Nguyễn Thị Thiên Thanh (born October 24, 1981), better known by her stage names Tila Tequila, Tila Nguyen, Miss Tila and Tornado Thien, is an American television and social media personality. She first gained recognition for her active presence on social networking websites. After becoming the most popular person on Myspace, Tequila was offered the opportunity to star in her own reality television series. 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.
Tequila in October 2008
Thien Thanh Thi Nguyen
October 24, 1981
Born in Singapore and raised in Houston, Texas, Tequila moved to Los Angeles in 2001 to pursue her modeling career. After being featured in numerous men's magazines (including Playboy, Stuff and Maxim), she made her reality television debut on the VH1 show Surviving Nugent (2003). Besides her career in modeling and television, Tequila also pursued her career as a recording artist and author. She was the lead singer of the bands Beyond Betty Jean and Jealousy, before launching a solo career. Her debut single "I Love U" was released in 2007 to mixed reviews. Despite having strong online sales, the song failed to enter any charts. Tequila followed with several independently released singles, including "Stripper Friends" and "Paralyze". 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.
Nguyen was born in Singapore, where her family were Vietnamese boat people, who arrived from Vietnam after the Vietnam War. Nguyen has an older brother, Daniel, and older sister, Terri.:6 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. The family left the community when Nguyen was eight.
Nguyen was nicknamed "Tila Tequila" by friends due to her apparent allergy to alcohol. In her memoir, she would later explain that she felt "confused" and "lost" from various personal family and environmental issues. 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 City, for several months. While still 16, she experienced a drive-by shooting in Houston. She reports having become pregnant and suffering a miscarriage the following year.
Nguyen graduated from Alief Hastings High School in 2000. She has cited her violent adolescence in Texas as her reason for becoming a model and moving to California in 2001. 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."
2001–2005: Modeling career, Beyond Betty Jean and Myspace
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 Cybergirl of the Week on April 22, 2002, and soon thereafter she became the first Asian Cyber Girl of the Month. A few more pictorials for the magazine followed.
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. 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.
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. Nguyen joined Myspace in the fall of 2003 after getting booted off of Friendster multiple times. Time magazine, in a 2006 profile of Nguyen noted her impact on the platform stating "Pre-Tila, your MySpace friends were mostly people you actually knew. Post-Tila, the biggest game on the site became Who Has the Most Friends, period, whoever they might be," also calling her, the "Queen" of the site.
2006–2009: Solo career, and A Shot at Love
During the first season of Fuse TV's dance show, Pants-Off Dance-Off, on which a group of contestants strip to music videos, Nguyen was the most frequent host. In April 2006, during the taping of an interview with MTV's Total Request Live VJs, will.i.am 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. 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. 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. However, Nguyen claimed in a MySpace bulletin 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 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. 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 until the end of the first episode. The ten-episode series was produced by SallyAnn Salsano and MTV. 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. 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. The show premiered for a second season in April 2008 and became a popular gossip subject in Asian media, such as AsianWeek. The season finale premiered July 8, 2008, the winner being Kristy Morgan who declined her "shot at love".
On October 9, 2007, Nguyen released her second official single, "Stripper Friends". 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. 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).
2010–2014: Welcome to the Darkside and hiatus
By 2010, Tequila decided to reinvent her image and changed her stage name to Miss Tila. Her first single released under the new moniker was "I Fucked the DJ", along with an edited version entitled "I Love My DJ". 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, MissTilaOMG.com, 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. 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.
During this time, a sex tape featuring a lesbian threesome in which she performed was leaked. Tequila tried to buy back the tape before its release, but couldn't come to terms with Vivid Entertainment. She later starred in a sex tape that won a 2015 AVN Award for "Best Celebrity Sex Tape".
2015–present: Celebrity Big Brother and return to music
In May 2015, it was announced that Tequila was working on new music. 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 in 2013, when she posted anti-Semitic comments and praised German dictator Adolf Hitler on Facebook. 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. In November, Tequila and her management confirmed the single would be released on December 4. Tequila also announced her own line of e-liquids for vaporizers in collaboration with Blaze Vapors.
In July 2001, Nguyen started the website TilasHotSpot.com, which later began redirecting to MissTila.com. Originally the site featured information, quotes, blog, and pictorials requiring adult verification and a monthly fee. 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. In 2008 the site was transformed into a social network.
During 2005, Nguyen launched TilaFashion.com, a site featuring her custom line of clothing for men and women. In 2006, Nguyen created another website, TilaZone.com which features content to use on Myspace and other social networking websites including layouts, widgets, and clipart.
In December 2009, Nguyen partnered with Joe Francis to launch the now-defunct dating website TilasHotSpotDating.com, 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.
In 2010, Nguyen launched a celebrity blog site, MissTilaOMG.com, which was transformed into her personal blog in 2012.
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. She appeared on the August 2006 Maxim UK cover, was named #88 in their Hot 100 List, and also appeared in the December 2007 issue. She was ranked #100 on the Maxim Hot 100 list in 2008.
In December 2013, Nguyen posted an article on her website titled "Why I Sympathize with Hitler: Part I", although she stated that her views on Hitler were not derived from antisemitism on her part, nor any feelings toward Jewish people. She also posted pro-Hitler and antisemitic comments on her Facebook page, as well as photos of herself as a scantily clad Nazi posing in front of a photo of the Auschwitz concentration camp. These actions angered her Facebook followers, and resulted in Facebook closing her account and removing the material in question. 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 program on its second day when producers became aware of her comments and photos. She subsequently apologized for her earlier comments, blaming them on depression and drug addiction.
On May 6, 2016, Nguyen tweeted that Jewish-American political commentator Ben Shapiro should "be gassed and sent back to Israel" and later posted that "There are only two things in this world, for which I would gladly sacrifice my own life; the destruction of all Jews and preservation of the white race" and "You know what will help Asians earn respect? An Asian version of Adolf Hitler ... I want that person to be me; I want to save the world from this Zionist disease." In June 2016, Tila Tequila accused Sarah Silverman and the Jews of killing Jesus before saying the comedian was next on a "celebrity sacrifice" list.
On November 19, 2016, she attended an alt-right National Policy Institute meeting celebrating the election of Donald Trump, organized by white supremacist Richard B. Spencer, and posted photos on social media of herself doing a Nazi salute. One was posted to Twitter with the text "Seig heil!" [sic] and a raised hand emoji ("✋"). On November 22, 2016, her account was suspended by Twitter. Consequently, she joined Gab.
By the end of 2007, Tequila was linked to the winner of her dating show A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, Bobby Banhart. In January 2008, she revealed that she and Banhart had ended their relationship. Shortly afterwards, Banhart posted a message on his Myspace stating he had never dated Tequila and that she "never called him after the last show and no one would give him her number." Tequila later came out as a lesbian rather than a bisexual and stated that she wanted to pick the show's runner-up Dani Campbell but the producers made her pick Banhart.
On September 6, 2009, Tequila was allegedly choked and restrained by former boyfriend Shawne Merriman, who was later arrested. 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. On November 17, 2009, Tequila sued Merriman for $1.5 million. Several weeks later, Merriman countersued, alleging intentional interference with contract, unfair competition, and trademark infringement. She declined to respond to his more recent actions and a default judgment was entered in his favor for $2 million. However, the default judgment was later set aside in January 2010. In February 2010, both sides jointly moved the court to dismiss the claim, and the court dismissed the case on the same day.
On December 9, 2009, Tequila stated she was engaged to heiress Casey Johnson and was photographed with a diamond ring, after only knowing her for a few months. Johnson died on January 4, 2010, of complications resulting from diabetes.
On March 7, 2012, it was reported that Tequila had 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. Tequila completed her rehab treatment on April 5, 2012.
Tequila began dating musician Thomas Paxton Whitaker (born 1971) in 2013, which ended due to Whitaker's financial problems. On April 18, 2014, Tequila confirmed her pregnancy on her Facebook page. Tequila gave birth to her first daughter, Isabella Monroe Nguyen, on November 16, 2014. She now goes by the name of Tornado Thien. Tequila has expressed her belief that the earth is not a sphere but is flat.
In March 2018, Tequila uploaded a video to Youtube to confess she was neither lesbian nor bisexual; she only pretended to be in order to create ratings for A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila and had a boyfriend while filming the show. Additionally, she associated homosexuality with the Devil and referred to former contestants of the show as "degenerate" and "disgusting." In September 2018, Tila gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Annabelle.
- Masterminds (2013)
- Hooking Up with Tila Tequila: A Guide to Love, Fame, Happiness, Success, and Being the Life of the Party (2008)
Awards and nominations
|2007||The Soup Award||Entertainer of the Year||N/A||Won|
|2008||Bravo's A-List Award||A-List Drama Queen||N/A||Won|
|2008||AVN Awards||Best Celebrity Sex Tape||Tila Tequila 2: Backdoored & Squirting||Won|
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well everyone wants to know so here it is she never called me after the last show and no one would give me her number so pretty much I feel like and ass but we are not 2gather u cant have a realationship bye urself ya know so now you all know and sometimes no matter how bad you want things to work out they dont and theres nothing you can do i tryed... thank you all
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The Soup's Entertainer of The Year! Tila Tequila!
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I won the Drama Queen Awards! You know, there's actually, uh, a lot of good contenders up there, so the fact that I won is awesome! I didn't realize I was that dramatic.
- Tequila Wins AVN Award For Best Celebrity Sex Tape Over Farrah Abraham And Mimi Faust