Stephanie Rao, an up-and-coming Miami fashion model, filed a federal lawsuit against hip-hop rapper Ma$e and his publicist for using her image without consent.
Ma$e, whose real name is Mason Betha, is a Harlem-based rapper and pastor who was once signed with Sean “Diddy” Combs’ Bad Boy Records label. To promote his latest single, “Why Can’t We,” the Roosevelt Creative Group LLC used an image of Rao, 22, in a swimsuit, according to a three-count complaint filed in Miami federal court.
Ma$e featured the image on his Instagram page, the complaint prepared by Rao’s attorney Darren Heitner states. The use of Rao’s image quickly spread. It’s on more the 40 popular websites—including YouTube, The Boombox and RapDose.com—in connection with the song.
Rao’s complaint claims neither Roosevelt, an Atlanta-based company run by Freddy Roosevelt, nor Ma$e tried to contact her to seek permission.
Heitner, a partner at Wolfe Law in Miami, alleged he sent Roosevelt a demand letter to cease all uses of Rao’s image and have all websites remove her image if its use is connected to the single.
“Roosevelt had the audacity to request that plaintiff make herself available for a video shoot after Roosevelt was put on notice of the illegal use of plaintiff’s image,” Heitner told the court in the complaint filed Wednesday.
Rao’s causes of action include a violation of right of publicity and deceptive, false and misleading advertising under state laws, and false advertisement under federal law.
Rao, whose real name is Stephanie Delgado, describes herself on Model Mayhem, a business networking website for models, as a “Dade County baby” of Puerto Rican and Italian origin.
As relief, Rao asks U.S. District Judge Kathleen Williams to permanently stop Ma$e and anyone else from using her image in connection with the single. She also asked for a royalty of $60,000 and punitive damages of $180,000.