UPDATE - 12 August, 07:39: Halle Berry has responded to initial reports that she would be attending the International Women in Media conference.
Click here for the latest update.
Cape Town – A conference that’s supposed to celebrate women in the media was marred by controversy on Wednesday when it’s international headlining speaker labelled it "fake".
The International Women in Media conference, which is set to take place on 5 and 6 September at the Sandton Convention Centre, on Wednesday announced its A-list line-up which included Taraji P. Henson, Halle Berry, and Ashanti as well as a slew of local stars.
Taraji denies involvement
But a few hours later Hollywood star Taraji took to Twitter and publicly slammed the conference as “fake advertising”. She tweeted: “False! I will not be there. Never heard of this event and was never invited. Please remove my name from this event because it is false."
"I am working on Empire. It is impossible for me to be there. I hate that this organisation is misleading my fans,” she added.
FALSE ADVERTISEMENT! REMOVE MY NAME AND PICTURE! I WILL NOT BE AT THIS EVENT. THIS IS NOT OFFICIAL. ?????? https://t.co/CoPWi2t7y6— Taraji P. Henson (@TherealTaraji) August 8, 2018
Taraji and Halle Berry’s names and images removed
Shortly after Taraji’s tweets went viral the organisers removed all branding containing images of both Taraji and Halle Berry.
With no word from the organisers and the Twitter furore reaching boiling point, local TV host Bonang Matheba - who was due to host the event- also withdrew and distanced herself from the conference.
The organisers respond
The event organisers, 21st Century Group, late on Wednesday night clapped back at Taraji’s allegations saying they have signed contracts to prove that the TV star has been booked for the event.
They said: "Superstar Agency is the agency that booked Taraji P. Henson through her management, which is 42West PR. The engagement contract was signed by Susan Bymel on behalf of Superstar Agency. We also have a contract that was signed by John on behalf of 42West (Taraji’s management) confirming the booking. A deposit payment of $120 000 was paid to Superstar Agency."
Not found on Google
An internet search by Channel24 couldn’t find a website for Superstar Agency. The American talent agent Suzan Bymel does exist, but her first name is spelled with a “z” and she is the co-founder of the Management 360 talent agency in the United States.
A lawsuit filed
21st Century Group now says that “a legal lawsuit” has been lodged against Superstar Agency and Taraji’s 42West management “to be able to verify who has misled 21st Century Group in confirming that the booking was made”.
On Friday morning, Julie Schulte, 21st Century Group sales director, in response to a media enquiry said it’s now taking “this situation through a legal route” and that a lawsuit has been launched against both agencies, saying it will “go into court within the next 14 days”.
42West is yet to respond to the allegations.
Why Halle’s name was also removed
She said the reason Halle Berry’s name disappeared from the line-up is “because she’s managed by the same agency that confirmed this booking with Henson”.
Would Bonang return?
Regarding Bonang Matheba, Schulte said that “we have engaged with her management and they have agreed that once we re-open the marketing strategy they will come back onboard because they support the initiative of woman empowerment”.
When approached by Channel24 for comment Bonang's PR team simply referred to their initial statement which says that the local star "will not be participating" in the conference.
Ticket sales halted
All ticket sales for the event has been halted and those that have already purchased tickets will be refunded. The conference is still due to take place but will now be on invite only basis.
Webtickets told Channel24 that “sales have been closed in the interim”, and didn’t want disclose how many tickets had already been sold, saying; “we cannot disclose this information as it is confidential between us and our client”.