'I am so blessed': Buddy Valastro gives update on hand injury, talks 'sweetest' Gigi Hadid

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USA TODAY 16 July, 2021 - 12:00pm 7 views

How does never have I ever season 2 end?

Never Have I Ever's Season 2 finale ended well for Devi, not so much for her longtime academic rival and sometime boyfriend, Ben Gross. Both attended their school's winter formal, though not together; Ben accompanied his girlfriend, Aneesa, while Devi and her single pal Eleanor decided to be each other's dates. TVLineNever Have I Ever Finale: Jaren Lewison on Ben's Devastating Devi Discovery

"As beautiful as she is on the outside, I think she's even more beautiful on the inside," "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro says of model and pal Gigi Hadid.

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'Cake Boss' Buddy Valastro gets teary-eyed on the "Today" show describing how his family helped him after an accident led to a gruesome hand injury. USA TODAY

"Buddy vs. Duff" is no piece of cake. 

The Food Network series, which pits "Cake Boss" Buddy Valastro against pastry chef and former "Ace of Cakes" star Duff Goldman, kicks off its third season Sunday (9 EDT/PDT, also streaming on Discovery+).

"It's definitely the most grueling show I've ever filmed," says Valastro, 44. "It's a six-day workweek, and it's probably 15-hour days, every day. You’re just constantly going, and it’s nonstop because you're really trying to do the best work you do – the biggest, the cleanest, the nicest."

The pandemic kept the challengers on separate coasts this season. Valastro worked from his hometown of Hoboken, New Jersey, and Duff baked in Los Angeles. Fifty cake artists throughout the U.S. evaluate the chefs' creations virtually. 

Valastro, who creates confections at the family-run Carlo's Bakery, was the champ in the competition's sophomore season. As if the pressure of defending his title wasn't enough, months before the throwdown was planned for last spring, the baker's hand was repeatedly skewered by a metal rod thanks to a malfunctioning pinsetter at his home bowling alley. 

Today he feels "back to 90% to 95%," which he describes as "insane" given his injury. Valastro says he had his fifth surgery about six weeks before "Buddy vs. Duff" began taping. . (He might need a sixth next year.)  "But if this is as good as it's gonna get, I will take it," he says. "Comparatively, what happened, I am so blessed and thankful." 

After shooting the cake competition series, Valastro solidified his friendship with model Gigi Hadid, Harper's Bazaar's August cover girl. The two met when she played intern at his cake shop in June for the magazine, but the sugar artist has made cakes for Hadid and her boyfriend, singer Zayn Malik. "I told her that she's got her baker for life," Valastro says. "So whenever she needs a cake, I'm just a phone call away." 

The cake maker reveals fears his hand injury could hold him back, the cake that made him cry this season and more about his budding friendship with Hadid. (Edited for length and clarity.)

Buddy Valastro: Honestly, I was so worried, not only about putting me at a disadvantage, but really baking is what I do – it’s part of my life. If I could not do it to the level I was able to do it, I don't know how I would’ve felt about it. It might have been, for me, the last season of cake competitions I would’ve ever did. I'm not the kind of guy that would want to do it from the sidelines and be the coach.

Valastro: It was less about winning for me. It was more about being able to overcome my hand injury. I was mentally prepared going in to win or lose. Of course, you wanna do the best you can, but Duff and his team did amazing work last season. I have a tremendous amount of respect for them and what they can do.

Valastro: The finale was by far my favorite cake that we did, (it) ranked as top three cakes we've ever made as a team in the history of the bakery, ever, in my life...It was a perfect cake. So the looks, the special effects, it was clean, it was big. It was everything. Monsters was the theme, and we did a nuclear dinosaur. It was like 21 (feet) long. It probably weighs, I would say, about 1,500-2,000 pounds, and you had all these spikes that were made out of blown sugar that we illuminated. There was only two cakes in my lifetime that I've ever made that I cried. And I looked at that cake, and it was just so perfect, and I was so proud of my team, I got emotional. I got choked up.  

Valastro: She is the sweetest, nicest person. You know how they say people are beautiful on the inside? As beautiful as she is on the outside, I think she's even more beautiful on the inside. She was so gracious and so nice. It was funny because she really fan-girled (over) me. She met me, and she cried. I was taken back because I still don't ever feel like a celebrity. But she grew up watching "Cake Boss" with her family. We made a cake together. She's actually amazingly talented in what she does, too. She’s an artist, and she's very creative. Her cake came out really good. But we just spent the whole afternoon together, and she was so cool, so down to earth. 

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Never Have I Ever's Megan Suri touches on making Mindy Kaling laugh on set

Geo News 18 July, 2021 - 04:29am

The newest edition in the cast of Never Have I Ever, Megan Suri, is touching on how she once made Mindy Kaling laugh on the sets of the show.

The newcomer, who has joined season two as Aneesa says that it was an honest fangirl moment when she actually met creator, Kaling, on the show.

Speaking of her character, Suri revealed:

"Never Have I Ever" explores complexity of sharing space among women of color

Salon 18 July, 2021 - 03:00am

As narrator-slash-retired-tennis-legend John McEnroe puts it, "Devi was in awe of this cool Indian teen. She had always assumed her unpopularity was because of racism, but this new kid was proving that Devi might just be objectively lame."

"Aneesa's character was a very fertile area for us to tap into talking about identity politics in a way that doesn't feel too forced or pushed, and discussing something I honestly haven't seen on TV too much before," said Amina Munir, a writer on the show and a South Asian woman herself.  "That is, like the internal battle when you see someone who you're envious of, and they also happen to be your same race."

Devi is immediately threatened by Aneesa's presence, which may surprise audiences who would have expected them to bond over their shared racial identity, in a school where few other people can relate to them. After all, this is exactly what Devi's mom expects when she hears about Aneesa and promptly forces Devi to invite her over for a sleepover.

The tension Devi feels actually makes sense, however, as she watches Aneesa befriend Devi's favorite (and the only Indian) teacher who once played favorites with Devi, effortlessly infiltrate the cool kids inner circle and excel in their shared orchestra class. At one point when a white history teacher accidentally calls Aneesa by Devi's name, one of their classmates says, "Aneesa's like Devi 2.0. . . . No offense, Devi 1.0." 

There's always been an unspoken paradox of sorts for women, people of color and all marginalized identities, who are often the one, token member of their community in a number of settings. Being the only person who represents your community in any given space can be exhausting and lonely — yet, when other members of your community do join you in the space, their presence can feel like a threat, or competition, mostly because traditionally white, male spaces offer so few spots to anyone who's different from them. 

We've seen echoes of this on "The Simpsons" when overachiever Lisa Simpson feels theatened by a new girl who is better at everything – school, the saxophone and even dioramas – that Lisa feels makes her unique. And in Kaling's other sitcom, "The Mindy Project," her gynecologist character attempts to distance herself from another Asian female candidate going up for the same job.

In the case of "Never Have I Ever," Devi immediately tries to downgrade Aneesa's social clout with insults and gossip, beginning with her humorously hypocritical comment, "I get sort of a self-hating Indian vibe from [Aneesa]. I bet she doesn't have any Indian friends." Devi, of course, has none herself. 

Munir was able to relate to the storyline involving tension between Devi and Aneesa on a personal level. "For all the racial diversity we're seeing in highly coveted spaces, we're still very tokenized," she said. "Really, are you seeing multiple women of color occupying power in the same office? So many people in charge of hiring think to themselves, 'We've got one, great.' You're making it appear to people of different minority groups that there is only room for one."

That's exactly what Devi thinks — that there's only room for her. She's long had conflicting feelings about her Indian-ness, and in Season 1 we see her feeling embarrassed by it during a Ganesh Puja celebtation, while also being defensive when others perceive her as not Indian enough. That's because whatever she may personally feel about her Indian heritage, it's always been a defining and, in her school, unique part of her identity. It's also a part of her identity she felt she could comfortably blame for her lacking popularity — what's her excuse when Aneesa shows up and almost immediately charms everyone in their class, including Devi's love interest Ben (Jaren Lewison)?

It's not until the aforementioned sleepover, during which they sneak out and Devi gets her nose pierced, that she begin to feel trust and kinship with Aneesa. The next morning when Devi's mother lectures her daughter about the piercing that was decidedly not parent-approved, Aneesa covers for her and claims Devi got her nose pierced to feel closer to her Indian heritage. It's only because they share this cultural background that she's able to effectively defuse the situation.

But that goodwill evaporates quickly once Devi catches wind of romance brewing between Aneesa and Ben, and "pulls a Devi" by selfishly sabotaging the romance. Despite a rough start, Devi and Aneesa eventually find their footing, but the tension — mostly instigated by Devi early in their relationship — between them is one of the most compelling arcs of the season.

"It's a storyline that was very interesting to Mindy in particular, that feeling that there can only be one, which I think many women and marginalized people feel a lot of times, in school settings but also in work settings," Lang Fisher, showrunner and a writer for "Never Have I Ever," told Salon. "It's like, 'Oh no, if there's only one of us then someone else shows up, what does it mean for me?'"

According to Fisher, the added element of Aneesa's presence on the first comedy centering an Indian American teenager, is meant to "send the message, almost in a meta way, that there shouldn't only be one." 

"Aneesa and Devi are both Indian but they couldn't be more different. Aneesa is Muslim, she's a jock, she's struggling with a pretty hard eating disorder. Her insecurities and her troubles are very different than Devi's," she said. "We wanted to show you can't have one person represent everything from a culture or ethnicity, and it's good to have multiple people of color particularly in a show showing different types of people." 

The second season of "Never Have I Ever" is rife with thoughtful storylines like this one approaching the complexities of youth, immigrant, South Asian and queer identities, as well as grief and trauma. It's one of many shows that reflect the diversity and values of high schoolers today.

"Gen-Z couldn't be more progressive, they are just the ones on the forefront fighting for everything good. You can't have a teen show without making it pretty progressive, because that is what that generation is all about," Fisher said. "It's important to have queer storylines, it's important to have storylines that center around young people of color."

Gen-Z may indeed be more progressive than its predecessors — but that doesn't mean its members can't be just as messy and problematic, and wonderfully cheesy and romantic. Fisher says she grew up watching all the classic John Hughes movies, stories of uncomplicated fun and youth. "Those were incredibly white and have zero gay characters," she said, "but the feeling you got when you watched them, the angst of the teens and the romance and all that stuff — we hope [in 'Never Have I Ever'] we modernize that for a new audience." 

On "Never Have I Ever," Lee Rodriguez plays Fabiola, one of Devi's two best friends whose specialty is robotics and is also a queer girl of color. As with Hulu's "Love, Victor" her narrative encompasses more than the clichéd angst-ridden coming out story and instead is an ongoing exploration of her identity in all its facets. The show's serious regard for its young subjects and audience is apparent in how thoroughly these stories are told with empathy, depth and nuance.

"No one on the staff is in high school," said Munir. "But what I appreciate most in stories about younger people is treating those characters with respect, because so often I find when I watch high school shows or media that features high schoolers, there is such an adult judgment toward some of the kids, that ignores how young people have such strong emotions and such high stakes at that age. So, why wouldn't you treat those stakes as seriously as they feel? 

"When you're that young, everything feels life and death, and it's a very fun kind of genre to write, because there's so much there, all these raw emotions people are dealing with, and it translates so beautifully to screen."

It would have been easy for the show to write off the rivalry Devi imagines between herself and Aneesa as more of the same, petty teen drama. "Never Have I Ever" doesn't shy from the fact that Devi is, in fact, a petty teen — but it also makes it clear there are serious, interesting and relatable dynamics that compel her to feel this way toward the new girl.

At the end of the day, the foremost goal of the writers and creators of "Never Have I Ever" is to give audiences a fun experience, which is fun not despite but because it shows the fullness of the lives of a diverse group of young people. "What we're trying to achieve is a show that isn't preaching at you or trying to tell you how to feel about anything," Fisher said. "We're just trying to show an Indian American teen who still has fun, juicy storylines about boys, has best friends, and we want it to also just be really fun."

Kylie Cheung is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She is also the author of "A Woman's Place," a collection of feminist essays. You can follow her work on Twitter @kylietcheung.

Never Have I Ever Recap: Face the Music

Vulture 17 July, 2021 - 01:48pm

Devi tries her best to throw everyone off her scent by insisting that she lead the school administration’s effort to track down the individual who started the rumor (which turned out to be factual) that Aneesa has an eating disorder. At first, she insists that working backwards by asking each student where they heard the rumor from is a bad idea, despite everyone else’s objections, because she knew all roads would lead back to her. Aneesa, skeptically, follows her new friend’s lead. When it goes nowhere, Fabiola and Eleanor hop on the case and insist they work backwards, a.k.a. the most logical thing to do.

As her friends get closer and closer to the culprit, Devi’s anxiety skyrockets. Finally, they’re interviewing Shira and her best friend, the two people Devi had originally made the “Aneesa is anorexic” comments to. To her absolute surprise, neither of them remember where they heard the comments from. For once, Devi being incredibly forgettable worked in her favor. The school principal tells the two girls that they are kicked off the winter dance committee, and Devi has completely evaded any consequence for her actions, or so you would think.

Devi’s guilt eats her up as she watches Aneesa sink deeper into a depression. Finally, at a sleepover with her three friends, Devi fesses up to starting the rumor. As a result, Aneesa tells the school principal, who informs Devi that she is suspended. Devi looks to her mom and begs her to do something, to which Nalini tells her that her actions have consequences. As she’s leaving school, she begs Aneesa to talk to the principal, but Aneesa tells her off for being selfish, calling her worse than the girls at the private school she transferred out of.

Devi is like pretty much every other main character in a sitcom with a cynical lead character: reckless, destructive, sometimes even downright cruel. The thing that differentiates Never Have I Ever from those shows is that Devi is not able to wiggle her way out of it using charm and charisma because, frankly, she doesn’t have either of those things. When she demands to know why she got suspended when the two other girls got a slap on the wrist, her principal lays it out for her: She purposely sabotaged an investigation, lied to everyone, and let two (comparatively) innocent girls take the fall for it.

Also unlike those aforementioned cynical sitcom protagonists, Devi doesn’t have that one friend who insists she’s right and sides with her on everything; her friends and family don’t stick up for her or concoct some crazy scheme to help her find an easy way out of this. Everyone around her firmly reiterates that she is at fault and needs to find a way to apologize to Aneesa. It’s refreshing and even a little bit endearing. For once, a protagonist feels the full weight of repercussions.

The B-story focuses on developing Nalini’s forthcoming romance with rival dermatologist Dr. Chris Jackson. Initially pompous and stand-offish towards him, she begins to soften when, at a retirement party for a former mentor, they bond over being single parents. Nalini confides in him about how she struggled after losing Mohan, and he tells her about how difficult it was to bond with his son after his wife left him. She begins to look at him differently, her annoyance slowly replaced with fondness and warmth.

Kamala’s storyline this season, much like her Indian accent, feels forced at times. That being said, it’s a topic that TV shows rarely explore, and Never Have I Ever deserves credit for its continued foray into atypical subject matters. Kamala continues struggling at her Ph.D. clinical lab rotation. To her excitement, her supervisor tells her she has earned some time with Dr. Peters, the scientist who oversees their department and the revolutionary STEM cell doctor who inspired her to pursue a Ph.D. It’s not long before she finds out it was a red herring to distract her from the fact that her name has been left off of their scientific journal, despite her having done most of the work behind the dissertation. When she speaks to Dr. Peters, she asks him what she should do. He curtly tells her he doesn’t get involved in the politics of the lab before launching into a long-winded diatribe about his career.

Nalini’s storyline is really the only glimmer of hope in this otherwise bleak episode. We don’t often get to watch single mothers explore their sexuality on TV in a guilt-free manner, let alone an Indian woman. Nalini’s character continues to be among the strongest in the show: she is allowed to grieve while also craving companionship from someone who understands her experiences. I can’t wait to see where this relationship goes — and how Devi is going to react when she finds out about it.

Never Have I Ever's Megan Suri Recalls Making Mindy Kaling Laugh on Set: 'Still Living Off of It'

PEOPLE 17 July, 2021 - 09:00am

The 20-year-old actress, who joined the Netflix show for its second season, tells PEOPLE that she was grateful Kaling's visit was a surprise. "I would have been in my head about that entire time [we were shooting]," she says. 

"She couldn't have been nicer," Suri continues of Kaling, 42. "I actually made her laugh on set — that was back seven months ago perhaps, but I'm still living off of it. Just knowing that I made Mindy Kaling laugh literally gets me through some of my darkest times." 

Never Have I Ever, which first premiered in April 2020, stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a modern-day first-generation Indian American teenage girl navigating high school.

Suri plays transfer student Aneesa in season 2 of the teen comedy, which dropped on Netflix Thursday. 

"She just sort of naturally embodies everything that Devi wants to be," she says of her character. "She's effortlessly confident, she's sporty, people take a liking to her almost instantaneously and as a result of that, that sort of triggers Devi in her inner insecurities." 

Suri, who has previously appeared in episodes of Fresh Off the Boat and Atypical among other shows, adds that Aneesa was her most "complex" role yet. 

"That was really delicious as an actor to be able to delve into some substance," she says. 

RELATED: Mindy Kaling Cannot Hide Her Excitement as She Meets Selling Sunset's Christine Quinn: 'I Screamed'

The young star also reflects on spending time with Ramakrishnan, 19, on set, noting that she was impressed by the show's diversity both in front of and behind the camera. 

"Bonding with another brown girl on set — for me as Megan, not even as Megan the actor — was really cool," she says of Ramakrishnan. 

"I've never been a part of a project where I've seen so many people that look like myself," she continues. "Not just on screen but really actually behind the camera. My first director Lena Khan is a Muslim Indian woman, we have so many Indian writers — and not to mention all of season 2 is directed by women." 

Season 2 of Never Have I Ever is available to stream on Netflix. 

Never Have I Ever 's Megan Suri Recalls Making Mindy Kaling Laugh on Set: 'Still Living Off of It'

Yahoo Entertainment 17 July, 2021 - 09:00am

Never Have I Ever newcomer Megan Suri couldn't help but fangirl when creator Mindy Kaling came to set one day.

The 20-year-old actress, who joined the Netflix show for its second season, tells PEOPLE that she was grateful Kaling's visit was a surprise. "I would have been in my head about that entire time [we were shooting]," she says.

"She couldn't have been nicer," Suri continues of Kaling, 42. "I actually made her laugh on set — that was back seven months ago perhaps, but I'm still living off of it. Just knowing that I made Mindy Kaling laugh literally gets me through some of my darkest times."

Never Have I Ever, which first premiered in April 2020, stars Maitreyi Ramakrishnan as Devi, a modern-day first-generation Indian American teenage girl navigating high school.

RELATED: Mindy Kaling Channels Devi from Never Have I Ever for Halloween: 'What's A'Poppin?'

Suri plays transfer student Aneesa in season 2 of the teen comedy, which dropped on Netflix Thursday.

"She just sort of naturally embodies everything that Devi wants to be," she says of her character. "She's effortlessly confident, she's sporty, people take a liking to her almost instantaneously and as a result of that, that sort of triggers Devi in her inner insecurities."

Suri, who has previously appeared in episodes of Fresh Off the Boat and Atypical among other shows, adds that Aneesa was her most "complex" role yet.

"That was really delicious as an actor to be able to delve into some substance," she says.

RELATED: Mindy Kaling Cannot Hide Her Excitement as She Meets Selling Sunset's Christine Quinn: 'I Screamed'

The young star also reflects on spending time with Ramakrishnan, 19, on set, noting that she was impressed by the show's diversity both in front of and behind the camera.

"Bonding with another brown girl on set — for me as Megan, not even as Megan the actor — was really cool," she says of Ramakrishnan.

"I've never been a part of a project where I've seen so many people that look like myself," she continues. "Not just on screen but really actually behind the camera. My first director Lena Khan is a Muslim Indian woman, we have so many Indian writers — and not to mention all of season 2 is directed by women."

Season 2 of Never Have I Ever is available to stream on Netflix.

"She definitely has made her mistakes," said the actress

LeBron James brought his family to the red carpet premiere of "Space Jam: A New Legacy" while Mindy Kaling celebrated her Netflix series.

"Aneesa's whole thing is that she's so much more than a surface-level popular girl. She has a deeper story to tell, too."

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The Actress Who Plays Aneesa in 'Never Have I Ever' Is a Fan Favorite Already

Distractify 16 July, 2021 - 02:58pm

Jul. 16 2021, Published 3:58 p.m. ET

Season 2 of Never Have I Ever dives even deeper into Devi's personal life as she creates drama for herself, which she then has to clean up while making a fool of herself at every turn. Part of Devi's drama involves new girl, Aneesa, whom her fellow classmates consider to be the newer, better version of Devi.

And although the actress who plays Aneesa in Never Have I Ever, Megan Suri, might not feel the same way, she does have a special attachment to the series.

Megan was a fan of Never Have I Ever before she was cast as Aneesa and now, some fans are pretty enamored with the actress. Never Have I Ever fans are not only asking if Aneesa will be in future seasons but also who she is outside of the show. Here's what we know about the rising star.

Megan Suri was cast as Aneesa in Season 2, and, for her, it was basically a dream come true. Megan explained to PopSugar that she had been a fan of the show before she was cast, and she even watched the entire second season before it dropped on Netflix. It's safe to say she's still a fan, but for different reasons now that she is one of the breakout stars of the series.

But before Never Have I Ever, Aneesa was in a ton of other TV shows, some of which you might recognize her from. Megan was in episodes of Fresh off the Boat and How to Get Away With Murder, and she had a recurring role in Atypical. She was also in HBO's The Brink, but it certainly seems like being Aneesa in Never Have I Ever will be a breakout role for her.

Although Megan plays Aneesa expertly in Never Have I Ever, some viewers might still be surprised to know that she started acting at a young age. Growing up primarily in Los Angeles will do that to you. According to Megan's Instagram, she got her first role — in a Honda commercial — at the age of 8.

In 2020, Megan opened up to Filme Shilmy about living in India for a time and how it helped her relate to her character in The MisEducation of Bindu.

"I lived in India for two and a half years, and when I came back, I went straight into third grade," she told the outlet. "I just remember certain things that had been indoctrinated in my time of being in school in India, and coming back to the States and then doing those things, and kids just being like, 'What is she doing? She is so weird.'"

Megan has fully embraced her role as Aneesa in Never Have I Ever and next up, she'll be in Searching 2. If her performance in the Netflix series wasn't already an indication, it's clear that there's virtually no limit to how far Megan can go as an actress. And now, she has a growing fan base to back that up.

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