“I FEEL LIKE I would be annoyed by me if I weren’t me,” Chrissy Teigen says. “I feel that all the time.”
It’s a late-summer afternoon, and the 32-year-old Teigen is stepping into the kitchen of the Los Angeles home she shares with her husband, the award-hoarding musician John Legend. The couple’s two-year-old daughter, Luna, is rambling around nearby; their recent arrival, Miles, is cooing in a bassinet. A bulldog named Paul cozies at my feet.
The house is a knockout. It’s atop the hills and has the kind of alpha-lion view you fantasize about when you fantasize about owning a home in L.A. Rihanna used to live here; Teigen has joked about opening Rihanna’s mail. There’s a piano in the foyer with a shelf showcasing Legend’s bursting collection of Grammys, plus his Oscar and his Tony—he’ll win an Emmy in September, entering the rare club known as the EGOT. Teigen will post an Instagram video of Legend putting the Emmy atop the shelf, looking like a proud Little Leaguer back from the playoffs.
Teigen returns with glasses of rosé for us. It’s from Legend’s winery, LVE. It’s good. What do I look like, a sommelier?
I have come to see Teigen because I believe Teigen has important answers for the universe. You know her as a model, a television personality (Paramount Network’s Lip Sync Battle), and the author of the best-selling cookbook Cravings and its recently published sequel. You know her as one half of one of the most appealing couples on earth—seriously, they’re so both adorable you want to pinch them.
But it’s my unscientific opinion that Teigen’s greatest contribution to the planet is her presence on social media. Chrissy Teigen may be the Last Likable Person on the Internet.
We all know how it is. These days, social media feels like a fistfight inside a garbage can inside a septic truck. And yet Teigen wittily navigates the digital fray. Here’s a Teigen tweet on marriage: “I always have a note in my pocket that says ‘John did it’ in case I’m murdered because I don’t want him to remarry.” Here’s another, on childbirth: “No one told me I would be coming home in diapers, too.” Here’s one on food: “Truffle oil is vile.” Buzzfeed once collected a list of her 100 funniest Tweets as if they were lines from Dorothy Parker. I worship this droll masterpiece: “My favorite part about my anniversary dinner was the girl who came to our table who John used to bone and also the sea bass.”
It’s nearly impossible to find a subject Teigen hasn’t discussed on her exploding, eight-figure social-media channels (Instagram: 20.4 million followers and counting; Twitter: 10.7 million), or that she considers out of bounds. She’s been praised for breaking conversational taboos around fertility (her children were conceived via IVF), postpartum depression (she’s suffered from it), and the body-image pressures perpetuated by Instagram.
“Instagram is crazy,” she posted earlier this year. “I think it’s awesome people have killer bodies and are proud to show them off (I really do!!) but I know how hard it can be to forget what (for lack of a better word) regular ol’ bodies look like when everyone looks bonkers amazing.”
“Chrissy is real and authentic,” says her friend Kim Kardashian West. “She’s so open and honest with her audience . . . she also has the best sense of humor.”
When I mention to friends I am working on a story about Teigen, the response is universal: OMG Chrissy Teigen. It’s like telling people I’m writing a story about a warm basket of puppies. It’s why big companies like Target and Procter & Gamble have lined up behind her. Everybody seems to love Chrissy Teigen. (Well, except the president of the United States. We’ll get to him in a minute.)
But now, in her home, Teigen’s trying to talk me out of it. She’s making the case she’s not so likable—or liked—on social media.
Come on. You’re so self-deprecating. . . .
“That becomes unlikable, too,” she insists, sitting down on the couch. She’s dressed in jeans with a white T-shirt and black cardigan. “I get made fun of all the time. People are like, ‘We get it, you like pizza.’ ”
Famous people are not supposed to care about such things. Teigen does. Likewise, they’re not supposed to read the comments. She does that, too.
“I’ll read a thousand of the sweetest comments—‘You have the cutest family, I love your book’—and then one person is like, ‘You look like the Bride of Chucky’ and I’ll be like, ‘Oh my God, @paulh7114620 thinks I look like Chucky.’
“A lot of people are really smart about staying out of it,” she adds. She mentions Kardashian West. “I’ll send something to Kim—a screen grab of the Daily Mail, like some ridiculous headline, and she’ll be like, ‘Is that what’s happening?’ And I’m like, ‘Kim, this is the biggest story of the week right now!’ Then I’ll feel bad because she’s probably been saving her sanity by not reading this stuff, and meanwhile, I’m like ‘Look at this!’
In person, Teigen is immediately disarming—you feel you know her because you kind of do know her (I’ve seen her fridge on Instagram! I know those counters!) But she confesses that it all sometimes gets to her.
“Much stronger people are like ‘I don’t care what you think,’ ” she says. “I genuinely do care. I think it’s funny when people are like, ‘I love how you just don’t give a fuck.’ I’m like, ‘Oh my God. I give so many fucks.’ I want to be liked.”
NONE OF THIS is new to her. As a teenager in the Seattle area, Teigen—the daughter of a Thai mother and a American father of Norwegian descent—became a regular on, of all things, message boards for the city’s baseball team (as Marinersgirlchrissy). She was early into MySpace (“I was a Top 8 girl,” she says, referring to the defunct site’s ranking system). She got obsessed with NeoPets, a digital community where players care for virtual animals. Her IM handle, if you need to know, was MsChrissy85.
“I remember loving the advice boards,” she says. “I would take to the internet to ask so many questions.”
Later, Teigen would get discovered—she was working in a surf shop in Huntington Beach, California, when a photographer asked her if she’d ever considered modeling—and embark on a career that, by her own admission, never made her one of the runway elite. She did Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue a few times, but “I never had a dude following . . . it was never me next to Kate Upton on the Venn diagram.” She did, however, meet her husband on the set of a music video.
Twitter and Instagram are where Teigen exploded into a phenomenon. She was already in the public eye, but the 24/7 platforms were a perfect showcase for Teigen’s wit and devil-may-care insouciance. The internet is a cathedral to her social musings (10+ Times Chrissy Teigen Was Too Funny for Twitter to Handle; 17 Chrissy Teigen Food Tweets That Are Relatable AF).
Legend’s own Twitter bio says it all: CHRISSY’S HUSBAND. He confirms the Chrissy of social media is, in fact, the real Chrissy. “First of all, she’s funny,” he tells me later. “And she’s candid. I think her candor is what’s so appealing—and makes her distinct from other celebrities people pay attention to. She tells it like it is.”
This has become Teigen’s brand. For all of her roles, her main occupation is a very modern one: the person who, by sheer force of social-media appeal, is a business. The internet has a word for this—influencer—but, I’m sorry, a lot of influencers are insufferable. By contrast, Teigen is someone you want to sit next to, who’s as relatable as anyone who lives in Rihanna’s old house can be relatable. It’s what inspired her book editor, Francis Lam, to reach out, cold, about doing a cookbook.
“I kept noticing this person on Twitter who was hilarious and really into cooking,” Lam tells me. “I didn’t have an idea of what sort of cookbook she would write, I just knew she was super funny and into food.”
Both of Teigen’s Cravings cookbooks have been hits—the more recent arrived in September. Teigen’s passion for food and entertaining is genuine—she’s now being positioned as a next-gen Martha Stewart. Target has a line of Chrissy “Cravings” kitchen products, including her own serrated knife. Her role with Procter & Gamble is as a “creative consultant” for Pampers Pure. You can find Teigen’s Pampers Pure Instagram ad in which she jokes about feeding Luna healthy meals—and herself Hot Pockets, which is not actually a joke.
I ask her if these brand relationships give her pause before logging on. We’ve seen countless others have A Bad Day on Twitter—and lose it all.
“I think about that,” Teigen admits. “How quickly your life can turn.” She’s a fan of Jon Ronson’s book So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed, which chronicles the aftermath of social-media implosions.
Teigen and Legend had a ringside seat for Kanye West’s controversial rumspringa with the alt-right, in which he professed affection for President Trump and theorized on TMZ that slavery sounded “like a choice” (a comment he later walked back). Legend was one of several West friends who tried to intercede—West at one point posted text exchanges with Legend in which the two men went back and forth on politics.
“The thing with Kanye is that his opinions have always been super strong,” Teigen says, lifting Miles to her lap. “He’s never been the guy to push them on you, but he will say what he wants to say. Same with John. That’s why I loved that they were able to have this civil discourse. Kanye learned a lot in the months after that. John did, too.
“You can’t just believe you’re the right one all the time. That’s what makes us horrible,” she continues. “Trust me: My views are super liberal, and I’m like, How could anyone not think this way? But people are also entitled to their opinion.”
Which brings us to President Trump, who has taken the dramatic step of blocking Teigen on Twitter, meaning she cannot see any of his Tweets. Teigen was critical of Trump long before he became president, but it was a rather tame tweet—“Lolllllll no one likes you”—that immediately preceded her ban. (The White House press office did not respond to my request for comment.)
Teigen holds up her phone, where the screen is set to Trump’s @realdonaldtrump page. Instead of a timeline, there is this message: “You are blocked from following @realdonaldtrump and viewing @realdonaldtrump’s tweets.”
I know: It sounds like heaven. But Teigen says the blocking can create anxiety. The average day in America now begins with a flurry of presidential tweets, which she is barred from looking at. Worse, Teigen sees people freaking out and responding—and has no idea what they’re talking about.
“Do I get in the bunker or not?” she says.
A federal judge recently declared that Trump’s tweets are part of the presidential public record, and therefore blocking users is unconstitutional. But his blocking of @chrissyteigen continues. There are workarounds—Teigen can follow the @RealPressSecBot, which posts all of Trump’s tweets as official statements, or she can simply look at her husband’s phone.
“I still don’t know why I’m not blocked,” Legend says. “I have said as many bad things about him as she has. Maybe it’s because I’m a man; I have no idea.”
Teigen’s combat with Trump has provoked an uptick in abuse from Twitter’s more unhinged corners—right-wing conspiracy theorists have placed her and Legend at the center of any number of daffy hypotheses—but she has tried to convert this notoriety into a positive. In June, she and Legend marked Trump’s seventy-second birthday by donating $72,000 for each member of their family ($288,000 total) to the ACLU, and encouraging fans to donate amounts of $7.20 or $72. The push wound up raising more than $1 million in two days.
There have been other moments in which Teigen has been able to take her influence and weaponize it for truth. Last winter, as the public began to realize the harrowing scale of the sexual abuse perpetrated by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar, Teigen went public with an offer to pay any fine incurred by Team USA gymnast McKayla Maroney, who had signed a nondisclosure agreement with USA Gymnastics preventing her from addressing the matter.
“The entire principle of this should be fought—an NDA to stay quiet about this serial monster with over 140 accusers, but I would be absolutely honored to pay this fine for you, McKayla,” Teigen wrote.
Within a day, USA Gymnastics announced it would not enforce the NDA. Maroney’s attorney, John Manly, tells me that Teigen’s offer had an impact.
“McKayla was really grateful she stepped up and said (A) I believe you and (B) silencing you is wrong to the point that I’ll pay the bill,” Manly said. “It empowered her.”
Teigen downplays the whole episode, saying that all she wanted was to support Maroney. “It just seemed like the most obvious thing to do,” she says.
She knows that her online life sets her up for scrutiny—and not just her. Teigen’s children and husband and even Paul the bulldog live partly in public (one current headache: brands sending unsolicited clothing for Luna and Miles, which Teigen passes along to charity). She and Legend say there are boundaries to what they’ll reveal and that they always discuss what to put out for public consumption.
“I believe I have every right to be happy with my daughter’s first-day-of-school photo just like anyone else,” Teigen says. “But I also know we’re in the public eye and people are going to see it in different ways.”
I ask Legend if he’s ever tempted to throw Teigen’s phone in the pool.
“No,” he says. “People think she’s, like, somehow out of control. She knows what she’s doing. She could give us all lessons in social-media strategy and execution.”
I agree. I finish my rosé, say goodbye, and I’m out the door and down the hills to the rest of my unfollowed life. Teigen, meanwhile, has a dress fitting for the Emmys, and a flight to London to catch for the British GQ awards, and later, the kickoffs of her cookbook tour and her Target line. She will attend John’s fantasy-football draft. She’ll weep at Crazy Rich Asians.
But you already know this because she told you, in her Chrissy Teigen way, which was much more fun.
Just do her a favor, though, and let her know if she needs to go down to the bunker.
In this story:
Fashion Editor: Tonne Goodman.
Hair: Nikki Providence; Makeup: Sarah Tanno for Marc Jacobs Beauty; Manicure: Kimmie Kyees; Tailor: Susie Kourinian.
Produced by Preiss Creative.