Back in September 2003, an unknown Vietnamese-American girl joined MySpace. com and invited somewhere between 30,000 and 50,000 strangers to become her friends on the social networking site. To everyone's surprise - none more so than to the girl herself - seemingly everyone added her as a MySpace friend until that number reached well over 1.5 million by 2007. Thus, the legend of Tila Tequila - model, performer, blogger and bisexual star of MTV's "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila" (2007-08) - was, for better or worse, born. Whatever tenuous claim to stardom she may have had soon turned to a lingering presence as an undisciplined publicity seeker. It came as no surprise when Tequila attempted to parlay her reality TV notoriety into a recording, acting and publishing career. And while none of these endeavors bore substantial fruit, Tequila's almost weekly appearance in the tabloids proved an endlessly renewable resource. Accusations of assault against a former boyfriend, a dubious engagement to doomed socialite Casey Johnson, multiple rumored pregnancies and miscarriages - in addition to several suicide attempts - kept her occupied in the years that followed. The personification of a cautionary tale, Tila Tequila staggered toward a bleak fate as a weary public could only look on with half-hearted interest.
Tila Tequila was the adapted stage name of Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen, born on Oct. 24, 1981 in Singapore, where her family moved after the Vietnam War. A year later, Tequila and her family immigrated to the United States to live in a suburb near Houston, TX. By the time she was in middle school, the Internet star stirred up trouble left and right, getting in fights and using fake IDs to get into nightclubs. Tequila fled to Queens, NY when she was 16 in order to escape her gang-related past. Two years after living in the New York, Tequila had turned her life around and went back to Houston, where she was discovered at a local mall by a Playboy magazine scout. It ended up being the break she desperately needed. Soon after, the former tomboy found herself living in Los Angeles and appearing on Playboy's website as a "Cyber Girl of the Week" and then "Cyber Girl of the Month" - the first Asian-American to secure the title - in 2002. Tequila also made a splash on the import racing scene, appearing in various publications and car shows like Hot Import Nights.
A year after appearing on the official Playboy site, Tequila was invited to join MySpace.com by its founder and her friend Tom Anderson. Her popularity on the site soared dramatically overnight, thanks to millions of viewers and friends who loved her MySpace page's sexy photos, blunt commentary, and in-your-face profile attitude. The diminutive model also released her own songs such as "F*ck Ya Man," later categorized as "skank-pop," though the site, featuring obnoxious lyrics, dime store melodies, and oozing of sexual innuendo. Tequila also set the MySpace standard for garnering the most friends, leaving her at the top of the site's food chain at that time.
Becoming the biggest MySpace star was a career move which Tequila used to branch out into other media, making herself a lucrative commodity. She appeared on various reality shows like "Surviving Ted Nugent" (VH1, 2003) and hosted "Pants-Off Dance-Off" (Fuse, 2006-), until MTV decided to offer Tequila her own show. "A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila" premiered in October 2007, and centered on the self-proclaimed bisexual weeding out her potential mates from a group of 16 straight men and 16 gay women. Unapologetic for her promiscuity, Tequila was criticized for taking feminism a few steps back, yet she sought to show that being "skanky" was empowering. "We girls have a right to get nasty, too," she sang on the song "Playgirl Central." By the end of the series' first season, Tequila had picked a male winner by the name of Bobby, yet their relationship only lasted a few months - more accurately, until the second season of "A Shot at Love" premiered in April 2008. Bobby later claimed Tequila never returned his calls and e-mails, only adding fuel to the fire that the whole dating show was nothing but a means to an end for the network and its fame-hungry star.
In addition to making men and women fight for her love on season two of her reality show, Tequila branched out into movies as well, with a cameo appearance as a Hooters Girl in the 2007 Adam Sandler comedy "I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry." She also signed on to rapper will.i.am's label, and released the single "I Love You" on iTunes in February 2007, where it became the most downloaded song a month later. Her second single, "Stripper Friends," was less embraced. She soon returned to television on "A Shot at Love II with Tila Tequila" (MTV, 2008), featuring15 straight male and 15 lesbians competing for her affections, this time with all contestants fully aware of the reality star's bisexuality. Cupid's arrow missed her once again, however, when season two's winner, Kristy Morgan, declined her prize - Ms. Tequila - citing her uncertainty about entering into a relationship with a woman as the nebulous reason.
That same year, Tequila, nothing if not ambitious, entered the publishing world with the self-help book Hooking Up with Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success and Being the Life of the Party. Not as easily dismissed with a smirk were the events that later transpired in Tequila's increasingly chaotic personal life. In 2009, she filed suit against NFL player Shawn Merriman for assault, battery and false imprisonment after the San Diego D.A.'s office decided not to press charges stemming from an alleged incident in September of that year. Accusations flew back and forth, with Merriman claiming that he had only been trying to prevent Tequila from driving intoxicated on the night of the incident. He countered by filing a suit of his own against her later that year.
Not long after posting on her Twitter account that she now considered herself a lesbian - as opposed to being bisexual - Tequila rebounded with troubled Johnson & Johnson heiress Casey Johnson. Near the end of 2009, the couple was seen on the red carpet at an event with Tequila proudly displaying a rather large diamond engagement ring given to her by Johnson. The purportedly forthcoming nuptials would never take place, however, after Johnson was found dead at her Los Angeles home on Jan. 4, 2010. It was later determined that Johnson, who had suffered from Type 1 Diabetes since childhood. Over the weeks that followed, Tequila engaged in a very public mourning, while socialite friends of Johnson - Nicky Hilton among them - expressed doubt as to the validity of Tequila's supposed engagement to the heiress.
More drama came in the form of Tequila's endlessly tweeted hints of pregnancies, miscarriages, surrogate pregnancies, planned adoptions and half-hearted attempts at suicide - none of which could be verified to any degree. During another attempt to kick-start her stillborn music career Tequila was pelted with rocks and human excrement while performing onstage at an outdoor concert event organized by the band Insane Clown Posse in August 2010. She later vowed to sue both the band and the event's promoters. Things appeared to be coming to a head when in March 2012, following more than a year of reported suicide attempts, police visits to her Los Angles apartment, and an intervention by close friends, Tequila's representative claimed that the fading reality star was ready to seek help at an undisclosed rehabilitation facility.