[Illustration By Monica Smiley, Eighty Seventh ST.]
The truth is: I never intended to create a fictional voice for a high-flying fashion feline. I never set out to be the subject of Page Six tabloid articles speculating who I was or what my intentions were. Because, it’s just that: there were no intentions.
There was a single solitary article floating the internet about some obscure cat belonging to a creative director. The world knew the creative director but not the cat. It wasn’t until my Tweets that the internet was set abuzz by the once voice-less cat.
Somewhere between the Tweets and blog articles there were book deal offers and award nominations and in that time “Influencer” became a household word. To many aspiring TikTok stars and YouTube celebrities, “Influencer” is an achievement. To me, it’s a dirty word. A word that earmarked a pivotal part in my career but one that now brings me great sadness.
The fan art paintings are stuffed in the back of the closet and the associated social media accounts remain quiet. That’s not to say I am not overly appreciative of the support received over the years. God knows I am! It’s more that seeing images of the brand I poured so much sweat, time, money and tears into now brings me nothing but regret. Or is it more anger? The two emotions have become so intertwined that when thinking about Choupette’s Diary I can’t really separate my feelings.
At this point, you should be asking yourself, “why?” And if you’re not, then you are more than likely thinking, “Boy is this woman overly dramatic! It’s a cat for F’s sake!”. Both responses are valid.
The latter question’s answer is: yes, it is a cat. Or is WAS just a cat. Now, she’s a fashion household name. The former’s response is a bit more complicated and one I have debated revealing for not months, but years.
I feared a ruined reputation for finally speaking up. Possibly a defamation lawsuit? At this point, my silence has become deafening and I have to share my experience.
*Insert a 15-minute silent pause where I still to this day, despite endless hours of internal contemplation, have no idea how to eloquently condense years of exploitation into a single blog post.
It was never the infamous creative director and designer (aka “Daddy”) who tried to silence me; quite the opposite. He was my biggest supporter (besides my own mother). Countless reputable individuals in the industry have shared with me his excitement and admiration for the creativity of the personality I created. Rather, members of his team, holding an outdated perception about the power and importance of digital media, stood in my way. While they never outright told to me to “STOP TWEETING!”, they went about it in a more back-handed sly way.
There were PR event lists I would suddenly fall off of. Major editors who I had long-standing relationships with stopped answering my emails. You know, the stuff that makes you wonder what you did wrong.
The fact remains: I didn’t do anything wrong. I spent years maintaining and growing a brand as the voice behind it with “Daddy’s” best interest in mind. I only answered interview questions that would paint the associated fashion houses in a positive light. No mal-intent. No intent to make millions of dollars, which suddenly my brand WAS making for the real feline. I wasn’t jealous that there was a book published with a chapter about me in it without my consent. I wasn’t furious when I received a copy of said book with a letter from the PR team saying “Sorry, we can only send you one copy” of the book that was published as a direct result of the media buzz my work conjured up. I wasn’t angry that there was a blue eyed bushy-tailed feline living in the lap of luxury because of my careful and methodical business decisions. I wasn’t. Not until AFTER Karl passed.
That’s when things changed and I got a clearer picture of the sinister intentions of the team behind him. They were intent on shutting me up, shutting my work down, and doing it in an underhanded way so scheming that it really couldn’t be traced back to them. Only the PR interns they told to remove me from their media lists and the editors who were encouraged not to lose a major fashion house’s ad spend or fashion week invites by associating with me knew. The day Karl passed, I turned from a white cat into the black sheep of the fashion industry. The red carpet I once walked on wasn’t just rolled back up, it was pulled right out from under me. The book deal vanished, although the tome-like proposal remains saved deep within the folders in my MacBook, and my Choupette’s Diary email inbox is now as silent as the quarantine life I currently live.
I tried in vain to understand why we couldn’t work together. Why we couldn’t continue to build my brand TOGETHER, offering olive branches in the form of partnership opportunities. Emails from me to members of the now-deceased Daddy’s team went unanswered. Phone calls ignored. By not answering me or my lawyers, their silence was the loudest answer of all. They didn’t care that I was the one who had started, built, and maintained the brand. Now that Daddy was gone, they were going to usurp it for themselves. The one thing they are missing: me. The voice. The personality. The creative mind behind it all.
Today, I am thankful for the doors Choupette’s Diary has opened for me as a result of my hard work. It will always be a pivotal part in my career growth that led me to the many publications, agencies, and brands that I have had the pleasure of working with. For now, the Choupette’s Diary accounts will remain silent but I will not. A new woman may have swooped Choupette up and is now walking the red carpet in my place, but those individuals that now bask in the rewards gifted to them will never know the true hard work, time, and dedication it took to build the brand behind it. They can take all the money accrued from my hard work but they will never be able to take away my voice. My voice is Choupette’s Diary. I am Choupette Social Girl Dahhhlings!