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Public Relations Firm Says It Was Hired To Promote A Celebrity-Studded Philanthropy Conference “Built On Lies”



[This story is developing and may be updated.]

A virtual summit on philanthropy is advertising a star-studded event that will feature celebrities like George and Amal Clooney, Charlize Theron, Stephen and Ayesha Curry among others as attendees. But that was not true, according to a public relations firm that was hired to promote the event. 

Thrive Philanthropy, a small consulting firm based in Salt Lake City, Utah, has sent out splashy emails inviting journalists and others to attend a two day virtual Connect Summit, described on its website as an effort to connect humanitarians, advocates, and advocates to “educate, enlighten and engage on the most crucial and urgent global issues.”  Early bird tickets to the June 23-24 event are being offered for $399 a pop; some tickets are on sale for as much as $1,799. On Thursday afternoon, the event’s website was still selling tickets.

But Dara Kaplan, president of public relations agency Wunderlich Kaplan, which was hired to promote the conference, said in an email Thursday morning that the agency learned that the celebrities were not booked to attend and that the event information was “fraudulent.”  As a result, the agency has dropped Thrive Philanthropy and its founder, Stephanie Lapensee, as a client. 

“While something like this has never happened at our agency of over 20 years, it seems that we were hired to launch a conference that was built on lies,”  Kaplan wrote. “Regrettably, due to fraudulent information provided to us by our client Stephanie Lapensee the founder of Thrive Philanthropy, the creator of the Connect Summit, our agency, Wunderlich Kaplan Communications no longer represents this project.” 

George Clooney said in a statement to Forbes: “There are ads running claiming that Amal and I will be participating in the Thrive Philanthropy’s Connect Summit. We Have never heard of this summit and have never been approached to be part of a charity that is charging $399.00 for people to participate. When we contacted the company in charge they said it was a mistake and would take our names off. I then asked them who else on the list of people in the ad will not be participating. They told us Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively. They didn’t respond about Charlize Theron. We don’t know whether this charity is what it says it is and was just duped by a booking agency or whether there is something more nefarious involved. The best antiseptic is sunlight, and in the interest of protecting the public and the many important charitable organisations we hope that this situation will be rigorously investigated.”

A representative for Ryan Reynolds said to Forbes that he and Lively “were not aware of this event or confirmed to participate.” Stephen and Ayesha Curry, through a spokesperson, have also said that they “were never a part of this event.”

Charlize Theron has not responded to requests for comment.

Kaplan adds: “We are horrified about the situation and will be working diligently to make sure that all information put out there is corrected. Thank you for your understanding. It’s all pretty unbelievable as we still have not heard back from Ms. Lapensee.” 

Lapensee is the CEO and chief strategist for Thrive Philanthropy, which organized the summit. Thrive Philanthropy, founded in August 2018, has varying definitions for what it does. Connect Summit’s event website states that Thrive Philanthropy is an organization that “is a trusted advisor to charitable organizations, philanthropists, and world leaders.” The event e-mail boasts that Thrive Philanthropy is “the world’s leading philanthropy organization.” 

The website for Thrive Philanthropy, meanwhile, calls itself a boutique consulting firm. 

According to her LinkedIn profile, Lapensee also recently cofounded Spotlight, an educational platform “created to celebrate successes and failures of non-profit organizations, social enterprises, philanthropists and impact driven corporations.” Prior to Thrive Philanthropy and Spotlight, she writes that she was CEO of CauseMix and S&L Consulting. Forbes was unable to independently verify the existence of any of these organizations.

Thrive Philanthropy and Lapensee have not responded to a request for comment.

PR agent Kaplan says she found out the event was potentially fraudulent when a publicist who represented one of the celebrities reached out to her asking why her client was involved. “It’s just the weirdest thing,” she tells Forbes. “I’ve never come in contact with anything like this in my professional career.” 

Connect Summit also claims to have David Simas, the CEO of the Obama Foundation, and Dr. Rajiv Shah, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, as participants in its panels, among others. Lisa Hamilton, president and CEO of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, is also listed on a panel, though the photo used for her appears to be a stock image of a man holding a microphone. Their representatives have not responded to requests for comment.

Others speakers the website claimed to have include Peter Buffett, son of billionaire Warren Buffett and his wife Jennifer. His foundation, the NoVo Foundation, has not responded to a request for comment. The Buffetts’ last name is misspelled on Connect Summit’s website.

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Celebrity Gogglebox fans left ‘traumatised’ and ‘switching off’ over terrifying episode




Celebrity Gogglebox viewers found themselves “traumatised” with many “switching off” the show during a series of terrifying moments on Friday night.

This week, the famous faces were put through 1991 thriller Cape Fear, the movie 127 Hours and one of the most nerve-wracking episodes of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth.

All of the celebrities tuning in, including Roman Kemp, Rylan Clark-Neal and Laura Whitmore , were left uneasy and in shock over the different segments.

The jumpy elements to the Robert De Niro hit Cape Fear was enough, never mind the battle to the death between Planet Earth’s baby iguanas and hunting snakes.

But it was James Franco in 127 Hours that got the biggest and worst reactions from the celebs, with many of them hiding behind their hands.

Celebrity Gogglebox fans were left ‘traumatised’ and ‘switching off’ over a terrifying episode

They weren’t the only ones though, as the viewers at home were in equal distress over the scenes.

Again they found the entire episode too much, fearing for the iguanas while also finding Cape Fear very “stressful”.

Like the celebrities though it was 127 Hours’ lead character getting his arm trapped in a canyon and him proceeding to cut it off that left them a mess.

Celebrity Gogglebox stars Laura Whitmore and Ian Stirling were horrified

As the entire scene played out with all the blood and gore, it made for painful and stressful viewing.

Every part of it left viewers struggling to cope and many were unable to watch it, switching over or leaving the room.

As the echoes of the famous faces screaming made the entire thing worse, it was when of them said “cutting through a broken bone is easier” that many fans totally lost it.

Celebrity Gogglebox fans could barely watch, like the show’s stars

Taking to Twitter, viewers shared their own terror at the moment with many confessing they would never put that film on their watch lists.

One viewer commented: “Well that was stressful #CelebrityGogglebox,The horrible b*****d snakes , cape fear and 127 hours in one setting. OMG I’m stressed out.”

Another said: “So traumatised after watching #CelebrityGogglebox tonight. First lizards being killed by snakes then cape fear and to top it off 127 hours. Couldn’t watch any more so it’s off! Goodnight tv hello nightmares.”

Celebrity Gogglebox aired Cape Fear, Planet Earth and 127 Hours

A third agreed: “Another brilliant #CelebrityGogglebox@C4Gogglebox..but I really wasn’t ready for the 127 Hours segment.”

Meanwhile a fourth tweeted: “Omg! Who, like me, ran out of the room during 127 hours?”

This was echoed by another fan who said: “I *cannot* watch 127 Hours. I’ve had to turn this off.”

Celebrity Gogglebox airs Fridays at 9pm on Channel 4.

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Celebrity hair transformations after lockdown: Ruth Langsford, Piers Morgan, Myleene Klass and more




The day has finally come when we can wave goodbye to our split ends, say adios to our greys and utter a huge bonjour to bouncy, beautiful hair now that salons have at last reopened. It’s been a long, long time coming but as soon as we were given the green light, you can bet we grabbed our phones and dialled that all-important number to book the earliest appointment we could – summer isn’t over yet! We weren’t the only ones either as celebrities have been showing off their hair transformations all over social media – some have even completely overhauled their style, we’re looking at you, Myleene Klass. Let’s take a look at some celebs who have already had the chop…

Ruth Langsford

The This Morning star was up bright and early on Saturday – 7am! – to visit her loyal hairdresser Leo Bancroft’s salon in Weybridge, to “get my blonde on”. Ruth’s hair was noticeably lighter, with her signature fringe now perfectly framing her face, and not a split end in sight! 

MORE: Loose Women’s Saira Khan forced to defend lockdown hair

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The Home Front: Celebrity spotlight on DIY home design




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There has been a surge of interest in do-it-yourself (DIY) home design and decor, over the past few months, says Dayna Isom Johnson, a judge on NBC’s Making It, lifestyle specialist and trend expert for online makers marketplace Etsy. With people spending much more time at home, Isom Johnson says it’s driving them to learn new skills and seek out fun family activities, and as a result, DIY urban garden kits, macrame, and tie-dye kits are flying off the (virtual) shelves.

Isom Johnson is embracing this trend herself, she says, beautifying her home in Brooklyn, New York.

“I’ve been building my own backyard earth garden and green oasis. It is an instant mood enhancer that is for sure,” she says.

The Sun caught up with Isom Johnson to hear about some of the home design trends she’s seeing this summer, and hear about Etsy’s second annual design awards – the Etsies – which are open until July 15th; the grand prize winner taking home $15,000 USD — which she will judge along with actress and entrepreneur Drew Barrymore.

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