Pop Culture Highs And Lows Of 2015 Thus Far

We were pretty bored around the midway point last year, but 2015 has given us more than enough to celebrate (and condemn). It's been a wild six months, and pop culture is no exception. Our list of the peaks and troughs ranges from a heroic coming out and a record-smashing TV debut to an embattled comedian who just won't go away and a divorce that leaves our hearts gone, baby, gone.

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Dear Bristol Palin, You’re Not A Disappointment, Your Parents Are

Well, by now the whole world knows that Bristol Palin is pregnant. In case you live under a rock -- or are less than 25? -- Bristol is the 24-year-old daughter of former Vice Presidential candidate and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Bristol made news six years ago when she had her first baby (also "out of wedlock") at age 18. She subsequently became an abstinence advocate, speaking all over the place about saving yourself for marriage. And publicly apologizing for being a normal sexual human being -- because it's a sin in the eyes of The Lord.

I'm not Christian -- so the abstinence thing is lost on me entirely -- and to be quite frank, I think Sarah Palin is sort of a moron. (I'm working on my compassion. I have my limits.)

So Bristol is pregnant. And here's what she has to say about it:

Palin wrote that she shared the news "sooner than I ever expected due to the constant trolls who have nothing better to talk about." Palin wrote that the pregnancy "has been, and will be, a huge disappointment to my family" and asked for privacy.

"Honestly, I've been trying my hardest to keep my chin up on this one," Palin wrote. "At the end of the day there's nothing I can't do with God by my side, and I know I am fully capable of handling anything that is put in front of me with dignity and grace."

Hold on. It's a "huge disappointment"?


It's a baby. It isn't a disappointment, and neither are you.

This is heartbreaking, for a couple of reasons: 1. She is pre-shaming herself. Fox News didn't even have time to be assholes (which would have given me even more material). 2. Her parents have created a situation where she has to apologize for procreating, like humans do, all the time. Seriously, like daily.

This is inherited shame. It was passed from Sarah to Bristol -- and now to her babies. In the media and everywhere, they will grow up to believe they are a disappointment, a mistake. This is the Palin legacy.

And this is the very reason that abstinence education is a really terrifically horrible idea. When we tell our kids, "Don't have sex because that makes you a sinner, which makes you a horrible person and a disappointment to your whole family and the entire country," we are diminishing their worth. We are setting them up to fail. We are setting them up to feel like a failure, less than, "bad."

Bristol, you are not 'bad'. And I'm not disappointed. You are having a baby. Let's celebrate. I'll knit a hat.

Dear Sarah, If this hurts your feelings, just pause to gaze out the window at the tranquil Russian landscape. That should help.

This story by Joni Edelman first appeared at ravishly.com, an alternative news+culture women's website.

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Holly Madison On Her ‘Weird’ Relationship With Kendra Wilkinson

For years, Holly Madison and Kendra Wilkinson seemed to be part of a secret sisterhood. But a lot has changed since the women ended their relationships with Hugh Hefner, and the former stars of "The Girls Next Door" have opened up about what life was really like at the Playboy Mansion.

Madison and Wilkinson have been trading barbs since writing their dueling memoirs, with Wilkinson recently saying Madison published her new tell-all book, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, for "revenge."

Madison has her own view. In the above clip from her upcoming interview on "Oprah: Where Are They Now?," she opens up about how her relationship with Wilkinson has changed over the years.

"Kendra's and my relationship has definitely been weird," Madison says in the above video. "I feel like, over the years, I've known like three different people."

holly madison and kendra wilkinson

When Madison first met Wilkinson, she says she "started off as this girl who seemed nice."

Then in 2005, "The Girls Next Door" premiered to huge ratings on E! and Madison and Wilkinson became household names. The breakout hit focused on lives of Hefner's then-girlfriends, Madison, Wilkinson and Bridget Marquardt. For five seasons, cameras documented the drama that unfolded inside the Playboy Mansion walls.

Madison says Kendra changed into "this girl who's not a girl's girl and is very competitive and pushes away other girls."

holly madison and kendra wilkinson

By 2009, all three women had left the mansion and ended their relationships with Hefner. Wilkinson married former wide receiver Hank Baskett in 2009 and Holly went on to marry Pasquale Rotella in 2013.

"When she met her husband she was very nice and seemed to have grown into this really different person," Madison says.

kendra wilkinson and hank baskett

But once again, their friendship didn't last. "And then later down the road we had a falling out, so it's been all over the place," she says. "I want viewers to pick up the book and read the whole story."

Madison's memoir, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny, is available now.

"Oprah: Where Are They Now?" airs Saturdays at 10 p.m. ET on OWN.

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Kourtney Kardashian Posts Gun Range Photo After Kim Calls For Gun Control

Here's some fun sibling rivalry for you. The day after Kim Kardashian called for more gun control, her sister Kourtney went and posted a photo of herself at a shooting range. 

Don't mess.

A photo posted by Kourtney Kardashian (@kourtneykardash) on

Kourtney captioned the photo, "Don't mess," and it's hard to tell if the message was meant for Kim, though the timing is certainly strange. What's more is that it's not even a new photo, as Gossip Cop pointed out.

It's actually a screenshot from a 2007 episode of "Keeping Up with the Kardashians" where Kris Jenner brought Kourtney, Khloe and Kim to the shooting range for target practice. On the episode, Kim was nervous about shooting guns, but suddenly felt "empowered" once she started accessorizing with safety gear. The episode later showed her learning to shoot a massive assault rifle. 


The subject of the purchase of guns has been a plot point on the family's reality show several times throughout the series. And while Kim also spoke out when her stepparent Caitlyn Jenner decided to buy a gun for protection on a 2013 episode after the family members were the victims of a swatting prank, Kourtney's throwback Instagram certainly strikes as a little shady. 

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Arctic Monkeys Drummer Matt Helders Buys Zooey Deschanel’s House


Arctic Monkeys Drummer Matt Helders paid top dollar for Zooey Deschanel's house in Los Angeles. The New Girl actress got $135,000 more than the original asking price from Helder, who paid $2.33 million for the property this month.

The 29-year-old drummer is now the proud owner of the three-bedroom home, which was built in 1933. The traditional estate has a lot of original detail, including French doors throughout the property that allow plenty of natural light to flood many of the rooms. The formal dining room is a bit more rustic, with a pitched wooden ceiling and a dark wood dining room table set. The dining room seamlessly flows into the living room, which is also full of character. There's a wood-burning fireplace, a wood-beamed ceiling and a dark wood floor.

Deschanel is a musician herself, so it's no surprise that the living room features a piano. We bet that will soon be replaced by a drum set. The 2,957-square-foot home sits on half an acre with a separate guest house on the property. Maybe Helders will use the guesthouse for band practice!

According to property records, the New Girl star owned the home with her former husband, Death Cab for Cutie front man Ben Gibbard. The two split back in 2011.

Deschanel has already moved on from her former abode. The actress recently scooped up another property with her fiancé, producer Jacob Pechenik. The Cape Cod style home in Manhattan Beach was more expensive than Deschanel's former home, at $4.569 million. It's also a bit bigger, which makes sense; the couple is expecting their first child soon and will most likely need the extra space for their growing family.

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Millions Of Instagram Users Are Just Spambots

If you’re jealous of Kim Kardashian’s 37.8 million Instagram followers, don’t be. Many of them are probably fake.

On June 21, a group of security researchers released a study showing that up to 24 million Instagram accounts could be spambots created in online black markets.

These bots are fake accounts that interact with other users. Businesses or celebrities often pay money for phony accounts to increase their social media prestige, but even people who don't purchase followers might find a host of spammers bloating up their follower list. Fortunately, it's not too hard to figure out which accounts are fake.

The researchers, who will publish their work online next week, examined over 10 million Instagram accounts and found that 29.9 percent of them were inactive -- meaning they only ever posted once at the most -- and 7.9 percent behaved like spambots. (For reference, Instagram had 300 million monthly active users as of December 2014, meaning the researchers looked at a very tiny slice of the overall app.)

To determine what spambot behavior is, the researchers purchased the services of 20,000 bots from 10 different online vendors and monitored their activities over a month. They found that each spambot tends to upload an average of six media posts and have a follower-to-following ratio of 1:41. Real Instagrammers, on the other hand, tend to upload an average of 55 media posts and have a follower-to-following ratio of 1:1.

instagram spam
Here's a profile the researchers say is controlled by a spambot. At first glance it might pass for a real person, but it seems less legit once you take into account that is has only nine posts and 258 followers, versus the 6,479 accounts it's following. (Image credit: Andrea Stroppa)

Fake accounts can be bought and sold online at various prices, depending what kind of engagement -- "likes," follows, comments -- the customer wants.

“We tend to associate a person’s popularity with the volume of his or her followers or ‘likes’ received on post and photos,” the study said, noting also that spam account vendors compete with one another to attract "customers eager [to] become super-popular in the social media universe."

instagram spammers
This account is a more obvious spambot. It hasn't posted any photos or videos, yet it has 144 followers and is following 4,085 accounts. (Image credit: Andrea Stroppa)

Instagram's terms of use prohibit people from buying or exchanging followers, and the app regularly makes automatic and manual sweeps to locate and block spambots, a company spokesperson told The Huffington Post. But despite its best efforts, spambots haven't gone away.

In December of 2014, Instagram conducted a purge of inactive and spammy accounts, causing some users, including celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Kim Kardashian, to lose millions of followers overnight.

instagram spambots
An example of an online Instagram spambot black marketplace, where fake followers are bought and sold. (Image credit: Andrea Stroppa)

But spammers aren't just looking for celebrities. If you’ve never bought Instagram followers, you could still wind up with a bunch of fake followers.

“Some software used by spambot creators have an option that allows bots to automatically follow people based on #hashtag,” lead researcher Andrea Stroppa, who also blogs for Huffington Post Italia and the World Economic Forum, told The Huffington Post via email. “Someone that manages bots can decide to follow all people that uploaded picture using the hashtag #Football.”

The comforting news is that by following your account, spambots won't explicitly take or compromise your data. However, if you happen to visit a spambot profile, don't click on the links it posts -- they may lead to malicious websites or apps, Stroppa noted. If you happen to have bought spambot accounts, Stroppa says you run the risk of "reputation damage" if your real followers find out.

There's a silver lining, though: It's pretty easy for us laypeople to detect spambots. According to Stroppa, you can simply dig around in your follower list -- and if some of them have almost no photo uploads or followers, yet are following over 1,000 accounts, you can assume that they're bots.

The simplest way to avoid spambots from following your accounts, for now, is to make your Instagram account private. (Someone out there could be selling your public Instagram photos for their own gain, after all.)

H/T Motherboard

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Hilaria Baldwin Posts Stunning Lingerie Pic On Instagram Two Weeks After Giving Birth

Hilaria Baldwin gave birth to her second child just two weeks ago, but that hasn't stopped her from sharing pics of her super fit body.

Alec Baldwin's wife shared a snap on Instagram in which she's seen posing in her bathroom, wearing nothing but lingerie, while daughter Carmen plays and laughs on the ground. The brunette beauty captioned the photo:

"Rafael was 2 weeks yesterday and I didn't post my weekly #ShrinkingBaldwinBabyBump. Carmen has come in while I'm showering and getting ready for the day to terrorize my cosmetic products...My lipsticks are shaking in fear #SeeThatFace ???"

And this isn't the first time the mother of two shared a glimpse at her shrinking belly. Just two days after the birth of her son Rafael, Hilaria posted a similar pic encouraging women to accept and love their bodies after bringing life into the world. She's also been posting weekly updates of her #ShrinkingBaldwinBabyBump to give followers a look at the changes a woman's body endures throughout pregnancy.

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Matt Damon Has A Ponytail, So Your Summer Just Got Better

Matt Damon may have reached maximum badass levels in the "Bourne" films, but his hair is reaching maximum badass levels right now. Ladies and gentlemen, Damon has a ponytail -- we repeat, a ponytail.

matt damon

During a Thursday press conference for the 2016 film "The Great Wall," Damon showed off his signature casual style in a button down shirt and jeans. But the real fashion moment came courtesy of his long hair, pulled back into a low pony.

Just when we thought men with long hair was a trend of the past (aka, 2014), Damon is bringing back the look with as much enthusiasm as Jared Leto's braid.

Oh, and for guys who are looking for a new 'do, growing out those locks may not be a bad idea. Celebrity groomer Diana Schmidtke told the Huffington Post that long hair is the easiest style for guys. Think of the versatility: man buns, braids, top knots -- the list goes on.

matt damon

H/T The Cut

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5 Reasons Why You’re Wrong About Kim Kardashian

Just recently there was a public outcry from NPR listeners. Was it about racial inequality? Gay marriage? The Confederate flag? No. It was about Kim Kardashian. Apparently, she appeared on a game show and some listeners were furious. "Had I heard your Saturday show before I made my gift, I wouldn't have donated," one listener wrote to the NPR ombudsman. "The Kardashians represent much of what is wrong with America today -- and I listen to NPR to get AWAY from Kardashian-like garbage."

He's wrong about Kim Kardashian. And if you agree with him then you're wrong too. The Kardashians, particularly Kim, represent what's right with America. Kim Kardashian is a bona fide, true and real entrepreneur. Her many businesses have created job opportunities, wealth and entertainment for millions of people. Her professional activities have raised awareness for issues ranging from female entrepreneurism to substance abuse to gender identity. She is a smart business woman that we can all learn from. And let me offer a few reasons why.

She was running businesses since an early age and well before KUWTK. Before becoming famous Kardashian worked at her father's music marketing firm, then at a clothing store for four years. She ran her own successful eBay business buying and selling designer clothing and another successful closet organizing business, catering to both celebrities and non-celebrities. Of course, she came from a wealthy family (her father was a well-known LA lawyer who famously represented O.J. Simpson in his murder trial). But her father, who helped finance her earliest entrepreneurial activities, insisted on being paid back with interest. "Our dad used to say," according to Kim and her sisters in their autobiography. ""Nothing in life is for free, you girls aren't going to get just whatever you want."" Their parents made it "very clear" that they would be totally cut off after they finished school. "So we all learned early on if you want money, you have to earn it." And earn it she did.

Like every successful entrepreneur, she's not afraid to take risks -- and lumps. Kim Kardashian earned $28 million last year and was considered one of Time's most influential people in 2014. Her mobile app generates hundreds of millions of dollars. She has a chain of stores and earns millions from endorsements. And here's the thing: all of this essentially came from a sex tape! Once some level of minor celebrity status was achieved, Kardashian, like any smart entrepreneur, took risk after risk. She invented and then re-invented her image. She revealed her most private details on a reality TV show and continues to endure the withering abuse from many (like that angry NPR listener) who detest her kind of entrepreneurism. She is as brave as every business owner who makes a living legally selling guns, sex, fatty foods, chemicals, pharmaceuticals and law services. Who are we to judge what someone does for a living? The world's greatest entrepreneurs, inventors and artists have also been the target of similar criticisms and abuse from society only to overcome and succeed with their missions. That's what Kim Kardashian is doing.

She is a marketing and branding expert. She gets flooded with deals and offers every week but only chooses those that will make the best use of her name. She appears at fashion shows, is photographed at celebrity parties and then sits down to talk business and technology with the likes of Kara Swisher at serious tech conferences. She has turned both her marriages and her pregnancies into national media events. She and her sisters wear the latest fashions, the nicest jewelry and vacation at the most fantastic spots because it tells her audience, her customers and her fans that they can be just like her. Just keep watching her show and buying her products. Everything Kim Kardashian does is about keeping her and her family relevant and her brand fresh and innovative. What entrepreneur doesn't aim to do the same?

She runs a successful family business. In a world where many of my family-run clients are struggling to get along with each other, Kim has found a way to involve her entire, extended family to benefit from the success that she created. This empire has enabled her mother, sisters and step-family members to also earn millions doing everything from appearing at events to launching their own modeling careers. Through her we've learned that we're not the only ones who argue with our siblings, struggle with financial challenges, and endure all those typical family business problems. We've seen her share her wealth and encourage others in her family to succeed. But don't forget...like any good senior manager Kim is always there, keeping a wary eye out to make sure that whatever her family members are doing is contributing in some way to the Kardashian brand and fortune.

Finally, she's made her success more than just about money. Great entrepreneurs like Kardashian are of course focused on making money. But then it goes beyond that. On one episode of KUPWTK (and yes, I watch the show -- it's awesome and impossible to turn off the TV once it starts) a crying, heavy-set woman came backstage at an event to thank Kim's beautiful but also heavy-set sister Khloe for being an inspiration to women like her. We all know that Kim is proud of her larger-than-life derriere. So through those famous photo shoots and magazine covers she is telling women to be proud of theirs too. Through their business activities Kim and her sisters have given women more reasons to be confident about themselves. And their show has given others in their family, particularly their step-dad, the opportunity to raise awareness about issues like gender equality. This all began and continues with Kim.

So to that NPR listener, and anyone else who faults Kim Kardashian as "what's wrong with America" I say you're the one who's wrong. This is a smart woman and a savvy entrepreneur. To me, a business owner, she's everything that's right about America.

A version of this column previously appeared on Inc.com.

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Ellen DeGeneres Adds ‘Lifestyle Guru’ To Her Resume, Wants You To Buy A $365 Plate

It seems like most celebrities either launch a lifestyle brand or start a clothing line these days. Gwyneth Paltrow, Blake Lively, Reese Witherspoon and Melissa McCarthy have all done one or the other and now we can another name to the list -- Ellen DeGeneres.

According to its website, the "ED By Ellen" line consists of "beautifully designed, high quality collection of women’s apparel, accessories and decorative home" items. The line debuted on June 30 and will be sold exclusively on EDbyEllen.com.


According to a press release, the items range from reasonable to really pricey, as apparel and accessories will run for $25 to $395 and home items will sell for $25 to $365 (you can view that $365 cake plate here).

“I set out to fill a void in the marketplace of high quality, comfortable yet chic and easy-to-wear pieces with impeccable detailing," said DeGeneres in a statement. "That’s what makes it so special and why I’m so thrilled my ED line is launching and everyone can finally have a piece of me… You know what I mean."

Scroll through more photos of "ED by Ellen" below:

H/T E! News

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