Once celebrity gossip had a home in the columns of publications like People magazine or The Daily Mail, and popular blogs like LaineyGossip and Perez Hilton; now celebrity dirt is sprawled across Instagram. Ever since The Shade Room recreated the tabloid magazine for the app in 2014 with a focus on Black celebrities, celeb gossip accounts with far less legitimacy have proliferated on the platform. There are accounts like @tiktokroom, for TikTok personality gossip, and @overheardcelebs, which brands itself as the “anti-gossip” account for benign stories of celebrity encounters.
The Instagram account @DeuxMoi, which posts anonymously submitted anecdotes of celeb encounters and sightings, has been acclaimed as “the Internet’s best gossip,” and “the best gossip site.” But rather than fill their Stories with lurid screenshots detailing the divorces, adultery, and silly transgressions of stars, @DeuxMoi for the most part keeps it pretty tame: details of Olivia Wilde’s skincare routine, a Timothée Chalamet spotting at a West Village cafe, industry baseball blind items, and the occasional scoop, like when the account reported that Colin Jost and Scarlett Johansson were getting married. It’s a far cry from what the aggressive and invasive tabloids of the early ’00s and the snarky gossip blogs that would follow their lead made their bread and butter: stoning celebrities in the digital town square with crude insults and embarrassing paparazzi photos.
That’s on purpose. “Somebody’s going to message me and say like, so-and-so was caught doing drugs at a party or having a threesome or whatever,” the anonymous owner of @DeuxMoi told The New York Times. “It’s just not as exciting as it sounds anymore.” Instagram accounts like @DeuxMoi, as well as @overheardcelebs and @commentsbycelebs, tend to traffic largely in banal, personal stories about celebrities. “Our whole goal is that we would never want the person in the picture to look at it and be like, ‘Wow, really sucks that they posted that,’” the co-creator of @commentsbycelebs told Vox’s Rebecca Jennings. What constitutes celeb gossip now, casual anecdotes of celebrity encounters and spottings, stands in opposition to the salacious, now criticized era of celebrity gossip that came before it, in which clownish bloggers like Perez Hilton scrawled penises on photos of celebrities.
Before social media disrupted the celebrity journalism industry, gossip blogs did the same decades ago. In the mid-’00s blogs like Crazy Days and Nights, Lainey Gossip, PopSugar, and Bossip emerged in a moment of non-stop celebrity media coverage. It was the era of Us Weekly’s “Stars, They’re Just Like Us” feature, which would remake mundane celebrity sightings into spectacle, and the debut of TMZ. The paparazzi hounded young celebrities like Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan and printed their weakest moments and breakdowns in photos gobbled up by tabloid magazines and websites. And the new names in gossip like Elaine Lui, Jared Eng, Michael K, and Crazy Days and Nights’ mysterious Enty had snarky, recognizable voices as they moved celebrity coverage online while the old-school press slept on it.
But the difference between an account like @Deuxmoi and its blog predecessors is how remarkably voiceless it is, beyond the anonymity of the account’s creator. There is no analysis like Elaine Lui might offer, or crude comments like Perez once delivered. Instead, @DeuxMoi seems to have no curating whatsoever, a stream of copy-and-pasted texts about celebs spotted walking their dogs or images of celebrities eating at restaurants, and “studio execs” confirming projects are being shot. There are some revelations, like when the account broke the story that celebrity Hillsong Church pastor Carl Lentz was fired for “moral failures,” but often the posts are so tedious you might get better drama from reading a suburban middle schooler’s group chat. @DeuxMoi is not the “juiciest” new outlet for celeb gossip so much as it’s a public bulletin board littered with even the most boring scraps of celebrity comings and goings, more dedicated to quantity over quality.
It’s also explicitly a free-for-all in terms of truth. “this account does not claim any information published is based in fact,” the account’s bio reads. In an interview with Vanity Fair, the original creator (who may or may not still be attached to the account) admitted that not only does she not research any of the stories she receives, she also published information she believed to be false. The account, the VF piece reported, has likely managed to avoid liability so far because it posts stories received verbatim as a screenshot. It also regularly deletes offending material because it automatically disappears in the Instagram Stories feature, the only place @DeuxMoi actually posts gossip. And while @DeuxMoi’s owner says they try to discern between what’s submitted by publicists or rabid fandoms and regular readers, she says she sometimes just posts them anyway.
But are fleeting celebrity encounters like what @DeuxMoi and @overheardcelebs post actually gossip? For the most part, they’re barely newsworthy, inoffensive posts that celebrate famous people being surprisingly kind (Daisy Ridley gave me a tampon! Kelly Rowland paid for my cream cheese!) Other times people take to social media to share how rude certain celebrities have been to service workers, like when TikTok user @juliacarolann said in a video from last July that she had met Hailey Baldwin a handful of times working as a hostess in New York City and that “every time she was not nice.” Baldwin later apologized in the comments, writing that she was “sorry if I’ve ever given you bad vibes or a bad attitude. That’s not ever my intention!”
There is power in stories about how celebrities treat the unfamous, from rank-and-file production workers to restaurant waiters and hostesses. Sometimes these interactions can be more revealing than a PR-approved multi-page magazine cover story, a glimpse at how the rich and famous encounter the civilians who serve them. When the entertainment press is too often governed by the interests of studios and publicists, and celebrities forgo the media to control their image via social media, these stories of bad behavior can break through a star’s highly manicured reputation.
Anyone with a TikTok, Twitter account, or podcast can now drop secret insight about a celebrity, and a small admission can then become a national news story. After a comedian Kevin T. Porter requested stories on Twitter about Ellen DeGeneres being “one of the meanest people alive” in April 2020, thousands of people replied, some alleging that she was rude to her staff, which news outlets like Buzzfeed then reported out. In 2019 an anonymous caller dialed into the podcast Britney’s Gram and claimed they were a paralegal for a lawyer representing Spears and that her father was instrumental in canceling her Vegas residency. The unverified call helped jumpstart the #FreeBritney movement, a group of activists who protest Spears’s father being her conservator in a controversial arrangement.
While @Deuxmoi doesn’t shy away from posting criticism of celebrities, the easily digestible nuggets of celebrity news the account offers tend to approach famous people with adoration. When @DeuxMoi and @overheardcelebs post cute first-person stories about brushing against celebrities, they tend to be gushy and reverent of these stars. Submissions romanticize even the most basic encounters into something enlightening, even if it’s as boring as a celebrity being “chill” when they’re ordering an orange juice at a diner. These “anti-gossip” accounts basically traffic in the same content as “Stars, They’re Just Like Us,” but with the added intimacy of a fannish bystander. The draw doesn’t seem to be necessarily the content of these stories but the realization that if this person could meet a sitcom star in the flesh and bask in her normalcy, so can you.
The new wave of “anti-gossip” accounts still treat celebrities as otherworldly specimens, and at worst they contribute to the idea that gossip that paints celebrities in an unflattering light is inherently bad, even in a moment when gossip about the rich and powerful has never been more potent. In the wake of #MeToo, stories that were once derided as hard-to-pin-down, frivolous rumors about a celebrity’s personal life by the press (Harvey Weinstein’s predatory behavior, allegations that Louis C.K. masturbated in front of women without their consent) became hard news. A collection of stories about DeGeneres being “mean” on Twitter turned into reportage on her toxic workplace. In another era the racism of celebrities like Vanderpump Rules’ Stassi Schroeder, actress Ali Larter, singer Morgan Wallen, would likely have been brushed off; now it’s a major news story.
The softness of these new gossip accounts may be a backlash to the cruel gossip industry that preceded it, but anti-gossip accounts’ polite reticence still feeds into a machine that valorizes celebrity, pampering the famous already well-pampered by entertainment outlets that want to stay on good terms. But if you’re looking for a way to indulge in celebrity stories without really confronting their dark side, @DeuxMoi’s Instagram stories are right there waiting for you.
(Updated 3/2/22 with new details)