US model, cookbook author and TV presenter Chrissy Teigen has sensationally returned from a voluntary social media exile, promising to make good on her damaging cyberbullying behaviour and apologising for the hurt she has caused several big-name celebrities.
In a lengthy mea culpa on publishing platform Medium this week, Teigen, 35, blogged “not a single moment has passed where I haven’t felt the crushing weight of regret for the things I’ve said in the past”.
“There is simply no excuse for my past horrible tweets. My targets didn’t deserve them. No one does,” Teigen wrote.
“Many of them needed empathy, kindness, understanding and support, not my meanness masquerading as a kind of casual, edgy humour,” she wrote.
“I was a troll, full stop. And I am so sorry.”
It may appear an extraordinary, insightful admission, or a desperate PR plea to get back into the “good books” on the celebrity circuit.
Either way, there’s a takeaway here for anyone who is a troll, or who has fallen victim to cyberbullying.
Dr Evita March, a Melbourne-based expert on cyberpsychology and personality, told The New Daily while some would take the apology as a publicity stunt, it was “rare for someone of that higher profile to have that kind of reflection”.
“What is interesting and unique about this case is someone coming forward and engaging on their own self reflection on their own accord and on reflection saying, ‘I don’t like the way I behaved’,” Dr March said.
“Regardless of whatever her motivations were or why she was doing this, it is still a good message at its core, that this behaviour is wrong.”
Dr March said it was also important for the targets of the abuse to have spoken out, saying they don’t have to forgive her.
“Too often we minimise the behaviour by saying ignore the trolls, just get offline, don’t have a social media account,” she said.
“They in no way have to forgive her, and some of the people she did targeted have had significant mental health issues.”
Chrissy Teigen’s cyberbullying victims
Teigen had been silent on Twitter since reality TV personality Courtney Stodden, who faced intense media criticism after marrying 51-year-old Doug Hutchison in 2011 at the age of 16, accused her of bullying a decade ago.
She allegedly sent Stodden, who divorced last year and is non-binary, messages urging the model to kill themselves.
She apologised for those messages in May, and, as well as her social media exile, departed a voiceover role on Netflix comedy Never Have I Ever.
In her latest apology, Teigen, who is married to singer John Legend and have two children together, daughter Luna, 5, and Miles, 3 said: “I took to Twitter to try to gain attention and show off what I at the time believed was a crude, clever, harmless quip.”
“I thought it made me cool and relatable if I poked fun at celebrities.
Now, confronted with some of the things that I said, I cringe to my core,” she wrote.
She said was “truly ashamed” of her old tweets and she was in the process of contacting people she had targeted online.
But just hours after the post, Project Runway star Michael Costello accused Teigen of a years-long campaign to have him blacklisted from the runway because she believed he had posted something racist.
“Nothing takes away from the years of trauma being bullied and blacklisted in the industry has left me,” Costello wrote in an Instagram post.
“I am not out for revenge. I only wish to only speak my truth because I have been silenced for so long.”
Teigen, who was one of Twitter’s most prominent users with 13.5 million users and 34.9 million Instagram followers, is yet to comment on Costello’s claims.
She has also memorably clashed with former US president Donald Trump, who blocked her and called her “filthy mouthed”.
However, Teigen has now attracted criticism for her older tweets, including a 2011 post mocking Lindsay Lohan’s issues with self-harming.
In her Medium post, Teigen said she joined social media pile-ons to earn acceptance from strangers: “[It’s the] instant gratification that you get from lashing out and clapping back, throwing rocks at someone you think is invincible because they’re famous.”
“I wasn’t mean in my everyday life. More than once, someone would come up to me and say, ‘You’re so much nicer in person’. Why was that not a huge red flag? But I took it in and tossed it aside,” she said.
Teigen ‘grew up, got therapy, got married’
The mother of two, who was widely praised in 2020 for sharing stark pictures from the loss of her pregnancy, said she was now a different person.
“I grew up, got therapy, got married, had kids, got more therapy, experienced loss and pain, got more therapy and experienced more life,” she said.
She said her husband says their daughter Luna “reminds him of me” and that every day she tries to make sure she’s “all the best parts of me, all the things I aspire to be all the time, but fail at sometimes”.
“And we preach kindness to her and Miles every chance we get. Will they eventually realise there is some hypocrisy there? I certainly do. But I hope they recognise my evolution.”
Reports of online bullying up by 40 per cent
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant recently pointed out the number of adults reporting online harassment and cyberbullying has increased by nearly 40 per cent, representing an “alarming new normal”.
Dr March said Teigen’s blog and apology isn’t so much about the person or their profile – “it’s more that they realise their behaviour was having a negative impact”.
“What this reinforces is that anyone can engage in this behaviour, not just your troll sitting in the basement in a dark room,” Dr March said.
“Anyone can do this which just highlights to us just how common it can be.
“It also means anyone can reflect on their behaviour and try and change it.”
With therapy and insight kicking in, change is happening in Teigen’s world as she hopes that after her 10-year battle for self-improvement “we are all more than our worst moments”.
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