Tequila Dreams, And MySpace Viewers Fantasize

MySpace phenomenon Tila Tequila signs posters and promotes her recording at a Philadelphia area bar. So far, her self-marketed music hasn't exactly taken the industry by storm, though her racy video has gotten lots of views.
MySpace phenomenon Tila Tequila signs posters and promotes her recording at a Philadelphia area bar. So far, her self-marketed music hasn't exactly taken the industry by storm, though her racy video has gotten lots of views. (Photos By Jim Graham For The Washington Post)

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By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 26, 2007

WOODLYN, Pa. -- Internet star Tila Tequila is grousing from her perch in the back corner of Bootleggers, a noisy, beer-poster-splattered bar in a suburban strip mall somewhere between Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del. She's here to meet some "friends," of which she has many. But it is obvious she'd rather be elsewhere. She's hungry. Tired. Leery of the tottering guy in the cowboy hat who won't go away, who keeps whispering into her ear.

It's not easy being a MySpace queen!

Tila Tequila is something like the Paris Hilton of cyber-celebrities, genus famous-for-being-famous. She says her talents include looking attractive, being loud and being accessible to any pimply dork with a computer. She calls herself a musician, but that point is debatable.

She's a star by virtue of her 1.7 million virtual "friends" on the social-networking site MySpace, where her success has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. On average, she receives more than a thousand new friend requests every day, from people she doesn't know. She's such a major online presence -- all those digi-friends! all that attitude! all those half-naked photos !-- that PC World just named her one of the "50 Most Important People on the Web."

Now, Tequila (real name: Thien Nguyen), a 25-year-old model prone to prancing around in her underwear, is trying to parlay her MySpace popularity into a career as a recording artist. And she's doing so without the backing of a record label.

She says she's turned down offers from two major labels and multiple independents because she didn't want to cede control of her brand. And yes, she actually refers to herself as "the Tila Tequila brand." (She says she's "allergic" to booze; she just found the name ironic.)

Though the early returns might suggest otherwise, she's certain she can succeed while circumventing the label system. This makes her something of a guinea pig: As the traditional music business continues to struggle, can a self-made Internet celebrity become a self-made pop star?

"I didn't get involved in helping Tila on the basis of thinking we've found this great new musical diamond; I think of Tila as a cultural phenomenon," says her manager, Simon Renshaw, whose clients include the Dixie Chicks, Miranda Lambert and Clay Aiken. "She's a girl who created this fascinating career out of nothing and wants to try something different. She's passionate about music and wants to succeed just as she has in other parts of her career."

Says Tequila, her voice raspy, her kewpie-doll face framed by a cloud of her own cigarette smoke: "Nobody has been brave enough to try to do what I've done. I'm the test subject. No matter what happens, I feel like there's no failure because I've opened people's eyes."

Tequila has flown in from California for this party because the sponsoring radio station played a snippet of her first commercially available single, "I Love U." Well, that and she's getting an appearance fee. Nobody will say how much.

An abrasive, expletive-laced rap-rock revenge fantasy, "I Love U" went on sale at the online iTunes Store on Feb. 27. The Tequila-authored track was made available two weeks ago through other online music outlets. There's also an accompanying music video, in which Tequila isn't wearing much clothing. No surprise, given that she made her name as a car show model and Playboy Cyber Girl.

She says she was trying to shock people with her confrontational single. "I'm a loudmouthed girl who's trying to break the rules," she says. She calls herself "the real Madonna for this generation." She is not laughing when she says this. (If anything, she's like a belligerent, foulmouthed Fergie.)


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© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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