissa Benoist Shares She Was in a Domestically Violent Relationship
In an incredibly vulnerable and raw video posted to her Instagram, actress Melissa Benoist, of Supergirl and Glee fame, shared with her followers that she was once in a domestically violent relationship. In a nearly 15-minute video captioned “Life Isn’t Always What It Seems,” she explained that she “doesn’t normally do things like this,” but that she felt it was important to share her story. In the clip, Benoist shares the timeline of how a romantic partner manipulated and controlled her and became physically violent. Benoist did not name her abuser in the video. "Breaking that cycle was the most rewarding, empowering choice I've ever made for myself," she said. "I feel an enduring strength. I will be healing from this for the rest of my life."
Since she posted the video, Benoist has received an outpouring of support from fans and fellow celebrities alike and #IStandWithMelissa was trending on Twitter. We applaud Benoist’s bravery, and we hope that her courage inspires and gives hope to other women who suffer domestic violence to find safety. —GP
Good News of the Week
If you're looking to give back this holiday season, look no further than the U.S. Postal Service’s Operation Santa, which got underway earlier this week. By visiting the program’s website, would-be elves (that’s you!) can read letters real children have sent to Santa Claus, “adopt” them, and then make the kids’ wishes come true by sending them their requested gifts! Some children ask for toys, others for basic necessities, and still others for help for their families. Check it out at uspsoperationsanta.com. —MB
Watch of the Week
The latest trailer for the live-action Mulan has dropped, and it looks so good!
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