Idol Worship: Ten(ish) Questions with the Coquette On Getting Your Sh*t Together

Welcome to Idol Worship, a biweekly devotional to whoever the fuck I’m into. This is a no-holds-barred lovefest for my favorite celebrities, rebels and biker chicks; women qualify for this column simply by changing my life and/or moving me deeply. This week, Internet met Internet as I, the very public and emotional Carmen Rios, carefully crafted a list of questions for the brutal, wonderful, and intelligent anonymous Internet personality The Coquette, formerly known as Coke Talk.

Header by Rory Midhani

Required Reading for this unit: “On What’s Wrong With You.

“Are we following Coke Talk? She’s so fucking funny. I think her handle is ‘coke tweet’ one word.” This was a conversation I had in 2009 with my boss. It changed everything.

Since then, the Coquette and her Coke Talk empire has been a consistently good part of my Internet, enjoyed with a well-balanced Tumblr dashboard. (Her tweets are similarly off-the-chain amazing.) An anonymous Internet personality known best for her short but smart quips on pop culture and politics and her direct and straightforward language, she gives real talk with authority and only the best intentions. She seems really wise and really well-lived, like a melting pot of experiences that produced a party girl full of life advice. She’s a brazen political mind and a fearless fucked-up feminist. She’s my everything.

It all began with Coke Talk, a blog on Tumblr. Four girls were fucking around and blowing some lines and decided to start a thing. After a month, only one of them was posting. Now, only six people in the world know who that is.

The rest is history:

Come to think of it, if I had named my blog HighSociety, there are those who would have called me an imitator of Julia Alison. Sure, I may be smarter, funnier, and less full of shit, but there’s nothing original about a shallow party girl rambling about her nightly escapades.

I’m not doing anything special here, and I’d be an asshole if I took any of it seriously. Come on, we’re all just talking shit on the internet. We do it because it’s fun. We do it because we fucking love to write, and because we crave the instant gratification we get when our readers respond. I’m flattered by imitators and not the least bit concerned about copycats.

And thus, the Coquette, as the genius behind Coke Talk later named herself, became a personal brand wielding a mighty sword of a tongue. She has the immense pleasure to “talk shit for a living,” and does it well. The best part is the infallibility — she speaks authoritatively, and with confidence. She’s never revealed or hinted at her identity, and maintains that she won’t anytime soon, but her anonymity has never bothered me because her mind makes up for whatever we don’t know about her. I trust her based merely on the merits of her language and her ideas. This bitch is hilarious, and intelligent, and on-fucking-point.

The Internet knows a good thing, so people of course began to find her blog and consume her blog. I say “consume” because you sort of eat it up when you’re involved with it. I feel like I read it like a blog-based model for one of those old books like “How to Be A Good Woman” that girls used to get, the volumes on manners and etiquette and all that shit people said you needed for life. Eventually, people also started asking the Coquette questions – requesting, as she calls it still, “shady advice.”

The next step “Dear Coke Talk,” a one-of-a-kind advice column that lends Non-Stop Real Talk For The Internet’s Soul.

dear-coke-talk

People, these poor poor people, wrote in just to watch themselves get ripped a new one. Harsh, brutal, blunt, but never without soul, her advice is tough love that nobody else would ever give us. After all, she’s the Coquette, and she’s seriously seen and done it all. She’s literally just an expert on being a human. How could you not trust her? She was, and still is, always right.

You remind me of some fourteen-year-olds I went to high school with who all thought they were so cool when they started to call each other bitches and sluts, and had extended their vocabulary to include words like fuck. Could you perhaps tell me the point of swearing so often? Do you even know?

I use profanity because I’m profane, you persnickety cunt.

When it comes to creative use of the language, swear words aren’t the height of unintelligence. Cliche and close-mindedness are, and sweetheart, you’re a walking close-minded cliche.

That was the pot of gold, and The Coquette got gigs with The Daily and Playboy (where she wrote about gender and sexuality).

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Then the Coquette recommended books, until she just went ahead and published one. By now, she has designed and managed various projects and product lines, including handbag and jewelry collections. Even as she took it on, her wit never dulled and her concise, snarky commentary on our communal pop culture and political experiences continued to be proof of a sanity and clarity often forgotten on this planet. Through it all, she continues to keep it real about the people we too often worship and ground us all in our relative insignifcance at our highest moments. When we’re low, she doesn’t “lift us up” — she pulls aside and tells us why we have to get up for ourselves. Ultimately, I was stricken by her values and beliefs, and how free and open they were: the Coquette stressed that we were self-sufficient, that we were going to be able to make it, that nothing was going to end, that nothing was really ever ruined, that life was a series of opportunities and not one ongoing grind, that you were always able to change, that you were in control. She repeated in various forms and phrases that everyone had a shot at making it out. That everyone had a responsibility to try.

So, this all still brings us back to the inevitable question: who the fuck is the Coquette? I don’t even have a picture I can slide in to this post of what she looks like – but her brand is inextricably linked to baby-bottle-holding-trucker-hat Britney Spears, Edie Sedgwick and Dolly Parton. She tweets and posts on Tumblr, still, about fashion shows, industry parties, and music festivals. She lives smack dab in the middle of celebrity. But we, the collective Internet, have no idea what she looks like.

Here’s what we do know, however: we know the Coquette has a successful career and a successful social life, as well as a totally unique gem of a brain. She works hard, and she parties hard. (For one week, she tracked her life for BlackBook — reporting back on “twelve Parliaments, two pitchers of Margaritas, eight cocktails, six glasses of red, four beers, two mimosas, a half bottle of pinot grigio, a half bottle of champagne, about a gram of blow, one softcore orgy, about an hour of phone sex, one tab of ecstasy, and at least three hours of sex.”)

She’s just what we needed to hear.

Idol Worship: Ten(ish) Questions with The Coquette

coquette

Hi, Coke Talk! Or I guess, The Coquette. How are you today?

Fuckin’ great. Thanks.

I wanna start with questions about your brain.

Your writing reflects a sort of analytical lens for pop culture and politics that makes me hungry to go back to school. In fact, you once told someone they were “confusing evolutionary biology with theoretical anthropology,” and then I promptly died. What the fuck did you study in college? What’d you get your masters in? How did you grow such an amazing mind?

I won my mind in the genetic lottery. It’s pure luck that I’m one of the smart kids. I don’t take it for granted, though. I exploit my own curiosity. I never stop asking questions about the world. I read voraciously, and I’m constantly learning and re-learning. My education is never over, because I have a built-in burning desire to know things, and I get off on figuring shit out.

As for college, my undergraduate degree is in the sciences, and my masters degree is in the humanities. Don’t tell my parents, but neither of those pieces of paper ever mattered all that much. These days, the college experience is more an extended ritual in coming of age as an indebted American consumer than it is a legitimate education. It still has value, but there’s a reason iTunes U is free.

You also have a pretty in-depth and solid background in issues around gender, sex, and sexuality. What brought you to that consciousness? Do you identify as a feminist?

If you had asked me, “are you a feminist?” My answer would simply have been, “Hell yes,” but you asked me if I identify as a feminist, and that kind of phrasing makes me squirm. “Identify” is a coded word. It comes with a lot of socio-political baggage, and I have a healthy distaste for identity politics.

My views on gender, sex, and sexuality are complex and nuanced, but I can’t stand all the incessant labeling. I am a raging feminist with radical opinions on the limits of gender binarism, the impracticality of monogamy, and the fluidity of sexual orientation, but the second anyone requires me to “identify” as cisgender or polyamorous or pansexual I tell them to fuck off. That’s not how I accessorize.

Before Coke Talk was born, did you ever plan on being “an Internet personality?” How did a joke between friends, and a blog no one knew about, turn into a personal brand? Why did you commit to being Coke Talk/The Coquette?

I’ve been doing this shit for half a damn decade, and I honestly couldn’t tell you how any of it happened. None of it was planned. It was a joke that turned into a hobby that turned into a second career. One day, I was talking shit about my drugged up Hollywood escapades, and then suddenly I’d written a massive compendium of shady advice on a blog with more posts than there are chapters in the Bible.

Quick-draw: Favorite alcoholic bev? Favorite strain of weed? Favorite song du jour? And most importantly: the best party you’ve ever been to? 

My drink of choice is usually Grey Goose on the rocks. Any sativa strain will do, preferably baked into a delicious brownie. If I had to pick just one song du jour, today’s favorite would be “Don’t Save Me” by Haim. The best party I’ve ever been to lasted for a solid month back in 2007 when I bounced non-stop from Los Angeles to Belize to Coachella to Vegas with my hardcore crew of lunatic friends.

Do you have anything super exciting on the horizon? Any book deals you can hint at or new writing gigs or new product lines or dreams you plan to fulfill this year? Any New Year’s Resolutions now resolved? I want to promote anything you have coming up unabashedly. I also want to buy everything you have ever sold in The Coquette Shop.

Thanks, babe. I’m glad you like my shit. Honestly though, I don’t know what’s next.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I bit off more than I could chew in 2012. My first book came out at the same time I was launching my handbag line, all the while I was writing three columns a week for The Daily and Playboy. I was handling all those projects by myself, and that was just the stuff I was doing as The Coquette. I have a whole other life with a professional career where nobody knows about all this other crazy shit I do on the side. It got to be too much, so when The Daily went tits up at the end of last year, I took a step back to re-assess, and I came to the comfortable conclusion that it was the writing that made me happy.

I don’t have any specific project I want to promote at the moment, but this year is all about the writing. We’ll see what comes of it.

Who has inspired and motivated you? Are there any celebrities you genuinely respect?

I am morbidly fascinated by what passes for celebrity these days, especially the garish phenomenon of fame for its own sake. I pay attention to all the trainwreck celebutards and sociopathic reality television personalities for a reason, not because they inspire or motivate, but because celebrity culture is the immediate reflection of our collective consciousness, and it’s important to keep an eye on that, even when it’s a shit show.

It’s not where I look for inspiration, but I suppose there are a few celebrities who are doing it right. I tend to respect media and political figures who elevate the mainstream discourse. Folks like Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren. Rachel Maddow and Jon Stewart. Neil De Grasse Tyson and Sam Harris. Those are the kind of people I prefer to celebrate.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Always do what makes for a better story.

Actually, speaking even more of good advice can I challenge you to give me advice right now? “Dear Coke Talk… How does a 22-year-old turn into a real fucking person? How do I even begin to get my shit together? And how will I know when it’s time to finally move to Los Angeles?”

Damn, girl. Do you want advice, or do you want lyrics to a Taylor Swift song? There is no magical time when you’ll be ready for Los Angeles. If you want to live here, then pack up your shit and move. Just get in your car and fucking drive, and whatever you do, don’t forget to write about it. Get Autostraddle to pay you for 5000 words on a girl-meets-road piece about your big move to LA, and then go Hunter S. Thompson that shit. I did it when I was younger and more clueless than you, and the only thing I regret is not writing it all down while it was happening.

And let’s be clear, you’ve been a real person this whole time. I can’t fucking stand this Lena Dunham attitude I keep hearing from girls like you, because your shit is already very much together. None of you want to accept the fact that this is it, but guess what? Life doesn’t get any easier. Sure, you’ll continue to grow as a person. You’ll stack up a few experiences. You’ll gain some perspective. You might even make a little money, but don’t expect to find any big answers out there. Welcome to adulthood, kiddo. You may not know what in the hell you’re doing, but none of the rest of us do either.

Profile photo of Carmen

Carmen is the Feminism and Straddleverse Editor at Autostraddle, meaning she helps expand your mind and your queer girl clique. She's mother to the most adorable dog on Earth and hates paying more than one dollar for a good slice of pizza. At times, she self-identifies as "the baddest bitch." You should follow her on Twitter and Tumblr because it makes her feel good about herself when people do.

Carmen has written 569 articles for us.

32 Comments

  1. Thumb up 2

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    Ugh, thank you, needed a kick in the pants today! My shit is together. I will repeat this over and over and over and MAKE MY GODDAMN SHIT TOGETHER IF IT KILLS ME. Thanks, Carm.

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    i was with her up until here: “the second anyone requires me to “identify” as cisgender … I tell them to fuck off”. to me, this makes it clear that she IS cis, but she doesn’t want to “identify” as such. it feels like she’s refusing to acknowledge her own privilege there.

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      I think the answer meant that she is indeed cis and poly and pan, but she just doesn’t like the word “identify” because of its history or implications, not because it’s about acknowledging privilege or whatnot.

      Disclaimer : I hate the word “identify” too, for similar reasons. I hate when people say “I/he/she/they identify as _____”, because it makes it sound like it’s just some made-up role that one chooses to perform rather than something one fundamentally *is*.
      Also it breeds herd mentality (which then breeds us vs. them mentality), and I feel like it puts too much focus on those inherent differences w/r/t who we are as individuals – not that these things don’t matter, but they don’t define us as human beings nearly as much as our opinions and personalities and choices.

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      Eh, I kind of agree with her. I have trouble “identifying” strongly as queer, but I can’t quite put into words what the problem is. Even though I am totally queer. Something about the eagerness to find new and more radical labels or something.

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      i agree with coketalk. i dont like identifying as a lesbian, or cis, or whatever, because labels annoy me. i dont want to be put in a box. am i a *real* lesbian because i dated a dude for four years before i came out as not straight? i dont know. ive been told yes and ive been told no. quite frankly, ive learned not to give a fuck. i feel the same way towards my gender – for all intents and purposes i consider myself the cis version of female, but ive always felt neither or both or whatever.

      i dont care, because i hate labels, because labels put you in a box, a box defined by people other than yourself. i define myself however i see fit, not other people. by putting a box around myself im open to people criticizing me for not being “X” enough. fuck that.

      and this goes both ways you know – a trans person can choose no label as well. if i was born female and became male, i could either identify as a transman, or identify as a man, or not identify at all. thats my choice, and thats the choice of every trans person.

      people arent discriminated on based on the way they label themselves (except, ironically, from within the LGBT +alphabet soup community), they are discriminated based on the way they look. a butch female? discriminated against. a feminine male? discriminated against. trans and not passing? discriminated against. two females embracing? discriminated against. two males embracing? discriminated against. how the above label themselves makes no difference in how society treats them.

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      I am totally okay with anyone and everyone’s refusal to identify. Society cries out for conformity; it doesn’t know what to do with anyone or anything it can’t shove into a particular box and say “oh, so THAT’S why he/she/it is like that”. We’re all people, so what the fuck does it matter what we “identify” as? I’ve never found it any of anyone else’s business. No one has to justify their life, or who they are in their life, to anyone.

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    Coketalk is notorious for making racist comments including the fact that we apparently live in a post racial society so racism isn’t a factor in modern society, Muslim women are all idiots and FEMEN are great because they make racist protests/destroy Mosques and that cultural appropriation isn’t a thing. It says a lot about this site that you idolise a woman like her and reminds me why I, as a WoC, choose not participate in the queer scene. Also hysterical that she mentions Lena Dunham, another racist hipster who thinks racism is a huge joke. I can’t imagine the same feting of a woman who says sexist or homophobic things but racism is A-OK. G

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      you obviously dont have terribly good reading skills. she criticized lena dunham.

      all of the abrahamic religions are patriarchal and misogynist by default. fuck them all. the problem with islam is that countries use that as their law, rather than have a secular law in a predominately muslim country. in the west the laws may be influenced by christianity, but the bible (and its ancient and brutal punishments) is not our law. hence why in a muslim country that uses islam as law, you get stoned for what in other countries would be a very minor offense. its ridiculous, and being against that isnt being against islam or being xenophobic. one shouldnt be punished for walking around in public without a male family member, or for not being covered enough. thats not to say it should be bikini season either, but women should have the freedom to choose how they live their lives as they see fit, not have laws based on religion dictate it to them and treat them as second class citizens. a girl shouldnt be shot by the taliban for going to school (which happened, btw).

      if our laws and punishments were word for word based on the christian bible, or jewish bible, we would have the same problem. its 2013, not 600 AD. fuck political correctness.

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        You clearly lack reading compherension yourself. I said this website celebrates racist white women not that Coketalk was a Dunham fangirl. And she supported FEMEN who made racist comments towards South Asian and Middle Eastern people. I don’t care how much of an atheist you and she may be that doesn’t excuse racism. I’m sure if a non-white celebrity ever made fun of a white gay woman you would be out with the pitchforks but ignorant white women everywhere get a pass. It’s easy to excuse racism when you aren’t a victim of it, it’s a bit more difficult when women like Dunham and Coketalk are out on the street calling you a fucking raghead.

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          Also it’s funny how you ignored my other problems with her – like saying society is post racial and non-white people moan too much about racism. Funny enough she quickly deleted that and white women like you ignore it because that would detract from your ‘she’s totes amazing!’

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    It’s always amazing to me how many internet personalities grew out of something that started out as a joke or for fun. Being part of some viral internet trend is rare enough so also being someone who knows how to capitalize on it and turn it into a thing you love and enjoy doing is damn near impossible. Cheers to her. I’ve never read Coke Talk before but I think we should just start the rumor it’s Jennifer Aniston,

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    I discovered Coketalk (via Carmen) on a day that I happened to need some metaphorical cold water to the face. I’m really glad I did, as her archive is now my metaphorical-cold-water reservoir. I don’t always agree with her, but she definitely always makes me think. Thanks for this!

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    i am into smart women, and the coquette is clearly a very smart badass, so i am into this.

    would i want her life? nah. is all her advice applicable to me? nope. but can i recognize her as an intelligent, funny, badass independent human who is bringing an interesting perspective into this world and honestly doesn’t give a fuck about the haters? sure thang. and i think we could all stand to learn a lesson or twenty when it comes to not giving a fuck about the haters.

    also, at a time when i’m worried my brain is wasting away (not due to drug use, HA, far from it, drugs scare me, just from boredom and existential mid-twenties angst) it felt really important to read this and sort of take stock of this attitude and remind myself that it’s up to me to keep my brain sharp and to keep learning/growing:

    “I won my mind in the genetic lottery. It’s pure luck that I’m one of the smart kids. I don’t take it for granted, though. I exploit my own curiosity. I never stop asking questions about the world. I read voraciously, and I’m constantly learning and re-learning. My education is never over, because I have a built-in burning desire to know things, and I get off on figuring shit out.”

    so thanks for the wakeup call, coke talk. i only just discovered you (via carmen, duh) but i’m quickly learning that is what you do best. much appreciated.

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    You may not know what in the hell you’re doing, but none of the rest of us do either.

    This is simultaneously depressing and relieving.

    Also as someone many eons older than 22 I think maybe your shit is as together as its ever gonna get. I feel as lost today as i did oh those many years ago, more lost even.

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    I like Coquette because she makes me fucking uncomfortable. Like squirm in my chair and ask myself questions that I’d rather not. I read her stuff for that feeling-it’s all too easy to consume blogs/lit/etc that supports my world view and avoid things that challenge me.

    Yay Carmen, thanks for sharing.

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