I’ll be honest: I really haven’t been keeping up with the entertainment world lately. I know that Freeform’s The Bold Type is promoting feminism and female writers in the very best ways. I know that Paramore just dropped an amazing album and that I’m seeing them on tour in just a few months. I know that Fifth Harmony themselves are pulling a Paramore and releasing a self-titled album following a falling-out with a now ex-band member.
I also know that Fifth Harmony were recently labeled as “divas” on the basis that they simply refused to answer a question clearly intended to cause drama.
My heart truly hasn’t been as in love with Fifth Harmony as it used to be, but I blame that more on my age than anything else. Nevertheless, I decided to sit down and listen to the full interview given by Dan Wootton, editor for The Sun and host of the podcast, Bizarre Life. I didn’t expect much- perhaps a poke at Camila Cabello, who left the band nearly a year ago. Maybe a prying open of the girls’ private lives; the usual bullshit the media loves to spew on a daily basis.
And sure, there was plenty of that. One of the first questions asked by Wootton targets Cabello’s exit. Initially, the quartet deflects, says that the falling out was painful but it is in the past, that Fifth Harmony is focused on their futures and their careers, rather than that of Cabello. This answer should have sufficed, as it did with every other media outlet. Fifth Harmony simply want to focus on Fifth Harmony, on their new album coming out in a matter of days. It doesn’t serve anyone to keep reviving the chaos of the past, but it’s clear after a few minutes of the interview that Wootton simply doesn’t understand this notion. Instead, he continues to prod. There seems to be some tension, he says. “You guys have had a bit of a break-up on social media-”
That’s as far as he gets, though, before Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui cuts him off. As politely she can, she asks Wootton if he can drop the question.
“We want to talk about our new music,” says Jauregui. “We don’t wanna be shady, man.”
You’d think after that, the question would be dropped. In a perfect world where Wootton is a professional host rather than an immature man trying to start up drama between women in the music industry, maybe that would be the case. Unfortunately, however, Wootton argues that his question about Cabello is news, and thus it should be discussed. It’s then that Fifth Harmony’s PR cuts into the interview, ordering Wootton to move onto the topic of the group’s forthcoming album.
At this point in the interview, I’ve assumed the worst has already occurred. An interviewer wanted to squeeze an ounce of drama out of the girl group who’s made headlines with their statements regarding Cabello’s exit. It’s happened multiple times before, and now that Wootton’s gotten it out of his system, hopefully the interview will actually begin going somewhere.
Nah. A few minutes later when Jauregui is being interviewed, Wootton breaks the envelope by bringing up the singer’s run-in with the law in 2016. On December 13th, Jauregui was stopped by the TSA at the airport where she was meant to board a flight to VEVO’s FunPopFun Festival. She was given a citation for marijauna possession, missing her flight and becoming ultimately unable to perform at the festival with her bandmates. Jauregui’s mistake was surely blacklisted from interview discussion, as no media source thus far has directly questioned the singer about the event. That is, up until Wootton completely ignored decent boundaries and forced Jauregui to open up about it. In response, the singer merely said the airport debacle was a stupid mistake. Then Wootton takes it even farther, asking Jauregui if she approves of the use of marijauna for personal or spiritual reasons like Bob Marley’s camp. Here, the interview goes completely silent. Lauren stutters, clearly uncomfortable at the topic. Again, Fifth Harmony’s PR cuts into the interview, forcing the interview along to a new question.
I want to stop listening. I really, really do, but just as I’m about to click the stop button, Wootton intrudes even further into Jauregui’s personal life. Plain and simple, he asks Lauren if she’s dating rapper Ty Dolla Sign, as the two artists have been seen together a lot recently. Now, this is the only question virtually plausible, as every single media outlet always brings up relationship rumors when it comes to young celebrities. But keep in mind Jauregui is already feeling uncomfortable and, probably, annoyed from Wootton’s invasiveness, so she simply laughs off the suggestion and says she isn’t dating the rapper. Unfortunately, Woottton (surprise) does not drop the question, repeating phrases like “Really? Nothing there?” and “What does that [vibing] mean?” Jauregui again grows uncomfortable, saying she “doesn’t want to talk about this”.
That’s when I shut off the podcast, annoyed and disgusted and, honestly, disappointed. As a writer who focuses on entertainment myself, I understand the need for causing drama. While it’s nice to believe that all media journalists want is to write about music and movies and art because it’s fun and exciting and interesting, the truth is that most publications exist to make money. Thus, to draw in readers journalists will do anything, which includes inciting drama and gossip. This idea is especially prevalent when it comes to female artists in media, not only exemplified by Fifth Harmony and Lauren Jauregui’s experience, but also that of Ariana Grande. In 2016, Grande shut down relationship rumors regarding rapper Mac Miller in an interview with Ryan Seacrest, essentially saying that her personal life is just that: her personal life.
“If I post something, then that’s what I’m willing to share at the moment. That doesn’t mean then you, Ryan Seacrest, with millions of listeners, are entitled to more information.”-Ariana Grande
Gossip brings in money. Rumors attract readers; I think we’ve all understood that from a very young age when magazines like Tigerbeat were still popular. Perhaps pushing the envelope brings in an extra buck or two for giving a publication the opportunity to use clickbait headlines, but completely breaking the envelope is a whole other story. There’s a fine line of professionalism for most media journalists, and Wootton completely crosses it. We often forget that celebrities have boundaries, just as any other human does. It’s cliche to say that celebrities are just like us- it’s false, too. Celebrities will always be more privileged than us, will always be rich and have more opportunities to pursue their passion while the rest of us are forced to work 9-to-5 office jobs just to get by. But they still feel the same, still harbor the same emotions we do. And so completely ignoring that fact and prodding a celebrity until they’re uncomfortable to a severe degree- that is unacceptable.
Regardless of what can be defined as news; regardless of what’s going to gain the most traction, what’s going to make the most money. Celebrities deserve to have their own private lives. They deserve respect, especially a girl group like Fifth Harmony, who endorse feminism as their main message in music and empower young women to use their voices.
And yet, Dan Wootton not only acted unprofessional and immature in the interview itself but also on social media. Knowing the attention he’d garner, Wootton took to twitter to call Fifth Harmony “divas”. When Lauren Jauregui defended herself and her bandmates, saying that she was merely ignoring “probing questions meant to start drama” between women, Wootton brought up the excuse that he also asked about Jauregui’s potential relationship with Ty Dolla Sign, her marijuana citation, and more.
Does this sound familiar to anyone? This process of: guy wants something from girl, girl refuses to give said thing to guy, guy gets angry and verbally attacks girl? It reminds me of when a teenage boy flirts with a girl obnoxiously, hoping to get a positive response in return. Yet when the girl turns him down, he begins calling the girl a whore, saying he didn’t actually want her in the first place, etc. Two different scenarios, but the details in both are eerily similar. Wootton didn’t get the answers to his questions, and as a result he whined about it on Twitter and shaded Fifth Harmony, shaded Lauren Jauregui.
Overall, this should expose a painful truth: celebrities have boundaries. Respect them. It’s not that hard, really, and in the end it’ll only improve your credibility as a journalist and perhaps land you an interviewing gig with respected artists. As for Wootton, I doubt any popular, likeable artists will agree to interviewing with him after this stunt. Maybe one day he’ll learn to not bash on celebrities simply because he didn’t get what he wanted. Kids grow up eventually, right?