The woman no longer recalled which Facebook post was causing problems on Thanksgiving weekend, but she summarized her family’s response: “What the fuck? Can you be present?” She cut @deuxmoi out of her life for a few days: “I had to really reevaluate myself. What am I doing? This is not my job.” She caught up on television—she’d been too busy to watch the shows her followers were gossiping about—and emerged, for the first time in months, from the fog of internet gossip.
“I guess I got addicted to posting so much,” she said. In December she took breaks from @deuxmoi and posted less frequently. But this too raised inquiries: “People would be like, ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Are you coming back?’ ‘Did you get sued?’ ” Every action, no matter how small, rippled. After posting about, and personally endorsing, Nicole Kidman’s supposed Starbucks order—“bone-dry cappuccino,” just espresso and foam—the woman heard from followers who said they too were now ordering and enjoying the beverage. Then she started hearing from baristas, who said they hated making the drink. “Then I started feeling bad for the baristas!” said the woman.
Around the time of the woman’s epiphany, my friend Juliet Thompson—a New Yorker who works in advertising and, pre-pandemic, rarely spent Saturday nights alone—started sleuthing. Juliet is the kind of woman who obsessively monitors her boyfriend’s ex-girlfriends on Instagram. She also alerts everyone she knows every time she sees a celebrity. When @deuxmoi was growing rapidly late last year, two acquaintances texted Juliet to ask if she was behind the account. She was insulted. “I just felt, if I was running the site, it would be less Kate Moss, Paris, sailor stripes, Jane Birkin,” Juliet explained, referring to @deuxmoi aesthetics she considers kind of basic. But she had also submitted celebrity sightings to @deuxmoi, which the woman published, and believed she could figure out the woman’s identity. Juliet was, at the time, working full-time from her East Village apartment. But she was finishing Tana French’s latest novel and needed some new F-U-N, so she joined a couple of Facebook groups and started an investigation.
“There’s a small group of people that care,” the woman said of those seeking her identity, “because they’re bored.” This bothers the woman. When I asked, in November, why she put so much effort into @deuxmoi, she said: “Working a thankless job for probably my whole life—because most jobs are thankless—it feels really, really nice to be appreciated for work.” Anonymity was part of that: “I’m not getting an ego boost from this because nobody knows me. My friends and family really don’t care, they kind of make a joke out of it. So it’s just nice to be putting out work, and then people appreciating it.”
The woman believes that her aversion to personal attention contributed, five years ago, to the demise of Deuxmoi as a style blog. Agents and potential sponsors wanted real people. When she and her partner appeared on a local comedian’s YouTube channel to perform a makeover, they shrouded their faces with designer scarves and sunglasses. But, the woman insisted, “I was never trying to be Gossip Girl or some mysterious lurker in the night.”
“I don’t know why that’s so hard for everyone to believe,” she said in December. “A lot of people can’t wrap their heads around that. Does everyone want to be famous, or be a celebrity, that bad? That they can’t wrap their heads around someone who doesn’t want that?”
When I asked whether her desire to maintain anonymity was at odds with her willingness to post about others, the woman balked. “They’re celebrities,” she said. “They chose to be in the public eye.” But @deuxmoi also posts about famous people’s spouses and children, I pointed out. The woman countered that she is neither of those things. “I run an Instagram account. It lives in the phone. It’s not real life,” she said. “It was just an Instagram account that happened to turn into this crazy fucking wild ride.” If someone offered a full-time gossip dream job, she would consider using her real name, she said. But, at the moment, she said, “I need to keep my current job.”
There is precedent for the woman’s dream of perpetual anonymity. Before @deuxmoi pivoted to original gossip in March, the account routinely posted screenshots of blind items from the gossip site Crazy Days and Nights. Since 2006, the site’s anonymous author—who says he’s a Hollywood lawyer and calls himself Enty—has published original blind gossip daily. He also reveals the answers of his blinds, including stories about Harvey Weinstein and NXIVM before they were mainstream news. (But when judging blind gossip, remember that confirmation bias is at play: Items that fizzle are easily forgotten or linger, forever unverified.) Like @deuxmoi, Crazy Days and Nights was born from boredom. Enty launched the blog while slacking off at work. By phone from his home office in California—where he says he still practices law but is now self-employed—Enty said that he has a verification process for the items he reveals. As for blinds? “I’m pretty much willing to run any kind of puzzle.” He likened blind items to crosswords, whose everyday players learn a puzzle maker’s favorite words and tricks. Blind-item enthusiasts will learn a gossip outlet’s lexicon. There will be a roster of regular characters, many connected to one another, living and working and alternately breaking and reenvisioning social norms.
When I asked the woman about @deuxmoi’s lexicon, she referred me to a fan-generated spreadsheet documenting her go-to nicknames and descriptions. Each was derived from an item @deuxmoi had posted in the past. Knowing the code phrases is a bit like being on the inside of an inside joke: Shawn Mendes was “headband coffee mug,” for paparazzi photos depicting him with both. Jake Gyllenhaal is the mustache-man emoji, for a rumor that he wears fake mustaches as disguises. Julia Roberts is “salad tosser,” for a claim that she once threw a literal salad during a moment of frustration.
As she texted updates from her search for the woman behind @deuxmoi, Juliet was building her own vocabulary and roster. The account’s early followers and output seemed to reveal likely social and professional milieus. Audio of the woman’s voice seemed to reveal a home state. Juliet considered matters of taste, using early Deuxmoi product recommendations and style choices to build a theory about the woman’s life. She cross-referenced old group photos in which others had tagged @deuxmoi. At one point Juliet texted a group photo of 10 women grinning and throwing deuces. “I think this is how we will figure it out,” she said, scrutinizing each woman as though pinning mug shots to a corkboard.
By December, Juliet had settled on a prime suspect. I had, by then, accepted that the woman might never confirm her identity to me. Juliet had seen a portion of her prime suspect’s CV, which matched a detailed career history that a woman claiming to be the sole operator of @deuxmoi had delivered on a friend’s podcast in 2019. When I asked the woman about that interview, she argued that I could not prove it was really her.