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Have the real life Gossip Girls been unmasked?

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 18/06/2022 Polly Dunbar
Life imitates art as the real life Gossip Girl documented Armie Hammer's rumoured transgressions - and he starred in the original show © Provided by The Telegraph Life imitates art as the real life Gossip Girl documented Armie Hammer's rumoured transgressions - and he starred in the original show

As Covid swept the world in March 2020, an altogether less serious event was taking place on social media. An anonymous Instagram account - name, DeuxMoi - began providing celebrity watchers with gossip nirvana, publishing titbits sent in by followers: everything from mundane sightings of actress Julianne Moore in New York’s hip Bar Pitti to the earliest, highly salacious hints that actor Armie Hammer might have alleged cannibalistic tendencies.   

Before long, it had 1.5m followers and its founder – believed to be a New York-based woman who worked in fashion - had been crowned the real-life Gossip Girl, after the Noughties TV series. In the wildly successful six-season US show, which ran between 2007 and 2012, a mystery character chronicled ‘the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite’ (drugs, student-teacher affairs, a doomed royal wedding) using the same kind of crowd-sourced tip-offs and calling themselves Gossip Girl. To add another layer of life imitating art, one of those fictional scandals involved a con-man played by none other than Armie Hammer.

Although it began life as an anonymous fashion blog back in 2013, this pandemic pivot to delivering celebrity titbits has seen DeuxMoi enter new territory. It’s now a burgeoning media brand with two podcasts, and this November, HarperCollins will publish the anonymous account owner’s debut novel. Anon Pls – a nod to tipsters’ requests not to be named - will be a fictionalised memoir about a fashion assistant called Cricket Lopez who shoots to fame with a DeuxMoi-like social media account. HBO Max has announced it has already optioned the book for a TV series.

But just as its ascent seemed unstoppable, DeuxMoi has found itself mired in controversy over the owner’s identity. Despite ongoing speculation over who she could be, DeuxMoi had managed to shield her anonymity, even going so far as using a voice changer when speaking publicly. Until now, that is - after not one but two likely candidates were unmasked in an in-depth expose published online last month by US journalist Brian Feldman.

By rummaging through years of publicly available social media posts, Feldman concluded that the DeuxMoi Dame is actually two women: Meggie Kempner and Melissa Lovallo. The claim made immediate sense of the account’s name: DeuxMoi is French for ‘two me’. Most intriguingly, Kempner is the granddaughter of Nan Kempner, the late socialite dubbed ‘the queen of the New York scene’. However, it has been reported that she is apparently longer involved in the account, leaving its running to Lovallo.

Following Feldman’s deep dive, rumours have swirled online about the pair. What’s clear is that with their glamorous careers and impeccable connections - they are believed to have met when they both worked as stylists at Ralph Lauren - the two have been perfectly placed to dish the dirt on the cream of society. Maureen O’Connor, a US writer who interviewed DeuxMoi for a Vanity Fair article last year, says that pivoting to celebrity tea-spilling, as Generation Z call it, was a risky move. “The person I spoke to for the piece – who wouldn’t confirm her identity to me - was still working in her fashion job, which involved working with celebrities,” she says. “Doing that while sharing celebrity gossip was definitely dangerous.

“But in a way it makes sense – working behind the scenes like she did can make you feel invisible, and she talked to me about feeling appreciated for her work on DeuxMoi.” While Lovallo is someone who has been assiduous about protecting her privacy and has left very few traces online, Kempner has an image to protect. It is not known when she ended her alleged association with DeuxMoi – before or after it became a gossip juggernaut - but it’s not difficult to imagine she might have panicked when her name was aired. There is a definite discord between her high society image and an association with celebrity tittle tattle.

Meggie Kempner attends the Fashion Group International Rising Star Awards in 2016 © Provided by The Telegraph Meggie Kempner attends the Fashion Group International Rising Star Awards in 2016

As the granddaughter of New York royalty, Kempner’s privileged life has been chronicled by the likes of Vogue, which featured her lavish Beverly Hills wedding to financier Ian McLean in 2018. Three years earlier, she began an eponymous fashion label with her brother Chris, inspired by the woman they call ‘Grand Nan’, about whom Diana Vreeland famously said: ‘There is no such thing as a chic American woman. The one exception is Nan Kempner.’


Gallery: 20 celebrities who don’t deserve all this attention (Espresso)

Recalling her grandmother’s influence, Kempner spoke in one interview of a holiday in the Bahamas with Nan, who had “this pair of Gucci by Tom Ford beaded and feathered jeans. They were the coolest things I’d ever seen. I was instantly hooked on fashion and worked towards building my career.”

It remains to be seen whether being outed as a possible founder of DeuxMoi will harm that career, or whether she will publicly distance herself from it, leaving Lovallo to take the heat (or reap the spoils). After all, while most of the account’s posts are harmless, they are all unverified, and some have attracted celebrities’ ire. While stories such as Scarlett Johansson’s marriage to comedian Colin Jost proved correct, others have been shot down by the stars themselves, including Hailey Bieber, who denied being pregnant and later announced she had worked out who DeuxMoi was. She’s far from the only one.

While researching her Vanity Fair piece, O’Connor heard about two group text-message threads, “one composed of Hollywood starlets and jet-setters and the other of New York’s fashion and media elite, trying to unmask the woman,” she says. “I think they saw it as, ‘You’re trying to figure out what I was doing on Saturday night, so I’ll figure out who you are,’” she says.  

When the DeuxMoi account began its dirt-dishing, it tapped into a very modern form of citizen journalism. “Everyone is a gossip columnist now, or can be,” says George Rush, a former New York Daily News reporter and co-author of Scandal: A Manual. “No celebrity is safe because everybody has been deputised to be on the lookout for them, and they have the tools to make that information public. People find it fun.”

Still, such is DeuxMoi’s power that restaurants it mentions as being frequented by stars - such as Carbone, an Italian favourite of Rihanna and Leonardo DiCaprio - immediately become the place to dine (and impossible to get a table.) Those who do get in report back on what, and who, they’ve witnessed. Rush says that the account’s ‘blind items’, which invite the reader to guess who a story refers to, are another draw, “because people see the celebrities they want to in them.” He believes one of DeuxMoi’s biggest attractions is that its stories only appear for 24 hours, then vanish. “It lures people back every day for more,” he says.

Perhaps the closest British equivalent is Popbitch, a much-loved weekly email newsletter filled with irreverent snippets about our own titans of popular culture – the difference being that, in keeping with our puerile national sense of humour, you’re more likely to find blind items about the lavatory habits of a daytime TV host than the sex life of an A-lister.

Feldman says the purpose of his investigation was not to damage DeuxMoi’s brand. “But the anonymity of the account was part of its appeal and something they were trading on,” he says. “It’s tough to square someone wanting to maintain that anonymity with the sort of growth they are pursuing, with podcasts, a book and TV deal, particularly when their line of work is about posting other people’s private information online.”

In other words, concealing your own identity while dishing up others’ secrets could be viewed as somewhat hypocritical. But neither Rush nor Feldman thinks the reported unmasking of Kempner and Lovallo – neither of whom have commented on Feldman’s claims - will diminish DeuxMoi’s popularity among fans.

“People like the idea there’s some kind of puppet master behind the scenes, but I don’t think their identity is particularly important,” says Feldman. “They still love all the blind items, even though a lot are made up or fake. They want to believe them.”

At the end of Gossip Girl, the author is revealed and forgiven (spoiler alert: it’s a man). But whether New York’s real-life elite will be so kind, only time will tell.

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