Alexis Neiers's life has been turned into a meme, a magazine article, a book, a symbol for millenial narcissism, and now a movie directed by Sophia Coppola and starring Emma Watson. But she's trying to escape all that.
In a hundred years, when historians are looking back at reality TV shows to understand what the fuck was going on in American culture during the nation’s decline, there are going to be dozens, if not hundreds, of dissertations written on a short-lived series on the E! network called Pretty Wild.
Creator Dan Levy envisioned it as yet another show about a mother and her wild teenage daughters in star-studded, superficial Los Angeles—in this case, the mom was supposedly home-schooling the girls and basing her curriculum on the self-help film The Secret. But shortly after shooting the pilot episode, Alexis Neiers, one of those daughters, was arrested and charged with being part the “Bling Ring,” a group of teens who allegedly robbed the homes of celebrities, including Orlando Bloom, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton. To this day, Alexis denies that she was involved with these crimes, but the case and the ensuing publicity resulted in one of reality TV’s funniest (and saddest) moments: a weeping, clearly high Alexis screaming, “Nancy Jo. This is Alexis Neiers calling!” while leaving several hysterical voicemails for Vanity Fair journalist Nancy Jo Sales, who wrote that Alexis wore “six-inch Louboutin heels to court" when she actually wore “four-inch, little brown BeBe shoes.”
Alexis’s fame—or infamy—has outlived that meme. Sales’s article spawned a book titled The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teens Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World; Alexis was used as an example of millennial narcicism in Time’s talked-about, much-maligned piece on the “Me Me Me Generation”; and Sofia Coppola has even made a movie out of her story, also called The Bling Ring—Emma Watson is playing a role based partially on Alexis, and the actress has described the character as “superficial, materialistic, vain, amoral. She’s all of these things and I realized I hated her.” The seedy saga sprawled far beyond the confines of the show, to the point where Brett Goodkin, the detective in charge of the Bling Ring investigation, is currently under investigation himself for working on Coppola’s film while the case was still open.
Meanwhile, the real-life Alexis has matured in the two years since she served a month of her six-month sentence and subsequently got caught with heroin and sent to rehab. She’s now married to a Canadian businessman she met at an Alcoholic Anonymous meeting, the mother of a baby girl, and a volunteer at her husband’s sober living facility, Acadia Malibu.
Alexis plans to use her experiences to speak at high schools, sponsor young recovering addicts, and write a memoir—she says her long-term plan is to become “the next Dr. Drew.” Clearly, she’s gone a long way from her past as a symbol of a youth culture that’s supposed to be narcissistic, selfish, and obsessed with celebrities. I called Alexis via Skype to talk about being in the same prison as Lindsay Lohan, her admiration for Jenna Jameson, and saving the world.
VICE: America met you for the first time when the LAPD arrested you for allegedly burglarizing Orlando Bloom’s mansion on the first episode. What was your life like before Pretty Wild and the Bling Ring?
Alexis Neiers: Pretty Wild came about in a bizarre way. My sister Tess and I just decided we wanted to start acting and modeling—not really to get famous, but to sustain my drug habit. We happened to do this low-budget film, and that’s when we met one of the producers on the show, Dan Levy.
There’s been a lot of fuss about your mother and how she was a real big fan of The Secret. What exactly were your religious beliefs?
It’s not about The Secret. My family has studied [American spiritualist] Ernest Holmes and I was raised on his book, The Science of Mind. It’s not something based on some hocus-pocus we pulled out of our asses. Growing up, we were ostracized by our little community in Oak Park, California, because we were weird and my mom was hippie-dippy. A lot of the kids weren’t allowed to hang out with us, because we had crystals in our house and life-sized statues of Buddha. Fast-forward ten years, everyone is doing yoga and drinking their juice fucking cleanses and thinking they’re super spiritual.
On the show, there’s a moment when you ask your mother for an Adderall as you drive to court. Do you feel like your mom was trying her best, or do you think she enabled you?
I didn’t get honest with a lot of the stuff that happened in my childhood till much later in life. I had suffered from severe sexual and physical abuse. I was molested from age three to six by a family member. My dad was an alcoholic and addict and suffered a lot of physical abuse. My parents divorced when I was very young. I had a lot of trauma as a child, but I kept it in. So I was weird. Someone finally made the recommendation to my mom—a single mom who was doing her best—to take me to a psychiatrist. And that psychiatrist put me on medications.
Were you high during the entire time you were shooting Pretty Wild?
Oh yeah. People think I was living with my family, but I was living at a Best Western on Franklin and Vine. I was smoking 20 80-mg oxys a day, I was doing tons of cocaine, I was panhandling for drugs. I had an over-$10,000-a-week drug habit. What you were seeing on TV was not what was really going on.
Was your mother aware of the severity of your issues?
She knew we were out of control, but there was nothing she could do. I remember one day she came over to my house, and the only thing I had were 30 rolls of tinfoil, and she said, “The only thing you have in your house is a box of cereal and foil.” My response to her—and I remember this clearly—was, “I like to bake, you C-U-N-T.”
I know you probably don’t want to talk about this, but it’s the giant elephant in the room: did you wear Louboutins to court?
No. You can see on an episode of Pretty Wild, I was certainly not wearing Louboutins. Did I own Louboutins? Yes. Did I walk into court wearing Louboutins? Never. Was I really wearing a little tweed skirt and four-inch BeBe kitten heels? Yes, I was.
You recently tweeted that detective Goodkin and Nancy Jo Sales are more obsessed with than you are. Could you elaborate on what you meant there?
I’ll put it to you this way: when [Bling Ring member] Nick Prugo was originally arrested, Brett Goodkin interrogated him, and Brett spent seven minutes of that interview talking about me, my show, how hot we were. The second thing was the Dateline interviews [Goodkin did]. It started to get really weird, where he was playing this victorious cop or whatever. Then he goes and he starts consulting on this movie with Sofia Coppola. And then decides to play himself in the movie. He has pictures of himself with all these jewels on a table and pictures of him with Paris Hilton. And the only reason Nancy Jo is at all relevant—at all—is because I had a fucking meltdown on my television show. She claims that we’re fame-obsessed teens. No, shame on you, Nancy! You have taken the pain you have caused me and you ran with it. Everything that they claim we are, they are. Everybody wants to be famous.
The first time you were in jail, you were in the same cellblock as Lindsay Lohan. What was that like?
I saw her very few times. I never spoke to her. It got blown up into this whole thing. I regret doing the interview where I spoke about it. It just wasn’t really fair to her. I was still using. Of course she was crying in jail, she’s in fucking jail. To Lindsay Lohan: I’m so sorry. I should have never done that.
After your second stint in jail you went to rehab. What was your mindset then?
I was in complete denial. I tried to drown myself in the toilet. I was in so much pain because of the detox from opiates and benzos. I was sitting in a cell with this girl; I was in protective custody, waiting to go to court. I asked her the one question you’re never supposed to ask somebody when you’re in jail: “What are you in here for?” She ended up telling me this horrific story about how her meth-addicted mom started giving her meth when she was 12. When you use meth for a number of years, you go into psychosis. You become schizophrenic, and that's what happened to this girl. She had been using for four years, she was 16 at the time, and one day her mom told her, “I need you to save me. And the only way I can be saved is if you go kill the family across the street and wait for the police to show up.” She did—she slaughtered this family in full-on psychosis. One of them survived. The girl was about 22 when I talked to her. She had been fighting this case for five years. After I told her what I was going through, she said, “Remember, this time you can walk into that courtroom with God.”
I had this moment of clarity. I was prepared to go in there and deny all the drugs and to say it was everybody else’s fault. I didn’t. I remember saying to the judge, “I’m a heroin addict. I’m 19 years old. I can’t stop using heroin.” I remember envisioning myself walking through that courtroom and having this presence of God on my shoulder, protecting me. There’s a man, Greg Hannley, who was in the audience, and he said, “I’ll take her to my rehab for a year on a scholarship.” I was elated. There was my answer. I later asked him, “Why did you take me in for free?” He was like, “It’s living amends for all the women that I hurt when I was using.” What an incredible thing. He’s still helping people today. He saved my life.
I know you believe in karma. Do you think this was karma’s way of coming back to you and putting you on the right path?
I believe that, in some weird way, this whole thing with the Bling Ring, this whole reality show, is going to give me an opportunity to help people. Some of the people I really look up to now are people like Dr. Drew. Even though it’s controversial what Dr. Drew does, he really is a good man and has a good heart. I would love to do something like that for youth. I would love to be that voice that says that it’s OK to be sober.
What’s your book going to be about?
It’s a memoir. It’s about my life. I do talk about the Bling Ring, but it’s more about my childhood, addiction, my demons, and how I’ve overcome them. I remember reading Jenna Jameson’s book a few years back, How to Make Love Like a Porn Star. She talked about her rapes. I was just like, Wow. She really just got honest about that. And that must be so difficult. It gives you the feeling of, If she can do it, I can do it.
How does it feel to have survived everything that’s happened to you in the past few years?
I’m living a life that’s beyond my wildest dreams. The truth of the matter is that, for the majority of heroin addicts out there, we don’t get sober. We don’t get healthy. For a lot of victims of rape and molestation, we don’t ever heal. This life that I’m living is absolutely—it blows my mind. It’s not filled with tons of money or fame. I wouldn’t give it up for anything. If I could just have my baby, my husband, our apartment and a car, I’d be happy. I feel really, really blessed.
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