Almost 10 years ago, I was watching some of the trashiest television imaginable when my mom walked by and said to me, “Did this teenager just compare herself going to jail with Buddha sitting under the tree? Why do you watch this trash?” Cut to ten years later, and I’m listening to a podcast in the car with my mom that I was featured on, and she says to me, “Are you sure that this woman is 27? She’s awfully mature and self-aware to be that age.” That woman my mom and I are referring to is Alexis Neiers (now Haines) from Pretty Wild. Pretty Wild was only ten episodes long and aired about a decade ago, but to this day, it’s a national phenomenon. From the dinners with Mickey Avalon to, of course, the famously infamous Nancy Jo voicemail (which was largely staged), this show was the ultimate reality show in that it was entirely unrelatable, over-the-top ridiculous, and a total sh*tshow.
The real story, however, happened when the cameras stopped rolling. We all know that Alexis was implicated in the infamous Bling Ring (in that she called the police and literally sat in a car while her friends robbed a house, but more on that later), but even after serving her time in prison, Alexis’ story continued to unfold. After Alexis left rehab, she experienced a metamorphosis from being a Hollywood It Girl who was afflicted with her demons to a self-possessed, yet self-deprecating worldly young woman who is a loving wife, a mother of two of the cutest daughters I’ve ever seen, a drug counselor, and a doula. Although, she now hosts a podcast—so obviously she’s not entirely different from every other twentysomething.
Between the candor and wit that is laced with the valley girl inflection to having the biggest healing crystal at her front door that would put Spencer Pratt to shame, there are still gleams of Alexis circa 2010. After spending time with her on her podcast, Recovering from Reality, and interviewing her, I learned that Alexis hadn’t really changed in the sense that she’s an entirely new person, but rather, she seems like she is now her most authentic self. Alexis and her podcast, Recovering from Reality, endeavor to spark conversations about things that we don’t talk about enough, and to discuss these topics with compassion, open hearts, and without judgment. It’s not just Alexis that has so much to teach us from her experiences, it’s also about how we also have so much to teach each other. She and her husband also founded a treatment center, Alo House Recovery, to treat people with addiction. With that being said, I’m going to follow Alexis’ movement to enlighten and inspire others as we get to know the real Alexis Neiers.
On How ‘Pretty Wild’ Started
So Tess and I were working in the entertainment industry as models and music video girls and doing a bunch of indie films anh*t like that. We had this whole persona in L.A, and we made up the story that we were twins. We aren’t biological sisters. But, you know, she is a sister… we’ve grown up together and she lived with us on and off throughout my whole life. She’s a sister to me, I view her as blood. I love her to death. The whole story came about that we were twins because it was just more interesting. We basically built up this whole persona that people became really interested in. We were working on this movie, and one of the producers who was also acting in it, Dan, discovered us and asked us, ‘Do you want to do a sizzle reel for a reality show?’ And we were like, ‘Sure!’ We brought it to our mom, and she thought it was a great idea—so we did it.
Actually, having a reality show is a one in a million shot, and you’re not just going to get a reality show. It was a whole thing. We didn’t think it would go anywhere, but it actually ended up going really fast and it ended up in Chelsea Handler’s hands and E!. E! ended up in a bidding war for it back and forth.
We didn’t anticipate that the Bling Ring would be a storyline… The whole idea around the show was that my mom was homeschooling these girls who were trying to make it in the entertainment industry. I think just saw us as funny, and they build storylines around your life—hanging out with rockstars, doing crazy sh*t. I think they just found us entertaining.
On Whether It Was Scripted
It was definitely staged. The only thing that I would call somewhat scripted was when we were doing interviews. They would say things to us and we would repeat it back to them. Our dinner with Mickey Avalon was all set up, but we continued to party with him after that. Obviously, we knew who Mickey Avalon was before that. Ryan Cabrera was staged, and he was on whatever reality show you wanted him to be on. Tess ended up dating him after their staged interactions. Max was not staged. She was actually dating his friend Beau, and I was dating his friend Tyler, and Beau introduced her to Max. Javier was a door guy at a bar in Mexico. He definitely was not as rich . Honestly, I was so drunk that night that I don’t even recall , but all I knew was that I saw this hot guy, and set up our next date. And then the reason that I was crying was that I was having so much fun without all the L.A. drama, and I was f*cking pissed that Tess confirmed to TMZ that I was in Mexico when I wasn’t supposed to be in Mexico. That pissed me the f*ck off. It wasn’t like I was crying over Javier, I wasn’t in love with Javier. They flew him out to L.A. and set that whole thing up too. They told him about the Bling Ring , Paul Oakenfold was totally staged, and that really hurt. Not that anyone should have any sympathy for me back then other than the fact that I was a traumatized child, but the fact that the producers did that was so f*cking sh*tty and low—I mean, on my sister’s 16th birthday? Really? F*ck off. That was horrible. I haven’t actually seen every episode of Pretty Wild, I’ve seen several episodes. But, the cops knocking at the door, too—that wasn’t real. The house that we lived in, we didn’t really live there. There was lights everywhere—it was a staged house. It was a lot of embellishment.
On Her Attorney And Legal Drama
My attorney was not a very good attorney—I actually found out later that he had a lot of issues with substance abuse and stuff like that. He really dropped the ball in my case. Like, they fabricated a bunch of documents, and he somehow missed that… I don’t know what would’ve happened. And at the end of the day, jail was the best thing that could’ve happened to me and I don’t regret any of it. I don’t regret taking the plea deal, I don’t regret the way it played out. I feel horrendous for all of the victims. Not to say I was a Mother Theresa, because I definitely wasn’t. When I was in the throes of my drug addiction, I was panhandling, checking cars to find loose change, whatever I could do. I was not a good person. But I wasn’t some kind of Bling Ring mastermind that robbed Paris Hilton. That wasn’t me. I can’t take credit for that and I won’t. Now as a wife and a mother and an adult, I feel even worse . It’s sad, it’s a horrible situation.
On Nancy Jo Sales
The attorney picked Nancy Jo and she promised that she was going to write a fair and honest article, and that she wasn’t going to interview anyone else from the Bling Ring, she was only going to talk with me. She obviously lied. Not only that, but then—and this is what really pissed me off—later on, I really was wearing the little brown Bebe kitten heels and E! News did a whole thing about the shoes at court thing. She went on Twitter to defend herself and to publicly sh*t talk me when I was a year sober and trying to better my life. It was like, “Don’t you have anything better to do with your life?” …You see me, I’m a new mom or newly sober, I’m doing better with my life, and here you are, just continuing with this whole nonsense. She made fun of my tattoos on Twitter, and she said, “She’s so conceited, she would get a picture of herself on her arm.” I responded, “That’s not a picture of myself, that’s a picture I brought to that tattoo artist of my mom and we collaborated on an idea together.” She blocked me for my response.
Sidenote: why are you f*cking with someone who is newly sober and trying to make a better life for herself? Are you really that miserable? It was disgusting. She deleted all of what she said to me on Twitter, otherwise I would’ve screenshotted all of that. If someone happened to get screenshots, please pull it up! She blocks everyone who disagrees with her because she’s a coward, and it’s like, if that’s your position, own it!
me: nancy jo sales was very mean to teenage opiate addicts and masqueraded her cruelty as incisive reporting on entitled millennial girls
— ?????? ?????? (@333333333433333) March 18, 2019
On Her Role In The Bling Ring
My role was “the idiot girl who followed Nick.” It wasn’t a whole group thing, for me. I knew Nick, for like, four months, that’s it. We don’t keep in touch. I feel really bad for him. He seems to have a lot of continuous legal struggles, and that’s horrible. I was introduced to Nick and you know, we used drugs together and partied a lot.
I really wish I had a juicy story and that I was the mastermind behind the whole thing and blah, blah, blah. But really, we were out partying one night, and I was driven to a house in a blackout, and that’s really what I remember. And then I called the cops multiple times . I have phone records of it. It wasn’t brought to light because everybody loves a villain. There was never any video footage . There was four people who walked backwards into the area. That wasn’t me, but Nick said that was me. The members of the Bling Ring were very strategic, but got sloppy at the end and the cameras could see their faces. They just walked up to Audrina Patridge’s and Lindsay Lohan’s houses, and that’s when I started calling the police. I was like, “That’s their faces!” So I knew what happened those nights, but no I wasn’t there. Nick claimed I was, but there was no evidence.
On Why She Was Perceived As The Leader
I think it was because of the show. I feel like if they wrote about Nick Prugo, the kid from Calabasas who robbed all these celebrities, a one-and-done story. But the girl who had a reality show was way more interesting and way more exciting. So they wanted to make an example out of me.
On Not Returning To The Spotlight
I had a number of opportunities, but I realized the severity. If I f*cked up again, I was going to go to prison for six years. So when I got sober, I realized not only the severity of getting into trouble again—which I knew that I would if I went back into reality TV right away—was that I really wanted to help people. That’s why I’m doing this podcast now, and I knew that if I did this at two years sober, then no one would take me seriously. But I’m sitting here 8 years sober today—today is actually my 8 year anniversary of sobriety—so now I’m in a place where I can speak as an authority figure and I really want to start a movement that sobriety is f*cking awesome, and that it can change your world and you can have a big and beautiful and joyous life without the use of drugs and alcohol.
Now I feel like I’m moving to a place where it’s that time. There’s a double-edged sword to that, though, like I’m not as relevant now as I was back then. So I walked away from it all and got really quiet, and that’s when I did a lot of my growth work and trauma healing, which is so important. Now I have this voice and I’m ready, but I didn’t maintain all so, it’s freakin’ challenging. So now it feels like I’m starting over again, but I’m not given that fresh start. Every single article that mentions me, even the article about the Pretty Wild reunion coming out, always talks about the Bling Ring in the sense that I’m the leader or mastermind from it. I’ll never get that separation.
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On Why She Didn’t Get A Fresh Start
I think people idolize celebrities, and I wasn’t really a celebrity, or even a D-list celebrity. But they idolize the Paris Hilton’s and Louis C.K.’s as Gods, so they’ll bounce right back. The rest of the world doesn’t. Khloé Kardashian got a DUI and could’ve f*cking killed somebody, but you never hear about that anymore. Nobody talks about that anymore. Lindsay Lohan steals necklaces (Writer’s note: and $11,000 fur coat, amongst other crimes)—untouchable. She has her own reality show on MTV now and nobody cares.
On Why ‘Pretty Wild’ Is Still Popular
I don’t know. My husband will tell you that the Bling Ring remains so popular and so big because everybody thinks celebrities are untouchable, so it became a whole thing because the criminals got into the real-life houses of these people. I also think Pretty Wild at the time when reality TV was just on the rise.
my life would genuinely be 10x better if they made more than 1 season of Pretty Wild
— Charlotte D'Alessio (@char_dalessio) March 5, 2019
On What’s Next
So my goal with Recovering from Reality isn’t just to create a brand or podcast, but it is to create a community for people to share their life experiences and trauma and stories. It’s not just about sobriety, it’s about recovering from divorce, sexual abuse, trauma—recovery of any kind. Recovering from Reality is a place that’s inclusive and broad and allows people to be authentic and real. I call it “Reality” because reality back then for me was such a lie, and it’s like, I want to live the most authentic and genuine life that I can, now. And so I’m doing this podcast, and I’m writing a book, and I’m really hoping to become a voice for people that don’t have one. Addicts are all seen as the villains of society. 74,000 people a year are dying from addiction, it’s a public health crisis, and we need to do something about it.
I wish I got asked more about my sobriety. What the process was like and how I did it at such a young age (19). It is not an easy journey. Choosing to remove all comforts in your life to dive into the unknown and surrender in the hope of somehow gaining freedom from your past is a brutal journey. I’ve been beaten down in this process more times than I can count and somehow stayed sober through it all. I hope that by opening the dialogue around our society’s need to escape, will help other people to take a look at their relationship with things that may not be serving their highest good.
Besides the book and podcast, I like to remain open and fluid, so we’ll see what comes my way. I don’t know if I’m going to be the girl who has paparazzi waiting for her again. But I really enjoy my privacy and kids and living in suburbia.
Images: Nicole Nordstrom; char_dalessio, 333333333433333 / Twitter; itsalexishaines / Instagram (2)
When I was growing up, my parents were pretty laissez-faire about raising my sisters and me. They would just give me Ritalin, let me watch trashy reality television and South Park unsupervised, and pawned me off to a nanny. But to their credit, they were a little harsh because they wouldn’t let me watch Friends because they deemed it “inappropriate.” (BTW later in life I found out they wouldn’t let me watch it because it sucks.) Anyway, I’ll save my bitching about my mom and dad’s parenting skills for therapy and talk about all of my knowledge about the best of the worst trashy reality shows from our childhood that you totally forgot about. Let’s take a trip down memory lane, which is probably littered with Four Loko cans, G-strings from Kitson, and Ryan Cabrera’s used condoms.
Sunset Tan was the go-to tanning place for celebutantes like Kim Kardashian and Lindsay Lohan. The main star of the show was Jeff, who is so tan that you would think he has Rachel Dolezal syndrome. He takes himself awfully seriously for someone who spends his days managing a tanning salon, keeping Ed Hardy and Von Dutch in business, and being one of only seven people on the planet who is a die-hard fan of Hoobastank and Burn Notice. The other noteworthy characters on the show were obviously The Olly Girls. They’re literally just hot chicks named Molly and Holly whose sole purpose was being cute and charming to the customers to distract from the fact that they were incompetent. I can totally relate because that was literally my experience when I worked at
SoulOrg SoulCycle for three months. Maybe I’m biased because my mom has taken me to get fake tans since I was 13, but the highlight of this show is when this L.A. stage mom took her 8-year-old daughter to get a fake tan for her school pictures. The Sunset Tan employees suggested that the child get the same tan Lindsay Lohan always gets. I have no idea whatever happened to Jeff or the Olly girls, and TBH I don’t really care. I’m far more emotionally invested in finding out whatever happened to the little girl who got the Lindsay Lohan tan. My guess is she dropped out of Arizona State because her communications major was just too grueling, met two of her four husbands while being a bottle service chick at Encore Beach Club in Las Vegas, and now is the proud owner of a condo in Reno. At best, I’m sure she’s shilling ItWorks, and at worst, I bet she’s something an aspiring social media influencer.
Pretty Wild is perfect reality television. The premise of three sisters with a stage mom sounds exactly like Keeping Up With The Kardashians, but trust me, Pretty Wild is an entirely different breed. I mean, when Alexis Neiers was vying for a role in a Mickey Avalon music video, she advocated for herself by saying, “The line in the song says ‘sliding down from heaven on a stripper pole,’ and that’s totally me!” And that, in essence, is Alexis’ charm. The show is infamous because it was filmed when Alexis was under investigation for her involvement in The Bling Ring, but it’s even more infamous for the voicemail Alexis left for so-called “journalist” Nancy Jo Sales for completely misrepresenting her in an article for Vanity Fair. Alexis verbally incinerated her out in such a millennial, hyperbolic, and bitchy way that she would be a perfect fit at Betches. There were underrated moments that are also worth talking about, like that time Tess went on an awkward AF bowling date with Ryan Cabrera or when she ended up dating Max, who is a musician that invented a music genre that’s called—wait for it—electro indie pop. Also, let’s talk about the fact that when Alexis pleaded “no contest,” her response to going to jail was, “If Buddha can sit under a tree for 40 days, then I can survive jail.” I can’t believe Lauren Conrad, who has the charisma and cloying innocence of an American Girl doll, has built an empire and remains in the public eye while the girls from Pretty Wild have mostly faded into oblivion.
Sidenote: While these girls are fun to satirize, they actually went through some dark sh*t while filming the show and are now doing really well in life. Alexis Neiers came forward and said she and Tess were actually struggling with crippling drug addiction during the show. Alexis now is married to a man who runs a rehab center and has two kids. She recently had the charges against her expunged because she has done so much charity work for drug addicts. Tess is sober, engaged, and has a baby. She sells homemade honey because… well, I don’t know why. But it’s a better hobby than doing practice Playboy shoots with her mom. Gabby recently got married too. No word on whether or not the mom got help for her tic that always made her say “and so it is.”
‘Paris Hilton’s My New BFF’
Anyone who watched The American Meme knows that Paris considers anyone who comments “YAAAASSSS QUEEN” and “iconic!” to be a personal friend. With that being said, I don’t understand why a woman with such low standards for friendship would have a reality show where you had to compete to be her friend. Paris would come up with the most ridiculous reasons to kick the contestants to the curb. Denouncing some of the contestants because they were only on the show for fame? Sweetie, you invented the concept of being famous just for being famous. Criticizing a contestant for drinking and doing drugs? You got a DUI and got arrested for possession of cocaine. Throwing someone off because the guys from Three Six Mafia said she seemed fake? Maybe you shouldn’t take friendship advice from guys who consider Lil Jon and Juicy J to be part of their inner circle.
‘Rock of Love’
Rock of Love may be so trashy that it makes me want to bleach my brain with the same bleach these girls used for their hair, but it’s still an enjoyable level of trashy. The contestants were the crème de la crème of wet T-shirt contests and monster truck rallies. It’s awkward enough living in the same house as girls that are competing for the same man. However, it was probably even more awkward for these women to be in the same house together because I’m sure they’ve all slept with at least 5 of the same NASCAR drivers and lead singers of Van Halen cover bands before participating on Rock of Love. One of my favorite VH1 reality show moments of all time is when a contestant (who was nicknamed “Rodeo,” BTW) was telling Bret Michaels about how she got into a horrific accident and was told she would never walk again. It was a touching story because she ended up recovering and became a personal trainer after what she went through. Bret ended up totally killing the only moment of substance that has ever happened on a VH1 show by comparing this woman’s traumatic accident to the fact that he has diabetes. In case you’re wondering whatever happened to these women after the show, I know that one of the contestants played a hooker on It’s Always Sunny. At best, I’m sure the rest of the contestants are now ring girls at amateur boxing competitions. At worst, I’m sure they work the Wednesday afternoon shift at a strip club.
‘A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila’
You know it’s you’re in for a wild ride if the HBIC of the show’s safe word is “Keep going.” Tila Tequila was known for being the queen of MySpace back when that site was relevant. Nowadays, she’s been banned from Twitter because she’s completely batsh*t. So next time you feel bad about yourself when looking at a picture of Alexis Ren, bear in mind that much like every social media interface, Instagram will fade into oblivion in 10 years and Alexis will probably be a model who holds a suitcase on Deal Or No Deal. Anyway, A Shot at Love was groundbreaking because it was the first bisexual dating show. Of course, it still carried on certain reality show traditions, like having female contestants with intentionally misspelled names (special shout out to Krystal, Brandi, and Ashlii!), having the token virgin contestant (who, surprisingly enough, was a guy), and of course, the winner and the low-rent bachelorette broke up, like, two seconds after the cameras stopped rolling.
Ariana Grande is everything to me, but this MTV show was the origin of “thank u, next.” Next was totally Tinder if it were a reality show. Think about it. The contestant entered with some outrageous and salacious facts about themselves that may have embarrassed their mothers, and the object of the contestants’ affections just said “Next” if they weren’t about it. Based off the insane fun facts and lack of self-respect these contestants had, I’m guessing participating on Next was just preparation for when they inevitably ended up in a bang bus porn. They may have lost a sh*tty reality show, but at least they had a shot at winning an AVN award! Am I allowed to say that on this website? Because I just did.
‘8th and Ocean’
If I ever want to fall asleep, I can just binge watch 8th and Ocean. It’s probably a healthier option than Ambien, because last time I took that I ended up trying to give myself a Brazilian and feel asleep halfway through. But this show was as excruciating to watch as it was having to take off those waxing strips the morning after that were basically embedded in my skin. I mean, the storylines were as captivating as motel art or listening to elevator music. Look at some of these episode descriptions:
Okay, first off, karaoke is fun if you’re drunk, but when you’re sober it’s like a step above going to a paint your own pottery place. Also, going bible study is such a snoozefest and the only time shoving Jesus down a someone’s throat is entertaining to watch is if they’re on the receiving end of an intervention. While these plotlines are relatable, they’re BORING. However, when you’re that good-looking, you’re not obligated to be interesting. And while the show itself isn’t great, it’s totally worth writing about because the theme song “Beautiful Love” pierced every teenage girl’s soul. It was any teenybopper’s away message on AIM or yearbook quote at some point. With that being said, I think it’s fitting to end this trip down memory lane with this ballad.
Oh, and P.S.: Special shoutout to “HangryMartini” for telling to write this article in the comment section of my article about the annual Kardashian Khristmas party. I’ll be sure to thank you in my acceptance speech when I inevitably win a Pulitzer for my work.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy (3); theaftersvideos, Rowland Jones / Youtube; Wikipedia