The Celebrity Tea Account Distracting Us From the Pandemic
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The Celebrity Tea Account Distracting Us From the Pandemic

It's hard to explain, but in order to sleep at night, I need to believe that Adam Sandler is a nice person. He just has to be. Surely the man who gave us the Hanukkah song and Billy Madison and The Wedding Singer, not to mention his more highbrow turns in Punch Drunk Love, Uncut Gems and The Meyerowitz Stories, is a cut above his fellow Hollywood multimillionaires. Surely a man known for playing lovable losers and wearing basketball shorts to premieres sees through the bullshit.

I'm not alone in my desire to know which famous people are cool in real life. The private Instagram account Deux Moi, which posts screenshots of unverified celebrity encounters received via DM, is dedicated to this very cause. Happily, the Sandman is almost always described in glowing terms by those who claim to have come across him in restaurant bathrooms. The same can't be said for Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow and Leslie Mann. Or, as we're all well aware by this point, Ellen DeGeneres.

With 162K dedicated followers, many of whom also congregate on a popular Reddit thread and Facebook group to discuss each revelation in detail, the account has proven a welcome distraction during the past few hellish months. While rarely snarky, Deux Moi's popularity dovetails with the general pandemic backlash against A-listers kicked off by that damn "Imagine" video. All of a sudden we're wondering why exactly Hailey Bieber gets to be on a yacht in Capri while the rest of us have moved back home with our parents. Some readers object to invasions of celebrity privacy — poor Chris Noth can't go anywhere without showing up as a grainy iPhone photo in the Deux Moi DMs — but most seem genuinely interested in holding the entertainment industry's rich and powerful to account. Especially in how they treat young fans and service workers.

But you don't have to get that deep if you don't want to. Whereas notorious blind item blogs like Crazy Days and Nights or The Awful Truth attempt to uncover cheating scandals, drug addictions and pedophile rings, Deux Moi is mainly concerned with the mundane: Jennifer Aniston's coffee order, Leonardo DiCaprio's whole sex headphone thing, whether or not the cast of Gossip Girl do fan selfies at airports. It's lighthearted and addictive, enjoyable for casual gossip readers and tabloid vultures alike.

PAPER caught up with the account's mysterious admin over the phone to learn more about how her random quarantine project turned into every tinseltown publicist's nightmare.

How did Deux Moi come to be?

Me and my friend started the account in 2013. At the time Instagram wasn't as big of an entity as it is now. It was a lifestyle website, where we would put cool New York places, fashion, interviews with a lot of different people that we thought were interesting in New York and LA. We interviewed The Fat Jew, the woman who started Aviator Nation, the woman who started Stone Fox Bride. So, we did a lot of interviews with young entrepreneurial people at the time. And in conjunction with that we had the Instagram account. We did it for a couple of years and were working at the same time so couldn't put 100% of our time into it.

It didn't really take off as much as we wanted it to, but I kept the account, because it had about 45k followers. I kept it and posted whenever I felt like it. I started posting celebrity gossip and blind items from different websites. There was no initiative behind it, it was just what I did when I was bored. And then when we all went into quarantine in March, I had a lot more time on my hands, so I was posting more. One day I sort of said, "Why don't you guys write in to me any experiences you've had with celebrities." That's what started it all, and from there it snowballed. Very organic. None of this was planned.

How many tips are you getting per day?

I would say I get anywhere from 300 and 500 a day.

It must be a lot of fun to read these stories first.

It's definitely crazy. In the beginning, when there were only 45,000 followers, it was much more wild back then. I had to become more discerning as time went on, because people were sending in fake stories, and fandom people got involved and they started sending in fake stories. It depends on who the celebrity is.

Are you getting publicists contacting you?

I've received things that have seemed suspicious, not going to say about which celebrity, but if you follow along you can tell. So I've received messages that could be from publicists or could be from their teams. The fandom ones are really obvious. But sometimes I post them anyway! People don't want to think for themselves sometimes. They want to be told whether something is true or false. And I don't always have that answer. Here's the information, you decide for yourself. Maybe it's fake and just fun to read, or maybe it's true.

There's an impulse on the part of fans to believe that celebrities are good people, and the account makes that clear. Like Jennifer Aniston, who is so beloved from Friends.

Jennifer has been a real rollercoaster. There have been accounts of her being lovely, accounts of her being cold, fans saying she's aloof. I started just posting everything, trying to get to the bottom of what she's really like. People are human, there's never going to be a black and white answer. But that's part of the fun, trying to figure it out.

Are celebrities reaching out to you?

Oh yeah. Not a lot, but yeah. I have never posted and would never post anything that they tell me, but they'll contact me either to add to it, or to say, "Oh my god this did happen." But rarely to say something isn't true. Maybe once or twice. The little stupid stuff they definitely have reached out about.

I've also had a publicist reach out about something totally not being true, which, again, that's their job. Just because they said it wasn't true doesn't mean that.

Where do you draw the line with celeb stories, privacy-wise?

If it's something too sad to read about that person, I won't post at all. That's happened a few times. If it has to do with family situations, or substance abuse. If I read it and it's really sad, I don't even post it. And as I say all the time, there's no way for me to research the information given to me, so who knows, it could be totally fake. I do censor some stuff out, and I know the blind items really frustrate some people.

Have you thought about legal considerations around defamation?

Yeah, I have. I've consulted with a lawyer, there is a disclaimer on the website and on my Instagram account, regarding the validity of the information.

Like a blind items blog, you're somewhat protected by how unverified it is, because if anyone was offended, they'd be admitting that the story is true.

I'm not trying to be Crazy Days and Nights, they post a lot of different kinds of information, and I think the kind of stuff they don't post is the stuff that interests me the most. And I know my followers like that, too. Stupid stuff: a celebrity's coffee order. Stuff like that, to be honest, the minutiae, I find that more interesting than the salacious stuff. CDAN is 100% salacious, and they do post a lot of the conspiracy theory stuff, and since quarantine it's at a fever pitch because more people are home and they're on Twitter and TikTok. It's out of control. All these conspiracies. So they post a lot more based on that information, and at first I was posting stuff like that, but it didn't sit right with me, and I felt like it wasn't the right direction to go. So I try and really steer away from that now.

This is definitely more lighthearted entertainment. I try to create narratives with the information I'm given, so if I get a bunch of stories about a certain celebrity doing something over and over again, I try and post things that support that. But it might be something really stupid, the dumbest thing. To me that's more fun than reading the same cheating or drugs story over and over. After a while, there's no shock value.

For someone reading this who isn't familiar with the account, who are the regular heroes and villains?

This is not my personal opinion, it's based on information from people who say they have interacted with these celebrities. But I love doing the "nice lists" and "shit lists." For the "nice," I would definitely say Luke Wilson. He's the most chill. I haven't heard one aggressive story about him. So nice to fans, loves everybody. Haven't heard anything bad and I really don't want to!

I would also say Steve Carell is a nice celebrity. Again, really chill and nice to fans. I did get one story about him that I haven't posted yet that's the opposite of all the other stories I have received. I'll put a trigger warning on it because I know people will be really upset. But maybe he was just having an off day.

Drew Barrymore seems like a delight, Julianne Moore also seems like a nice lady. Pink, who has a badass exterior, is really sweet. Talks to fans like a human. Gwyneth Paltrow was on the nice list, but recently the tide has turned. It took a swift turn, let's put it that way. The Hadids, a lot of people have had positive interactions with them, including people in the hospitality industry. You need to be nice to people in the hospitality industry, they have eagle eyes and they know what's up. Kim Kardashian, not all the Kardashians, but Kim specifically. Adam Sandler I always get really good stories about.

What about the negative interactions?

On the shit list, that's more complicated. Not everyone's going to be the same every day. People have good and bad days. But the shit list is mainly people whose percentage of interactions veers towards bad days. I'm not saying they're bad people, but the way they treat fans and whoever they come across has not been favorable. Mila Kunis, I put her on because she said something condescending to a fan. Marisa Tomei is also somebody who is on it. I don't even know what to say about some of the interactions people say they've had with her. I was shocked. I would also say Leslie Mann, shockingly and very sadly, I've gotten some negative stories about.

There's two different things: fan encounters, and industry stuff. So if someone has a bunch of stories where the fan encounters are amazing but all the industry people say this person is horrible to work with, then obviously that's who the person really is. I like people to draw their own conclusions, but that's what I think.

I also post a lot about David Schwimmer, who I call "Rude Ross" on the account. He hates fans coming up to him and referring to Friends.

A lot of the stories you get are about fans asking celebrities for photos and being turned down. Where do you stand on that privacy issue?

People have very strong opinions about it, but I don't write the DMs. I have to hear all the complaints about people's problems with the DMs that are written. People have very strong opinions about celebrity boundaries, and I would say a majority think it's wrong to approach a celebrity for a picture, they think it's invasive of their privacy, which is why I started writing "Chris Noth trigger warning" every time there's a pic of a celebrity who didn't know it was being taken of them. Because people get really upset about it. They can't believe this person took this picture when so-and-so was eating dinner.

A few people are clearly crossing the line. I can't stop thinking about the story of the girl who gave Steven Tyler head lice.

Listen, I don't know if that story was true or not, but it was wild. She said it happened twelve years ago, and there was a picture. She said that he put his hat on her head for the picture, and she had lice at the time. I guess, what was she going to say? As she said in the message, obviously he has very lice-friendly hair. When I get funny messages like that, that's the best part.

You have a few quirky deep dives on the account, like "celebs who are also merchants," where you feature celebrities who also own stores.

I also have one that's been around called "celebs who dine together," that was one that went on for a couple of days — sightings of celebrities dining together who you wouldn't think would be hanging out. Then there's "retail tales," stories from people who work in stores who get gossip about customers, and "tales from the sky" which is from flight attendants and pilots. That's the stuff that makes the account different.

It's kind of an account full of endless dinner party stories, hearing all of your friends' random celebrity encounters at once.

It's really interesting to see, if you throw a name out there, that's how it starts. Suddenly I'll get all these messages about that person.

You get a lot of people who have had similar experiences to each other.

And people who don't know each other who were at the same place at the same time! Those blow my mind. Especially the ones at more intimate settings. That's demographics for you. It's the same type of people who follow this account.

There's no archive of the stories, which is part of the fun in some ways. Do you have a plan for the archives?

I'm planning something hopefully to launch the beginning of August. Right now I'm in the stages of archiving. I have thousands of stories and DMs, it's taking a really long time to organize them all. When I launch this platform, I'll have everything in one place for me to distribute it. It's just me doing it, I begged a family member to help me yesterday, but it's taking a really long time. I didn't organize shit. It's really crazy now going through all the old stories.

That's a unique quarantine project.

Every day in May and June I would call my friends and ask why I'm even doing this. But I would get such nice messages from people about it. People telling me it's helping their anxiety, reading through these stories before they go to bed. So I knew I had to keep going with it. Going through all my old posts, I have so much information, it would be a waste not to do anything with it. So we'll see what happens.

There's something of an anti-celebrity movement happening right now, tied to the pandemic. People were not always so willing to think critically about celebrities.

I definitely feel like people's willingness to spill is timely. I don't think people would be so willing to share their experiences if not for what's going on in the world right now. So, I think a lot of factors go into that. People are home, and they're alone and they're bored. So they shoot off and don't think about what they're sending, even if it's something they maybe shouldn't be saying. People have lost their jobs. I do get a lot of DMs from people who work in the industry, or have worked in the industry.

To your point about holding celebrities accountable, I'm trying to pinpoint what started all this. The whole calling out influencers culture, that started on Instagram. Arielle Charnas's whole COVID journey really kick started it. It's the same idea, but in the celebrity world.

I think people got more comfortable when they saw lots of stories being submitted. They see that everything's anonymous, and to be honest, once I post something I delete it. So I don't even remember who sent something to me. The message is gone. There's a level of trust that goes into running this account, and I take it very seriously.

I'm always surprised by how much people disclose.

And I do think people embellish. I do think you can tell when something is a fan account as opposed to an industry account. There's a difference between those stories. People think I'm throwing out story after story, but there are certain reasons why I put up what I put up. And I feel like some people get that, and others view it just for entertainment and tap until they see a name that they like.

Will you ever get bored of reading these stories?

Reading the same thing about the same people does get a little boring to me, which is why I like to post about random people, like John Lithgow, which I thought would be random but apparently everyone has a Lithgow story. All the women are obsessed with him. So that's how I'll try and spice it up. It'll be Leo, Leo, Leo, Chris Noth, then Thomas Haden Church. Throw out a weird name to see if it sparks anything. I'm hoping to create a narrative.