Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat :

Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : What Is Weverse, ‘Super App’ Joined by Ariana Grande? 

Ariana Grande poses at the Met Gala in New York City, New York, US, May 6, 2024. (Reuters)
Ariana Grande poses at the Met Gala in New York City, New York, US, May 6, 2024. (Reuters)
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What Is Weverse, ‘Super App’ Joined by Ariana Grande? 

Ariana Grande poses at the Met Gala in New York City, New York, US, May 6, 2024. (Reuters)
Ariana Grande poses at the Met Gala in New York City, New York, US, May 6, 2024. (Reuters)

Pop star Ariana Grande is joining Weverse, a superfan platform owned by HYBE, an entertainment firm that manages K-Pop phenomenon BTS.

Here is what we know about Weverse and why more pop stars around the world are joining the app.

WHAT IS THE WEVERSE APP?

Weverse is an app that specializes in interaction between artists and fans. Artists on the app write posts, livestream and sell merchandise. HYBE described Weverse as a "super app" that also offers machine translation in 15 .

When Jin, the oldest member of BTS, spoke to fans on Wednesday after finishing his 18-month-long military duty, his initial livestream crashed before resuming and racking up more than 2 million views in 10 minutes.

Released in 2019, the app had more than 10 million monthly active users on average in the third quarter of 2023, according to HYBE. Nine of 10 Weverse users are international.

WHY IS ARIANA GRANDE JOINING WEVERSE?

Grande will join the app after signing a partnership with HYBE America, the entertainment firm said on Friday, without providing further details.

Her channel is yet to launch, and HYBE declined to confirm the opening date.

HYBE America, which also manages Justin Bieber and The Kid LAROI, will also continue cooperation with Grande's cosmetics brand R.E.M Beauty, the company added.

The new partnership comes after Billboard reported last year that Grande was parting ways with manager Scooter Braun, who she had been with since her debut in 2013. Braun is now the CEO of HYBE America after a $1.05 billion merger deal in 2021 between HYBE and the music executive's Ithaca Holdings.

The announcement of Grande's partnership was met with amusement from K-Pop fans online.

"Ariana unnie" one fan said on X, referring to her with a Korean honorific for older sister.

Japanese pop duo Yoasobi, who attended a state dinner at the White House with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida in April, also opened their channel on Weverse earlier this month.

WHAT DOES HYBE SEEK TO GAIN?

In a 2022 interview, Weverse President Joon Choi told Reuters that the platform's users are "superfans characterized by passionate engagement."

"They bought merch here, watched videos there, communicated elsewhere ... We didn't have a database of our customers. So, we began developing each service in-house," he said in the interview.

The app's growth comes against the backdrop of HYBE's efforts to expand as a label including its acquisition of Exile Music, a music label of Spanish language media company Exile Content, in its first major foray into the Latin music market.



Aswat Asharq Al-Awsat : Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
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Richard Simmons, a Fitness Guru Who Mixed Laughs and Sweat, Dies at 76

Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)
Richard Simmons. (Getty Images)

Richard Simmons, television's hyperactive court jester of physical fitness who built a mini-empire in his trademark tank tops and short shorts by urging the overweight to exercise and eat better, died Saturday. He turned 76 on Friday.

Simmons died at his home in Los Angeles, his publicist Tom Estey said in an email to The Associated Press. He gave no further details.

Los Angeles police and fire departments say they responded to a house — whose address the AP has matched with Simmons through public records — where a man was declared dead from natural causes.

Simmons, who had revealed a skin diagnosis in March 2024, had lately dropped out of sight, sparking speculation about his health and well-being. His death was first reported by TMZ.

Simmons was a former 268-pound teen who became a master of many media forms, sharing his hard-won weight-loss tips as host of the Emmy-winning daytime "Richard Simmons Show" and author of best-selling books and the diet plan Deal-A-Meal. He also opened exercise studios and starred exercise videos, including the wildly successful "Sweatin' to the Oldies" line, which became a cultural phenomenon.

"My food plan and diet are just two words — common sense. With a dash of good humor," he told The Associated Press in 1982. "I want to help people and make the world a healthier, happy place."

Simmons embraced mass communication to get his message out, even as he eventually became the butt of jokes for his outfits and flamboyant flair. He was a sought-after guest on TV shows led by Merv Griffin, Mike Douglas and Phil Donahue. But David Letterman would prank him and Howard Stern would tease him until he cried. He was mocked in Neil Simon’s "The Goodbye Girl" on Broadway in 1993, and Eddie Murphy put on white makeup and dressed like him in "The Nutty Professor," screaming "I’m a pony!"

Asked if he thought he could motivate people by being silly, Simmons answered, "I think there's a time to be serious and a time to be silly. It's knowing when to do it. I try to have a nice combination. Being silly cures depression. It catches people off guard and makes them think. But in between that silliness is a lot of seriousness that makes sense. It's a different kind of training."

Simmons’ daytime show was seen on 200 stations in America, as well as in Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Japan and South America. His first book, "Never Say Diet," was a smash best-seller.

He was known to counsel the severely obese, including Rosalie Bradford, who held records for being the world's heaviest woman, and Michael Hebranko, who credited Simmons for helping him lose 700 pounds. Simmons put real people — chubby, balding or non-telegenic — in his exercise videos to make the fitness goals seem reachable.

Throughout his career, Simmons was a reliable critic of fad diets, always emphasizing healthy eating and exercise plans. "There'll always be some weird thing about eating four grapes before you go to bed, or drinking a special tea, or buying this little bean from El Salvador," he told the AP in 2005 as the Atkins diet craze swept the country. "If you watch your portions and you have a good attitude and you work out every day you'll live longer, feel better and look terrific."

Simmons was a native of New Orleans, a chubby boy named Milton by his parents. (He renamed himself "Richard" around the age of 10 to improve his self-image). He would tell people he ate to excess because he believed his parents liked his older brother more. He was teased by schoolmates and ballooned to almost 200 pounds.

Simmons told the AP his mother watched exercise guru Jack LaLanne's TV show religiously when he was growing up, but he wasn't crazy about the fitness fanatic. "I hated him," Simmons said. "I wasn't ready for his message because he was fit and he was healthy and he had such a positive attitude, and I was none of those things."

Simmons went to Italy as a foreign exchange student and ended up doing peanut butter commercials and bacchanalian eating scenes for director Federico Fellini in his film "Fellini Satyricon." He told the AP: "I was fat, had curly hair. The Italians thought I was hysterical. I was the life of the party."

His life changed after getting an anonymous letter. "One dark, rainy day I went to my car and found a note. It said, 'Dear Richard, you're very funny, but fat people die young. Please don't die." He was so stunned that he went on the starvation diet that left him thin but very ill.

After the crash diet he gained back 65 pounds. Eventually, he was able to devise a sensible plan to take off the pounds and keep them off. "I went into the business because I couldn't find anything I liked," he said.

When Simmons hadn’t been seen in public for several years, some news outlets speculated that he was being held hostage in his own house. In telephone interviews with "Entertainment Tonight" and the "Today" show, Simmons refuted the claims and told his fans he was enjoying the time by himself. Filmmaker-writer Dan Taberski, one of his regular students, launched a podcast in 2017 called "Missing Richard Simmons."

In 2022, Simmons broke his six-year silence, with his spokesperson telling the New York Post that the beloved fitness icon was "living the life he has chosen."

One of the online tributes after Simmons’ passing was from actor-comedian Pauly Shore, who previously developed an unauthorized biopic of Simmons, which Simmons objected to at the time.

"I just got word like everyone else that the beautiful Richard Simmons has passed," he began in an Instagram post. "You’re one of a kind, Richard. An amazing life. An amazing story."