Cal alumna sues NY Times for defamation

TikTok talent manager Ariadna Jacob alleges newspaper ruined her company

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Courtesy of of @littlemissjacob on Instagram

Former Cal High ASB President Ariadna Jacob, left, and TikTok star Addison Rae pose at the YouTube 2019 Streaming Awards. Jacob is suing The New York Times for defamation related to an article written about her TikTok talent management company.

Keertana Sreekumar, Investigative Editor

Former Cal High ASB president Ariadna Jacob is suing The New York Times for defamation, claiming that an article written by reporter Taylor Lorenz contained numerous false allegations about her business.

The New York Times published the article “Trying to Make it Big Online? Getting Signed isn’t Everything” by Lorenz on Aug. 14, 2020. 

Jacob, who graduated from Cal in 2002, alleges in her lawsuit that the article left Influences, her talent management company, with no clients and with its reputation in ruins, according to the legal complaint Jacob and Influences filed on Aug. 12, 2021 against Lorenz and The New York Times Company.

“I was at the height of my career and then all of a sudden it was the lowest part of my life,” Jacob said in an interview with The Californian. “Suddenly there is this negative article written about me and all the work that I had done over the last 18 years was destroyed.”

Influences managed multiple TikTok megastars, who have used the social media app to become part of a significant cultural phenomenon. Users post five-to-10-second videos of popular dances, makeup trends, commentary, and craft videos for the world to see. 

One of the top creators on the platform who Jacob managed is Charli D’Amelio, a 17-year-old social media personality with a staggering 134 million followers. From Super Bowl commercials, Hollister brand deals, and a reality TV show on HBO, the young breakout star has experienced it all, occasionally with the help of Jacob as her manager.

The TikTok content creators lived together in mansions called ‘content houses’. Jacob said that while living there the creators were expected to take part in brand deals to cover their share of rent. 

According to the New York Times article, Jacob was withholding nearly $24,000 from TikToker Brittany Tomlinson that she had earned from various brand deals.

But Tomlinson was not signed under Influences on this specific brand deal, according to the court filing. In addition, Jacob alleges in the court filing that the payment was not received from the brands, meaning any delay in payment was due to the companies in the contract.

The court filing also states that Lorenz knew this and nonetheless “chose to lie and create a false and misleading impression” in her article.

Jacob’s career started with the founding of the event marketing startup Red Rope Reviews in 2006. She said she was able to establish Influences in 2013 by networking and winning a $100,000 contract with WaveHouse San Diego.

“My business rival partnered financially with a journalist from The New York Times,” Jacob said in the interview. “They didn’t like the fact that I was representing so many TikTok influencers that were superstars.” 

Jacob went on to allege in the court filing that many of her lost clients were picked up by the rival company United Talent Agency (UTA).

“I know that what I was providing was valuable to these creators,” Jacob said. “Taylor Lorenz is behind the scene[s] calling prominent people in the media, telling them not to write a comeback story about me.” 

Jacob said that her attorney, Joe Sibley, answered all of Lorenz’s questions prior to the publication of the article.

Lorenz said she messaged Jacob on Aug. 10, 2020, “claiming that she wanted to have a call… to chat,” according to the court filing. In the following weeks, Lorenz allegedly sent an array of questions for the story to Jacob’s attorney, attaching ‘unreasonable’ deadlines in an effort “for the plaintiffs to provide evidence”. 

“We are confident that the court is going to rule in our favor,” said Sibley in an interview with The Californian, who got involved with defamation cases through successful pro bono work in Texas.

“Ariadna is a client that’s worth taking on these challenges against, such as the daunting media outlet of The New York Times,” Sibley said.

The New York Times, Lorenz’s attorney, and Tomlinson, the TikTok star, did not respond to email inquiries from The Californian. Lorenz, who left The New York Times and will begin working for The Washington Post in March, wrote on her Instagram that she is not responding to any inquries because she’s working on her autobiography.

When asked about her most memorable clients, Jacob expressed a tie between TikTok megastar Addison Rae, who starred in Netflix’s “He’s All That”, and former Team Ten member Nick Crompton. Jacob said that both have an undeniable work ethic and star quality that outshines competitors.

Jacob said she began developing her management skills in her senior leadership class taught by Fred Wilson. She recalls making class T-shirts with the word “redacted” to spite the principal’s decision to prohibit their initial design.

“It was cool to have a teacher that let us sort of build our own road and take risks, which is a big part of being an entrepreneur,” Jacob said.

Although she has not stayed in contact with Wilson, he reached out to her after seeing Lorenz’s article in The New York Times.

“I remember her to be a bright, spontaneous, energetic, likable student,” Wilson said. “Ariadna fights back. If there is something wrong, I think anybody should fight back.” 

With the aftermath of the article and current defamation case moving forward, Jacob has decided to develop a new unnamed platform where small creators will be able to get the assistance they need no matter if they have representation. This platform is currently in development.

“You’ll be able to log in and say, ‘Hey, I need to talk to a publicist for 30 minutes because my video is going viral’, or ‘I accidentally tweeted this’,” Jacob explained.

This platform will also help smaller creators collaborate with each other to further build their brands.

While the case is still ongoing, Jacob made an appearance on Fox News: Tucker Carlson Tonight back in September 2021. 

“I don’t know enough about the case other than what I’ve read,” Wilson said. “I hope only the best for her and that the outcome is the right one.”