Tila Tequila, picking at pad Thai in her Studio City living room a few nights ago, shot this reporter a slightly paranoid look, thinking she was planted by a stalker. "You know the way that, back in the day, women got cut up for witchcraft?" she said, stamping one of her ridiculously high-heeled brown leather boots on the floor. "That's what I feel is happening to me. I'm being burned at the stake."
She's referring, of course, to the arrows launched after her sordid response to the sordid death — by overdose, diabetic stroke, or who knows what — of her girlfriend Casey Johnson, who died around New Year's Eve in Los Angeles. Johnson, 30, was the daughter of Woody Johnson, the billionaire owner of the Jets, but the two had not spoken in around five years, after Casey acted out upon hearing that her boyfriend was having an affair with her aunt Libbet. “The only reason Casey was on so many pills was because she had no family and no love,” says Tequila now.
Johnson's relationship with Tequila was another source of embarrassment: In December, the couple made a wretched video of themselves in teddies, with Tequila flashing a seventeen-carat diamond engagement ring bequeathed by Johnson (possibly fake, at least according to Johnson's ex-girlfriend Courtenay Semel). And Tequila has certainly lived up to the family's concern, keeping up a barrage of ill-considered tweets since Johnson's death, such as her claim that the family "acts like they are SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME CUZ THEY HAVE MONEY, well, don't blame ME 4 her death. I'm the only 1 who loved her." Tequila is pretty flashy with her tweets. "I've found my calling with Twitter," she says. "It's all about the amount of interaction you do, and the traffic you move, and I'm really good at that. I keep going and going and going, and no one can believe that I can keep it up." After all, Tequila's real life is pretty lonely. "I just sit around at home, and I have nothing to do, so I am on the Internet all the time," she says. The ring bobs around on her middle finger. "Man, I have lost so much weight in the past couple weeks that I can't even keep this thing on my damn finger," she says.
But running on this treadmill comes with a price: Tequila, who made her name as one of the first Internet celebrities — she was the first MySpace star, with over 2 million friends in 2004 — could now be the most hated woman on the web. "I feel like the recession is making people really violent, and because they're so miserable with their own lives they're taking it out on celebrities over the Internet," she says. “My girlfriend dies and everyone's like, 'Boohoo, 'cause you’re still where you are, so fuck you. Go kill yourself.' Back in the day, no one said those type of things to me. They'd just say, 'slut!'" She shakes her head. "I've learned that no matter what I do, people are going to have their opinions. If I talk about myself, they say, 'You're a self-centered bitch, what about Haiti, go donate some money.' But if I say, 'Hey, I'm starting a charity,' they say, 'If you really wanted to help you wouldn't broadcast it to the world.'" She holds her stomach. "You know, sometimes I feel so dehydrated because I realize that I haven't drank any water for like two months," she says. "I need a Sunkist."
So what is Tequila's take on why people have been giving her so much grief? "When I started on MySpace, people wanted to support me, but once I rose to fame with the MTV show, they felt like I had abandoned them for some reason, that I was too famous to talk to them anymore," she says. "Then I have other people who I simply can't talk to, because if I reply one time they want more and more, and if they don't get more responses, they turn against me." She cocks her head. "Other people used to like me because I'm not pristine and perfect like other stars, because I say 'what's up' — yet I'm a celebrity. But then those people start thinking, 'Well, if she's the same as me, what makes her better than me? How come she gets to be famous and I can't?'"
These days, Tequila has a few different ideas of what she might do with herself: "Right now, I’m trying to be the ambassador for Vietnam," she says. "Like, ten years from now, I want to be the most respected woman, to be around presidents." But before then she's going to start her own gossip blog, Tila's Hot Spot. "On the blog, I can be nice to people, or I can talk shit about people — and no one will be able to say anything about it because guess what? That's my job, I'm a blogger!" But this is just the beginning. "As a celebrity, when your celebrity dies, your career dies," she says. "I want to be a mogul, like P. Diddy or Donald Trump — I guess they're celebrities, too, but not celebrities like 'Oh shit, I need to get a TV show.'"
But for now, she's thinking that she might be able to get some of her fans back — and that’s where Twitter comes in. "Just before you came, I posted, 'let's get back to happy news,'" she says. "I twittered, 'i miss the old tila. you want happy tila back?' Everyone's like 'Yay!' I was like, 'Okay, let's talk about my record label, okay who wants to get signed.' Then everything changed in a second. Everyone were [sic] happy because the attention was on them. She's paying attention to us again, she loves us again. I'm noticing them, I'm acknowledging them, and that's what people want from celebrities. They love you then because they feel that once again you belong to them. It's pretty sick."
Tequila begins to rant on Johnson's death for about an hour, tears spilling down her face — and it is really sad, hearing about her experiences, whether imagined or not, with Bijou Phillips and Nicky Hilton, who she says lied to her when they came over to get Johnson's dogs and clothes (Tequila claims they said she could come to the funeral if she gave everything back, but she never heard from them again). Soon, however, she picks up her phone, scrolling through her messages. "You know, my therapist told me that I have an Internet addiction," she says. "I go on, it feels good, because I get on there and perform and get a high just like a drug. But then there's a backlash by the people beating me up. And every time I get the backlash I have to get back on the Internet to get the high again."
Then she made her way into her bedroom, where she was planning to turn on her computer, to keep punching in the air.