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The big problem with Chrissy Teigen’s apology to Courtney Stodden

·5-min read
 (Getty)
(Getty)

In an interview with the Daily Beast published this week, Courtney Stodden opened up about their experiences while they were married to Doug Hutchison, a 50-year-old acting coach who starred in Green Mile. Stodden, who now identifies as non-binary, said they felt they and their family were groomed by Hutchison, resulting in their marriage — which required their parents’ consent, as they were 16 years old.

Stodden also told the Daily Beast that many celebrities mocked and insulted them, while only Perez Hilton had reached out afterwards to make amends. In 2011, Dr Drew even featured an ultrasound on his show to “prove” whether or not Stodden’s breasts were surgically enhanced. However, of all the insults hurled their way, those launched by model and influencer Chrissy Teigen seemed to be among the most impactful, and the most disturbing.

From 2011 to 2012, Teigen bullied the teenager, making references to her being a “backdoor Teen Mom,” and tweeting at Stodden: “Do you have a family?” Teigen also made dehumanizing and oddly disgusting remarks about Stodden’ sexuality and body, saying she thought Stodden had “brown urine” and “stinky pee.” In one tweet, Teigen bluntly stated, “I hate you.”

Her online assaults against the teenager apparently didn’t stop there. Teigen’s alleged private message to Stodden, encouraging the then-17-year-old to die by suicide, is shockingly sinister. As is her public tweet expressing the same hate, telling them to “take a dirt nap.”

Teigen has been a victim of online bullying herself, especially after the heartbreaking miscarriage of her son Jack in 2020. As someone who has repeatedly begged the internet to be more gracious and kind towards her, Teigen should have apologized to Stodden much sooner, with a renewed understanding of the vile way she treated the young girl.

The day after Stodden’s allegations and account of these incidents went public, Teigen issued a public statement of apology, calling her past self “an insecure, attention-seeking troll.” She said that she had reached out to Stodden privately to apologize, and that she also wanted to make it clear publicly how sorry she was. But it’s worth remembering that Teigen’s past behavior wasn’t limited to sending mean messages to Stodden. In 2013, Teigen attacked another child, then-nine-year old actor Quvenzhané Wallis.

“Is it okay to call a small child cocky?” Teigen tweeted about Wallis. The internet erupted, rightfully calling out the bizarre bullying of a Black child who hadn’t even lived a full decade yet. Instead of apologizing, Teigen dug in. “I am forced to like Quvenzhané Wallis because she’s a child right?” Teigen tweeted. “Okay fine.”

In both of these attacks, it seems to me that Teigen displayed an astonishing amount of internalized misogyny, and in the case of Wallis, anti-Blackness. What was it in these two children that disgusted Teigen so much she had to publicly humiliate them? Was it Stodden’s allegedly being groomed by a much older man? Was it Wallis daring to be a successful little girl, with a bright smile and spirit, and a desire for people to pronounce her name correctly?

I hope that Teigen did stop being an “insecure, attention-seeking troll” and engaged in some growth in those intervening years. But the fact that she took no steps to apologize to Stodden or Wallis outside of a media storm is disappointing. Some parts of her apology, too, were woefully misguided. “These were not my only mistakes and surely won’t be my last as hard as I try but god I will try!!” she wrote, as if the public was demanding perfection from her rather than basic accountability for a very public and very vicious cruelty toward a minor.

Stodden refuted the claim that Teigen had attempted to apologize privately to her, posting a screenshot on Instagram that showed Teigen still had them blocked on Twitter. “I accept her apology and forgive her,” Stodden wrote. “But the truth remains the same, I have never heard from her or her camp in private. In fact, she blocked me on Twitter. All of me wants to believe this is a sincere apology, but it feels like a public attempt to save her partnerships with Target and other brands who are realizing her ‘wokeness’ is a broken record.”

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What does a public apology mean when one has little choice, when it’s part of a detached ritual celebrities perform on social media, often at the behest of their PR agents? For her offenses, an apology directed at the public is virtually useless. Teigen may have offended, disgusted, or disappointed many people. But she harmed one person — Stodden. As the public, we don’t necessarily need to forgive Teigen or heal from her actions. What use is it to atone to us, other than to retain our support?

I supported Teigen after she announced her miscarriage and was bullied for it. Her experiences struck me deeply, and I empathized with her in a way I rarely empathize with any celebrity. But the same thing inside me that made me empathize with Teigen is what makes me disgusted by how she treated Stodden.

Teigen wants Stodden and the public to charge her harassment to her youth — she was 25 at the time that she sent her trolling messages at the time. “I am so sorry I let you guys down,” she tweeted to her followers like me, who expected better from someone who had been through so much trauma herself. “I will forever work on being better than I was 10 years ago, 1 year ago, 6 months ago.”

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We are all working on ourselves. But to dismiss her actions as mere growing pains truly obscures the level of harm she committed against Stodden.

The truth is that Teigen was old enough to know better, and she was old enough to apologize for her actions before she did.

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