Ariana Grande, reigning teen pop idol with a defiant edge

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US singer Ariana Grande was named 2018 woman of the year by industry tracker Billboard. (AFP)
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Grande shattered a number of US chart records and released two albums in six months. (AFP)
Updated 12 April 2019

Ariana Grande, reigning teen pop idol with a defiant edge

  • Grande has proven poised in the face of tragedy and a deft manipulator of her own image, all while catapulting to global stardom
  • Grande is set to headline a number of major festivals as part of her global tour

PALM SPRINGS: Bubblegum pop coquette on the outside, saucy master of celebrity on the inside, there is perhaps no current star better at re-fashioning her own trials into larger-than-life success than Ariana Grande.
While suffering a highly publicized burst of personal and professional upheaval — the deadly 2017 Manchester bombing at one of her concerts, the suicide of her ex-boyfriend rapper Mac Miller, the demise of her whirlwind engagement to comedian Pete Davidson — Grande has proven poised in the face of tragedy and a deft manipulator of her own image, all while catapulting to global stardom.
Grande’s adept use of social media to slam her naysayers, drum up support from her “Arianator” fans and flirt with the gossip machine has created the perception that only she is in the driver’s seat.
After a resounding year of hits that saw industry tracker Billboard name the 25-year-old teen idol its 2018 woman of the year, Grande is set to headline a number of major festivals as part of her global tour, including this weekend’s influential Coachella lineup.
She’s just the fourth solo woman to headline the premier festival in the California desert — and the youngest artist ever to nab the coveted spot.
The feat comes after Grande shattered a number of US chart records and released two albums in six months, feeding the streaming beast with earworms while carving out her own version of the modern female pop star.

A Floridian by birth, the petite Italian-American Grande moved to New York as a teen for a spot on Broadway before finding fame on US kids network Nickelodeon.
She forayed into pop music shortly thereafter, releasing her debut studio album to commercial success in 2013.
A fan of miniskirts rarely seen without her signature ponytail snaking down past her hips, Grande had all the makings of a teen pop droid — batting her eyelashes and pouting her lips while wielding her impressive four-octave range to deliver saccharine lyrics.
But in recent years the superstar has co-opted that traditional ingenue image, adding a heavy dose of sex appeal and a biting demand for control.
In 2015 she issued a feminist manifesto attacking the public appetite for news on her personal life and those of other women.
And while last year’s “Sweetener” album — released in the midst of Grande’s turmoil — felt like an optimistic catharsis, her rapid follow-up “Thank U, Next” saw the star baring but owning her vulnerabilities, declaring this the year of Ariana.

Yet Grande’s celebration of feminine power while simultaneously flaunting her sexuality and pinning her art to her tumultuous love life has drawn criticism that she is propping up the very double standards she seeks to destroy.
Her hit “God is a Woman,” hailed as a coming-of-age empowerment anthem, was also derided as embracing tropes of women catering to male pleasure.
“In 2018, at the height of the #MeToo movement and when women are trying (and succeeding) at rising above our worth being tethered to our sexuality, this is the last thing we need,” wrote Erin Parker for the pop culture magazine Nylon.
Jacqueline Warwick, a scholar of music and gender studies at Canada’s Dalhousie University, agreed that Grande’s feminist bent can “feel a little hollow,” saying the star is “playing into these very conventional ways of looking at women’s bodies — and that seems certainly very well worn.”
But Warwick said Grande also “is articulating desire and speaking very frankly and candidly about her sexual pleasure — that’s certainly refreshing and possibly empowering.”
“It’s not easy for young women artists to be taken seriously and be successful in a pop medium without doing the things that she’s doing,” the academic told AFP.

In recent days Grande — often celebrated for supporting LGBT rights — was also accused of “queerbaiting,” teasing gay fans by suggesting in her new collaboration track “Monopoly” that she is bisexual.
“I think she’s certainly figured out that people are interested in her sex life — that it’s not a bad thing to keep people interested by dropping hints,” Warwick said.
Creating such buzz maintains a steady base keen for Grande’s next bop, which she’s taken to releasing whenever inspiration strikes.
She has voiced irritation with the commodified packaging of pop stars, championing the free release model more associated with hip hop artists.
“My dream has always been to ... put out music in the way that a rapper does,” Grande told Billboard recently.
“It’s just like, ‘Bruh, I just want to ... talk to my fans and sing and write music and drop it the way these boys do.’“


Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

Updated 28 February 2021

Dubai cat cafe hopes rescues will find purr-fect new homes

  • The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years
  • Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions

DUBAI: A haven for humans craving furry feline company, a cat cafe in Dubai also doubles as an adoption center for some of the United Arab Emirates’ many strays.
The Ailuromania Cat Cafe, which was the Middle East’s first cat cafe when it opened in 2015, hopes the relaxing properties of its 25 rescue and shelter cats will help find them their forever homes.
“Anyone who is stressed just has to find a cat. All your stress will go away,” said Omnia Fareed, whose two cat-loving sisters Allaa and Iman started the cafe after university, taking inspiration from similar establishments in Korea and London.
The cafe’s original residents were strays taken in by the family over the years. Now Ailuromania hosts cats from a government-run animal shelter in the neighboring emirate of Ras al Khaimah, hoping to increase adoptions.
The cafe’s name Ailuromania is a play on the Greek-derived English word for a lover of cats: ailurophile.
The cafe has regular customers who come seeking relaxation from the stresses of life, or because they cannot keep a cat at home.
“They are so cute, they love playing,” said visitor Shaasthra. She said she appreciates how the cafe looks after the cats’ welfare by advising people not to hold them or wake them up.
Another regular visitor, a street cat who would stare in through the window, was also invited and eventually adopted.
Since Dubai began lifting coronavirus lockdown measures last summer, the cafe re-opened with capacity and sanitization restrictions.
Dubai has a large number of stray cats, with many abandoned on the streets by their owners. In 2018 UAE authorities made it illegal to abandon animals, but animal welfare activists in Dubai have for years called for a large-scale trap-neuter-release scheme and feeding programs to bring numbers down humanely.
In August, Dubai municipality issued a circular restating a policy of fining anyone caught feeding strays, saying it increases the spread of diseases.


Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

Updated 24 February 2021

Chinese court orders man to pay former wife $7,700 for five years of housework

  • The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media

BEIJING: A Chinese court has ordered a man to pay his former wife 50,000 yuan ($7,700) as compensation for housework she did during their five-year marriage, state media reported on Wednesday.
Under a landmark civil code that seeks to better protect the rights of individuals, spouses can seek compensation from their partners in a divorce if they have shouldered more responsibilities — including housework.
The woman, who did not work outside the home during the marriage, sought compensation for housework she had done after her husband filed for divorce at a district court in Beijing last year.
The judge ruled in her favor, telling the man to pay 50,000 yuan for her labor, according to state television.
He must also pay 2,000 yuan a month to support their child, with other assets such as property to be divided equally.
The award of compensation for housework sparked debate on Chinese social media, with many netizens saying the amount was too little.
“A nanny’s annual income is already in the tens of thousands of yuan,” said a social media user. “This is too little.”


French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

Updated 11 February 2021

French nun, Europe’s oldest person, turns 117 after surviving COVID-19

  • Sister Andre is not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday
  • She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26

TOULON, France: Europe’s oldest person, French nun Sister Andre, turns 117 on Thursday after surviving COVID-19 last month and living through two world wars, with a special birthday feast including her favorite dessert — Baked Alaska.
Born Lucile Randon on February 11, 1904, Sister Andre said she didn’t realize she had caught the coronavirus, which infected 81 residents of her retirement home in the southeast city of Toulon, killing 10 of them.
“I’m told that I got it,” the nun said ahead of her birthday. “I was very tired, it’s true, but I didn’t realize it.”
But David Tavella, spokesman for the Sainte-Catherine-Laboure nursing home, said she had “experienced a triple confinement: in her wheelchair, in her room and without a visit.”
“So, her birthday, it reinvigorates us,” he added, following the deadly outbreak.
Sister Andre said she was not going to do anything special for her 117th birthday but the home is planning a celebration for her.
There will be a special mass at the home, which has a dozen nuns, and the chef is preparing a birthday feast of foie gras, capon fillet with porcini mushrooms and Sister Andre’s favorite dessert: baked Alaska, washed down with a glass of port.
She says her favorite food is lobster and she enjoys a glass of wine.
“I drink a small glass of wine every day,” she said.
Born in Ales in a Protestant family, she grew up as the only girl among three brothers.
One of her fondest memories was the return of two of her brothers at the end of World War I.
“It was rare, in families, there were usually two dead rather than two alive. They both came back,” she said last year, on her 116th birthday.
She converted to Catholicism and was baptized at the age of 26. She joined the Daughters of Charity order of nuns at the relatively late age of 41.
Sister Andre was then assigned to a hospital in Vichy, where she worked for 31 years and then spent 30 years in a retirement home in the French Alps before moving to Toulon.
She is the second-oldest living person in the world, according to the Gerontology Research Group, after Japanese woman Kane Tanaka, who is 118.
Asked what she would say to young people, Sister Andre said: “Be brave and show compassion.”


Rod Stewart lawyer: Plea deal in works in hotel altercation

Updated 31 January 2021

Rod Stewart lawyer: Plea deal in works in hotel altercation

  • The Stewart father and son were charged with misdemeanor battery stemming from an altercation with a security guard at a posh Florida hotel on New Year’s Day 2020

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida: Rod Stewart and his son have worked out details for a plea deal to settle misdemeanor battery charges stemming from an altercation with a security guard at a posh Florida hotel, a lawyer for the rock icon says.
Defense attorneys said Friday that Stewart and his son, Sean Stewart, would not be going to trial for the altercation at The Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach on New Year’s Day 2020, the South Florida SunSentinel reported. Stewart’s lawyers didn’t elaborate on the details.
The Stewarts’ lawyer, Guy Fronstin of Boca Raton, has been negotiating a plea deal with Assistant State Attorney Zachary O’Neill, according to the SunSentinel.
“It sounds like everything’s been worked out,” said attorney Alexandra Antonacci, speaking on behalf of Fronstin, the newspaper reported. She said paperwork still has to be completed in the case.
Prosecutors had no immediate announcement in the case, but did say Saturday that plea deal negotiations are ongoing.
Stewart, 76, and a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, is best known for such hits as “Maggie May” and “Tonight’s the Night.” The London-born singer was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2016.
Security guard Jessie Dixon told police then that the now 76-year-old Stewart and his family were at the check-in table for a private party that they weren’t authorized to attend.
Dixon said the group became loud and began causing a scene. Dixon told investigators he put his hand on the younger Stewart’s chest and told him to back up and make space, the report said.
That’s when Sean Stewart, the rock star’s 40-year-old son, got “nose to nose” with Dixon.
Sean Stewart then shoved Dixon backwards. Rod Stewart punched Dixon in his “left rib cage area” with a closed fist, a police report said.
The police report said Sean Stewart told investigators he became agitated when they were not able to attend the event “due to Dixon’s interaction with him and his family.”
Palm Beach officer Stephen Mancino said he viewed security footage at the hotel and determined that the Stewarts were the “primary aggressors.”
Two Breakers employees who were working the private event told police they saw Sean Stewart push Dixon and Rod Stewart punch the guard.
Dixon signed an affidavit saying that he wanted to press charges against the Stewarts.
An online court date is scheduled for March 26.

 

 


Lion cub Simba born in Singapore via artificial insemination

Updated 26 January 2021

Lion cub Simba born in Singapore via artificial insemination

  • It is rare for lions to be conceived through artificial insemination
  • Singapore’s new cub, named after the main character in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’

SINGAPORE: The Singapore Zoo has welcomed a lion cub named Simba to its animal kingdom following artificial insemination that officials said Tuesday was a first for the city-state.
It is rare for lions to be conceived through artificial insemination, with the procedure first carried out successfully in 2018 — resulting in two cubs in South Africa.
Lion populations in the wild have plummeted more than 40 percent over the past two decades, with about 23,000 to 39,000 mature animals left, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
It lists lions as vulnerable.
Singapore’s new cub, named after the main character in Disney’s “The Lion King,” was conceived with semen from an elderly African lion.
The father Mufasa, who also takes his name from the animated film, was in poor health and did not survive the procedure, the zoo said.
Simba, who was born in October, is being cared for by his mother Kayla and zookeepers, and is “healthy and inquisitive,” officials said.
A video showed Simba being fed from a bottle and playing with a ball.