Don’t Forget The Allegations Against Melanie Martinez

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Last year, The Voice alum Melanie Martinez was accused of sexual assault. And though the initial response to the allegations was a victim-blaming nightmare, the way Martinez's fans continue to defend her a year later is troubling.

Over the weekend, Martinez announced via her Instagram that she had a new album and movie hopefully coming out early next year. However, as seen in the responses to a viral tweet about the announcement, Martinez's fans have primarily responded to the news by going on the defensive and using it to talk about her innocence. 

"INNOCENT QUEEN," one fan wrote, while another declared her the "Queen of pop." And while there were a few commenters who responded by reminding others of the allegations against Martinez, the overwhelming majority of fans seems determined to support Martinez, no matter what. Some even went so far as to ask naysayers to "leave that in 2017." But it's not that simple.

Last year, Martinez was accused of sexual assault by former friend Timothy Heller. Heller initially came forward via social media to allege that she was assaulted by her "best friend," who was later revealed to be Martinez. Describing two nights in which she "repeatedly said no" to sexual advances from Martinez, Heller wrote that Martinez had used their friendship to take advantage of her during a deeply difficult time.

"It doesn't matter that I didn't resist during the action. I had been broken down," Heller wrote, alleging that Martinez used a sex toy and performed oral sex on her without her consent. "She knew I didn't want to, I made that clear." Heller said she had held onto this secret for a long time, as she tried to convince herself "that it wasn't a big deal and I wasn't hurt by it." 

"The thought of accepting that my best friend raped me seems insane," Heller wrote. "But I began to get responses I wasn't expecting. Concerned ones. It's hard to say someone you loved raped you. Someone you STILL love." 

Martinez eventually issued her own statement in response, saying she was "horrified and saddened" by Heller's allegations. "What she and I shared was a close friendship for a period of time. We came into each other's lives as we were both starting our careers as artists, and we tried to help each other. We both had pain in dealing with our individual demons and the new paths we were forging, but I truly felt we were trying to lift each other up," Martinez wrote before saying that Heller "never said no to what we chose to do together." Following her initial post, Martinez also issued another statement in which she wrote, "I understand how hard it could be to see my side of the story, considering no one with a heart would want to invalidate anyone speaking up about this topic."

“I want to thank my fans who took the time to research the timeline, analyze past Instagram photos, and question the story being told, which reveal her false statements," Martinez continued. "Please know that my intentions with everything that I do in my life are always pure and I would never be intimate with someone without their absolute consent.” 

Following all of this, a wave of Martinez fans descended upon Heller's Twitter to attack her, questioning Heller's credibility and even going so far as criticizing her for "not going to the police"—a statement that's eerily similar to our president's recent defense of Brett Kavanaugh. Some even took the victim-blaming a step further, arguing that because Heller didn't "force" Martinez off her, that the alleged assault was Heller's fault. Others said that if there was any merit to the claims, Heller would've sued Martinez by now—another huge misconception that assumes Heller has the means and desire to pursue the charges within a system that tends to dismiss the concerns of survivors. But the most disturbing part of all of this? Almost a year down the line and people continue to accuse Heller of doing it for the "publicity" or purporting that because Martinez was not charged with anything, she must be innocent. Not only that, but underlying all of this is also the insinuation that the allegations shouldn't have an impact on reception to Martinez's new work.  

Many victims whose alleged abusers are high-profile people, face judgment, ridicule, and dismissal. As evidenced by the onslaught of abuse Heller has endured in the wake of coming forward, it's unsurprising she was initially hesitant to tell her story, especially as she told Refinery29 that she didn't have the kind of "cold hard evidence" Martinez's fans were demanding to see. "Her fans see her as this angel who understands them," Heller told Newsweek, "I assumed no one was going to take me seriously if I explained what she did." But in a world where survivors continue to be chided and outright abused for "allowing" themselves to be victimized, we need to continue reminding ourselves that believing all survivors is incredibly important and that false rape allegations are extremely rare. 

More importantly, even if the accused are people whose body of work have had a profound impact on fans, that has no actual bearing on their guilt or innocence. Until we begin supporting survivors and taking their claims seriously, there's no way they will feel safe coming forward, and by continuing to drag Heller, Martinez's fans are just helping to perpetuate the silence. 

Nail polish is for novices

Fashion label The Blonds is known for its high-intensity looks that you'd only wear if you wanted to stand out (and who doesn't?). For its runway shows, wild press-on nails are the beauty step that can't be missed. So, since the brand has partnered with CND since it was founded, we thought it best to get prepped for the show with Jan Arnold, CND's co-founder.

See why you should take your nail look from a zero to a 10, in the video above.

Shot by Charlotte Prager
Edited by Gretta Wilson
Produced by Alexandra Hsie
Production Assistant: Polina Buchak
Featuring Jan Arnold of CND Nails and The Blonds



Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

It would've been nice if someone said the word "fat"

Back in November, Rebel Wilson claimed to be the first plus-sized lead in a romantic comedy when she appeared on Ellen to talk about her role in Isn't It Romantic. Wilson was not only wrong, but she was—even if inadvertently—erasing the work of Black plus-size actresses like Queen Latifah and Mo'Nique, both of whom have expansive resumes that include romantic comedies.

Wilson's comment isn't the first example of white women taking up a little too much space in the fat acceptance ethos. It's actually quite common. But there is a reason why women like Wilson—women who are blonde, pretty, successful, and white—get put front and center in calls for body positivity. In the same way that feminism—the movement from which body positivity was born—has often failed to address how gender intersects with other identities like race and class; so, too, has body positivity been championed as a cause for otherwise privileged women. And that's why it's no surprise that Isn't It Romantic, which aspires to be both a spot-on mockery of rom-coms and a celebration of body positivity, is actually a perfect example of how very white both the movie genre and the body positivity movement tend to be.

In the film, Wilson plays Natalie, an architect based in New York, who is single and plus-sized—the archetypal rom-com underdog. Very early on in the movie, she endures the double humiliation of both being hit by a runaway food cart and then accosted by its owner for not stopping it with her "cement truck"-like body. At work, Natalie is similarly disrespected: The office manager hands off troubleshooting tasks to Natalie; another colleague always tasks Natalie to throw out his trash; her assistant Whitney (Betty Gilpin) won't stop watching movies (rom-coms, naturally) while in the office; and Natalie is so afraid to present her ideas for more innovative parking garage designs that she isn't even widely known in the firm as an architect, and is treated like an intern.

But is Natalie just a doormat? Or is it that she isn't asking for what she wants? And isn't very nice about not getting it? If Natalie's life is any example, the bar on suffering is set pretty low for white women. In her personal life, Natalie lives alone with her dog, and seems to be pretty well-off, financially; her best friend is actually her slacker assistant, Whitney, and she's close with another coworker, Josh (Adam Devine), who gives Natalie constant emotional support. She's decidedly anti-romantic, having been told by her mother from a young age that there's no such thing as real-life fairy tales; she's level-headed and practical. But also, she's filled with self-loathing. This leads her to be crass, sarcastic, and disconnected from people. And it was this last part that was hard for me. As a fat Black woman who grew up broke, does not have an assistant, and would get fired if I didn't do my job well, it was hard, if not impossible, to root for her.

For Natalie, though, everything changes when she bangs her head while fighting off a mugger. Her mundane life is tinted through rosy rom-com glasses. Suddenly, all the things that sucked about her life are gone, and everything is beautiful and perfect. But was her life so bad before? It didn't really seem to be.

And yet, looking around the theater at the mostly white, female audience, I accepted that my feelings didn't seem to be shared. But that almost seems to be by design; this feels like a movie for a white, female audience. There is only one person of color in the movie who even has a name: It's Isabelle (Priyanka Chopra), who shows up about halfway through the film—after everything has been rom-com filtered—as a yoga ambassador and swimsuit model. But a name is all Isabella has. A supporting character at best, she doesn't have any connection to anyone other than her white boyfriend, and is sketchily drawn. We learn nothing of her familial or ethnic background, and, even when she is shown at her wedding, there is nobody from her family celebrating with her. This huge oversight is particularly bizarre, given that Natalie has already bemoaned the lack of diversity in romantic films.

Another huge oversight? The presence of the word "fat." I don't think I heard it used a single time. Natalie only references her weight indirectly, by commenting on the appearance of straight-sized women; when talking about her own body, the word "fat" is replaced with "girl like me." But by ignoring this aspect of herself, and refusing to address it head-on, Natalie is succumbing to the same fatphobia that shapes her world, whether she identifies it as being a problem or not.

Before her life becomes a rom-com, Natalie feels invisible at work and in the world. Some of this is certainly her fault, but fatphobia is also at play. Fatphobia chips away at the humanity of fat people from different angles. It means that Natalie gets used to being dehumanized; she doesn't expect others to have empathy for her when she's physically hurt, because they don't value her body. And it's no coincidence that Natalie's fantasy world includes a magically bigger apartment with unlimited clothing options, because discrimination against fat people isn't just a matter aesthetics and preferences—it affects everything from our ability to dress ourselves to our ability to make and save money, since there's a price to pay for being fat, even if it's just having to pay more to travel. Just as much as gender and race intersect with fat bodies, so, too, do economics and class.

I knew I could count on a plus-sized white comedian to take down a genre of films that prioritized thin women. But I ventured to see if Wilson could go further than that, and challenge what it means to be white and well-off and fat in the process; it isn't just about taking down rom-coms but about doing so in a way that isn't just a mouthpiece for white feminist values. But, in the end, that isn't what happened. Isn't It Romantic is fine, but it needed to do more than target an audience of girls who are 10 to 30 pounds overweight and still too jolted by the word "fat" to ever apply it to themselves, so they go for acceptable alternatives, like curvy, plus-sized—or thicc, if they're hip. But I'm not afraid to say I'm fat, I'm just disappointed I will be waiting even longer to see a realistic reflection of that experience onscreen.

Isn't It Romantic is in theaters now.