Casey Johnson And The Difficulties Of Being A "Lesbian Socialite"

After the death of heiress Casey Johnson, speculation flies about her "downward spiral" and relationship with Tila Tequila — and the coverage reveals that being rich and famous didn't save her from discrimination.

It's not clear yet exactly how Johnson died — toxicology tests are pending. But the New York Post says Johnson's family — she was an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune and her dad is the owner of the New York Jets — cut her off and took custody of her daughter because of concerns about her drug abuse. Her erratic behavior in the months leading up to her death reportedly included public brawling with ex Courtenay Semel and leaving a used vibrator in model Jasmine Lennard's bed. Aside from these misdeeds, Johnson was probably most famous — at least at the time of her death — for being engaged to Tila Tequila.

The two announced their engagement via online video in December, and were very public about their relationship. They posed for numerous photo ops together (MTV accused them of "hamming it up for the paparazzi"), and Johnson's Twitter location reads "My Fiances Bed." "Shot at Love" star Tequila was obviously no stranger to publicity, manufactured or otherwise, and the amount of cleavage on view in the couple's engagement video suggests they were well aware that their union would turn people on. But just because two beautiful women getting it on is a frequent topic of sexual fantasy — even if Johnson and Tequila seemed to luxuriate in that fact — doesn't make their relationship any less valid or real. And the couple may not have "hammed it up" any more than straight celebs who gush to tabloids about their partners.

Straight stars, however, usually don't get their sexual orientations printed in headlines, like the Daily Mail's "Lesbian socialite Casey Johnson found dead in her LA home at 30." Nor are their relationships usually dismissed with quotes and outdated language. The New York Post refers to Johnson's "'engagement' to lesbian lover" Tequila — and while the two couldn't legally marry in California, being engaged isn't a legal status. If straight people can become engaged with simply an exchange of words, why couldn't Johnson and Tequila do the same (with the added benefit of a 17 karat diamond)? And when's the last time you heard a reference to someone's "straight lover?"

Casey Johnson wasn't a political activist, and she doesn't sound like a poster child for healthy relationships. But as True/Slant notes, she was a rare socialite who was openly gay, and that made her fodder for both speculation and discrimination. It's impossible at this point to determine what led to her death, but it's worth remembering that her life, despite its privilege, wasn't necessarily easy.

Born Rich: The Life And Death Of Heiress Casey Johnson [Gawker]
Q-Tip Heiress Casey Johnson Dead At 30 [NY Post]
Lesbian Socialite Casey Johnson Found Dead In Her LA home At 30 [Daily Mail]
Heiress Casey Johnson Found Dead Days After Reported Fight With Lover Tequila [ABC]
Beauty In Black & White: Casey Johnson And Eunice Johnson Die On Same Day [True/Slant]