Mom Is Suing Trump. Her Daughter Took Down Bill O’Reilly. Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom Are the Defenders of Women in 2017
A Fourth of July with one illustrious family’s two generations of women’s rights attorneys.
This July 4th was one of the few times during the summer of 2017 that Gloria Allred and Lisa Bloom, attorneys as well as mother and daughter, have had a free morning at the same time. Fittingly, it’s also the day after Allred’s 76th birthday; I met both women at Allred’s second home in Malibu, where Bloom, dressed in a Notorious R.B.G. t-shirt (for Ruth Bader Ginsburg, of course), waited outside in her Tesla, summing up her weekend’s work this way: “Women who were sexually harassed became millionaires.”
Bloom was talking about a confidential case—the majority of hers are—but she’s been making headlines for representing women in high-profile lawsuits all year, from Bill O’Reilly’s sexual harassment accusers to, just this month, Blac Chyna in her suit against Rob Kardashian, who posted graphic comments and photos of her on social media.
Moments later, Allred arrived in her signature red, wearing pearls the size of martini olives. Sitting down next to one another, mother and daughter looked uncannily alike. “It’s a complete coincidence,” Allred said of her only child, deadpan. The sight of these two power players framed by a beachfront deck, the Pacific crashing behind them, wouldn’t look out of place on, say, Big Little Lies—not least because the HBO series deals with domestic violence, sexual assault, and the trauma inflicted on women suffering from such incidents, which makes up most of Allred and Bloom’s casework at their respective firms.
In 2017, the civil rights issues—namely, the sexual harassment and assault of women by powerful men—that Allred has based her four-decade-long career on have taken on renewed significance in the wake of a Trump presidency, in part thanks to her daughter, who has taken after Allred at her own firm. Allred represented Bill Cosby’s rape and sexual assault accusers, as did Bloom, who also designed a media strategy to topple O’Reilly from his Fox News post. Oh, and Allred has a client suing President Trump.
Allred has previously represented Amber Frey, the family of Nicole Brown Simpson, and a number of Tiger Woods’s paramours, just to name a few; she’s won against Sav-on over gendered toy aisles and the L.A. Archdiocese for sexual abuse charges, as well as the first lawsuit filed in California against the gay marriage ban. She is in these ways and more the ideal Trump foil. Though ideologically opposed, the President and the woman bringing suit against him were born just a few years apart; both were at the University of Pennsylvania in the 1960s; won national attention in the 70’s; and cemented their polarizing fame in the 80’s. More recently, they both have helmed reality TV programs; love a good cameo; and are proven ringmasters of media theatrics—to, no doubt, opposite ends. For instance, where Trump bragged about the size of his penis during a televised debate, Allred, after she famously ended the all-male members rule at the Friar’s Club, entered the club sauna with a tape measure. And they both head dynasties in which their children’s success will become a part of their legacy. By that logic, you might call Bloom the anti-Ivanka.
Trump and Allred have been at odds before. He tweeted about her in 2012: “She needs publicity. She is by far a better PR agent than lawyer,” echoing some of her critics. One doesn’t have to look any farther than Trump’s presidency to see that the remark has lost its bite in the social media age, when cases being litigated in the public eye (and many of Allred’s clients are predisposed to a public forum) often need a spin master who can manage the internet news cycle. Bloom has talked often of the “media strategy” she used to take down O’Reilly, when she brought forth a new accusation or revelation on a near-daily basis in order to keep the story in the headlines—and for a while, Bill O’Reilly’s history with women became unavoidable. In short, Allred and Bloom are well-suited to use Trump’s own tactics against him. They just have thicker skin on Twitter, or wherever trolls might lurk. “If that’s what they’re resorting to,” Allred said flatly of her attackers, “that just means they don’t have a good argument.”
Allred, however, doesn’t like to dwell on the PR side of her practice. When I brought up her penchant for press conferences, she was quick to reply, “We’re known for precedent-setting cases.” Some see her as a crusader, including perhaps Allred herself—an interview from a few years ago had her photographed in full-on body armor, like Joan of Arc. On a table when one enters her house, her book Fight Back and Win is prominently displayed, as is Bloom’s Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World.
For all her time in the public eye, Allred is a private person. I first met her through my mother, who is her neighbor, and who doesn’t have her phone number. (I have, however, been privy to Gloria Allred’s unsolicited dating advice: once, when I was deciding whether to go out with a guy again, she asked if he would pass “The Gloria Allred Dating Test.” It’s simple: “If you’d be embarrassed to introduce him to me, he didn’t pass.” Oh, and if you have to think about it? He also didn’t pass.) Allred, instead, does all her communication by e-mail, and only a handful people know her cell phone number.
“I do, but my lips are sealed,” Bloom said.
“She also knows I don’t answer,” Allred replied.
Outside of their legal careers, mother and daughter live very different lives, and in some ways embody two generations of feminism—Bloom, who practices meditation and goes to Burning Man every year with her husband and children, likes to watch I Love Dick. Allred, who it goes without saying has never considered going to Burning Man, prefers The Handmaid’s Tale. Bloom has already been to five countries this year; Allred not only does not travel, she doesn’t take days off.
“The worst thing would be to take a vacation,” Allred said. When I asked why she doesn’t take a break, she responded crisply: “Why should I? There’s no break from injustice.” She has a repertoire of such pithy rejoinders—Allred has told me more than once she lives “wherever there is a wrong to right.”
For a time, Bloom lived next door to Allred while she was raising her two, now-grown children, who had a weekly date with their grandmother. “On a Sunday morning when my grandchildren were little, they would come in for breakfast with me,” Allred recalled. “And we would always have a different debate topic.”
“Do you remember any of the topics?” Bloom asked.
“Yes I do. For example, the death penalty.”
“I think you have to have a sense of humor to do the kinds of things we do,” Bloom later added. “If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry sometimes.”
“You have to be able to laugh at yourself,” Allred said.
“Which my mom will do. To the point of hysterics.”
“Not something I have seen the President of the United States do,” Allred noted. “In terms of being able to laugh at himself.”
In 2012, she had a client who wanted to compete in the Miss Canada pageant, owned by Trump, but who was kicked out after it was revealed she was a transgender woman.
“I essentially said to Mr. Trump, ‘We don’t care what your anatomy looked like when you were born, and you shouldn’t care what her anatomy looked like when she were born, either,’” Allred recalled. “And Mr. Trump said something to the effect of, ‘Oh, Gloria would love to see what’s under my pants’ [on TMZ]. So then I responded, ‘Mr. Trump, I don’t have a magnifying glass strong enough to see something that small.’”
She ran into Trump again about a year later when she appeared on Fox News the same day he was on another program. According to her, he came to the green room to tell her client something. “He said, ‘Miss, I just want you to know: you have the best attorney you could ever have. This woman is relentless. She will never ever stop. So never ever fire her because you will never get anyone better,'” Allred recalled. ” That’s the last time I saw Donald Trump.”
The next time, Allred hopes, will be in court, with her client and former Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, who accused the president of sexual misconduct (which he denied, calling Zervos’s claims lies). Zervos has countered by filing a defamation suit. (Trump claims immunity to the charges.)
There were only a few topics that made Allred, who often has her public face on, crack a real smile: her legacy, her daughter, and her lawsuit against Donald Trump (one of many pending against the President, of course). In particular, the fact that the Zervos case may compel the President to appear in court. “We look forward to getting his deposition,” Allred said, her grin wide.
Meet the Women Who Are Making the Women’s March on Washington Happen
The executive director of the Arab American Association of New York, Linda Sarsour — a Brooklyn native, mother of three, and now one of the national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington — has been working at the crossroads of civil rights, religious freedom, and racial justice for 15 years. Once an aspiring English teacher, she joined the Arab American Association in its infancy, succeeding founder Basemah Atweh, her mentor, as executive director with Atweh’s death in 2005. “I grew out of the shadow of 9/11,” Sarsour said. “What I’ve seen out of bad always comes good, is that solidarity and unity, particularly amongst communities of color who feel like they’re all impacted by the same system.”
Tamika D. Mallory’s roots in community organizing and activism extend back to her early childhood: her parents were two of the earliest members of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network nearly 30 years ago, an organization for which Mallory went on to act as executive director. But it wasn’t until the death of her son’s father 15 years ago that Mallory found her niche in civil rights and flung herself headlong into activism. Now, she’s one of the four national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, balancing organizing the march with her day job as a speaker and civil rights advocate. “We’re centering this march by having women to be at the helm of it, to organize it, and to be most of the speakers,” she said. “At the same time I think it’s very important that we never forget the fact that our men, our brothers, our young brothers particularly need this support.”
Fashion entrepreneur Bob Bland was nearing the due date of her second daughter, now seven weeks old, when she posted a Facebook event calling for a march on Washington during inauguration weekend. Nine weeks later, she’s one of four national co-chairs at the heart of the Women’s March on Washington — where she’ll march with her infant, her six-year-old daughter, and her 74-year-old mother. “We’re activating people who were previously content with sitting behind their computer and posting on Facebook,” she said.
For Carmen Perez, executive director of Harry Belafonte’s Gathering for Justice and one of the four national co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington, work permeates everything else: “There’s no real life outside of activism,” she said. Just over two decades ago, Perez’s elder sister was killed — the anniversary of her burial coincides with the march, and with Perez’s birthday — and navigating the justice system motivated her to work with incarcerated young men and women, first as a probation officer and then with The Gathering, operating on the intersection of race, criminal justice, and immigration. “Oftentimes, when I’m in spaces, I am the only Latina and I have to speak a little louder for my community to be part of the conversation,” she said. “The work that I do around racial justice, it’s not just about Latino rights. It’s also about human rights.”
Californian ShiShi Rose, 27, moved to New York a year ago to develop her activism and writing. She previously worked at a local rape crisis center and assisted in educating therapists and counselors before turning her focus more squarely towards race, first via her Instagram account and then through public speaking engagements and writing. As part of the national committee for the Women’s March on Washington, Rose runs the group’s social media channels, from Instagram (where she has a substantial following) to Facebook. “Women encompass everything,” Rose said. “If you can fight for women’s rights, you can fight for rights across the board.”
A law student-turned-actress-turned-activist, Sarah Sophie Flicker was born in Copenhagen, the great-granddaughter of a Danish prime minister who has been credited with bringing democratic socialism to Denmark. She grew up in California before moving to New York to found the political cabaret Citizens Band, eventually joining the production company Art Not War. “Once you start breaking it all down, you realize the most vulnerable people in any community tend to be women,” she said. “All our issues intersect, and something that may affect me as a white woman will doubly affect a black woman or a Latina woman or an indigenous woman. So when we talk about a women’s movement, we need to be talking about all women.”
Vanessa Wruble, a member of the national organizing committee, is the uber-connector of the Women’s March on Washington. She’s also the founder and editor of OkayAfrica, a site connecting culture news from continental Africa with an international audience. It was Wruble who first messaged Bland on Facebook to connect her with the women who would eventually become her co-chairs: “She said, Hey, you know, you need to center women of color in the leadership of this so it can be truly inclusive,’” Bland recalled. Within a day, they were meeting for coffee; now, they’re marching together in one of the largest demonstrations in support of a vast array of causes in United States history.
Paola Mendoza, artistic director of the Women’s March on Washington, is a Colombian-American director and writer whose work has focused on immigrant experiences, particularly those of Latina women. “Women have never convened this way in our lifetime,” Mendoza said of the march, “and it’s being led for the first time ever by women of color.”
Janaye Ingram, who Michelle Obama once described as an “impressive leader,” is Head of Logistics for the March, in addition to being a consultant for issues like civil, voting, and women’s rights in Washington D.C.
Cassady Fendlay, communications director for the Women’s March on Washington, is a writer and communications strategist whose clients include The Gathering for Justice — the organization helmed by Women’s March national co-chair Carmen Perez. As the spokeswoman for the march, Fendlay is tasked with acting as its mouthpiece, ensuring its message is accurate, unified, and coherent.
In addition to being a producer of the march, Ginny Suss is the Vice President of Okayplayer.com and the President and co-founder of OkayAfrica — she does video production for both. Her background in the music industry runs deep, and she’s worked closely with The Roots for the past 13 years, serving as their Tour Manager for some time. She’s also produced large outdoor events like The Roots Picnic, Summerstage, Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, and Celebrate Brooklyn — vital experience for organizing a march of this size.
Last year, Nantasha Williams ran for the New York State Assembly as a representative of the 33rd district — which encompasses a region just east of Jamaica, Queens. Though she lost to Democrat Clyde Vanel, she’s putting her organizing skills to good use in the aftermath of the election, working on the logistics team for the march and assisting national co-chair Tamika Mallory.
When Alyssa Klein isn’t managing the various social media accounts for the Women’s March, she’s writer and Senior Editor at OkayAfrica, the largest online destination for New African music, culture, fashion, art, and politics. Based in both New York City and Johannesburg, Klein’s passion is movies and television, and has made it her profession to highlight creatives of color in both industries. Juggling social media is no easy side project, however. The Women’s March has approximately 80,000 followers on Instagram and Twitter, plus a over 200,000 on Facebook.
Shirley Marie Johnson is the March’s head administrator for Tennessee, as well as an author, poet, and singer. Primarily, though, she’s an activist and advocate for those who are victim to domestic violence, a cause that’s not only her focus at the March, but in her day-to-day life through her group Exodus, Inc., which aids those affected by rape, human trafficking, and other abuse.
Born in Shanghai, Ting Ting Cheng studied human rights at the University of Cape Town — and became an award-winning Fulbright scholar to South Africa — before heading to New York, where she’s now a criminal defense attorney at the Brooklyn Defender Services. All that’s no doubt come in handy for her role as Legal Director of the March.
Heidi Solomon is one of the three co-organizers for the Pennsylvania chapter of the Women’s March. Although she doesn’t have a long background in activism, Trump’s election moved her to take action, and she’s helped rally approximately 6,000 people from her home state.
Deborah Harris is a grassroots organizer and feminist self-help author who lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and served as a community activist for 10 years in the fields of fashion, healthcare, at risk youth, and supportive women’s relations.
As Illinois’ state representative for the Women’s March, Mrinalini Chakraborty has taken the lead in coordinating the Chicago-area charge, organizing bus rides for well over a thousand women and other supporters. She’s also on the National Committee and is a coordinator for all 50 states coming to D.C.. And that’s in addition to her day job: She’s a graduate teaching and research assistant at the University of Illinois at Chicago for anthropology, not to mention a student and a dedicated food blogger.
After earning her Ph.D in psychology, Dr. Deborah Johnson is now studying social work at the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa — and making sure she stands up for both her and her daughter’s rights at the March, which she’s helping lead the way to for other Oklahomans.
Renee Singletary is an organizer, mother of two, wife of one, marketing consultant, and certified herbalist living and working in Charleston, South Carolina.
A yoga instructor, theater graduate, and local organizer, South Carolina native Evvie Harmon has brought her skills and energy to the march as its global co-coordinator alongside Breanne Butler. Together, they facilitate partner marches and local organizers around the world, bringing the whole thing into synergy.
Corrections July 22: This article originally stated that Allred won against the L.A. archdiocese for rape charges. They were actually sexual abuse charges.
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