The hype started in late summer: An Instagram account posted dozens of slides of celebrity gossip daily. There were the requisite, run-of-the-mill rumors (that thing about Leonardo DiCaprio having sex with headphones on, a piece of gossip everyone with WiFi claims to have heard “secondhand”). There were firsthand stories from people who’d had the misfortune of running into James Franco at college parties; reports of drama on the set of the movie Marriage Story; clues as to why Rachel Bilson and Bill Hader had broken up that July. But there were other, intentionally mundane curiosities too—entire days were devoted to detailing which celebrities had soft hands. That the account was private only added to its mystery. What secrets—or A-lister foibles, or D-lister fun—could be hiding behind the black-and-white sans serif avatar?
If you have not heard already, the gossip account is @deuxmoi. “Curators of pop culture,” reads the account’s bio; “the gossip account most likely to be screenshotted and shared by my least-gossipy friend” is also accurate. Deuxmoi specializes in the kind of easily sharable, easily omg-able rumors with a four-quadrant appeal. Maybe it’s pandemic boredom, maybe it’s the celebrity industrial complex: Deuxmoi has been praised for reimagining the traditional gossip machines in their boring-detail-obsessed image. For every explainer about who Deuxmoi is (the account seems to be run by a single person who identifies as a she) or what the account does, there’s not much consideration of where it fits within the online rumor mill’s landscape. To veteran online gossip reporters and blind-item scribes, is the account really doing anything that novel? Is Deuxmoi the future of gossip, or is it a screenshot-and-share iteration of gossip’s tabloid past?
Deuxmoi reportedly began as a lifestyle account. Last spring, it started soliciting its followers for their best, or most random, personal interactions with celebrities. The beginning of the pandemic left slim pickings for gossip bloggers and their readers: There were no more pap walks; the well of celebrity photos from outside mainstays Carbone or the parking lot of Erewhon Market went dry. Deuxmoi, by contrast, was focused on firsthand interactions with the glitterati, purposefully mundane observations. Which TV star patiently took pictures with kids? What singer-actress would make small talk with PAs? Everyone heard the rumor that Timothée Chalamet was a chlamydia superspreader at NYU, but had you heard his coffee order? Didn’t you want to see a stealthily taken picture of him waiting in a corner at the Union Square Starbucks and hear from a fan about how charming he was, even uncaffeinated?
Much of the breathless coverage of said breathless coverage has debated whether our appetite for celebrity gossip has increased during this unprecedented time. Regardless, Deuxmoi’s virality is intriguing. There’s something exclusive about a gossip page you have to request to follow; there’s an ephemeral quality to tips and tea shared exclusively via story posts, which disappear after 24 hours. Forums like Lipstick Alley and Oh No They Didn’t! are for seasoned gossips; Deuxmoi caters to a casual observer, the idle scroller. It’s not a website you check or a homepage you refresh. It’s on Instagram, a tap away from Notes app apologies and your high school friend’s pandemic engagement announcement.
The account rarely issues rulings on whether a bit of information is true or false or even logical, but sometimes they’ll add a little bit of their own context: “You guys said this from the beginning,” “Got a lot of messages like these,” and the like. Page Six and People break big scandals or catalog minor relationship updates; Deuxmoi was notably—and novelly—about what you’d text your friend after you ran into Ethan Hawke in Brooklyn, or what your mom would say about that time she gave Oprah a hug.
“A lot of what Deuxmoi was, at least initially, was ‘So-and-so went here to buy something,’” said the veteran gossip and television personality Elaine Lui of Lainey Gossip. “I think where that fits into gossip culture is we all are kind of curious about what celebrities are doing, especially because, now in the pandemic when people are on lockdown, people are not supposed to be going anywhere; the paparazzi has been more limited in what they can shoot and what photos have been able to come out.” Even if you had nothing to report, the account fed nosy readers. “This kind of information definitely adds to a certain gossip curiosity and need in these times. The timing for them to be releasing those seemingly innocent innocuous tidbits definitely met the moment.”
“What they’re best at is branding themselves, which you could say is a form of gossip or part of being in the gossip universe.”
I asked Lui if she thinks Deuxmoi is good at gossiping. As I do my daily tap through, some of the observations—and a new tendency to seek out jobs for Jack Quaid, or broadcast TV pitches—are just lame. (A personal query: Why does this account insist I know about that one Barstool Sports guy’s comings and goings? Why are seven consecutive posts dedicated to advocating for a reality show I’ll never watch?) “I do,” Lui said. “They’re good at understanding what makes gossip appealing. But what they’re best at is branding themselves, which you could say is a form of gossip or part of being in the gossip universe.” There’s almost no interaction too inconsequential, and hearing something fifth hand is fair game.
Lui made another important point about where Deuxmoi fits into the pace of celebrity gossip now: The account rightly recognizes that there won’t be huge, headline-getting stories every day. “[The general public] almost got used to gossip having to be a mind-blowing scandal, every single story. And it’s just impossible, right?” she said. “You can’t go out every day with a celebrity cannibal story. That’s not realistic.” Celebrity gossip is, more often than not, more lame and mundane. So is Deuxmoi.
But there’s another reading of this: Posting observations or random interactions is, to a degree, harmless for the celebrities the account covers, and for Deuxmoi too. The most critical original reporting on the account is who doesn’t tip well, or who pays their around-the-clock assistant minimum wage. Of the dozen publicists I reached out to—some of whom represent clients who are Deuxmoi mainstays—fewer than half said they follow it.
Enty, the mysterious entertainment attorney behind the blind-item site Crazy Days and Nights considers Deuxmoi “good gossip,” but with the understanding that the crowdsourced intel is legally protected—and mostly ignored by publicists. “If it’s crowdsourced gossip, which can be a good thing, it takes advantage of section 230,” he said, referencing the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which protects an account like Deuxmoi from being liable as a publisher of what the account reposts from its DMs. “It’s similar to the way that The Dirty could take all the comments about anybody that they really wanted to talk about, put it up as a post, and there’s nothing that you can really do about it. It’s a different kind of gossip.”
That kind of gossip is more about intrigue and cleverness than what’s necessarily true. “In the beginning of December, somebody sent me this story where they said Tom Cruise—I haven’t revealed it was Tom Cruise, but they said it was—who did crazy things with a fish in a bathroom,” Enty recalled. (On the site, the story takes place in a car.) “I posted it because I thought it was absolutely hilarious. It’s not real, but I thought it was hilarious. That led to like four or five other people sending in other strange things about Tom Cruise and a fish. Now am I going to reveal it? No! Is it true? No! But everybody had a little fun with it.”
Deuxmoi will post information just reported on The Hollywood Reporter; it will repost a woman accusing Armie Hammer of abuse; it will post something like the Leo-headphones thing. But by September 2020, the account was early to a bona fide celebrity scoop: Katie Holmes had been spotted dining in SoHo, flirting with a mystery man. Deuxmoi reposted TMZ’s story about the sighting, and the account’s readers started piecing together the man’s identity. (“I think she’s wrong about this one,” I told the friend who forwarded me a reader tip Deuxmoi posted. “I’m 90 percent sure that guy is currently engaged to one of my high school classmates and has been for like a year.” A day later, ahead of Page Six or TMZ, Deuxmoi reposted DMs saying the engagement I was thinking of had ended, suddenly and on bad terms.) The man was Emilio Vitolo, a chef and son of Emilio Vitolo Sr., the owner of the perma-celeb hangout Emilio’s Ballato; he and Holmes have been dating since. Two months later, the Deuxmoi media blitz began in earnest: the poster remained anonymous but gave interviews about the account’s origins and the owner’s own interest. As noted in almost all of them, the person behind the account doesn’t claim to be a journalist or fact-checker; they barely claim to be credible.
“I’ve always stayed true to what I said from day one, which is that this information is not proven to be based in fact,” the account’s owner told the New York Times. “I don’t do any additional research. I’m not a reporter.” The result is gossip that’s incorrect, or sometimes clumsy: a tip that the newly single Zoe Kravitz was dating Channing Tatum was shot down by her reps in People. One source wrote that Reese Witherspoon is cold; another swore she was always friendly in the halls of CAA. (A third chided the account for reposting the second tip, perhaps planted, since Witherspoon’s husband was a longtime agent at the talent agency.) In the fall, someone wrote in about the bakery owner and TV host Elizabeth Chambers, who had recently announced her split from the aforementioned Hammer. “This is quite shocking but she is ok with me sharing,” the person DM’d, with a tip about Hammer’s infidelity. “Then he abandoned his family during a global pandemic and left them with no plan of return.” The next day, the account deleted the Chambers tip, and reposted it, notably blanking out the “she is ok with me sharing.”
“At the very least, the people writing into Gawker Stalker were witty and perceptive. Sometimes the people writing into Deuxmoi can't even spell.”
Lui sees those interactions as normal among gossipers who don’t do their own fact-checking. It’s not wrong. It’s just not the reporting you’d read in a legitimate outlet. “When you claim to be a journalist, then people expect a certain level of follow-up and research and vetting. It’s smart that they don’t misrepresent themselves,” she said. “But also—and this is by intention—it’s not going to be an article in Vulture or [one] that is researched and followed up like in Vanity Fair, or even the New York Times.” Deuxmoi empowers a certain kind of extremely online sleuthing: “That’s what everybody is doing anyway, right? These days a celebrity can’t post something without us or people on social media screen-capping it, then zooming in on the corner, then identifying what the thing was in the corner and then speculating what that thing was.”
To Matt James, the mind behind the Tumblr blog Pop Culture Died in 2009, it’s counterintuitive to do all this gossiping, all this “You guys were right about this from the beginning,” without ever trying to figure out if something is real or total guessing. James sees Deuxmoi as amateur hour, a gossiper more impressed with their own following than establishing the account’s credentials: “There is no journalistic process. There’s no vetting, there’s no cultivating of longterm sources. In my years running the blog, I’ve come to meet people who were at the forefront of all those stories that were printed in Us Weekly and the Enquirer and so on,” he said. “Even though there is this popular conception that a lot of it was bullshit, a narrative that was driven mostly by the celebrities themselves, more of it was true than otherwise... Somebody who worked at American Media Inc. said that the Enquirer was wrong as often as the New York Times.”
Though Deuxmoi isn’t practicing journalism, the account is facing a tension familiar to real gossip outlets: pleasing the people reading it for more engagement, and not pissing off the people being written about too much. Crowdsourcing helps with that; so does keeping it mundane.
“There’s a blurring of the line between the stan and the scribe,” James argued. “A lot of celebrity gossip now, whether coming from legitimate publications or outlets or these more amateur Instagram or social media accounts, are being heavily shaped and influenced by fans of celebrities when it should be the other way around,” he said. While Deuxmoi doesn’t cater to stans in the same way as an account like Pop Crave—which posts even the most minimal album updates or reposts a star’s latest Instagram photo set—it does look like there’s a misplaced desire to please; if one person writes in that Blake Lively was a terror on the set of Gossip Girl in 2008, a half-dozen reposted DMs promising that she’s “the nicest person ever,” or “remembered my name” usually follow.
In interviews about Deuxmoi, what the account means for gossip, for Hollywood, for what to tap through while we’re bored and sitting at home, the same comparison comes up: How different is the account from Gawker Stalker, the genius-but-maligned map of pithy reporting on celebrity activity around New York City? “I find it ironic that [Deuxmoi has] gained so much success and popularity from the very reasons that made Gawker Stalker the scourge of civilized society 15 years ago,” James said. “But at the very least, the people writing into Gawker Stalker were witty and perceptive. Sometimes the people writing into Deuxmoi can’t even spell.” The account has harnessed a breaking of the fourth wall of sorts, where even casual readers sleuth for the fingerprints of PR or brand sponsorships on everyday stories. That kind of observation wasn’t invented by Deuxmoi, but the account has brought it to a more general public of casual fans, not just keen gossipers or stans. Its tipsters may never dry up, but our appetite for the account’s lunchtime “spotted” or nice-to-assistants stories might.
“I don’t know who runs it, nor is it really of any interest to me since it’s all very low stakes,” James continued. “But I saw somewhere that the owner took a hiatus for a little while after the self-proclaimed model that Justin Bieber is married to”—that’s Hailey Baldwin Bieber, though the terms of Deuxmoi’s hiatus are unclear—“said that she knew their identity. And if you are rattled by a fish that small in the celebrity ecosystem, then I wish you luck.”
Follow Hunter Harris on Twitter.