Can Chrissy Teigen’s Reputation Recover from Social Media Bullying Scandal?

The negative side of social media is rarely out of the news these days, with much discussion around the impact of trolling and the responsibility of social media platforms to do more to stamp this out.

There is barely a week that goes by that some celebrity or prominent public figure is in the media firing line due to past tweets or other social posts being brought to light that show them in not such a favourable way. Just this past week, Billie Eilish has been forced to apologise for using a racial slur in an old video that has resurfaced – right at the peak of her popularity.

Another celebrity being called into question is Chrissy Teigen, wife to Jon Legend and former Lip Sync Battle host. She is currently at the centre of controversy again, after accusations of bullying on Twitter by socialite Courtney Stodden and fashion designer Michael Costello. The latter most recently came forward to accuse Chrissy of online bullying, saying that it had left him suicidal.

Kelly O’Hanlon, Senior Lecturer in Public Relations and Media at BCU, discusses the impact these allegations could have upon Chrissy’s reputation in a recent Metro article. “Social media bullying and trolling is a big issue and rightly a topic of debate, and as such, the court of public opinion isn’t so keen on giving those with a bigger platform than most a free pass. When someone with a high profile does something so unnecessarily cruel, we want to make an example of them; it shows everyone that no-one is beyond reproach.”

After a month long absence from social media, Chrissy returned this week with a long, apologetic blog post, within which she admitted to being a ‘troll, full stop’ and insisted that she was ‘so sorry’ for her past behaviour.

“Chrissy has done the right thing in that she held her hands up last month when the allegations were made by apologising, before disappearing from the social media limelight” assesses Kelly. “She has clearly taken time to reflect and stepping back into the fray with her new blog post, she is doing what she can to be held to account but also to be forgiven.

“The blog itself is straight out of the crisis comms playbook; demonstrate concern and compassion, indicate actions taken, provide reassurance and support with examples. She calls herself a troll and asks what gave her the right to be cruel, reflecting upon the pain she has inflicted. She reassures her followers that she now understands the error of her ways – ‘I get it now’. Chrissy also mentioned how she has ‘GOT MORE THERAPY’ and how she will ‘keep working to be the best version of myself’.

So for now, it seems Chrissy has done what she can to repair the damage, but what could the longer term effects be?

“Reputations take years to build and just one mistake to breakdown, and in the age of social media, this has never been more swift or ferocious.” Comments Kelly. “Every past comment can resurface to haunt those in the public eye and there’s not much you can do to fight against such accusations. Courtney may have accepted Chrissy’s apology, but she also was right to acknowledge that she was most likely doing this out of fear of losing her partnerships. No brand wants to be seen associated with a bully, so the recovery to her image and earning potential is going to be a long process.

“We are learning through Chrissy’s mistakes. Whether she is completely genuine or considered to be acting out of enforced shame and self-preservation, this story makes a very important point; as Chrissie herself says, ‘words have consequences’.”

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