It’s Beef Week at HuffPost Culture. Fight us.
The site feels like something straight out of 2010. The boxiness evokes fond memories of MySpace, or maybe Blogger. You look at it, and you remember an easier time in internet history, when you could flip through a blog and see what had been on the writer’s mind that day. But theJasmineBRAND, a gossip site, is a very 2018 sort of publication. It’s about celebrity and culture and the way we love to consume both through a firehose.
“I was always intrigued by how regular people like you and I are fascinated with celebrity culture,” the site’s proprietor, Jasmine Brand, told me. “So I started the site.”
It’s also, in a way, about beefs. “Lil Mo Calls Taylor Swift A THOT, Accuses Her of Having STD’s [AUDIO],” reads one headline. “K. Michelle Calls Tamar Braxton A Muppet After Tamar Insults Love & Hip-Hop Paychecks,” reads another. Brand is conscientious about beefs. She understands that our love for fights will cause celebrities, at times, to start a beef for marketing purposes. But she and her 26-person staff ain’t with the shits. Each beef is vetted to ensure readers only see stories about the real stuff, the beefs that have levels. (For the sake of journalism, I searched the site for mention of the peak fake beef between Bhad Bhabie, Lil Tay and Woah Vicky. I found nothing.)
It’s hard to imagine now, but celebrity beefs operated differently eight years ago, when Brand started the site. Twitter wasn’t poppin’ like that, and Instagram hadn’t been born. Brand had to score her celebrity news in a very offline sort of way: by sending Hail Mary emails to celebs; hiring a publicist to help secure interviews; and posting up at The Park at 14th in D.C., where famous people of the musical variety would often come and perform. Early on, she got an interview with Joan Rivers, her first A-list interview, because the comedian loved her hair. “I had like a little pink-hair situation going on,” she recalled.
Things began to get easier for Brand. “The more status I got, the more people started hitting us up and I didn’t have to beg as much,” she told me over the phone. “When social media came around and became poppin’, it made getting content easier,” she added.
Brand and I chatted about how her site chooses which beefs to cover, how to spot fake feuds, her personal favorite celeb spats and how a good beef can serve as a window into a celebrity’s soul.
I would define it as a disagreement — not necessarily physical. But a disagreement that kind of spills over. In 2018, beef spills over into social media usually. A fallout, a spat, an argument between two celebrities. A to D list, doesn’t really matter.
How does theJasmineBRAND cover beefs? How do you decide what beefs you’re going to cover?
Well, we usually decide based on the popularity of the person. Both the people don’t have to be popular, but at least one of them has to be popular. And it has to be something that everyone is talking about, something that has legs and will get traction. It won’t be a one-day story.
Sometimes we’ll sit on a beef because it’s really, really apparent that it’s staged. We usually won’t cover those. But if it looks like it might be authentic, and it may have layers to it, we’ll be like, maybe we should cover this one and then see what happens.
How do you decide if it’s authentic or not? Like, what makes you see a beef and just be like, “Oh, there’s levels to this one.”
We’ve had the site for eight years, so we pretty much know celebrities’ temperaments. You know, what they’re known for, what they’re not known for. A newer celebrity or these reality stars? It’s kind of hard to gauge. If we see something on social media, we’ll look at the comments and see how the audience, how their fans or how their critics are responding and figure it out.
It’s things you just kind of know. Certain people have the temperament of always responding, lashing out. Those are usually authentic. Then there are other celebrities that aren’t known for it. So those can be good too. But with reality stars, it’s kind of hard to gauge because a lot of times they use a beef to create a storyline for a show or to get coverage. It’s kind of tricky sometimes.
And so when there’s a lot of back and forth between two or more people, how does the site keep up with everything that’s going on?
Well, it’s like a virtual newsroom. We have a team of writers and then we have people that are really good at digging on social media. And we update stories as it happens. We’ll update something on social media. We don’t necessarily just use the website to provide an update.
I was on the site’s Instagram and I noticed that not just theJasmineBRAND but other celebrity gossip sites such as The Shade Room, YBF, Baller Alert — y’all post IG comments. Why do you think celebrities have a tendency to be shady in the comments sections?
Because they get coverage. They know we’re gonna post it. If we decided we’re not gonna post a celebrity’s comment, they wouldn’t do it. They do it for attention. Before there was social media, celebrities really didn’t have an immediate outlet.
You know, you’d have to go be on a carpet somewhere. They would go to their publicist, or they would call up People to comment on something. But now it’s an instant gratification for them. They don’t need publicists anymore. They like the laughs and the likes and the attention. All of them aren’t like that, but I feel like if you are someone who is constantly making comments, it’s so that you can get attention. There’s no other reason to me. If it happens once in a while where you’re making a comment, I feel like it may be authentic. You may really want to get this off your chest. But if you’re constantly doing it, it’s so that you can get coverage. That’s my perspective. I could be wrong though.
Which celebs are constantly popping up on the site? I know Future has been in the blogs lately because he proposed to Brittni Mealy or something like that. So are there any celebs that are just constantly being covered because they’re constantly in something?
Everything goes in phases and waves. Right now, we’re talking about Future. But we can always get something from Tamar Braxton. There was a time when we could get something from Tyrese. Then he kind of calmed down. We can always get content from Kim Kardashian. It’s not necessarily that she’s always commenting, but she’s always posting. So whenever someone posts, we can always get something from them. Nicki Minaj is someone who, as of late, is always popping up. K Michelle. Kanye. Those are people whose names are always in headlines.
Do you think that celebs know the marketing benefits of getting involved with the beefs?
They absolutely know and they use it to their benefit.
How does the site benefit off of them knowing the benefits of marketing? Is it like a symbiotic relationship between the two?
I’m not really sure about others, but if it’s gonna make good content for us it’s likely that we’re gonna do it. If it’s not gonna make good content and we feel like they’re trying to really benefit off of manufacturing a fake beef? We’re not trying to cover a fake beef. Even if it’s gonna bring some clicks, we’re really not trying to. Sometimes we get duped. But we’re really not trying to benefit off something that’s fake.
What beefs have duped you?
I can’t think of any right now. But you usually see it with the reality shows. Actors don’t really participate in it like that. It’s more of a reality genre situation.
What does make those beefs obviously fake?
If they’re sending it to us themselves. If they’re sending us what they said, footage and clips and screen grabs. To me, that reeks of staged. Or, say two celebrities are beefing with each other, but they’re following each other on social media. If you don’t care for what they did, why are you following them?
But usually it’s tipped off by them sending it in themselves or their publicist sending it in. It’s like, why would you want us to cover this? Usually celebs are like, “You guys never cover anything positive. Why don’t you cover anything positive?” And so if you’re DMing us negative things, then it’s a red flag. They’re a bit on the thirsty side for some coverage.
That makes a lot of sense. Wow. So what is your all-time favorite celebrity beef? Or top three?
I loved when Remy Ma and Nicki Minaj were beefing because we got some good music and it was one of those things where there were layers to the story. It was multiple stories.
I don’t know if I would call this one a beef necessarily, but I loved the back and forth — even though it was a little one-sided — between Mariah Carey and J.Lo.
What made the Kanye–Amber one the gift that kept on giving? Because that was a mess.
[Note: Kanye West said during a 2015 radio interview that he had to “take 30 showers” before he could date Kim Kardashian since he had previously dated Amber Rose. This caused Amber to tweet about Kardashian’s sex tape with singer Ray J and it spiraled downward from there.]
It was. The thing that was great about it was that Amber had never really said anything about Kanye. There were rumors that she had signed this NDA and she couldn’t really say. So when she finally did, that was pretty cool. She gave us some insight on their relationship. And then it was juicy. Although it could have been false or whatever, it was juicy. Then she was talking about the Kardashians so that gave it another layer. Then you got the little jokes from Amber.
Remember when Kanye and Amber were together, Amber really didn’t talk. Like, she didn’t. We’d see her out smoking her little cigarettes. She’d be in the park just looking really pretty. She didn’t say anything. There was this mystery about her. So obviously after they broke up, she got with Wiz [Khalifa] and she started talking. But we never heard her talk about her relationship with Kanye. So I appreciated that.
I felt like it gave us some insight into what happened. And then it was, you know, you got more than five stories out of it. What she said was pretty entertaining, too.
As a consumer of celebrity beefs, that’s one of the fascinating things when people do start talking. Yeah, they can say some really messed up stuff. But you can also get that insight there. And with Kanye — not the kink-shaming part — it’s like, “Oh, this is what dating this guy was like.” And then his public persona continued to validate what she had already told us.
The thing about Kanye is, we feel like we kind of know him, but we don’t really know what it’s like to date him or sleep with him. You know what I mean? Even Kim doesn’t talk about what their relationship’s really like. She doesn’t give that many details, you know? So the Amber beef probably gave us the biggest glimpse we’ll ever get into what it’s like to be with Kanye, which I thought was cool.
Would you say that beefs, in some cases, cause celebrities to be more honest?
I think it does. When you’re beefing with someone, it shows partially that you’re a little insecure. It’s one thing behind closed doors for a celebrity to talk smack about somebody. But it’s another thing to talk publicly. But I feel like it shows that you are human.
Even with the whole Nicki Minaj stuff right now. It’s just like: What is going on here?
If you’re not her fan, you’re probably like “What’s going on?” But it makes me feel like she is human. She has some insecurities or some issues or some things that she feels like she was treated unfairly about. It speaks more to what you have going on sometimes as opposed to what your issue is with another person.
Some of the stuff she’s been saying is very valid, especially with the Spotify stuff. But what type of things do you usually see celebrities accuse one another of?
You’ll see celebrities accusing the other one of not giving them credit for something. Or them doing something first. I usually feel like it has to do with, “I’m low-key better than you.” Sometimes it’ll have something to do with a man. It just varies. There doesn’t seem to be one common denominator.
I really feel like it usually boils down to “I’m better than you” though.
Is there any beef or competition between the sites that cover celebrity beefs? Does it spill over?
You know, I’m sure there is, but I’m a rarity. I really don’t pay attention like that. But I don’t really feel like there is.
People in the comments will go try to pit us against each other sometimes. But most of the people who run the sites or the writers know what’s going on. We know what’s going on with celebrities and how they try to maneuver. So we know what’s up when we see people in the comments trying to get us to go back and forth with each other.
It’s kind of boring anyway, going back and forth with another site or a blog. Everybody is in this little rat race. And I don’t think people really have time to beef — at least that’s what I would like to think. I’m not worried about what other sites are doing because I just don’t have the time. You know what I mean? I just can’t get distracted. There’s too much other stuff going on.
So you’ve never thought about starting a beef with The Shade Room?
No. For what? It’s of no benefit to me. That’s whack to me. That’s super whack. And if they did, I’d be like: “What is y’all doing?” I mean, it would be entertaining — but no. I have not ever thought of it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.