The actress’ ‘Forbidden Fruits’ podcast typifies a media landscape where Clubhouse and DeuxMoi could replace tabloids and the paparazzi
“So what are you wearing right now?” Julia Fox asks Anna Delvey over the phone. “Is it, like, SW hard to not be able to wear nice clothes?”
On Friday, the actress and Niki Takesh released a new episode of their Forbidden Fruits podcast, a conversation with “fake German heiress” Delvey—reportedly wearing a “yellow jumpsuit”—who’s currently detained at the Orange County Correctional Facility for immigration reasons. She and Fox met ten years ago at Fyre Festival’s Billy McFarland’s West Village townhouse, where Delvey was living at the time, solidifying their connection on a Clubhouse room more recently: “She was being interviewed, and I just started asking all the questions,” recalls Fox. “She is the reason that we have a podcast.”
It seems like Fox sees herself in Delvey—a fellow young woman who masterminded her own fame, with downtown New York as her stomping ground. The narrative that the actress chooses to employ for the interview is one of sympathy, for girls who act like guys in order to get ahead. “White men do that all the time—lie about their finances, take out loans,” Fox says. “It’s almost expected, and then nothing happens.”
In other words, everyone trying to move up has their hustle. And when it comes to getting caught, some get punished worse than others; that’s par for the course, in a nation where billionaires don’t pay income tax, and the poor go to jail for stealing infant formula. The co-hosts are comfortable enough to expose their own past schemes: “In 2014, I was squatting in a hotel in Soho, and I left without paying the bill,” says Takesh. Fox goes on: “I was like 11 or 12. I used to go to all the buildings in the Upper East Side and just walk in—you know, cute little girl—with these donation boxes. [And just] collect mad money. Thousands of dollars.”
“White men do that all the time—lie about their finances, take out loans. It’s almost expected, and then nothing happens.”
Feminist, underdog thing aside—the podcast’s main purpose is to get answers from Delvey, who’s only seen clips of Netflix’s Inventing Anna that journalists have shown her: How does she know Aby Rosen, for instance? And did she use a voice changing app to impersonate her family’s “finance manager?” At the tail end of the episode, Fox reads a few comments from DeuxMoi, the modern-day gossip-girl-esque Instagram account, which specializes in celebrity rumors and sightings. Followers were asked to “tell us about Anna,” and a wave of responses poured in from New York locals who claimed they knew Delvey at her peak of her. “Anna had a fake husband for her green card de ella,” someone wrote. “No,” Delvey scoffed, when asked if that was true. “She loved buying lavish dinners, but she would never eat in front of people—she would just take her food home,” wrote another. “No,” Delvey laughed. “I don’t even have a home.”
A few weeks ago, Fox posted an Instagram story amidst public frenzy over her breakup with rapper Kanye West; Daily Mail had published an image of her, seemingly tearful in line at LAX, deducing that the romance was finished by breaking down the actress’ social media activity. “Y’all would love it if I was sooo upset!” the story read. “The media would love to paint a picture of me [as] a sad lonely woman crying on a plane by myself but it’s NOT TRUE!! Why not see me for what I am which is a #1 hustler.” It makes you think of tabloids past—their absolutely shameless appetite for a celebrity meltdown: Britney Spears attacking the paparazzo’s car with an umbrella. Amanda Bynes throwing a bong from a high-rise window, and subsequently getting arrested. West himself, interrupting Taylor Swift during her speech at the VMAs.
It was a different time, then. Celebrity news used to be delivered through very specific outlets: tabloids in the grocery store checkout, filler pieces on the mainstream news, gossip from your in-the-know friends, the occasional memoir. It was a time of quick pivots: between the promise that Stars—They’re Just Like Us!, and delight in the realization that stars are actually fucking crazy. “Look at Drew Barrymore picking up a penny,” Kate Lee recalls her editor marveling, back at Us Weekly‘s headquarters in 2002. This glimpse of kinship, of course, did nothing to prevent journalists from soliciting every little detail of Barrymore’s drug-plagued pre-teens—asking probing questions that the actress admitted made her want to “rip [a reporter’s] face off.”
“We’re in the midst of the next era—quite a different landscape, irreversibly altered by social media, reality television, self-produced YouTube documentaries, and podcasts like Forbidden Fruits.”
The infamous Just Like Us! spread dominated the early-aughts—it’s still published on the regular at the iconic celebrity magazine. One went up this week: Jon Hamm is pictured in a baseball cap and aviators, paying for parking. (They Feed the Meter!) Gwen Stefani is pushing a shopping cart. (They Stock up on Groceries!) Molly Simms is jumping over a pool of water during a rainy LA day. (They Avoid Puddles!) Laughable now, it arguably began a new era of celebrity media coverage, where a good picture meant a field day, and sold for a lot, as long as it was charming or damning and nowhere in between. Stars were our friends, or stars were spectacle—unreal, out of control, and mostly voiceless.
We’re in the midst of the next era—quite a different landscape, irreversibly altered by social media, reality television, self-produced YouTube documentaries, and podcasts like Forbidden Fruits. Gossip comes straight from the horse’s mouth—fast, unfiltered, emotional, reactionary, and probably, oftentimes, against the will of publicists everywhere. Fox and Delvey didn’t start it, but they came to celebrity in the face of it. Others have, and others will, too.
Fox has done a particularly good job of shouting over the media. Her side of the story of her—whether it pertains to Anna Delvey, or to Kanye West—is unfiltered and indisputably how she sees it. And who are we to question that? Maybe the better question: Why would we choose to read tabloids’ speculation, over words straight from the source of interest?
Of course, this new arrangement has its possible perks and pitfalls. Maybe the paparazzi will stop chasing pop stars, because it won’t pay off—at least not in huge hordes, at least not all day. Maybe we’ll become the paparazzi, exposing stars on DeuxMoi. Maybe female celebrities, celebrities struggling with their mental health, celebrities too deep in their own scandals to get a quote in edgewise, will have a shot at telling their own stories—reserving the right to stretch and omit truths, just as a normal person would .