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.
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.
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).
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
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.