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Tila Tequila

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Tila Tequila
Tila Tequila 2008.jpg
Tequila attending the Mosci fashion show at Club AREA, West Hollywood, California in October 2008.
Born Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen[1]
(1981-10-24) October 24, 1981 (age 34)
Other names Miss Tila
  • Model
  • television personality
  • singer
  • songwriter
  • actress
  • writer
  • blogger
Years active 2001–present
Home town Houston, Texas, United States
Partner(s) Casey Johnson (2007–10)
Children 1
Musical career

Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen (born October 24, 1981), better known by her stage names Tila Tequila, Tila Nguyen and Miss Tila, is an American model, television personality, singer, songwriter, actress, writer and blogger. Born in Singapore and raised in Houston, Texas, she first moved to California in 2001, to pursue her modeling career. After being featured in Playboy, she began appearing in numerous men's magazines, including Stuff and Maxim. She made her reality television debut on the VH1 show Surviving Nugent (2003). Her active presence on the social networking websites made her the most popular artist on Myspace[2] and Nguyen was soon offered by MTV to star in her own reality television show. Her bisexual-themed dating show, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (2007), aired for two seasons and became MTV's second highest-rated series premiere of that year. In 2015, Tequila became one of the housemates on the sixteenth season of Channel 5 reality series Celebrity Big Brother.

Besides her career in modeling and television, Tequila is also a recording artist and author. After being the lead singer of the bands, Beyond Betty Jean and Jealousy, she decided to pursue a solo career. Her debut EP, Sex was released in 2007. She followed up with the release of singles, "I Love U", "Stripper Friends" and "Paralyze", to a moderate commercial success. In 2010, she released her second EP Welcome to the Dark Side. Her book, Hooking Up With Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success, and Being the Life of the Party was published in 2008.

Early life

Nguyen was born in Singapore, where her family emigrated from Vietnam after the Vietnam War.[3][4] She is the youngest of three children born to a French-Vietnamese mother and Vietnamese father. Nguyen has an older brother, Daniel, and older sister, Terri.[5] When she was one year old, the family relocated to a neighborhood in Houston, Texas and were eventually admitted to a gated community run by a strict Buddhist temple.[6] The family left the community when Nguyen was eight.[7]

While in middle school, Nguyen was sent to a boarding school for six months for her combative behavior before transferring to another school.[7] While in high school, she used her sister's identification card to enter nightclubs, where she began taking drugs[7] and joined a gang. She was given the nickname "Tila Tequila" by friends due to her apparent allergy to alcohol.[8][9] In her memoir, she would later explain that she felt "confused" and "lost" from various personal family and environmental issues and lost her virginity at 15. She turned to writing poems in an attempt to release powerful emotions, and friends outside the gang briefly helped turn her life around. At age 16, Nguyen ran away to Queens, New York, for several months.[6] While still 16, she experienced a drive-by shooting in Houston. She reports having become pregnant and suffering a miscarriage the following year.[10]

Nguyen graduated from Alief Hastings High School in 2000. She has cited the violent adolescence she had in Texas as her reason for becoming a model and moving to California in 2001.[11] In a March 2003 interview, she revealed that she has taken some college classes but does not have a degree, stating, "I didn't want to go to college for an actual degree because there's nothing out there I like besides doing something that involves the entertainment industry."[12]


2001–05: Modeling career and Beyond Betty Jean

Tequila at a car show in December 2005

Nguyen's career began at the age of 19 when she was discovered at the Sharpstown Mall by a Playboy scout and was offered a chance to model nude for the magazine. She did a test shoot, then eventually moved to Southern California and was featured as Playboy's Cyber Girl of the week on April 22, 2002,[12] and soon thereafter she became the first Asian Cyber Girl of the Month.[13] A few more pictorials for the magazine followed.[4]

Nguyen gained further popularity through the import racing scene. She has been featured on the cover of Import Tuner magazine, at car shows such as Hot Import Nights, and in the video game Street Racing Syndicate.[12][14] She was also the most frequent host on the first season of Fuse TV's dance show, Pants-Off Dance-Off, on which a group of contestants strip to music videos.[4]

At age 20, Nguyen acted on her interest in rock music and started looking for bands willing to let her join. She eventually assembled a band called Beyond Betty Jean, for which she was singer and songwriter. Beyond Betty Jean eventually broke up and Nguyen started working in recording studios to sharpen her vocal skills and wrote music.[13] Later, she became the lead singer of a band called Jealousy, which released a few songs online before breaking up. In 2003, Nguyen was a contestant on VH1's Surviving Nugent, a reality TV show where participants performed compromising tasks and stunts for rock star Ted Nugent.[15]

2006–09: Solo career, Myspace and A Shot at Love

In April 2006, during the taping of an interview with MTV's Total Request Live VJs, announced that Nguyen had been signed to the Will.I.Am music group, a record label under A&M Records. Despite this major-label signing, Nguyen independently released her first single "I Love U" through iTunes on February 27, 2007, justifying the independent release through her desire to become famous by herself.[3] She also shot a music video for the song. In March 2007, Washington-based record label The Saturday Team released an EP called Sex, by Tila Tequila.[3] On July 27, 2007, Italian website MusicBlob reported that The Saturday Team and distributor Icon Music Entertainment Services sued Nguyen over breaching her contract related to the album.[16] However, Nguyen claimed in a MySpace bulletin[16] that the EP was not authorized for release by her, and was removed from most retailers. The Saturday Team won a legal case, making Sex available for digital purchase. Nguyen made an appearance as one of the 12 strangers in the first game on the April 6, 2007 episode of NBC's game show Identity. On March 4, 2007, she made a cameo appearance on the show "The War At Home."[17] She also appeared as a Hooters Girl in the 2007 film I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry.

In May 2007, Nguyen began filming for a reality show which first aired on MTV on October 9, 2007, as A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila. The program was a bisexual-themed dating show where 16 straight men and 16 lesbian women competed for Nguyen's affections, the twist being that the contestants were not aware of her bisexuality[6] until the end of the first episode. The ten-episode series was produced by SallyAnn Salsano and MTV.[18] The show led to a heated online debate between Nguyen and conservative Christians after an article appeared on The Christian Post on September 13, 2007.[19] After seeing the article, Nguyen wrote an impassioned response in her blog on September 28, 2007, criticizing churches for "bashing" the gay community while thanking God for saving her life.[4][20] The show premiered for a second season in April 2008 and became a popular gossip subject in Asian media, such as AsianWeek.[21] The season finale premiered July 8, 2008, the winner being Kristy Morgan who declined her "shot at love".[22]

On October 9, 2007, Nguyen released her second official single, "Stripper Friends".[23] A video premiered via Yahoo! Music on February 26, 2008 and was released to iTunes on March 4, 2008. The single failed to chart. In April 2008, the single "Paralyze" and its accompanying music video were released via Yahoo! Music and iTunes.[24] The "I Love U Remixes" EP was released to digital music retailers on April 7, 2009. On December 2, 2008, Nguyen released a self-help book, Hooking Up with Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success, and Being the Life of the Party (ISBN 9781439101537).[25][26]

2010–14: Welcome to the Darkside, sex tape controversy and hiatus

Tequila and Matchstick at the 14th Grammy Friends 'N' Family Party, 2011

By 2010, Tequila decided to reinvent her image and changed her stage name to Miss Tila.[27] Her first single released under the new moniker was "I Fucked the DJ", along with an edited version entitled "I Love My DJ".[28] Released under her newly established label Little Miss Trendsetter, the single received negative reviews and failed to be successful in charts. In May, she launched her celebrity gossip blog,, and the EP, Welcome to the Darkside, which marked a musical departure from her previous material. Influenced by classical music and artists such as Nina Simone and Billie Holiday, Welcome to the Darkside received more positive reviews.[29] However, it did not manage to gain commercial success.

Tequila began a tour supporting the new EP and at one of her tour stops in August 2010, she appeared at the Gathering of the Juggalos, a music festival founded by hip hop duo Insane Clown Posse. She was repeatedly pelted with rocks and bottles among other objects, and she vowed to take legal action against the organizers and promoters for the event.[30][31]

In 2011, Vivid Entertainment released a video of Tequila engaging in sexual acts with pornographic actresses Kristina Rose and Charlie Laine.[32] Tequila has stated that the video was made for personal use and she did not consent to its release.[33]

2015–present: Celebrity Big Brother

In May 2015, it was announced that Tequila was working on new music.[34] In June, she posted a snippet of the song "Drunk Dialing" on her Instagram and wrote it would be released in the Summer. In August, Tequila became one of the contestants on the sixteenth season of Channel 5 reality series Celebrity Big Brother. However, she was ejected from the house after just one day, due to many viewer complaints of her controversial statements made back in 2013, when she posted anti-Semitic comments and praised German dictator Adolf Hitler on Facebook.[35] Tequila posted a snippet of "Drunk Dialing" again in September and confirmed it would be released by the end of October along with a music video.[36][37] On Novemeber 21, Tequila confirmed the single would be released on December 4.

Other ventures

Online business

In July 2001, Nguyen started the website,[38] which later began redirecting to Originally the site featured information, quotes, blog, and pictorials[39] requiring adult verification and a monthly fee.[40] Later, the site was revamped to feature all-ages content and information to promote her career, business ventures, personal information, and a premium membership section including videos, non-nude picture galleries, blogs, and chat sessions.[41] In 2008 the site was transformed into a social network.[42]

During 2005, Nguyen launched,[43] a site featuring her custom line of clothing for men and women.[44] In 2006, Nguyen created a website entitled "Tila Zone,"[45] which features content to use on Myspace and other social networking websites including layouts, widgets, and clipart.[46]

In December 2009, Nguyen partnered with Joe Francis to launch the now-defunct dating site,[47] aimed at people ages 18 and up. The site included a free membership with basic access, and paid membership for other areas of the site. Nguyen took in webcam chats on the site.[48]

In 2010, Nguyen launched a celebrity blog site,, which was transformed into her personal blog in 2012.

Public image

Nguyen was featured on the cover of the April 2006 issue of Stuff magazine; in the interview, she claimed that her nickname "Tila Tequila" came about when she experimented with alcohol at the age of thirteen.[49] She appeared on the August 2006 Maxim UK cover, was named #88 in their Hot 100 List,[50] and also appeared in the December 2007 issue.[51] She was ranked #100 on the Maxim Hot 100 list in 2008.[52]

Nguyen has been featured on the front page of magazines such as Penthouse, King, Blender, and most recently Steppin' Out.[53]


In December 2013, Nguyen caused controversy by posting an article on her website titled "Why I Sympathize with Hitler: Part I", though she stated that her views on Hitler were not derived from anti-Semitism on her part, nor any feelings toward Jewish people. Nguyen stated:

For those of you who focus on the victims of war well that is just part of war. What do you think war is about? People DIE in wars that is why I am against wars. It brought me to tears because I used to think all of those horrible things about him [Hitler] until I learned the truth about the war and what Hitler truly did and he was not a bad person as they have painted him out to be. Here is a man who was not a coward, stood up for his country in a DESPERATE TIME OF NEED (unlike all of our cowardly leaders), and yet not only did he try his best to help his country and people get out of what was a time of depression, economic collapse, high unemployment, amongst many other things.[54]

She also posted pro-Hitler and anti-Semitic comments on her Facebook page,[55] as well as photos of herself as a scantily clad Nazi posing in front of a photo of Auschwitz. These actions angered her Facebook followers, and resulted in Facebook closing her account and removing the material in question.[56] In August 2015, Tequila became a contestant in the sixteenth series of British television reality show Celebrity Big Brother, but was asked to leave the programme on its second day when producers became aware of her comments, and following reports that she had posted images of herself posing before Auschwitz concentration camp dressed in a Nazi uniform.[57] She subsequently apologized for her earlier comments, blaming them on depression and drug addiction.[58]

Personal life

On September 6, 2009, Tequila was allegedly choked and restrained by former boyfriend Shawne Merriman, who was later arrested.[59][60] San Diego district attorney Bonnie Dumanis decided not to charge Merriman after her office spent three days reviewing reports from the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.[61] On November 17, 2009, Tequila sued Merriman for $1.5 million.[62] Several weeks later, Merriman countersued, alleging intentional interference with contract, unfair competition, and trademark infringement.[63] She declined to respond to his more recent actions, and a default judgment was entered in his favor for $2 million.[64]

On December 9, 2009, Tequila stated she was engaged to heiress Casey Johnson and was photographed with a diamond ring.[65] On January 4, 2010, Johnson, who had long suffered from Type I Diabetes, was found dead. On February 4, 2010, the Los Angeles Coroner's Office announced that Johnson "died from diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition caused by a lack of insulin and high blood sugar". She was reported to have neglected to take her medication, and died naturally.[66] Tequila announced plans to seek legal custody of Casey Johnson's adopted daughter, Ava, who was under the legal custody of Johnson's mother, Sale.[67][68]

On March 7, 2012, it was reported that Tequila has agreed to check into rehab after having reportedly "almost died" from an attempted suicide by overdosing on pills. The incident caused her to be hospitalized from a brain aneurysm.[69][70] Tequila completed her rehab treatment on April 5, 2012.[71] Upon completing her treatment, Tequila opened up about her near-death experience to US Weekly stating "I can remember feeling like the bones were popping out the side of my head [because] the pain was so bad. I took some medications and tried to go for a nap, but when I woke up I was vomiting. I really thought I was going to die."[72]

On April 18, 2014, Tequila took to her Facebook page to announce she was pregnant, and was expecting her first child.[73] On November 16, 2014, Tequila gave birth to a daughter, Isabella Monroe Nguyen.[74]






Awards and nominations

Year Award Result
2007 The Soup Awards for Entertainer of the Year[75] Won
2008 Spike Annual Guy's Awards for So Hot They're Famous[76] Won
Bravo's A-List Awards for A-List Drama Queen[77] Won


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External links