Entertainment

Cuban-American Director Brett Ratner Accused Of Sexual Assault By 6 Actresses

In an explosive article from The Los Angeles Times, six women have come forward claiming that Cuban-American director Brett Ratner sexually assaulted and/or harassed them. After The New York Times and The New Yorker released stories detailing abuse by Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, more stories came out about prominent men in Hollywood, including director James Toback and actor Kevin Spacey.

Ratner, 48, has directed movies that include the “Rush Hour” franchise as well as “The Family Man,” “Red Dragon,” and “X-Men: The Last Stand.”

The women spoke in detail about their claims against Ratner.

Actress Olivia Munn said that in 2004, Ratner masturbated in front of her. 

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Munn had previously written about the incident in 2010 without naming Ratner. A year later, Ratner revealed he was the person in question and then claimed he slept with Munn. In an interview with Howard Stern, Ratner later admitted he lied about having a sexual relationship with Munn.

“It feels as if I keep going up against the same bully at school who just won’t quit,” Munn told The Los Angeles Times. “You just hope that enough people believe the truth and for enough time to pass so that you can’t be connected to him anymore.”

Natasha Henstridge said she was 19 when Ratner forced himself on her. 

He strong-armed me in a real way,” Henstridge told the Times. “He physically forced himself on me. At some point, I gave in and he did his thing.”

Jaime Ray Newman said Ratner sat next to her on a flight and told her was addicted to oral sex.

Newman said she was on a flight in 2005 when Ratner asked to be seated next to her. Newman alleges that Ratner disclosed incredibly obscene things to her, including that he was addicted to oral sex. They had never met before.

He was graphically describing giving me oral sex and how he was addicted to it,” Newman told the Times.

Katharine Towne said Ratner followed her into a bathroom in 2005.

“He started to come on to me in a way that was so extreme,” Towne told the Times. “I think it’s pretty aggressive to go in the bathroom with someone you don’t know and close the door.”

Ratner’s lawyer, Martin Singer, responded to this claim by saying: “Even if hypothetically this incident occurred exactly as claimed, how is flirting at a party, complimenting a woman on her appearance, and calling her to ask her for a date wrongful conduct?”

Two other actresses who appeared as extras in “Rush Hour 2” claim that Ratner promised to give them speaking parts in the film in exchange for sexual favors.

In response to all the claims, Ratner’s lawyer, Martin Singer, denied all accusations.

READ: It’s Time For Men To Step Up And Call Out Their Homies About Sexual Harassment And Assault

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In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

Entertainment

In Efforts To Double Latino Representation In Hollywood, LA Mayor Eric Garcetti Unveils New Historic Initiative

beatrizacevedogreiff Verified

On the same day that many pointed criticism towards the Oscar nominations for lack of diversity, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti unveiled a new initiative to help curb the issue, particularly for Latinos. The project is being called LA Collab, a historic endeavour that plans to link Latino talent to opportunities in the entertainment industry with the goal of doubling “Latino representation in Hollywood by 2030.”

According to the LA Times, the initiative has already “raised a quarter of a million dollars to finance a range of film, TV and podcast development deals and projects intended to provide opportunities for Latino filmmakers, writers and actors and crew members.” The initial funding for the project is coming from the Mayor’s Fund for Los Angeles, the Annenberg Foundation, WarnerMedia and Endeavor Content, a press release from Garcetti’s office read. 

Garcetti co-founded the initiative with Beatriz Acevedo, the founder of mitú and president of the Acevedo Foundation and Ivette Rodriguez, founder of communications firm AEM. The trio says that the issue of Latino representation in Hollywood is one that needs attention. The announcement is spurred by a 2019 study by the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative at the University of Southern California that showed how Latinos are vastly underrepresented in the film industry. 

Despite making up almost 20 percent of the U.S. population, the study found only 3 percent of the top-grossing films from 2007 to 2018 had Latino actors in lead or co-lead roles. LA Collab wants to help and push more Latinos to the front and behind the camera in the next decade. 

The study was a wakeup call for many civic and film leaders in Hollywood that were dismayed by the numbers that showed the growing disparity for Latinos in the entertainment industry. The report showed that only 4.5 percent of all speaking characters from the last 12 years of film were Latino, behind the camera, only 4 percent of directors of the 1,200 films were Latino.

“Latinos are a powerful force in Los Angeles’s culture and economy, and our trademark industry should tap into the diverse pool of talent in our own backyard,” Garcetti said at a news conference Monday. “On big screens or small, in front of the camera or behind it, our studios, actors, directors and producers inspire the world with the power of their creativity and imagination, and LA Collab will elevate new voices and empower the next generation of Latinx creatives.”

The lack of Latino representation in the entertainment industry is a problem that goes back many years with some putting blame on movie studios not greenlighting certain projects and films. Thomas Saenz, chair of the National Latino Media Council, told mitú back in 2018 that the problem is these studios overlooking Latino talent.

“When studios focus on diversity that can mean any minority group. Latinos in particular have been represented in minuscule numbers that don’t properly show what this country is made up of,” Saenz said. “In the last 10-15 years, African-American representation has gone up same for Asian-American. But I can’t say the same for Latinos. That has to change.”

The LA Collab initiative hopes to be a catalyst for that change. The project already has the support of some big Hollywood names that will be part of connecting workers with various employers in the industry.

Backed by Eva Longoria, J.J. Abrams, Eli Roth, Devon Franklin, Jason Blum, and Zoe Saldana, LA Collab will be working with all of them in some capacity to connect Latinos with opportunities. Roth will help connect Latino horror filmmakers via his digital platform, Crypt TV and Lionsgate’s Pantelion Films with Pantaya will also be hiring new bilingual voices for their projects. There have also been secured deals with multiple media companies, including Endeavor Content, WarnerMedia’s 150, Shine Global and Southern California Public Radio’s LAist Studios.

For Longoria, who has long championed the need for more Latino representation in the film industry, says that she will also be opening the door for more Latinos with her production company, UnbeliEVAble Entertainment. 

“As a Latina, I want to see more actors who look like me on screen and behind the camera,” Longoria said in a statement. “I started my own production company to create content from our community, and I became a director/producer to be in a position to hire people who look like me. With LA Collab, I want to open the door for many more Latinx creators and fuel the emergence of a better entertainment industry that elevates and celebrates the diversity and richness of my culture.”

The announcement of LA Collab coincidentally fell on the day that Oscar nominations were announced. Criticism followed the nominations that had only one person of color, Cynthia Erivo, up for an award in the four major acting categories.

There was calls for multiple snubs on Monday morning as the Oscar nominations were revealed. Much of that criticism came from the lack of women of color, particularly the snub of  Jennifer Lopez for her role in “Hustlers,” for which she won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. The omission stood out for many reasons including what could have been the fifth Latina nominee in the category and the first Latina winner in the award’s history. 

This announcement of LA Collab comes at a time when the disparity in Latino roles and representation is the entertainment industry only seems to be going backwards. This year’s Oscars nominations is just one example of this continuing problem and one that Acevedo says can be fixed by working alongside studios and fellow allies. 

“The radical decline of Latinos in Hollywood was the catalyst to rally Hollywood behind this crisis to create change together,” Acevedo said in a statement. “By facilitating unprecedented collaborations between the creative community … and other influential allies, LA Collab will ultimately drive exponential growth for the industry and our community.”

READ: Latinos Are Still Waiting For Their Own Movie Moment As Hollywood Tries Casting More Diverse Films

A Woman Is Suing American Airlines After An Employee Took Her Number From Her Luggage And Started To Text Her

Things That Matter

A Woman Is Suing American Airlines After An Employee Took Her Number From Her Luggage And Started To Text Her

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Airports can be strange places. But typically, when you’re in the airport of an unknown city, there’s a sense of freedom and solitude—after all, depending on where you are, the chance that you’ll cross paths with someone you know is pretty slim. But what’s the likelihood of running into someone you don’t know . . . but who somehow knows who you are? For Ashley Barno, this unlikely situation became a reality in June 2019, when an employee of American Airlines took her number from the tag on her luggage, then proceeded to text her incessantly throughout her flight.

The stranger sent a text that read, “Hey, Ashley! How are you??” before immediately following up with a “Btw I must tell you that you are gorgeous!” Barno thanked him for the compliment, asking him who he was and how he got her number. Also, why was he texting her?

He told her to “guess,” then added that he worked for American Airlines, the airline operating her flight from San Diego to Chicago. After telling her that he “just saw her again at the airport” and she was “looking very gorgeous in grey top [sic],” Barno started to feel nervous. She was wearing a gray shirt that day, and she did not like that this stranger was watching her—she said that the messages made her feel “naked in a public place.” She glanced around the gate area but had no idea who or where this person was.

Barno says that the messages continued even after she boarded her flight, when the man revealed that he was also on the plane.

Credit: Joe Samo

“You want to sit next to me?” said another text, promising that he could get her a better seat. “I have two seats open next to me!” he claimed. “Will you join me??”

Twice, he asked her for her seat number and told her that he wanted to “chat the whole flight.” He claimed that Barno herself had given him her number, and when she insisted otherwise, he eventually admitted, “Honestly I got it from ur bagtag.” Barno knew that the tag on her luggage also mentioned her full name and mailing address, which made the situation even more tense.

“Not ok!” she responded. “Not cool.” Then she told him to leave her alone.

What followed was a deluge of 10 more text messages, including one that read, “Friendship with me will be very beneficial for you!!”

He proceeded to promise her “good seats, access to the lounges and free flights too!! You can think about it!” he wrote, later adding, “Just looking for one chance to prove my self [sic]!! I will be very respectful to you always.” (As if sending a barrage of unwanted, creepy messages is respectful behavior.)

After this deeply disturbing experience, Barno hired attorney Joseph Samo and filed a lawsuit against the airline and former employee (who, at the time of the incident, was still employed by American Airlines) over allegations of negligent hiring, sexual harassment and stalking.

Samo said that during the flight, Barno was emotionally distraught, and she notified a flight attendant about what was going on, mentioning that she was receiving unsettling messages from a man in row 15. According to Samo, the flight attendant responded kindly, ensuring that Barno was in a completely different area of the plane and checking in with Barno regularly. When the airplane landed, security guards escorted the man off the plane—the flight attendant told Barno that “this wasn’t the first time he’d done something like this.”

While American Airlines did not answer specific questions about Barno’s allegations or the case, company spokesman Joshua Freed confirmed that the man was employed by American Airlines at the time, though he wasn’t on duty during the alleged harassment. He wrote in a statement that “the employee involved in the complaint is no longer employed at American Airlines,” and that “American Airlines takes the privacy and safety of our customers seriously.” He added, “We investigated the allegations and took appropriate action.”

But Barno’s complaint contests this claim. Although Freed declined to comment on past allegations against the former employee due to the impending litigation, the lawsuit claims that American Airlines “knew of its employee’s propensity to inappropriately contact its customers yet continued to retain him as an employee.”

The complaint, filed last week in a San Diego division of California Superior Court, also states that “American Airlines did not do a sufficient job in hiring and supervising employees to keep its customers safe from sexual harassment and stalking.”

Barno affirmed that she felt frustrated and neglected by the airline when they failed to respond to her concerns about customer privacy after the incident. In an interview with NBC 7 in San Diego, Barno described her fear when she realized they were on the same flight: “Just knowing that he knew what I looked like, and that we were on an enclosed plane and that there’s no way out, like really, really scared me.”

Samo validated Barno’s feas, reiterating the need for action on the part of the airline. “We’re doing this to send a message to big corporations that this behavior is not acceptable,” Samo said. “They have to train their employees better and take better precautions to make sure these things don’t happen again.”