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Quarantours And Conference Calls: How Artists Are Collaborating In Isolation

Getty Images After recording their fifth album since 2009, indie rock band Real Estate tried a novel experiment: They aimed to be everywhere at once. In addition to a planned summer tour across the United States and Europe, the five-piece filmed a short set of new songs from The Main Thing, their latest release, in…



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After recording their fifth album since 2009, indie rock band Real Estate tried a novel experiment: They aimed to be everywhere at once. In addition to a planned summer tour across the United States and Europe, the five-piece filmed a short set of new songs from The Main Thing, their latest release, in December 2019. Following some post-production touch-ups, their fans would be able to watch it remotely from anywhere — like South America, where Real Estate had no immediate plans to play, but where fans had clamored online for a concert.
“They’re like, ‘Why don’t you ever come to São Paulo, Brazil?’ We’re like, ‘We did once and we’d love to come back. It’s just complicated,'” said bassist Alex Bleeker, who helped found the band with vocalist/guitarist Martin Courtney in suburban New Jersey. With help from creative agency Callen, they lined up virtual arrangements instead via an augmented reality concert experience you could stream on your phone. “We’re going to go on tour everywhere at the same time,” Bleeker recalled of the initial prospect, something Courtney was eager, though skeptical, to try. “I was like, ‘This whole idea is so ambitious that I’ll be shocked if it actually works out.'”
Now with the coronavirus pandemic halting the live-music industry, that experiment has become their sole touring option, though they’re not earning a cent through it at the moment. Monetizing it “was never something that we really thought of,” Bleeker said. “It was just like, ‘No, this is a cool thing that we’ve done and now, in this time, we can roll it out for this reason and foster some earnest connection.'” They’ve named it the “Quarantour,” complete with dubbed-in topical stage banter that would’ve seemed unthinkable just five months ago. (“Sadly we’re all stuck indoors right now,” Bleeker says to open the show, “and it felt to us like we could all use a few songs.”)
With tours and festivals on hold for the past month, cozy performances relegated to the glow of a digital screen have become the new normal. Even top-tier acts like Taylor Swift, Post Malone, and Lady Gaga have embraced homemade piano and guitar setups out of necessity. The stage lights, show-poster decor, and multiple angles make the Quarantour a few steps up from these diaristic webcam riggings; what really sets it apart is the now-unorthodox visual of a group. In this case, five people, standing less than 6 feet from each other, creating together in real time.
It’s a sight Glaswegian synth-pop trio Chvrches tried to replicate in a recent video of their own, thanks to some clever editing. Since forming in 2011, the band — Lauren Mayberry, Iain Cook, and Martin Doherty — have stayed tight through three Billboard 200-charting albums and a handful of globe-trotting tours. But the coronavirus pandemic has kept them self-isolating separately across time zones for over a month now at a crucial juncture when they’re laying out plans for their fourth LP.
“This is the longest time I’ve ever gone, I think, without seeing Iain and Martin since we met,” vocalist Lauren Mayberry told MTV News. But they’re still writing, even if their process has been upended, replaced with sending files in a “round-robin” kind of way. “A lot gets lost if you can’t tell someone’s body language or tone of voice or you can’t get that immediate response,” she said. “I feel like it just takes longer to communicate things.”
That’s why, when they do communicate, Chvrches opt for virtual catch-ups and quick calls instead of texting: “Sometimes we’ve been playing each other things over the phone. Martin called me a couple of times to be like, ‘What about this?’ just before he records it.” Yet even as they’re looking ahead, Chvrches recently found an opportunity to revisit the past.
In March, a track from their 2018 album, Love Is Dead took off after its placement in Netflix’s Spanish teen thriller series Elite. The song, “Forever,” hit over 1 million streams in a single week, finding the band in a unique moment. They tried to record it live while still remote. It didn’t quite work. “It just sounds like we can’t play in time with each other,” Mayberry recalled thinking. “We had to figure that out the hard way.”
So they pivoted. They set up a video call among group members, including touring bassist Jonny Scott, each giving “Forever” a few run-throughs. But only one member’s audio was enabled at a time while the others mimed on mute. Afterward, every layer was mixed together for a final unified song. This allowed them to bang out a new, remotely produced “Forever” they recorded together, capturing the group’s energy without the choppy chaos of a conference call.
“Everything is played live, just not 100 percent at the same time,” Mayberry said. They polished this technique for a remote performance, stylistically filmed like a proper music video, on The Tonight Show last week as well.
Likewise, Twenty One Pilots filmed their latest video for “Level of Concern,” a song the duo created in quarantine, while isolating in separate locations. “It’s how we did it when we started, too. We grabbed a camera and just started filming ourselves playing music,” Tyler Joseph said on SiriusXM last week. As Joseph tweeted, the writing process itself was as simple as “sending some files.”
The internet long ago made in-person connection an obsolete prerequisite to creating music collaboratively. But even as songwriters and artists freely email raw takes — as modern pop production goes — the recording studio still exists as a place for all parties to get on the same frequency. In the age of the pandemic, that space is now gone, but the vibing spirit remains.
It’s inescapable on “Cheesin’,” a joyful new mini R&B posse cut masterminded by Cautious Clay and producer Hxns (who styles his name in all caps). The duo assembled the song’s bedrock — a gliding guitar loop, a minimal beat, a patented silky hook from Clay — well before social distancing took hold. It didn’t feel right for his upcoming album, so Clay set it aside. He picked it back up recently, at a time when quarantined creatives might’ve felt “at a standstill.”
“It felt like a really cool time to just kind of highlight and bring light to a situation that’s not very great, almost smiling about it,” Clay said. Hence, “Cheesin’,” a sunny two-minute skateboard ride that still breezes through five different vocalists, including Clay, Remi Wolf, Still Woozy, Sophie Meiers, and Claud. Guitar virtuoso Melanie Faye rips a quick solo at the end, too. It was a group effort assembled remotely piece by piece, something Clay said he feels captures the spirit of the moment. It’s also why all proceeds from the song go to benefit MusiCares’s COVID-19 Relief Fund; so far, “Cheesin'” has raised over $40,000.
“It reinforces the very nature of the song because we weren’t together when we made it,” Clay said. “We all just kind of created it and then it slowly just morphed into what it became.”
Hxns, who has only been making music for a few years, first cooked up its foundation after hearing that “fucking sick” guitar loop. Sending a new file to Clay wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. “This is the main way for me that I’ve made music with a lot of people. So it feels pretty organic still,” he said.
Charli XCX, a generous collaborator herself, has spent the past three weeks creating as organically as she can. As she’s crafting her new album, How I’m Feeling Now, in real time on social media, the future-pop visionary has kept busy sharing lyrics as she writes them and posting sound snippets as she tweaks them remotely with producer A.G. Cook and fellow digital creators 100 gecs.
“I didn’t just do the album to fill up my time. I did it because, for me to feel positive, I need to be creative,” she told Stereogum last week. While album cycles are typically carefully curated and planned out months in advance, Charli revealing her collaborative approach with both fans and her own musical team feels revolutionary.
For Mayberry and Chvrches, the act of creating in quarantine can still feel like working uphill. “Some moments are really efficient, and I can get loads done and I’m productive, and then I stare into space and have a sense of doom forever,” she said. But she also put stock in how the unexpected challenge of creating remotely galvanized her band, and what it might mean for the future of creatives in this environment: “I do think if we haven’t had pushed to make that separate, put-together version, it would have taken us longer to figure out how we were going to create in this new, alternate universe.”
The guys in Real Estate, meanwhile, are wondering what comes next as this period of self-isolation stretches into another month and beyond. “The livestream thing is the first easy idea, and the Quarantour thing was something we were lucky enough to be able to roll out. But it’s like, what else do we have?” Bleeker said. “As artists and as musicians, I think we’re going to have to think of creative interesting ways to make it a little bit more dynamic as we go on.”

Charli XCX
Cautious Clay
Real Estate

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Asian battery makers zapped by Tesla’s plans to slash costs

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says company is planning on launching a $25,000 car – its cheapest yet – in about three years.Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk cast a shadow of uncertainty over the sales prospects of his suppliers in Asia after unveiling a push to lower the cost of batteries for electric vehicles and underscoring the…




Tesla CEO Elon Musk says company is planning on launching a $25,000 car – its cheapest yet – in about three years.Tesla Inc.’s Elon Musk cast a shadow of uncertainty over the sales prospects of his suppliers in Asia after unveiling a push to lower the cost of batteries for electric vehicles and underscoring the point by signaling that it will eventually start producing its own cells.
Shares of LG Chem Ltd. slid as much as 5.5% in Seoul, while Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. dropped 4.7% in Shenzhen and Panasonic Corp. dropped 4.3% in Tokyo. The world’s three top EV battery makers all supply Tesla, according to Bloomberg’s Supply Chain Analysis.
The maker of the Model S, X and 3 electric cars will still need to increase battery purchases from the trio but still sees “significant shortages” from 2022 if it doesn’t start producing itself, Chief Executive Officer Musk said in a tweet.
Speaking at Tesla’s much-awaited Battery Day event at a plant in Fremont, California, Musk also said the company plans to manufacture a $25,000 car in about three years’ time. The substantial discount compared with the company’s currently cheapest model at $37,990 is to be achieved by halving costs for batteries, the most expensive component in EVs.
Atul Goyal, an analyst at Jefferies Japan Ltd., lowered his rating on Panasonic to underperform from hold, saying Musk’s announcements increase the downside risks for the Japanese electronics maker’s unprofitable battery business.
“This is likely to put Panasonic (and other suppliers) under pressure to catch up to Tesla’s technology/process and to reduce costs,” he said. “With added pressure to improve efficiency and/or reduce costs, Panasonic may need to step up more R&D and is unlikely to have pricing power, even if Tesla’s in-house cells are not ready to replace Panasonic cells in the immediate term.”
Panasonic’s shares are down 10% this year, as the coronavirus has hurt profits across its business lines. Meanwhile, CATL Ltd.’s shares are still up 85% and LG Chem’s have almost doubled on high expectations for Tesla-related business. LG Chem’s stock has dipped recently however on its plan to split off its battery business, snubbing retail investors that had bought the stock on the EV theme.
Yayoi Watanabe, a spokeswoman for Panasonic, declined to comment on Musk’s remarks. “We value our relationship with Tesla and look forward to enhancing our partnership,” she said.

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Here’s the state of the longest awards race ever

It’s a longer Oscar season than ever, but with the fall festival circuit winding down and prizes being bestowed, we’re still off to the races. EW’s awards experts David Canfield and Joey Nolfi discuss the major contenders to emerge out of TIFF and Venice, the contenders we’ve yet to see, and just what to expect…




It’s a longer Oscar season than ever, but with the fall festival circuit winding down and prizes being bestowed, we’re still off to the races. EW’s awards experts David Canfield and Joey Nolfi discuss the major contenders to emerge out of TIFF and Venice, the contenders we’ve yet to see, and just what to expect going forward.


DAVID CANFIELD: Joey! Only seven months until the Oscars, which means it’s the start of the longest awards season ever. Typically, when the fall festivals like Toronto, Venice, and Telluride wrap up, we’ve got a pretty solid idea of how the big races are looking. Not so in 2020, with only a few major contenders premiering across them (in the case of Telluride, only one, with the event canceled except for a drive-in event for Nomadland). Still, there’s lots to talk about, lots to anticipate, and lots of questions. What’s your headline out of this very strange festival circuit?

JOEY NOLFI: The only acceptable headline is: “Stan Penguin Bloom.” Yes, we have seven months until the Oscars, but I just see that as seven 30-day opportunities to launch Penguin Bloom into social consciousness. It will be the awards season hill I die on this year. I won’t rest until Naomi Watts has her Oscar for the film I’ve affectionately dubbed “Naomi Watts Bird Movie,” and neither should you.

DAVID: Well, we know Naomi committed to the part. But I have bad news, Joey: Best Actress is packed this year already, and Penguin Bloom hasn’t even been picked up for distribution yet. Her chances, at least for the 2021 cycle, appear to be slipping away…

JOEY: I think the two big takeaways from the fall festival “circuit” this year are: The festivals sort of mean less this year than they have in years past (the extra padding at the top of 2021 will be where we get the bulk of our contenders), which means things like the TIFF People’s Choice Award (yaaas, Nomadland!) carry much less weight in 2020. But the second takeaway is: The current season is all about the women, and I don’t see that changing. This is the first time TIFF’s top three prize winners are from female directors — Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland, Regina King’s One Night in Miami, and Tracey Deer’s Beans — but Zhao has perhaps the most massive contender on her hands, and Frances McDormand gives one of the best performances of her career in the film. She blended in with this production so seamlessly to the tapestry of working-class America that she was offered a job at Target; that deserves an Oscar in itself. Does Nomadland strike you as, at this current moment, the Best Picture frontrunner?

DAVID: It feels like we’re at sort of a midpoint, doesn’t it? This moment reminds me a lot of where the race normally stands after Cannes, where a select few major contenders emerge, while so many more remain yet to be seen — and there’s just so much more time for anything to happen. Of course, last year a critical darling and audience favorite won Cannes, only to maintain that momentum all the way to the Oscars: Parasite. And I think Nomadland is a similarly major contender. It’s too early to say whether it will go the distance because there’s a lot we haven’t seen. But of what we have seen, it is our frontrunner. It’s brilliant, beautiful, and plays both to arthouse and more mainstream crowds, and it has the kind of Americana scope that voters gravitate toward. Chloé Zhao and Frances McDormand feel like shoo-ins for nominations at the very least.

And yes, this was very much a female-dominated TIFF, both behind and in front of the camera. Beyond McDormand, Kate Winslet and Vanessa Kirby emerged as major Best Actress contenders (sorry, Naomi!). Beyond Zhao, Regina King emerged as a serious force in directing for One Night in Miami, which to me feels like the only other significant across-the-board awards contender to come out of this period. (Both Kirby’s Pieces of a Woman and Winslet’s Ammonite feel too austere to get much beyond their actors.) Would you agree? Is it possible we’ll have two women nominated for Best Director — and women of color, at that — for the first time ever?

JOEY: The Cannes comparison is a great one. But, more recently, Cannes momentum hasn’t wanted for steadfast contenders (Parasite, BlacKkKlansman, Isabelle Huppert in Elle, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, etc.), so I expect Nomadland and One Night in Miami to stick around. It will be interesting to see how far ahead some of these early contenders can get — perhaps enough that other contenders might sit this year out, let one film steamroll, and wait until there’s a much more stable release window next season. Both women have a significant hurdle to overcome, though: The directors’ society in Hollywood is still primarily an old boys’ club, and they’re especially unreceptive to women making the transition from acting to directing, regardless of how good their work is. So, we’ll see.


JOEY: As for Best Actress, I’m completely sold on Kate Winslet and Saoirse Ronan dropping anchor on the race right now. Ammonite is the perfect blend of the kind of prestige period drama the classic Academy member (trust me, there are still plenty of them left among the voting ranks) loves and the progressive storytelling that will hook the younger crowd, and Kate and Saoirse are great torchbearers for those respective demographics. I need more convincing on Kirby, though. She’s fabulous, but the film itself is too muddled and I’m not sure she has the name recognition to break out in a crowded field. I’d actually feel safer betting on Ellen Burstyn becoming a dark horse of the race for her work in this film, to be honest. Wouldn’t that be divine?

DAVID: Yes, I agree — we should mention Netflix acquired both Pieces of a Woman and Halle Berry’s directorial debut, Bruised, out of TIFF (the latter premiered as a work-in-progress cut, with reviews/reactions still on hold), but neither are confirmed for this awards cycle as of yet. Pieces of a Woman, which I expect to compete for 2020-2021, is a tough, demanding, rather uneven movie, and it bears mentioning that Kirby — who’s fantastic in it — has a lot of other competition that’s not TIFF-adjacent. Expect Oscar winners Viola Davis (Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom) and Jennifer Hudson (Respect) to really rock this category by taking on a pair of musical legends; Michelle Pfeiffer (French Exit) and Amy Adams (Hillbilly Elegy) will get a run too. So I’m right there with you. Burstyn gets a phenomenal scene near Pieces’ end, and if Netflix pushes accordingly, she should be a good bet.

JOEY: How are the male acting categories coming along? Anthony Hopkins is to die for in The Father. Truly some of the best screen acting I’ve seen in years.

DAVID: Best Actor is weird! Really no development out of the festivals beyond the continued run of The Father, which is a lovely movie on its own — I could see it developing into an across-the-board sleeper, especially with a sharp Olivia Colman performance in support — and just a tremendous showcase for Hopkins. He’s probably the only Best Actor lock we’ve got, and the frontrunner to win at this stage. I love Delroy Lindo’s work in Da 5 Bloods so much, but he’ll have to hang on for nearly a year to get into that top five. Gary Oldman (Mank), Tom Hanks (News of the World), and Daniel Kaluuya (Judas and the Black Messiah) will certainly get a close look when (if?) their movies drop. Then the big question mark: the late, great Chadwick Boseman. His role opposite Davis in Netflix’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, based on August Wilson’s play, straddles lead and supporting, and it’s a really rich part. He’s absolutely a factor here.

A lot of these I just mentioned in the wait-and-see category are Netflix movies, which skipped festivals altogether. Says a lot about where we are in terms of the race. I haven’t even yet mentioned their other potentially significant contenders, like the incoming The Trial of the Chicago 7 or George Clooney’s latest, The Midnight Sky. I’m also hearing good rumblings about The White Tiger, from Ramin Bahrani (99 Homes). The streamer’s slate is huge and mysterious. With theaters such a question mark still, and so many releases indefinitely pushed/undated, do they have the potential to just overpower everyone this year?

JOEY: I don’t think Netflix’s awards might should be considered any more powerful than it has been before. It’s not like non-Netflix studios are halting releases altogether, they’re just adapting. This isn’t 1994. Box office means less and less to a film’s awards prospects. Now they just have to meet their theatrical qualifications (which they’ll likely be able to do by the end of the year/early 2021), and then the rest is in the hands of the blessed screeners. That’s who I have my eye on this year: who, in the past, has been the best at generating digital buzz, efficient at sending out ample screeners, and ensuring that voters have easy access to their films outside of screenings open to the moviegoing public. Not to discredit the work of their fabulous team, but Netflix also has the advantage of releasing buzzy titles that will do a lot of that work for them (Ma Rainey, Chicago).

The one yet-to-be-seen performance I think we can agree is one of the most anticipated of the year is Glenn Close’s impending iconic performance as an Appalachian grandmother opposite Adams in Hillbilly Elegy. Despite not showing on the fall circuit, could this be Glegend Close’s year?

DAVID: All signs point to yes. The source material alone (a memoir) indicates this is the kind of totally transformative, scene-stealing role that tends to win out in supporting categories. Plus, her heartbreaking loss just last year for The Wife — I know you’re still not over it! — is still fresh in the industry’s minds, and that should work in her favor. But this is another title Netflix is keeping close, with a release date not even out there yet, so let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. But I haven’t seen anything that would make a clearer winner in that category.

We’ve done a lot of shamelessly vague speculating on the many months to come — and we didn’t even get into Best Supporting Actor, where this could maybe actually be Bill Murray’s year?!

JOEY: Yes re: Bill. He is fantastic in On the Rocks, and I don’t think Apple and A24 are playing around with what could be their first legit Oscar push under their new streaming platform. Screenplay and Supporting Actor nods aren’t out of the question for this film, and, going back to what I said about studios that know how to create digital buzz and get movies in front of the right people in an efficient manner, A24 and Apple could be an unbeatable pair if they focus on one huge contender (Murray) throughout the season.

First-Half Treasures

DAVID: Let’s look backward for a moment to wrap this one up. Other than Hopkins, what first-half, pre-TIFF contenders are you looking at that could survive this drawn-out campaign? Back at Sundance — truly, a different world — I along with most everyone in Park City was wowed by Never Rarely Sometimes Always and Minari. They could either go the way of — to name two recent Sundance breakouts — The Farewell, an almost-ran, or Call Me by Your Name, a Best Picture nominee with several other nods to boot. For the latter, I could see Steven Yeun getting a Supporting Actor campaign.

JOEY: I still haven’t caught Minari, so I can’t speak on the strength of Steven Yeun’s performance, but he was sublime in Burning, so I’m giddy with anticipation. As for Never Rarely Sometimes Always… where has the buzz gone? It’s a solid film, but I think the Sundance films you mentioned from the past — The Farewell, Call Me by Your Name — had a much firmer grasp on the industry’s attention at this point in their respective contests, and I just don’t feel the weight of that film anymore.

DAVID: Yeah, this year especially, a March release hurts Never Rarely. But Minari I have high hopes for: It’s a tender, gorgeous, timeless family tale that resonates, and A24 hasn’t released it just yet; they know they have something special.

JOEY: Though I also feel that enthusiasm for it has gone a bit mute since its release, I could see The King of Staten Island hitting with Academy bros (call me), but the clear-cut early-year standout for me is the Emerald Fennell-directed Carey Mulligan vehicle Promising Young Woman, also awaiting release. I’m not 100 percent convinced it’s Academy fare, as it is a super-prickly re-imagining of the rape-revenge genre, but I can’t imagine anyone not being utterly moved — in multiple capacities — by this film’s energy. It’s interesting to be over the wave of first-reaction #MeToo-era films, and Woman pushes its tone to very unexpected places, given the subject matter. In the context of the moment, it feels like fireworks after a funeral, if you will, and Carey gives a career performance. There’s no excuse for her being left out of any awards conversation this year.

DAVID: I have a feeling we’ll be talking about Mulligan for the many, many months to come. Naomi Watts, I’m not so sure.

JOEY: Remember: Stan Penguin Bloom.

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Jason Priestley Says Shannen Doherty Is a ‘Fighter’ Amid Cancer Battle

Forever friendship. Jason Priestley gave a health update on longtime pal and former costar Shannen Doherty amid her battle with stage IV breast cancer. “Last time I heard from her, she was in pretty good spirits,” Priestley, 51, said on the Tuesday, September 22, episode of Australia’s Studio 10. The actors, who have been friends…




Forever friendship. Jason Priestley gave a health update on longtime pal and former costar Shannen Doherty amid her battle with stage IV breast cancer.

“Last time I heard from her, she was in pretty good spirits,” Priestley, 51, said on the Tuesday, September 22, episode of Australia’s Studio 10.
The actors, who have been friends for more than 30 years, having played twins Brandon and Brenda Walsh on Beverly Hills, 90210, which ran from 1990 to 2000, still keep in touch.
Jason Priestley and Shannen Doherty. Shutterstock; Jim Smeal/Shutterstock“I reach out to Shannen every few months, just to check in on her and say hi,” the Private Eyes star explained.
Priestley, who reconnected with Doherty, 49, onscreen for BH90210 in 2019, revealed that the actress is strong.
“Shannen’s a real tough girl,” he said. “Shannen’s a fighter and she’s always been a fighter. And I know that she will continue to fight as hard as she can.”

The Charmed alum revealed in February that her breast cancer had returned after previously entering remission in 2017, following a two-year battle with the illness.
“I don’t think I’ve processed it,” Doherty told Amy Robach on Good Morning America after announcing her stage IV diagnosis. “It’s a bitter pill to swallow in a lot of ways.”
The Our House alum initially kept her illness under wraps, especially while filming BH90210, but later revealed that her costar Brian Austin Green “was the one person who I told, like, pretty quickly.”

As a result, he helped her get through the long days of filming, which she chose to do in order to give others with her terminal diagnosis hope.
“One of the reasons, along with Luke [Perry’s March 2019 death], that I did 90210 and didn’t really tell anybody [was] because I thought, ‘People can look at that [and see] other people with stage IV can work too,’” she said during the February GMA interview. “Like, you know, our life doesn’t end.”
The same month, Green, 47, exclusively told Us Weekly about Doherty’s health journey and his support of his former costar through it all.

“I mean, you know, cancer is not f–king easy for anyone. And I love Shannen, and we’ve always had a great relationship, and she’s strong,” the Anger Management alum told Us. “She’ll get through this and get out of this what she’s supposed to get out of this. Adversity only makes us stronger, if we let it, and it does with her, for sure.”
He added: “She’s a really f–king good person. She’s a really good person, and so she deserves all the well-wishers and all the friendships that she has.”
Doherty, who married Kurt Iswarienko in 2011, was previously diagnosed with breast cancer in March 2015.
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