Meet the Rebel Behind Fashion’s Favorite Instagram Memes

In September of last year, a meme of Jennifer Lopez standing in front of a climate change demonstration dressed in her green jungle print Versace gown unexpectedly blew up on Instagram. The photo was reposted by Naomi Campbell, Amber Valletta, Carine Roitfeld and leading fashion sound director Michel Gaubert.

“This image had a significant impact on my Instagram account,” says Thomas Lélu, who originally uploaded the image. “The celebrities who reposted the image recognized there was a message when it came to fashion responsibility in the face of the climate crisis.”

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Prior to that viral post, the French artist had been steadily amassing a strong online following thanks to a series of fashion memes and artworks that show off his ironic sense of humor. Among the most memorable is a closeup shot of Justin Bieber‘s face with his skin breaking out behind an “Acne Studios” logo, a fake Diesel campaign starring Vin Diesel and a young Celine Dion posing for “Celine Dior.”

Lélu, who’s currently a director at La Cité art gallery and was previously the creative director of French Playboy, has been experimenting with what we now know as meme culture well before the age of Instagram. In 2003, he published a book called Récréations that features collages with games around brands and celebrities. Sarah Andelman held a launch party at her now-closed Paris boutique Collette for the book of collages, which Lélu says are “ancestors of meme pictures.”

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A post shared by Thomas Lélu (@thomaslelu) on Jul 13, 2019 at 9:17am PDT

“Every day, I’m looking on the internet for inspiring images or subjects to be treated,” he says of how he develops his material. “Whether political or related to fashion, my inspiration comes from the news and what interests me is to create images that echo this news. They are like humor notes or caricatures in the journalistic tradition.”

Another aspect of his work that gets widely circulated is his “Philoselfies:” images of celebrities taking selfies where their phones are swapped out with a book on philosophy. Some of the standouts include Bella Hadid with a “copy” of On the Heights of Despair and Kylie Jenner holding Beyond Good and Evil.

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A post shared by Thomas Lélu (@thomaslelu) on Sep 15, 2019 at 12:45am PDT

Indeed, Lélu’s work has become so recognizable within fashion circles and beyond that he’s now doing art projects for them on the side. So far he’s create a filter for Gucci based on his “Philoselfie” concept and he’s also preparing a collection of phone cases for Casetify with the same idea.

Lélu’s latest project sees him designing more fashion memes for the luxury retailer Browns. To coincide with its new season of offerings, they asked Lélu to put a twist on some of the brands they carry including Jacquemus, Maison Margiela and Marine Serre. See, below, for a selection of this work and see more at BrownsFashion.com.






Photos courtesy of Thomas Lélu

Doja Cat Responds to Racism Accusations

Doja Cat has responded to accusations of racism.

Over the weekend, the star came under scrutiny after her 2015 song called “Dindu Nuffin” resurfaced. The song title is a racist slur used to mock Black victims of police brutality. Additionally, Doja was accused of appearing in racist chats in the past, which led to hashtags like #DojaCatIsOverParty and #OnlyKlans going viral.

In response to the backlash, Doja issued a statement via her Instagram on Sunday night to apologize “to everyone that I offended.”

“I’ve used public chat rooms to socialize since I was a child. I shouldn’t have been on some of those chat room sites, but I personally have never been involved in any racist conversations,” she began. “I’m sorry to everyone that I offended.”

Doja then went on to say that she is “very proud” of her Black South African background and where she comes from, adding that the aforementioned song “was in no way tied to anything outside of my own personal experience.”

“It was written in response to people who often used that term to hurt me,” Doja explained, before saying, “I made an attempt to flip its meaning, but recognize that it was a bad decision to use that term in my music.”

Doja also tried to reassure her fans she is “taking this all very seriously,” and that she’s “sorry for upsetting or hurting any of you.”

“That’s not my character, and I’m determined to show that everybody moving forward,” she said.

See Doja’s statement in full, below.

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A post shared by Doja Cat (@dojacat) on May 24, 2020 at 8:10pm PDT

Photo via Getty


Common Launches #WeMatterToo to Protect Incarcerated People

Rapper and philanthropist Common is here to remind us of an often overlooked, but crucial group that we need to prioritize in this pandemic: incarcerated peoples who are unable to social distance, nor practice efficient hygiene. If ignored, outbreaks within these tight spaces could adversely affect millions of incarcerated Americans.

After meeting inmates from juvenile detention centers, jails and prisons nationwide, Common was inspired to create the #WeMatterToo campaigns with his criminal justice reform organization, Imagine Justice, and 70+ other organizations. #WeMatterToo urges authorities to release anyone who has served the majority of their sentence, and prioritizes those with existing health conditions as coronavirus continues to threaten safety. Another major goal of the campaign is for the government to fund testing and housing for inmates after they are released.

Related | How a COVID-19 Emergency Amendment Act Affects Incarcerated People

“We have to be there for our vulnerable communities including our people who are currently incarcerated,” Common wrote in a recent Instagram post, “Our fates are tied together so we must be courageous and act now.”

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Let this time show us that we are all interconnected. We have to be there for our vulnerable communities including our people who are currently incarcerated. Our fates are tied together so we must be courageous and act now. I’m proud to launch #WeMatterToo today alongside 70+ organizations who have dedicated their time and energy to supporting our brothers and sisters currently in prisons, jails and detention centers around the country during this scary and uncertain time. Every single life matters. Take action today by clicking the link in my bio!

A post shared by Common (@common) on May 13, 2020 at 8:46am PDT

He also uploaded a short film with recordings and interviews from inmates concerned and fearful of the virus spreading in confined spaces. In the powerful video, you can hear inmates describe their living conditions: bunk beds, cells containing six people, etc. “If it comes in here,” a voice says, “it will spread like wildfire.”

The two-minute film keeps the inmates’ names anonymous, as they also explain how jail officials did not provide them with any protective gear or sanitize their showers.

According to recent data calculated by the US Bureau of Prisons, there are 2,820 federal inmates and 266 BOP staff who have confirmed positive test results for COVID-19 nationwide — and that figure is only based off of those tested. This alarming number and lack of accessible testing makes Common’s campaign all the more imperative.

For more information, to learn how to help, and to watch the short film in full, visit the We Matter Too website here.

Photo via Getty/ Dia Dipasupil/ WireImage

Dua Lipa Goes Virtual on ‘The Late Late Show’

Dua Lipa made her first appearance on James Corden’s The Late Late Show last night via video chat. Joined by her dancers and band, the pop star performed her hit song “Don’t Start Now” from her just-released sophomore album, Future Nostalgia.

Related | ‘Future Nostalgia’ Is Just Too Fucking Good

Lipa’s set started out by her singing on-screen and gradually incorporated her dancers and band, all of whom were performing from their own homes and managing to stay beautifully in sync. Ever the good sport, Lipa even urged fans watching to “make some noise” from the comfort of their own couch (or bed).

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Sending you all love and healthhh from OUR HOUSE TO YOURS ❤️ #Homefest @j_corden. #FutureNostalgia out nowwww

A post shared by DUA LIPA (@dualipa) on Mar 31, 2020 at 3:00am PDT

Check out the performance above and stream the album, below.

Photo via Instagram

Megan Thee Stallion Responds to Criticism of Her Twerking

While it’s no secret that Megan Thee Stallion is an expert twerker, it turns out that she’s been dealing with some backlash related to her love of a good butt-bounce.

Recently, the rapper sat down with Genius to chat about everything from her musical inspirations to her appreciation of the women who raised her. And while most of the conversation centered around her new album, there was also some talk about the trolls who think she spends too much time dancing.

Related | Megan Thee Stallion Was Made For This

“I don’t know when it happened, that sometimes people get offended by twerking, but that shit is crazy,” she said. “I love to throw my ass. I love to shake my ass. That’s one of my favorite things to do, and I be seeing motherfuckers be like, ‘All you do is shake your ass.'”

However, Megan refuted the criticism by listing a number of other things she does, before talking about how some of her nitpicking haters may be willfully ignoring some important details.

“I be like, ‘Damn. Actually, I go to school and I rap and sometimes I be cooking. I’m a dog mom. I’m an awesome friend. [Twerking is] not all I be doing,” Megan added. “It’s just that maybe when you’re logging in, you came to see me twerk. ‘Cause you ain’t see that freestyle I just dropped?’ I can rap and twerk.”

Watch Megan’s response, below.

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“I don’t know when it happened, that people get offended by twerking. It’s not all I be doing, it’s just that maybe when you loggin’ in, you came to see me twerk, ’cause you ain’t see that freestyle I just dropped? I can rap and twerk.” —@theestallion on “B.I.T.C.H.” 😤💯 #AppleMusicXGenius

A post shared by Genius (@genius) on Mar 25, 2020 at 10:31am PDT

Photo via Getty

Kesha Wants You to Trash her Room in ‘Blessed Mess’

If you’re holed up in your apartment in the spirit of social distancing, and waiting out the COVID-19 outbreak, there’s only one thing to do: play Kesha‘s new video game.

The singer, who released her album High Road in February, has partnered with Spotify to create an interactive online game called “Blessed Mess,” a reference to her single with Big Freedia “Raising Hell.”

Related | Don’t Cry for Kesha

The goal is to trash Kesha’s room — throwing books, bottles, brushes, etc. — and basically wreck everything in sight to unlock “Kesha’s secrets.” Depending on how high you score, you also get to access some cool exclusive content from the pop star like photos, never-before-seen videos, and more.

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If you are like me – holed up in your home washing your hands over and over – I’ve got just the game for you! Check out the link in bio and pass the time by trashing my room and unlocking some cool exclusive sh!t that I’ve gathered up for you all! stay healthy and safe 💕

A post shared by Kesha (@iiswhoiis) on Mar 13, 2020 at 3:53pm PDT

It’s definitely a great way to pass the time in between hand washes.

You can play the game here.

Photo via Getty

Influencer Paul Zimmer Scrutinized For Alleged Actor Rebranding Scam

An influencer named Paul Zimmer is being accused of trying to scam his millions of followers into following an up-and-coming teen actor named “Troy Becker” — who many believe is actually just Zimmer.

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Zimmer, who’s believed to be 24, originally rose to prominence on the TikTok-owned Musical.ly app where he posted videos of himself dancing and flashing his abs for his 7 million followers. However, according to The New Statesman, he went dark in 2017 after it came to light that he had been getting “gifts” from followers in exchange for things like personal videos, which he did not deliver on — an incident that sparked the #BanPaulZimmer tag.

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Related | How TikTok Conquered 2019

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That said, this past October, Zimmer appeared to return to Instagram with a bizarre announcement about Becker, who he said “literally looks like a younger sexier version of me.” And though it appears as if Becker’s account has since been taken down, as the publication reports, it initially had only a few followers and a post in which the actor said he was blessed to be filming my TV show.”

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This actor @TroyBeckerIG kid literally looks like a younger sexier version of me 😂 I don’t even use social media anymore but had to post this hahah😂😂

A post shared by @ paulzimmer on Oct 13, 2019 at 7:34pm PDT

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In a later post, Zimmer went on to say that he would be leaving social media. But what caught people’s attention was the announcement that he would be “giving” all of his accounts — and by extension, his millions of followers — to Becker.

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But why? “He is one of the dopest people I know and he is literally my younger twin my much younger twin,” Zimmer wrote. “I believe Troy is 15 or 16 years old hahaha …”

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Hey it’s Paul Zimmer, this is prolly gonna be my last social post ever. I must say that I am very grateful for social media and I have had such a fun time using all these different social platforms and having the opportunity to entertain millions of people for many years 🙏🏼 with this being said I have come to a place in my life where being in the spotlight and being an entertainer is no longer my passion… although it deeply saddens me to leave so bluntly, especially that so many of you have watched me for so many years…. I didn’t wanna leave my social media pages just sitting to die… soo I have decided to give my social media accounts to @troybeckerig because he is one of the dopest people I know and he is literally my younger twin😂 my much younger twin I believe Troy is 15 or 16 years old hahaha😂 I know that @troybeckerig is busy filming his TV show and a movie but I hope he spends some time on here to bring joy to y’all! Thank you all so much for supporting me, I am sending all of my love to each and everyone of you ❤️

A post shared by @ paulzimmer on Dec 18, 2019 at 1:48pm PST

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Granted, it didn’t take long for his fans to question the strange move and posit that Zimmer was just trying to rebrand himself as an actor via some shady, underhanded scamming.

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As one Zimmer fan named Haylo Hayley said in a video, “If you listen to [Troy’s voice] it sounds exactly the same as Paul Zimmer.” Not only that, but another YouTuber named Danny Gonzalez also ended up finding photos of Becker on the Instagram of acting school the Heller Approach about four months before Zimmer’s reemergence.

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Additionally, cached versions of Becker’s empty IMDb page from October 2019 list “Paul Zimmer” as Becker’s “nickname” and previously contained the trivia tidbit that “Troy Becker is an alter ego of Paul Zimmer of musical.ly fame” — though these things could’ve been added by fans, as noted by The New Statesman.

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Surprise yourself. Take risks. See what colors come out in the moment. #thehellerapproach #nonmethodacting #bradheller #acting #film #television #freeactingtips #actorstudio #theateracting #screenacting #commercialacting #training #audition #auditioning #moviestar #celebrity #drama #comedy #farce #filmgnere #filming #donrichardson #skype #grouptheater #hollywood #losangeles #troybecker #mattsato #mathewsato

A post shared by The Heller Approach (@thehellerapproach) on Jun 9, 2019 at 7:09pm PDT

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Regardless, according to the publication, there are now over 10,000 comments on Zimmer/Becker’s recent TikToks criticizing the apparent rebrand, with people saying things such as “Paul it’s really creepy you’re pretending to be 16” and “nobody is falling for it.”

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That said, it also appears as if Zimmer/Becker is not ready to cop to the scam, as Becker is still posting TikToks about his weird “resemblance” to Zimmer. Either way, check out one of his videos, below.

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@troybeckerreal

What’s up it’s Troy Becker! 😊 do y’all think we look alike? I honestly don’t see it 😅#twins

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Photo via Instagram / @PaulZimmer