Two women are going viral on TikTok for detailing how they were denied entry to a club in Los Angeles earlier this month.
Models Ella Halikas and Alexa Jay said they tried to get into the Hollywood-area club The Highlight Room, which is owned by Tao Group Hospitality, but were barred from entering by a doorman. – and since then, the videos have sparked a mini-movement online to discuss the various biases in nightlife.
@ellahalikas sharing our story to be the voice for so many others experiencing this. we are here to make a change. @flexylexxxy ♬ original sound – she
“We’re tired of letting this happen,” Halikas said in the original TikTok video. “Us [were] being clearly discriminated against. Is very evident”.
Jay said she was with a large group and was “definitely the biggest of the bunch.” They would get together for a birthday party and a promoter would let them in, she said.
“Right when he gets to the front of me, the bouncer puts the rope in front of me, looks me up and down and says, ‘Yeah, not tonight,'” Jay said. She told NBC News that it’s not the first time she’s experienced racism or fatphobia in the nightlife, but that night she had had enough.
Fellow plus-size model Halikas, who Jay said she bumped into in line, ended up going to the front of the line to find out what was going on, also looking her up and down and saying “not tonight.” the gorilla
The two made a joint video on Halikas’ TikTok page and are both active on the platform. Halikas has over 500,000 followers and Jay has over 78,000. Halikas has been a content creator for years and a signed model since 2019, she said. She has also been in Sports Illustrated. Jay is signed to DT Model Management, according to her Instagram.
“We’re not letting this fly anymore,” Jay said in the original video. They also advocated a hashtag based on the bouncer’s words, “Not tonight,” which they said in another video that had been commented on dozens of times on The Highlight Room’s Instagram page (comments are now disabled).
The club has faced its fair share of negative reactions online. In addition to Instagram comments, the company has negative discrimination reviews (posted after the video) everywhere from its Facebook page to Google reviews, at least according to the models. Halikas said in another video that Google reviews have been removed.
“Absolutely horrible. They discriminate against weight. They should be ashamed. I would never recommend this place to anyone. Terrible customer service and social skills,” wrote a Facebook user on November 7.
People have also left negative reviews on a location of the same name, The Highlight Room in New York City, leading other people in the reviews to ask them to stop by because it’s not in the same city.
But Tao Hospitality Group actually owns that club in New York, along with several other clubs, including TAO and Marquee. Tao did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He told NBC News that he is “aware of … Ella and Alexa’s experience and [is] actively engaged with them to further discuss the incident.”
“We always appreciate feedback about our operations and continue to work to improve our guest experience… Our company does not tolerate discrimination of any kind,” the company added.
The girls claimed in a follow-up video that they had spoken to the club but were not satisfied with the results.
@flexylexxxy #stitch with @ellahalikas #nottonight ♬ original sound – Alexa Jay
“So far, we’ve been very disappointed with how Highlight Room is handling all of this,” Jay said. In addition, they said the women have been publicly discussing their own stories about dealing with discrimination in nightlife and that they hope to use the situation to pressure Tao and others on the broader issue.
At least one other person has made a TikTok video evaluating the club’s promoters and staff.
“We want to talk to the big boys at the top who are making these rules and hiring all these gorillas because at the end of the day this is up to you,” Halikas said in the follow-up video.