In the spirit of transparency, I’ve talked a fair amount of trash about Tana Mongeau. When I reported on TanaCon (her alt-VidCon, which melted down in a manner that’s particularly delicious if you’re an internet writer who covers such disasters), I lambasted Mongeau after the event left hundreds of people sunburned, disappointed, and out some money. I questioned her and Jake Paul’s lightning-fast engagement. (That’s not the Paul brother who vlogged the dead body in Japan; it’s the other one.) Their Vegas “wedding” was, I wrote in July of this year, “peak wedding industrial complex.” The pair are top-tier YouTubers, after all; the whole relationship seemed engineered — quite brilliantly, to their credit — for mutual benefit. And as we learned in a lengthy, emotional video Mongeau released yesterday, it was. At least in part.
Mongeau’s whole shtick for years has been authenticity. (“Keeping it 100,” as she might put it.) But online, “authenticity” is just curation by another name; the so-called real self is still just a presentation created for good business. Which is why her most recent upload, titled “the truth about everything,” feels so alarming. In a 40-minute video filmed entirely from her bed, Mongeau goes deep on her relationship with Paul and the past year of her life. It sounds genuinely miserable: “I’m not having fun anymore.” She makes it clear that she has no interest in being pitied, but as we watch Mongeau talk, it’s hard not to feel, if not pity, some genuine concern. “Jake could fucking kill my whole family, I will always love him,” Mongeau says at one point. Even given Mongeau’s extremely poor relationship with her family, it’s an alarming thing to say and appear to really mean.
She also confirms that she and Paul are still together and that the feelings she had, and still has for him, are real. “I loved the time I spent with Jake so much and who I felt like he was making me,” Mongeau explains. “I loved who I was when I was with him so much that I kind of put on rose-colored glasses. I realized I would do anything to feel this feeling forever.” She compares dating Paul to “a drug.” She says their wedding was a turning point for her emotionally. Her star continued to rise, but it had an inverse effect on her well-being. “I think the second he said, ‘I do,’ to me, he was like, ‘Now what?’ I think he was also over it. I don’t blame him, but it left me clinging, trying to make this work,” Mongeau says.
The pair are in an open relationship. Mongeau says she thought this meant the two might occasionally sleep with other people but would eventually commit to monogamy. “I feel like an open relationship with Jake was him being able to have sex with a new bitch every night, which I am not blaming him,” she says. “I was the one green-lighting everything because I just wanted to make him happy.” In the past month, Paul has released a new song, “These Days,” about missing an ex, Alissa Violet. After they split, Violet had accused Paul of being emotionally abusive. He has also been photographed out and about with Erika Costell, another ex.
Mongeau skipped her and Paul’s honeymoon because her father had a stroke on the night of their wedding. (Her grandmother also died around the same time.) “This giant part of me wanted Jake so badly to stay and take care of me, and when he didn’t, I was so heartbroken but it’s, again, my fault,” Mongeau says. “After talking about it with him afterwards, Jake has said, verbatim, ‘When someone dies, I celebrate their life and I move on; that’s how I was raised.’ I wanted to fix this person who was so emotionally fucked-up, but when it came time for them to fix me, they couldn’t. That was my fault for falling for that.” The entire video is full of statements like these, in which Mongeau blames herself — the kinds of statements that if your best friend flopped on your couch and said them, you’d beg them to leave the guy’s ass, and you’d try to help in any way you could.
When it comes to creating content, Mongeau is a pro. She knows exactly what to say and do and how to frame those things in a video thumbnail for maximum attention. Like, say, uploading a dramatic tell-all video that includes the keywords the wedding, jake, alissa, erika, mtv, mental health, and drugs in the title. Or promising that this video is just the first in a series of truth-telling installments. But the moments when we watch Mongeau perform emotional yoga to twist herself into believing this entire scenario is her fault are what seem the most honest. The moments when she’s not gossiping or talking about anything terribly salacious but just talking through her pain. Of course, that could also all be part of the enterprise plan. We’ll have to wait and see.