Tila Tequila recently tweeted, "I HAVE NO FRIENDS!" But once, she did. An ex-boyfriend tells Gawker about the gap between Tila's "gangbanger" youth and famewhoring present: She was an alcohol-intolerant straight-edger with a split personality and unyielding ambition.
As social media's first upstart fameballer, Tila moved to L.A. in 2002, after a Playboy talent scout discovered her in Houston. (Where she reportedly lived in the projects, was a juvenile delinquent, and got the 'Tequila' nickname from a Mexican gang.) She promoted herself on Friendster—which kicked her out five times—then, at the behest of MySpace founder Tom Anderson, switched to his network in 2003, which is when the professional fameballing begins.
From roughly 2003 - 2006, she ran with a crowd of straight-edge musicians and second-generation Scientologists. (Apparently these things happen in Hollywood.) She lived in a downtown high rise, drove a BMW, never did drugs, and barely drank. Musician Shady Jeff—formerly of band the Hollywood Undead—"casually dated" her from 2004 - 2006, when Tila used to come by his house and "take care of us boys. She stuffed us with food." He says seeing her on TV now "freaks me out" because the Tila he knew was a "really, really smart girl." Another friend confirms: "She was loud but funny, lucid, interesting... with the voice and manner of a trucker."
Jeff saw Tila drink "maybe one drink when she was out, two or three times ever." Each time, her face turned "beet red"—the dreaded Asian flush, a genetic condition you can't outgrow or get over. So, if she's chemically influenced now, it's probably not that, or we would've seen it on her face.
Tila's alter-ego "Jane"—the one who put a gun in Tila's mouth during a livestreaming web chat in November—first appeared to Jeff in 2005.
She used to call and be all, 'This is Jane.' And she'd be talking really seriously, and Jane was really, really interested in me. Tila was only kind of interested in me. ... Jane was really aggressive, very matter of fact.
He isn't sure whether Jane was a charade or some kind of dissociative identity crisis. He compares Tila's alter-ego to people who see ghosts.
Was it a game? Probably. Or, I thought that at first, but then, when I would ask about Jane, she wouldn't know what I was talking about. I'd be like, 'How's Jane?' and she'd say, 'What do you mean? What are you talking about?' ... I probably talked to Jane maybe three times, and the rest was all Tila.
Tila also told Jeff that her "ultra-traditional Vietnamese immigrant" parents weren't "fully aware" of their daughter's burgeoning soft core porn career: "She was always worried about her parents seeing specific things." On her blog, Tila has mentioned a strained relationship with her family, but as far as I know hasn't specified why.
While she dated Jeff, Tila also saw Jared Leto ("always hitting her up"), Billy Corgan ("loved her"), and Joel Madden. As she got busier with events and TV appearances, Jeff and his clean-cut crew fell out of touch with her. Tila's big turning point was at the end of 2006, when her niche appeal finally crossed over into the mainstream with a profile in Time's "Person of the Year: You" issue (totally fitting that our new anti-hero was part of the most universally reviled "Person of the Year") and the beginning of 2007, when MTV built bisexual dating show A Shot at Love around her. As for Tila's recent tweets about being alone and friendless, Jeff says:
I believe that. Me and the few of my friends, my buddy Evan and five or six of us, we were her friends, but she didn't have many others. She didn't have many friends who didn't want or need something from her.
She did, of course, have her MySpace friends, a fanbase with whom she has always been startlingly, and perhaps uncomfortably, close. As she told Time,
There's a million hot naked chicks on the Internet. There's a difference between those girls and me. Those chicks don't talk back to you.
She would call one member of "Tila's Army" every day for a phone conversation. She would post Amazon and Victoria's Secret wishlists online, then sit back while the loot rolled in from farflung fans. (One gift, a "fake pink ring," was stolen, Tila now claims, by Casey Johnson vibrator victim and Twitter enemy Jasmine Lennard.) In this way, Tila crowd-sourced not just birthday gift-giving, but her whole life—she adapted outfits and hairstyles to her fans' liking and morphed from the clean-cut careerist that fit in with Jeff, to the sexy/sweet/bawdy starlet MTV loved, to the L-Word-esque Courtenay Semel groupie, to—finally—the audacious party girl trainwreck we see now, whose new wave of Casey Johnson-related interviews will run today, on Extra and in People and god-knows-how-many other outlets.