Downtime

Back From Exile, Chrissy Teigen Reveals the Elusive Secrets of “the Work”

The path back from the “cancel club” now has data.

Chrissy Teigen on the red carpet in an off the shoulder silver sequin gown with pink ruffled sleeves. She is smiling and putting her left hand on her sternum as if to say "who, me?"
Chrissy Teigen at the Tony Awards in New York City on Sept. 26. Bryan Bedder/Getty Images

For the past few months, Chrissy Teigen has been grappling with that classic conundrum: When you get canceled because of old tweets in which you bullied a teenager, what is the right amount of time to wait to make your return to public life?

With her appearance on the Today show on Tuesday, Teigen appears to have settled on an answer: Six months oughta do it, right? She has “done the work,” she announced. Conveniently for Teigen, that timeline for an accelerated personal reckoning dovetailed nicely with the scheduled release of her latest cookbook, Cravings: All Together, which arrived this week. Today was more than happy to give Teigen a place to transition seamlessly from addressing the controversy to demo-ing a chicken sandwich recipe for Al Roker, Savannah Guthrie, and the rest of the gang.

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In case you’ve forgotten what the controversy was in the first place, it was not nothing: Earlier this year Courtney Stodden accused Teigen of bullying 10 years ago when Stodden first rose to fame. In 2011, at 16, Stodden gained widespread attention—and ridicule—for marrying a then-50-year-old actor named Doug Hutchison. Teigen was part of the feeding frenzy, allegedly going so far as to send Stodden private messages that said things like “I can’t wait for you to die.” After Stodden granted an interview to the Daily Beast in May about the messages, more offensive old tweets resurfaced, and the situation reached a fever pitch, which started to have real consequences for Teigen’s career: Retailers dropped her cookware line, and she was written out of an episode of Netflix’s Never Have I Ever that had been in the can.

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Even so, Teigen’s cancellation narrative was not exactly linear. She faced fallout, but she hasn’t been in hiding: In July, she posted a long Instagram caption reflecting on her time in the “cancel club.” She attended President Barack Obama’s infamous birthday party over the summer. In September, she posted an Instagram story about having her cheek fat removed. In short, things already seemed to basically be back to business as usual for Teigen, and the Today show just made it official.

Teigen’s so-called return does provide a useful case study in what “the work” entails, or the necessary penance and self-improvement to return to unobstructed book sales and media appearances. According to Teigen, her own work involved “a lot” of therapy, and she also got sober. Good for her! But it’s hard not to feel a little suspicious of an elaborately publicized spectacle of personal growth crammed in over the course of a few months between lavish parties and Instagram confessionals. It seems like Teigen might have genuinely benefited from keeping a low profile for a while, giving her time to actually do this work everyone’s always talking about, rather than falling victim to the accompanying phenomenon wherein talking about the work becomes a stand-in for actually doing it.

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Reasonable people can debate how grave Teigen’s offenses were and whether they should bar her from hustling cookbooks—perhaps not!—but the spectacle on Today was honestly a little sad. No one was expecting Frost/Nixon, but Today host Hoda Kotb seemed mighty dismissive of what happened, calling it “a big, kind of, cyberbullying scandal” and quickly noting that Teigen “apologized profusely” at the time. It was a few minutes of Teigen talking about how much she learned and then a quick cut to her frying some chicken on air. Teigen talked about how hard it was to be in the “cancel club,” but how canceled was she if she’s already back on national television hawking her book? If anything, being canceled arguably gave her a comeback narrative that she can now capitalize on. Which she is: Cravings: All Together is available at bookstores everywhere. On the cover, she appears to be making out with a taco.

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