Weekend humor from Celia Rivenbark: On celebrity misdeeds and mea culpas

OK, so I was wrong about Chrissy Teigen.

Here’s my quote in this space a month or so ago: “As I say 12-15 times a day, thank God for Chrissy Teigen…” This was in reference to CT’s aura of awesomeness in general and, specifically, her successful campaign to eliminate from the medical lexicon tone-deaf phrases like “geriatric moms” for pregnant women over 35.

That, combined with her “fi-yah” chocolate chunk banana bread, her talented, adoring husband and her delightful, tumbly-in-PJs kids just made Chrissy’s life look flat-out amazing. Rich, but humble, she had no secrets, which can be obnoxious if you’re a Kardashian (see “bleaching, comma, butt”) but not so with Chrissy. When CT talked about her miscarriage or her depression struggles, she oozed authenticity.

But now Chrissy is on the apology tour because 10 years ago she sent some powerfully hurtful texts to Courtney Stodden, a model whose pronouns of preference are they and their, inviting them to kill themselves. Repeatedly. She now admits to being a cyberbully and “straight-up troll” to a slew of folks, famous and not. Blech.

Chrissy Teigen has spent more than a decade trying to convince us she’s just like us (she cooks casseroles!) but it turns out she’s, kinda, the worst parts of us. Stodden shared the texts and others came forward sooooo this wasn’t a sudden surge of guilt so much as a most unwelcome sullying of a carefully crafted brand.

Of course, we should give Chrissy some grace. Like the saying goes, each of us is more than the very worst thing we’ve ever done. For example, I wore a brunette Dutch girl-style wig most of 7th grade because I thought it looked groovy. OK. Maybe that’s not the same at all.

We pop culture consumers tend to give a lot of grace to celebrities. Look no further than famous author and legal expert Jeffrey Toobin, whom CNN rehired after a seven-month hiatus because he was observed, er, pleasuring himself, on a work Zoom call. This just proves that people don’t really think celebrities put their pants on one leg at a time (or, in Toobin’s case, perhaps they don’t put them on at all.) His 8-minute on-air apology for “deeply moronic behavior” was admittedly about 7 minutes too long and a little hollow as he proclaimed he’d spent some time volunteering at a food bank to show he was a good person. Yeah, OK. See here’s how humility works, Jeff. You do not do good deeds in front of people and boast about them. You do them in private. Like other stuff. Ahem. Maybe you didn’t call TMZ to tell them where you’d be bagging okra that day but still… shut up about your “giving back.” That’s not how it works.

While those two are in the penance box for a while longer, there are some who claim they have been wrongly accused of bad behavior. And maybe they have. The passion with which distance runner Shelby Houlihan, now banned for four years from competing in her beloved sport, has denied steroid use after failing a random drug test has me convinced. Her explanation? She ate a bad burrito. See, pig offal was a main ingredient in the food-truck burrito Houlihan consumed before testing and it has high levels of the steroid Nandrolone. Should she have known better? I guess so; it’s a fairly well-known link in athletic circles. But who among us hasn’t followed our noses, cartoon style, to the source of yummy smelling food-truck goodness? (And sometimes we’ve been surprised to discover the source was, crazily enough, fried Brussells sprouts!) So here’s hoping they give Houlihan another chance. As a former wig-wearing 7th grader, I recognize the difference between legit bad behavior and simple bad judgment. And it’s huge.

Celia Rivenbark is a NYT-bestselling author and columnist. Write to her at [email protected].

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