The article struck a nerve. Hundreds of readers posted replies. “She is so boring, lame, and has nothing to offer,” one wrote. “She’s quite the climber and clings to the top girls. She is a sad wannabe. she should go to school and go away. no one really wants to talk to her or knows what she’s even doing.” A more perceptive commenter wrote, “Build them up and then tear them down that’s how this world goes. Welcome to the top, bitches—it’s a long way back down.”
Three weeks later, the Website attacked again—printing the letter. Olivia kept her chin up, hosting a party for her boyfriend Brad Leinhardt’s fashion line, Izzy Gold, dining on truffle fries at Bette, storming the Room 100 magazine party at 60 Thompson. Almost no one in the room spoke to her, but she said such slights didn’t matter. “I have 400 friends in my BlackBerry and I get more invites than I can handle,” she said to me, taking my call. “All I care about, quite frankly, is that someone is pretending to be me. Can I call you back in a little bit? We’re just finishing up lunch. Toodles! Bye!”
Fake or not, the letter had all the elements that drive Web traffic and create tabloid intrigue: youth, beauty, wealth. The Post ran an item titled YOUNG BEAUTY: BE NICE TO ME! Then “Page Six” got a second day out of the scandal, this time printing Olivia’s denial. (“Again!” one socialite huffed. “With a picture!”) With each story, Olivia’s reputation sank within the social world, but outside of that small circle, she attracted sympathy. “Now she’s at the center of everything,” the fashion designer Holly Dunlap said. “This whole incident has created an Olivia fan club. Everyone’s cheering her on.”
They wanted a rivalry—the blonde and the brunette, the favorite and the upstart, the Wasp and the Vowelista. Olivia could play Veronica to Tinsley’s Betty.
As Olivia’s fame spread, the women she was leaving behind began to speculate about who had written the letter. There are four basic theories. Theory 1, which can be dubbed “The Idiot,” has it that Olivia sent the letter in total sincerity, wishing to befriend the girls who had rejected her. Most ignored this theory on the grounds that Olivia would have to be “idiotic” to send the letter. The second theory, “The Fat Bitch,” is based on the notion that, at the bottom of every scandal, you will find a single individual nursing a grudge, often an overweight woman. “I’ll tell you who did it,” a social observer told me. “Some jealous fat bitch. There are some vicious shrews in this town who don’t want to share camera time. They aren’t socialites, but they don’t want to be knocked off their faux-socialite pedestal.”
As newspaper and blog readers gave credence to the Fat Bitch theory, the socialites themselves put out a third theory, “The Counter-Fake.” According to this theory, Olivia and her PR team had written the letter as a media stunt, knowing it would be unmasked as false, to play into a Mean Girls story line. “They faked the fake!” one socialite told me. “I was told this by somebody on the inside. It was very clever. Everyone is feeling sorry for her right now. ‘Oh, the poor girl! Why don’t they just let her be a socialite?’ Well, I don’t think there’s anything to feel sorry about. She got exactly what she wanted: attention.”
The fourth theory, “The Pawn Gambit,” is the most paranoid. According to this notion, Olivia’s PR team knew that New York was planning a story about her, and they worried that we found her “boring.” So they crafted the false story line of a rivalry with Tinsley, hoping to rocket Olivia to fame. “All of New York Magazine fell right into the trap, and they’re prepping the world for your 5,000-word story by getting that little girl’s face in the newspaper every day,” one socialite told me. “You’re just the pawn in their frickin’ game!”
As Olivia’s name hit the Post, the Daily News, and Radar Online, Tinsley, who subscribed to the Counter-Fake theory, grew angry with Olivia. Tabloid reporters, however, threw their weight behind the Fat Bitch. They wanted a rivalry—the blonde and the brunette, the favorite and the upstart, the Wasp and the Vowelista. Olivia could play Veronica to Tinsley’s Betty. The story line would damage Tinsley’s name and bring unwanted attention to her age. But in the end, she would unwittingly bolster that narrative.
On April 2, the two girls separately arrived at the nightclub Capitale to model in a fashion show. It was the night of the annual Scottish party Dressed to Kilt. Upstairs, where the girls were changing into plaid, the room was swarming with the tabloid press and publicists. Olivia sat quietly in a white slip, texting on her BlackBerry as hair helpers sprayed her down. Tinsley, Manhattan in hand, tried to unwind—and steer clear of Olivia. It was tense.