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Jessi Smiles’s Manager Helped Set Her Up With Another Internet Star

Then she said he raped her.

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JessiSmiles
Age: 20
Vine followers: 3M

CurtisLepore
Age: 30
Vine followers: 4.3M

They were Vine’s first celebrity couple. Curtis Lepore was a hammy 30-year-old with tattoo sleeves who posted six-­second shaving-cream pranks and mini-skits featuring his Boston-terrier sidekick, Buster Beans. Jessi Smiles, born Jessica Vazquez, was a 20-year-old Cuban-American makeup artist and singer who’d gained an audience for posting amusingly self-mocking vignettes about dating failures and for reminding people of Jennifer Lawrence. Lepore first noticed Smiles early last July, after she reached 10,000 followers, and left her a fawning comment. (“I put on one post, ‘I just farted,’ or something stupid like that,” she told an interviewer last summer, “and he posted back, ‘Oh my God, I love you.’ ”) They traded numbers, flirted across Twitter and ­Instagram, and quickly decided they liked each other. Except he lived in Los Angeles, she was in Miami, and they’d never met.

On Sunday, August 4, the same day Lepore reached 1 million Vine followers, they staged a public meeting in Washington Square Park. (Smiles later admitted the meet-cute idea came from “our management.”) There was a live band; a promotional hashtag (#curtisand­jessimeet); and America’s leading expert on online-courtship simulacra, Catfish host Nev Schulman, in the audience. Hundreds of spectators showed up that afternoon, waving their smartphones. When Smiles and Lepore broke into their first kiss, the crowd shrieked.

For a few weeks, the micro-celebrity couple turned up in each other’s Vines—on August 17, Lepore wished his long-distance girlfriend a public happy birthday by humping his sheets to Jeremih’s R&B smooth jam “Birthday Sex”—and used Instagram to count down the days until they’d see each other again. But by September, their online interactions stopped, with little explanation.

The following January, TMZ broke the news: Last October, Lepore had been arrested for rape. The alleged incident happened on August 31, while Smiles had been visiting Lepore in California. The new couple had broken up earlier during her trip, but then she reportedly suffered a concussion, Lepore offered to keep her company, and Smiles told the Los Angeles police he raped her while she was asleep.

Things got very ugly very quickly. Lepore immediately took to Twitter to dismiss the rape charge as abject opportunism. Smiles received a flood of death threats. On February 21, Lepore pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of assault, and the rape charge was dropped. “FAV this if you would willingly have sex with me,” he tweeted the next day, then deleted the tweet.

Smiles has taken respites from updating YouTube and Vine, where she continues to be the app’s second-most-popular female user. Though her new videos have a slightly wounded air, she hasn’t been dissuaded from trying to convert her Vine stardom into a musical career: Next month, she plans to self-release her first single, a song about empowerment called “What If I?” But her fame’s conversion rate might not be as high as she’d like: Earlier this year, Smiles tried crowdsourcing $30,000 with her pianist brother Joey to fund their records and a co-headlining tour, but in 30 days, they raised only $3,332.

Meanwhile, Lepore is still getting more famous. In March, he appeared with Hugh Hefner in a Vine skit. He’s been tapped for a few small-time hosting jobs—an Orange County concert, a comedy show on Pluto.tv—and you can buy I <3 CURTIS LEPORE T-shirts for $24.99 on his official site. On Instagram, vicious spats erupt among the girls gushing about his piercing blue eyes and the ones attacking him as a predator. “You wanna see me fail?” he recently tweeted. “Convince 4.1 million people to unfollow me. #GoodLuck.”


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