A Distasteful Shot of Tequila
Who is Tila Nguyen? She is rarely seen fully clothed, yet she is not a porn star. She claims talents in singing and rapping, yet she refuses to sign with a label (Tequila, TilasHotSpot). She participates in the wild nightlife of Hollywood, yet she is not a socialite. Although the category of fame in which Tila belongs is questionable, there is no doubt that she is one of the most controversial figures in the public. Her stage name, “Tila Tequila”, is a paradox in itself, as she claims on her MySpace webpage that she is allergic to alcohol and received the nickname from her friends as a joke. Perhaps the only person to have ever used the words “I love you” and “I will f*** you up” (lyrics to a song titled “I Love U” on her MySpace page) in the same song, she is notorious for her two conflicting personas of “baddest bitch on the block”(as she proclaims on her MySpace page) and “sweet, loving girl, who just likes to help people” (written under her “About Me” on her Facebook page).
Image Credit: Screenshot from Tila Tequila's MySpace
Tila Tequila: Naughty or Nice?
Following the recent death of her fiancé Casey Johnson, Tila Tequila’s inconsistent actions and statements have invited further criticism to her ostentatious and artificial character. Despite her inconsistent and insincere ethos, her rise to fame from the Internet world represents her status as a premiere “new media star.” As she paved her own way to fame, she is a prime example of the new and unconventional way to gain stardom- without leaving your desktop computer. Although she has lucratively advanced her career more successfully compared to other new media stars, her methods of gaining that success demonstrates unfavorable and poor ethos.
Image Credit: Screenshot from Tila Tequila's MySpace
Tila’s fame rose from her MySpace page, which now consists of 3.8 million friends and over 200 million views. Before she created her persona “Tila Tequila,” she was simply a high-school dropout in Houston, Texas, desperately searching for a way to live her dream of stardom (according to a blog entry on her MySpace). In the Internet world, she became Tila Tequila: the outspoken, bisexual feminist. Her accessible and feisty character along with her risqué pictures appealed to young Internet users around the world, and she developed an “intimate” relationship with her fans (intimate, compared to other celebrities who use publicists to manage their websites). So naturally, she confided in her world of cyber fans after her personal life was suddenly struck with tragedy. Casey Johnson, who was best known as a socialite and the heiress to the billion-dollar corporation Johnson and Johnson, and Tila had known each other for a month before proclaiming their love for each other and getting engaged (Charlotte).
Image Credit: Screenshot of Tila Tequila's "My Photos" album on her MySpace
Tila proclaims her love for Casey on her MySpace page
Just days after Casey passed away from drug and diabetic complications in December of 2009, Tila began gaining criticism for her outspoken thoughts on Twitter (Johnson and Johnson). Her “tweets”, which are brief postings on an individual’s Twitter website expressing his or her current thoughts, included rants about the feuds between her and the Johnson family, as well as outlandish accusations that only expressed bitterness towards some of Casey’s other socialite friends (Calinawan).With her constant tweets, one could only wonder why she was spending so much time publicly raving about her thoughts when she should be taking a break from the Internet world to privately mourn the death of her fiancé. Some may argue that she was simply keeping the internet world updated and did not want to leave her anxious fans in the dark during such a momentous time. As the tabloids circulated rumors about the internet star, it was appropriate that she personally confronted her fans instead of going into hiding like other celebrities do under stressful times. What most people deemed inappropriate was her attitude handling the situation, as she could have demonstrated a much more collected demeanor and shown more sensitivity towards Casey’s mourning family and friends.
In an article on NYDailyNews.com written by Nicole Pecse, Pecse debates whether Tila’s actions are a result of her “out-of-control grief” or simply “just a cry for attention”. After accusations from celebrity blogger Perez Hilton that Tila was using Casey’s death for personal publicity, Tila continued to post emotional tweets, retaliating at Perez with derogatory and chiding remarks such as “Ur jus jealous nobody loves u” and “Everyone just forget about perezhilton he’s lonely and bored so decided to pick on me at a time when I an mourning my Fiance. Good Job Pig!” (Calinawan).
Image Credit: Screenshots from The Daily Chow
The Twitter battle between Perez Hilton and Tila Tequila
From the view of her devoted fans, she could be speaking out of anger and confusion as she is facing a devastating time in her life, and her fans could therefore argue that nothing she says should be used as a direct reflection of her true character. Despite her unfortunate circumstances, one can only wonder how someone who claims to be in such a depressed state could have the time, energy, and concern to engage in belligerent fights and throw childish tantrums against another established new media celebrity such as Perez Hilton. If this was an attempt to gather sympathy from her fans, she only further degraded her image as someone who basks in her fame and grasps every moment to gain attention from the media. In a poll accompanying the article on NYDailyNews.com that asks “what do you think of Tila Tequila’s online rants?,” 86 percent of the readers responded that “this is just a cry for more attention,” eight percent answered that “she is just finding a way of expressing her grief,” and six percent answered “I’m not sure.” Her three million fans could either be absent in these opinions, or they just might have finally seen her in a truer light.
Image Credit: Screenshot of a poll on NYDailyNews.com
In a YouTube video entitled “Tila Tequila’s Bizarre Behavior Caught On Camera,” she further demonstrates her artificial and insincere ethos.
Continuing her public act of mourning, she peeks her head out of her front door to tell the reporters and cameramen that she was “grieving a little bit” and “not expecting anyone” before holding up a doormat that read “LEAVE” in large letters (Tila Tequila’s bizarre behavior). Although she initially attempts to act surprised by the visitors, she is clearly in full make-up, complete with fresh flowers in her hair and wearing a revealing shirt with a plunging neckline (no surprise there) that alluringly shouts “take a picture!” Without much coercion, she steps outside and immediately begins posing for pictures, displaying her infamous sexy-yet-innocent smile. Quickly catching herself, she murmurs a brief comment regarding Casey’s sheets, flashes a frown, then persists with her impromptu photo shoot. With no sign of mourning or sadness, she beams with the chance to talk about her future while inviting more snaps of the cameras, even pausing to pose for a “sweet shot,” as she clearly describes herself (Tila Tequila’s bizarre behavior). Her quick transition from being in an artificial state of grieving to having a suspiciously chipper façade shows her eagerness to publicize herself as an innocent victim to the frantic media.
Image Credits: Screenshots from Tila Tequila's Bizarre Behavior Caught On Camera posted by username: hollywoodtv on YouTube and Tila Tequila's MySpace "My Photos" album
Again, one could argue that her inconsistent actions are a result of the trauma and sorrow she felt after the shock of losing a loved one, but there is a clear distinction between confusion and deliberate misportrayal. In an attempt to legitimize her ethos as genuinely caring about the death of her fiancé, she posted a tweet saying “Meeting with my family and my Fiance's Family” (Johnson and Johnson). A representative for the Johnson family quickly refuted this statement, saying that “Casey's family and friends would rather deal with the Devil” (Johnson and Johnson). This further discredits her claimed sincerity, as she was caught in a direct lie to the public in hopes of painting a more favorable image of herself. As her actions support the accusations that she seeks personal attention from the media coverage following Casey’s death, Tila shows that her behaviors are purely driven by her hunger for the spotlight.
Although many may criticize Tila for her lack of talent (unless you consider the art of outspokenness or the skills of stripping as talents), her rise to fame is undeniably impressive. Emigrating from Vietnam with her family when she was in elementary school, she was not born into the world of fame nor was she magically handed a Hollywood career (Tequila, Miss Tila’s Bio). In an already competitive industry, she defied the normal means of becoming famous by using her creativity, her personality, and the Internet. A quote by Joshua Gamson in an article in The New York Times titled “She’s Famous (and So Can You)” states, “Because of new technologies, we get to see now what happens when people have the option of making up their own celebrity.” Tila did exactly that: she created her own image- from her feisty yet sugary personality to her distinction as a part of the high-class social scene. Tila’s rise as a new media star specifically allowed her to join whatever social class she wished. Her competence to choose her own social class even uncovers the question of how one is classified into a social class. Is social class naturally bestowed to us, or do we have the ability to define the section into which we classify ourselves? Paul Fussell attempts to define social class from different angles, saying that the people on the bottom “tend to believe that class is defined by the amount of money you have,” while “nearer the top, people perceive that taste, values, ideas, style, and behavior are indispensable criteria of class, regardless of money or occupation or education” (McQuade and McQuade 479). Casey Johnson’s status as a high class, multi-millionaire socialite was not only defined by her wealth, but by her notorious reputation as a party girl akin to Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie (who also initially rose to fame exclusively through their socialite statuses). Seeking the high social class associated with stardom, Tila cleverly partnered herself with someone at the top of the social class ladder- by definition of money, style, and behavior. “I FINALLY have found THE ONE! Yes, it's true....I AM OFICIALLY ENGAGED to Casy-Johnson heir of billionaire Francihae Johnson & Johnson!” (Tequila, Myspace). Despite her unforgivable spelling errors, her emphasis on Casey’s status as the heiress to a billion-dollar franchise demonstrates her classification as a high-class star through her affiliation to one. She may have had legitimate interest in Casey as a wife, but the truth remains that her engagement to the heiress allowed her to enter a division of social class that she did not have access to before. Fussell also writes that “there seems no place where hierarchical status-orderings aren’t discoverable” (McQuade and McQuade 482). This truth also applies to the Hollywood industry, as celebrities are constantly struggling to maintain their status through their talent, style, or reputation. In Tila’s case, she defines her own social class by the people she associates herself with, as well as maintaining her reputation as a flashy new media star. With nothing but a keyboard, access to the internet, and her imagination, Tila went from a low social status as an unknown immigrant from Vietnam to a high social class internet star with millions of avid followers. Although she has established some credibility for doing all of this on her own, her desperate acts in attempt to rise in social status further demonstrates her poor ethos.
As a celebrity in the music, movie, or in this case, internet industry, sex sells. Especially regarding females, there is something intriguing and exciting about showing more skin. Take, for example, Britney Spears, who was initially criticized for being too “sexy” by the media, yet has succeeded in becoming one of the most successful and iconic pop stars in history. But unlike Britney and many other celebrities who rely much on their sex symbol for success, sex is the only thing Tila sells. At eighteen years old, she formed her own website named “TilasHotSpot.com,” and charged people to become members in order to view her x-rated pictures (Tequila, Tila’s Hot Spot). A few years later, she became “Queen of the Internet,” according to her biography on her Tila’s Hot Spot blog, as she accumulated countless fans through her MySpace page (with help from her topless photos), became the center of the first bisexual reality love show called “A Shot at Love,” and began recording songs without the help of a record label. Even in attempts to demonstrate her vocal “talents,” her raunchy lyrics and even more vulgar music videos clearly show that, above all, her sex appeal is her priority means of maintaining her status as a new media star. Besides her sex appeal, her bisexuality is another intriguing component of Tila Tequila’s persona. In an article published in Asianweek titled “Tila Takes Credit for Gay Marriage” by Lisa Lee, Lee criticizes the incredulous statements Tila makes in claiming responsibility for the legalization of gay marriage in California. The article quotes Tila saying, “I definitely think (my show) has helped the movement.”
Image Credit: TV Guide, courtesy of MTV
A Shot At Love with Tila Tequila on MTV
As far from a politician as a porn star is to a minister, Tila has no credibility to justify her claim that she took part in the gay movement. Her bisexual love show “A Shot At Love” did create less uneasiness in the gay community as a premiere celebrity openly embraced her unique sexuality, but neither the show nor Tila has history of being highly politically active in the gay campaign. Tila briefly lends her face and voice to a public service announcement by the NOH8 Campaign, using her identity as a bisexual to encourage LGBT equality and to show some concern for the rights of the gay community. Even so, her concern for her television show and constant publicity boosts seem to be of more importance, and she appears in no additional political protests. She claims to be such a strong voice for the gay community, yet her actions have clearly illustrated otherwise.
Being an Internet star is a challenge that many fail to achieve, and establishing a career after gaining initial attention is an even more difficult feat. Changing with each click of a mouse, the new media demands originality and excitement- something that grabs peoples’ attention for more than a mere fifteen minutes. Looking strictly at her resume, Tila is a successful woman with an impressive story. Even with this shred of credibility that she has established for herself by maintaining her fame, her ethos is still less admirable than that of other new media stars. Take, for example, Justin Bieber: a fifteen-year-old boy with an incredible voice, who went from posting YouTube videos of himself singing in local talent shows to becoming a Billboard Top 20 artist in a matter of a few months (Adib). Then, there is Frank Warren, a small business-owner from Maryland who created a “community art project” through PostSecret.com, which has been developed into numerous books and has been notably recognized on 20/20, CNN, and Fox News (Ewalt). Compare the sweet-voiced young boy and the man who changes lives with postcards to the girl who bounces her perky breasts along the streets of Hollywood singing “all my stripper friends,” all while claiming she is here to make the world a better place (Tequila, MySpace). She claims to be “sexy AND run an EMPIRE AND save the world AND adopt many children AND be super intelligent at the same time,” yet she has not displayed any attempts of the above unless one counts the “sexiness” of her nude pictures and considers her highly viewed MySpace as acts of saving the world (Tequila, Facebook). Her actions are unmistakably inconsistent with her words, creating a far from genuine ethos for herself.
On her Facebook page, Tila states, "I used to be Known as this chick named 'TILA TEQUILA' but today I am known as 'MISS TILA, THE MOGUL'." Below are images of "Tila Tequila" then, and "Miss Tila" now. Is there a difference?
Image Credit: Screenshots from Tila Tequila's MySpace "My Photos" album on MySpace and Tila Tequila's profile pictures on Facebook
The fact that she has transitioned from a new media celebrity into a real celebrity is not what creates her unsatisfactory ethos, but it is the methods she has used in order to reach her status that puts her into the category of artificial celebrity vying for any opportunity in the spotlight. Rather than using her talents (if she has any hidden under her silicone breasts and costume eyelashes), she has taken advantage of the public’s gossip addiction to accumulate a controversial, debatable, and simply intriguing image. This image, along with her recent actions regarding the death of Casey Johnson, has established an artificial and unfavorable ethos to Tila Tequila. So, after further evaluation into her true character, would anyone like a taste of the “real” Tila Tequila?
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