Why everybody rates clapback queen Chrissy Teigen

15 January 2018
By Fashion Quarterly


You voted her your most influential international celebrity in the 2017 Miss FQ Influencer Awards, but what is it about her that we ‘like’ so much? Phoebe Watt breaks it down.

Chrissy Teigen belongs to many an exclusive club. There’s the Sports Illustrated model club, which she joined in 2010 — the year she was named Rookie of the Year in the magazine’s annual swimsuit issue. A Sports Illustrated favourite for the next four years, her membership status went up a level in 2014, when she appeared on the cover of its 50th anniversary swimsuit issue alongside models Lily Aldridge and Nina Agdal.

Since then, the host of Spike TV’s Lip Sync Battle has appeared on the cover of countless magazines, including Glamour, Marie Claire, Elle Australia, Vogue Thailand and Harper’s Bazaar Singapore. Married to award-winning singer-songwriter John Legend, she’s also half of one of the entertainment industry’s hottest power couples, a mainstay on the Grammy, Academy Awards and Met Gala red carpets, and frequently spotted wining and dining at the hippest restaurants and parties in Hollywood, New York and London.

One imagines there are, in fact, few velvet ropes that wouldn’t lift for 31-year-old Chrissy. But in July 2017, she was unexpectedly inducted into a club she’d probably never even thought of joining — that of high-profile individuals blocked on Twitter by Donald Trump. The act that got her on the list? Sassing the President, naturally.

Unlike her club mates (who include comedienne Rosie O’Donnell, novelist Stephen King, actress Marina Sirtis, Jimmy Kimmel Live writer Bess Kalb, and several top journalists and academics), Chrissy’s apparently unforgivable tweet didn’t call out a particular policy. Given she’d previously taken to the microblogging platform to call Trump a “racist pig”, “attention whore” and “the most f*cking vile person on the planet”, the now notorious post was, by her standards, not even particularly harsh.

Why everybody rates clapback queen Chrissy Teigen - images 2Chrissy and John lay their lives bare on social, documenting both the insane celebrity perks and their day-to-day with their fur babies and actual baby, Luna. TBH, the shots of her demolishing pizza and pasta are enough to have us crushing — don’t even get us started on their epic romance.

So when Trump lamented the lack of Republican Party support for a Senate healthcare bill vote and Chrissy shot back an almost lazily innocuous “Lolllllll no one likes you [sic]”, she couldn’t have expected to strike a nerve. Yet shortly afterwards, the bemused model posted a screenshot of the blocked notice. “After 9 years of hating Donald J Trump, telling him ‘lol no one likes you’ was the straw [sic]” she wrote with obvious glee.

Of course, if any celebrity on Earth was going to learn the consequences of aiming a clap-back at the President, it would be Chrissy — a woman who has built a 22 million-strong social media following on the premise that if someone’s being bullied, she won’t sit idly by. (Crucial aside: before you argue that her tweets to Trump constitute bullying, please go and Google ‘victimless crime’.)

Frequently on the receiving end of cruel and unnecessary jabs herself, with online commenters taking aim at everything from her appearance to her parenting skills, Chrissy had words for her cyber trolls in a 2015 interview with US Weekly. “People think that when they send you things, it goes off into space and you don’t care,” she said, before explaining that social media hate is no less hurtful than having someone walk up to your house, knock on the door and criticise you to your face. “I don’t know if [people] think they’re ballsy or what,” she continued, “but if you’re going to speak negatively about me, just do me a favour and don’t tag me in it.”

Or should that be do yourself a favour? Because make no mistake, if you drag Chrissy, Chrissy will drag you harder. Evidently unfamiliar with cyber-safety rule number one, ‘Don’t feed the trolls’, Chrissy’s savage brand of social media vigilantism doesn’t care if you, your nearest and dearest, or even your boss learns how much of a d-bag you are. In fact, she once warned that she likes to “manually retweet the super-morons so they can’t delete [their original posts]”, in the hopes their employers will see. “Sadly, not many have employers,” she added.

This year, Chrissy shared more on her clap-back style and strategy with tech news site, Mashable. “[A good clap-back] takes a little bit of research,” she said. “I like to do a bit of investigation work into the profiles [of people who come for me], because I think it’s important to have facts. Or to see how ‘perfect’ they are. That’s a bit of enjoyment of mine.”

That's what she said CT

Enjoyed almost to an equal extent by her followers, the entertainment that Chrissy’s constant Twitter beefs provide would certainly explain her popularity. Her resonance, meanwhile, is perhaps due in part to her middle-class roots. Born in Delta, Utah in 1985 to a Taiwanese mother and a father of Norwegian descent, Chrissy had a normal but transient upbringing, the family relocating around the US several times before settling in California when Chrissy was a teenager. She was 18 and working in a Huntington Beach surf shop when she was scouted by a photographer and signed to modelling agency IMG. A few years later, aged 21, she met John Legend on the set of his ‘Stereo’ music video — and the rest is history.

Not that being Mrs John Legend is her claim to fame, or that she’ll ever let us forget it. In 2014, when her husband was nominated for a Grammy for his RnB ballad ‘All of Me’, Chrissy was quick to remind us that the song would not exist without her. “2 grammy noms for @johnlegend no one has congratulated me for being the inspiration behind ‘all of me’ without me there is no all of me [sic]” she tweeted. Earlier, she’d told the Huffington Post, “The first line of [the song] is, ‘What would I do without your smart mouth’, so if that’s not about me, I don’t know what is”.

It recently came to light that the musician — who incidentally has just half Chrissy’s Instagram following and identifies himself in his Twitter bio as ‘Chrissy’s husband’ — owes more to his wife than a couple of trophies. Married since 2013, John revealed that their entire life together could have slipped through his fingers had Chrissy not shut down his early attempt to end things. “I was really stressed and busy,” he told the Guardian. “I was just like, ‘I’d be happier single right now’, and she was like, ‘No.’”

Why everybody rates clapback queen Chrissy Teigen - images

It’s just as well. Eleven years on from their first date at an In-N-Out Burger, John and Chrissy are the definition of couple goals. Their greatest achievement is 18-month-old Luna, who’s the result of years of IVF treatment. It was a painful process that, in the face of some public backlash, the couple has been increasingly forthcoming about, and it’s this that has further endeared them, and especially Chrissy, to the world.

Indeed, having already won us over by sharing the parts of her life that celebrities usually hide (bad skin days, day drinking, watching trashy TV while eating KFC in bed), the honesty with which Chrissy has spoken about the journey to Luna’s birth and the postpartum depression (PPD) that followed has made her not only an inspiration to, but something of an advocate for, women going through the same struggles.

“Postpartum does not discriminate” she wrote in a personal essay published in Glamour magazine. “I have a great life. I have all the help I could need: John, my mother who lives with us, a nanny… That’s part of the reason it took me so long to speak up: I felt selfish, icky and weird saying aloud that I’m struggling.

“Plenty of people around the world in my situation have no help, no family, no access to medical care,” she continued. “I can’t imagine not being able to go to the doctors that I need. It’s hurtful to me to know that we have a president who wants to rip healthcare away from women.”

An insight into just one of the reasons she despises Trump, the piece ended with Chrissy confirming that her health has dramatically improved since she began treatment. In recent months, she’s also mentioned to several media outlets that the experience hasn’t put her and John off wanting to add to their family. “I loved being pregnant… [The PPD] couldn’t be any worse than it was — could it?” she asked Marie Claire.

Scheduled to resume her hosting duties on the fourth season of Lip Sync Battle in January, a busy few months appear to lie ahead for Chrissy. In the meantime, the lifelong foodie and author of New York Times best-selling cookbook Cravings, who has a second cookbook in the works, is spending as much time in the kitchen as possible.

Unsurprisingly, Twitter is integral to her process, but she’s temporarily swapping clap-backs for crisis aversion. At the time this article was being written, she was using the platform to crowd-source bananas for a 10-batch trial run of banana bread, promising a signed copy of Cravings, a pair of her husband’s underwear and a makeup palette from her Becca x Chrissy Teigen collaboration to anyone in the Los Angeles area who could supply her with six brown bananas. Her fans pulled through, and after a weekend-long play-by-play, a video of the delicious-looking yield was tweeted hot from the oven. “This is no longer my banana bread, it’s our banana bread,” she said.

I mean, it’s not. But if we lived a little closer, it could’ve been, and that’s why you’re our fave, Chrissy.

Words: Phoebe Watt
Photos: Getty Images and Supplied


Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover
Fashion Quarterly Winter 2023 Cover

Sign up & Join
FQ Insider

Unlock exclusive content, behind-the-scenes insights, and special offers by becoming an FQ Insider.

Sign up to the Fashion Quarterly newsletter.

*Ts&Cs apply.
Find out more at fq.co.nz/fq-newsletter