If you bottled up Hunter S. Thompson, your beloved grandma and The Real Housewives, you’d have Coquette (formerly Coketalk), a Los Angeles party girl turned mysterious advice columnist, who’s known for her sassy, biting straight talk about nice guys, bitchy best friends, cheaters, abusers, long-lost lovers and all the sex questions you’re too embarrassed to ask your best friend...or anyone.
Coquette is the person you turn to when you “fucking hate your roommate” even though you “fucked her twice” and “need a strategy to get through the next few months.” (Answer: “Maybe your identity as a self-proclaimed asshole isn’t the way to go…. Spend the next few months being kind, thoughtful, and generous. See if your whole world doesn’t change.”) Or when you cheated on your boyfriend with your married best friend. (Answer: “You hit the self-destruct button on your life. Why? There’s a reason you fucked up this big. Figure it out.”) And what about when you realize that every time you think about your father—who’s alive and well—you feel sad, and you wonder if it’s “because I love him and never tell him I do?” (Answer: “Congratulations. You just went through six months of therapy in 41 words. Now go tell your dad that you love him.”)
Coquette is also one of the internet’s juiciest secrets: Fewer than 10 people in the world know who she really is.
The idea for her blog was born early one Sunday morning, when Coquette and a few friends were coming off a 48-hour binge on cocaine, parties and B-list celebrities. They launched the blog on Tumblr in 2009, and while her friends eventually trailed off, Coquette kept writing. “Honestly, it was a joke in the beginning!” she says. “The more I wrote, the more people would reply with questions. That’s how the advice column started.”
Coquette quickly raked in followers (more than 30,000 on Twitter and “a helluva lot more” on Tumblr). In 2011, The New York Observer called her blog one of the funniest on Tumblr, and in 2012 Time named it one of the 30 best blogs on Tumblr. That same year, she published her first book, Notes to My Future Husband: A Bitch’s Guide to Our Happily Ever After . Her latest, The Best of Dear Coquette: Shady Advice From a Raging Bitch Who Has No Business Answering Any of These Questions, came out October 11.
In June 2015, Tumblr suddenly deleted her blog due to copyright complaints over three songs she posted. The internet was in mourning, and she moved over to her own website, Dear Coquette, where she continues blogging and dishing out her signature advice. Today, she receives thousands of questions a month and answers about 10 percent of them.
One question she’ll never answer: Who are you?
Coquette could be a 65-year-old woman living with four cats and a parakeet. Or worse: She could be a millennial. Aside from a few vague details—she works in fashion, used to live in L.A., has a master’s degree and is a woman—little else is known about her. Until now. “This is the first time I’m having a live phone interview,” Coquette says at the start of our call. Her voice sounds upbeat and fresh. Maybe late 20s or early 30s? She won’t say. But she does offer up a few details about her identity: She was born in another country, moved to the United States when she was “very young, around 4,” and grew up in a red state. “I fled to L.A. as soon as I could.”
What do her parents think about her advice column? When was the last time she cried? If she could get high with anyone in history, who would it be? How would she spend a Saturday night out with Ivanka Trump? She shared her thoughts on all this and more with Newsweek.
Has it been harder or easier than you expected to keep your identity private?
It’s pretty easy. There are people in my life I personally interact with that really have no idea. This is my internal dwelling. It’s my getaway.
How many people know you’re Coquette?
I can count them on two hands.
If your parents read your blog, what would they say?
The family definitely does not know. They are very conservative. I’m kind of the black sheep…. One day, I just stopped giving a shit. I think I was in sixth grade.
You work in the fashion/entertainment industry. What would your clients say if they knew you were Coquette?
They probably wouldn’t be that surprised. [Laughs.]
Have you ever been out at a party or restaurant and heard people talking about the blog?
I was at concert at the Hollywood Bowl, and I sent out a tweet that I would be attending. A big group of people three rows in front of me started chanting out my name. That was interesting! That was the first time I realized, Wow, people are actually listening.
Would you ever want to be famous?
No! No! I think fame takes something away from your soul. I really value the authenticity and the way I can live. Once you have the spotlight of fame on you, that authenticity disappears. We all have a mask we wear all the time, but with the advent of social media, the masks have become more complex, and there are more of them and they’re always for show.
What time of day do you write?
I’m a night owl. The wheels start churning around 10 p.m., and I’ll be up until 4 a.m.
Have you ever been asked a question you didn’t know how to answer?
No! There are certainly questions that I don’t want to answer.
What have you learned about dating from your column?
That none of us know what we’re doing.
Is Lena Dunham a role model for millennial writers? For anyone?
Hoooo. [She sighs.] Can I just hit Next on that one?
Which female pop culture icon inspires you?
From the time I was young, Madonna has inspired me. I moved to this country and had never seen a woman empowered before. It was 1984 or ’85. She was doing her “Like a Virgin” performance on MTV. I never had even thought about it. Big shift to have in your mind at the age of 4.
I met her recently! I turned around and saw her and started crying. I was at the Billboard Music Awards. A friend was on production. She was doing her Prince tribute. We stopped. It was a quick hello. She was kind and cordial. She said, “Hello,” then she kept walking. I just turned around and started crying. I had a total fangirl moment.
Aside from meeting Madonna, when was the last time you cried?
When Prince died. It hit me, just completely. I was in the Gili Islands in Indonesia. Nobody knew who Prince was. Oh my God, I’m trying to find something purple to wear and trying to identify with somebody, and they have no idea who Prince was on this little island.
Do you watch reality TV?
My secret addiction is Bravo. I can have it on in the background, and it’s strangely comforting to me. All the yelling on Real Housewives—I don’t know what it is, but I love it! I find comfort in it.
Why are relationships so hard?
If you have to get deep with somebody, it’s going to be painful. It’s not all sunshine and roses and Afro yoga or whatever the hell people are doing right now!
What do women get wrong about dating?
Women view men as women! We don’t understand that men don’t think like we do. The worst thing you can do is ask for advice about a guy from your girlfriend!
Why is it so hard for smart, awesome women in their 30s and 40s to meet people?
The only thing I can say is keep trying. Don’t give up. Don’t become bitter. I think the standards have changed. For me, and for who I will allow in my life, I’m a lot pickier. I’d allow people into my life for the story, if it was an interesting person. Now it’s more about: What value do you bring in your life?
Have you ever done online dating?
Absolutely. So far, I haven’t really found anyone worth mentioning, but I think it’s an interesting platform to use outside your comfort zone. I don’t really want to go meet guys in bars anymore. The easiest way to do that when working in a profession dominated by women is online dating. It’s a numbers game. Right now, I’m on Bumble.
If online dating feels like work, should people still do it?
Absolutely. Because if it feels like work, that means you’re uncomfortable, and it’s good to be uncomfortable.
If you could spend a Saturday night with Ivanka Trump, what would you do?
I would do 10 lines. Make her do 10 lines. Then ask her what she really feels about her dad. You know she thinks her dad is creepy! There has to be something there. I’d really just want her to open up, and I really think 10 lines of blow would do it. I want to get her talking. Every word she says is so orchestrated. She has self-control, which I respect her for, but there’s gotta be some stories.
If you could get high with anyone, dead or alive, who would it be?
I would love to get high with Larry David!
If you could sleep with anyone in history, who would it be?
Oh, Larry David! Why do you think I wanna get him high?
What should President Barack Obama do next?
I think he should fuckin’ relax. I love the man that he is. Did you see that when he was staring [President Vladimir] Putin down? That’s the kind of man I want as my president! He’s a badass.
I love [Barack and Michelle] because I really do view their relationship as more of a true partnership. And I love that. I love the respect they show each other. They know their lanes, and that’s one thing we all have to learn. They do that well and with grace.
What advice would you have for Sasha and Malia?
Listen to your dad.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve done?
I’ve really done a lot of wild things. I jumped out of an airplane at the highest you can jump out. I have a strange fear of heights. A fear of falling. I thought, Let me do this extreme thing. I survived and I’ll never do it again, and I’m still afraid of heights.
I asked friends and colleagues what they’d want to ask you. Here are a few of their questions:
What holds women back from becoming leaders in the workplace?
Insecurity. Insecurity! I think that’s the No. 1 thing holding us back. Goes back to why most female friendships fail.
If you could have your own Netflix show, who would star in it and what would it be called?
I was thinking maybe Accidental Guru would work.
Why do I keep having the same recurring dream that my twin sister is giving birth to an insect?
Girl, I’m not Freud! I don’t know!