Music Business

Whitenicious Lawsuit: How Dencia’s Exposure of Lisa Raye’s Settlement Inquiry on Social Media May be a Wrong Move

The story allegedly goes like this. In early January, Lisa Raye McCoy (an actress, director and business woman), made an appearance on a radio station to discuss a new movie project titled ‘Skinned;’ which focuses on highlighting the detrimental impact of skin bleaching creams. During the course of the interview, she asserted that a particular brand of skin lightening cream, “White-a-licious,” caused cancer and left dark spots on the skin when used.

Dencia, a controversial Los Angeles based Cameroon-American musician and founder of Whitenicious, heard the remarks and publicly demanded that McCoy recant her statements. McCoy refused. Dencia then sent a formal demand letter to McCoy again demanding she recant her statement or else face legal action. In response, McCoy responded and allegedly brushed off Dencia’s threat to sue, and claimed that her use of ‘Whitelicious’ had no bearing on ‘Whitenicious.’  In addition, she referenced Dencia’s prior social media tweets where Dencia claimed she was fine with negative statements made by celebrities about her product because whenever they did, her sales went up. In relevant part, Dencia’s prior tweet said:

“Everytime a celeb or blog mentions Whitenicious, saying anything good or bad, the sales go up 1000 [percent], so hey, keep talking.” 

McCoy also allegedly stated she was willing to publicly state that she was not referring to Dencia’s product. Dencia was unsatisfied with McCoy’s statement. In February, she sued for defamation and product disparagement claiming lost sales and repeated attacks on social media over McCoy’s comments, and asking for punitive damages.

Dencia also countered that the products Whitealicious and Whitenicious were essentially the same, sounded the same,  her company even owned the domain to Whitealicious.net, and Lisa intentionally made those statements because she had been in discussions with  Dencia on one of her other products.

Now that the case is in the pre-litigation phase, Lisa has allegedly contacted Dencia to discuss settlement. Instead of Dencia to directly respond to Lisa, she took to social media to share the private email, and promise to continue with ligation. She also made clear this case is meant to serve as a warning to others who attempt to defame her.

Ms. Uduak’s take?

Re: Lisa Raye

First, I generally would not advise a client I represent to make contact with an opponent, especially to discuss settlement. Most lawyers don’t. So, I suspect that if it is true that the contact was made, then McCoy contacted Dencia on her own accord.

Second,  if you are in McCoy’s situation and have allegedly played tough all along, you should think and know your Plaintiff’s temperament before sending them a letter. In fact, don’t send any correspondence. It  is a bad idea and can be used against you in court, especially when you leave the lawyers out of the dialogue. At best, given all the bad blood, call the Plaintiff , through your lawyer, and ask to discuss settlement in the presence of both of your lawyers.

Third, McCoy could have handled this situation much better. It really is not that serious and should not have gone this far.  In this situation, what could have easily been resolved with a simple cleverly worded statement to Dencia and the public has morphed into litigation. McCoy is still handling this situation poorly.

Re: Dencia

If you are in Dencia’s situation and you hire your lawyers to litigate your claim, streamline everything through your lawyers. Taking situations like these to social media has never really helped anyone. Also, since there are never guarantees on the outcome of a case, you don’t want to have to eat your words if your case is dismissed or you lose at trial. If you do lose, you set a dangerous precedent for others to say anything and get away with it about you. I always say this: “I don’t care how rich you think you are. Once you get trial lawyers involved and engaged in legal battles in your behalf, you can and will easily get financially drained. It just is what it is.

Finally, if you are in Dencia’s situation, always remember that you are not the only one that can sue. There may be facts, as a result of your new conduct on social media or prior conduct, that can give rise for an aggressive lawyer to slap you with a countersuit. This in turn can force your hand and yield a very different outcome than the one you expected.

As a general rule AML people, stay off social media with issues like these.

Watch McCoy explain herself back in January. See images from Dencia’s recent outing of Lisa Raye on social media.

Also let me know your thoughts on how you think these ladies could have handled the situation.

-Ms. Uduak

Dencia v Lisa Raye 1 Dencia v. Lisa Raye Whitenicious 2 Dencia v. Lisa Raye Whitenicious 3 Dencia v. Lisa Raye Whitenicious 4

Photocredit: TMZ

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Africa Music Law™

AFRICA MUSIC LAW™ (AML) is a pioneering music business and entertainment law blog and podcast show by Fashion and Entertainment Lawyer Ms. Uduak Oduok empowering the African artist and Africa's rapidly evolving entertainment industry through brilliant music business and entertainment law commentary and analysis, industry news, and exclusive interviews.

Credited for several firsts in the fashion and entertainment industry, Ms. Uduak is also a Partner and Co-Founder of Ebitu Law Group, P.C. where she handles her law firm’s intellectual property law, media, business, fashion, and entertainment law practice areas. She has litigated a wide variety of cases in California courts and handled a variety of entertainment deals for clients in the USA, Africa, and Asia.

Her work and contributions to the creative industry have been recognized by numerous organizations including the National Bar Association, The American University School of Law and featured in prestigious legal publications in the USA including ABA Journal and The California Lawyer Magazine. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the prestigious Academy of Arts University in San Francisco.
For legal representation inquiries, please email (uduak@ebitulawgrp.com). For blog related inquiries i.e. advertising, licensing, or guest interview requests, please email (africamusiclaw@gmail.com). Thank you for visiting Africa Music Law™.

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