Cat Marnell, photographed in April.
Photo: Mint & Serf at the Broadway Chapter/Courtesy of Cat Marnell
Talking to infamous editor Cat Marnell, known for ruthlessly honest, intelligent writing about beauty and, by proxy, her own drug addiction, is a surreal experience. She’s clever, candid, funny, and says that she’s on speed a few minutes into our conversation: “I’m always on drugs,” she repeats unapologetically. Marnell announced via “Page Six” last Thursday that she’s no longer working as the beauty editor at Jane Pratt’s website, xoJane.com. (Her explanation: “I couldn’t spend another summer meeting deadlines behind a computer at night when I could be on the rooftop of Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust with my friends.”) That same day, Pratt published a heartfelt post on her own website, titled “Cat’s Gone,” that lamented Marnell’s inability to get sober and do her job. “Though I would love for her to take care of that brilliant brain of hers, I’ve always had a Libertarian view of drugs and suicide, that people can do whatever they want with their own bodies,” Pratt wrote. XoJane.com’s publishers, Say Media, had sent Marnell to rehab in April.
Marnell insists that her departure was the combination of a pharmaceutical-related meltdown and that she was ready to leave anyway. Although she couldn’t give details on the record about her next projects, she’s already set up a new contributing role with another publication, and she’s got a book deal in the works. Of her sobriety, or persistent lack thereof: “I’m really, deeply unhappy all of the time, but I just work it,” she said. “I think what people really want to see right now is someone who’s being honest about being a complete mess.” She spoke to us on Friday morning from the roof of her apartment building in Alphabet City.
So you’re up on your rooftop? It’s a gorgeous day.
Yeah! Seriously, I am such a vampire, so this feels so nice. It just sucks you can’t use a computer up here. I’m always on a fucking deadline. Aaron Bondaroff asked me to write something, and I’m so nervous. And today is the deadline and I still haven’t done it.
You’re working on your own book now, right?
Yeah. It’s my memoir. Basically, I’ve always been a drug addict; my dad is a psychiatrist and put me on stimulants when I was 15. I went to boarding school, and my parents sent me off with all this Ritalin, and I’ve just been gobbling down pills ever since.
Where did you go to boarding school?
I went to Lawrence Academy, which is in Groton, Massachusetts, where the Sedgwick Pie is.* I wanted to go there because I was obsessed with Edie. When I had to go to rehab the first time, I went to Silver Hill because Edie went there, and Edie’s brother hung himself there. I’ve always gone to rehab for the wrong reasons. But you know what — people think I want to be Edie Sedgwick, but Edie was practically retarded. I’m not that person who just twirls around. I don’t even dance. I’m a book person, and a word person. If there’s any Warhol person I identify with, it’s Brigid Berlin. She was a speed freak and she’d just lay around in bed, like me. That’s all I do. That’s why I lost my job — well, quit my job. That’s what it was.
Yeah, can you tell me what happened?
I’ll tell you the exact story. People are very confused. Basically, the week that I stopped writing [the first week of June], I had a check-in HR meeting on Thursday. At first I was like, “Shit, am I getting fired?” But then it turned out it was just a routine thing that everyone had to do, because the HR person was in town. And everything was good. They were like, “We can see that you’re doing so well,” and I was in a great mood and everything. And then I just had some personal stuff go down.
How do you mean?
Well, I’m a pillhead, and I had some medication run out, and I couldn’t sleep. That was Thursday, and I’m supposed to write four times a week, and I’d already done that. Most of the time I couldn’t even make that, but I did then, so I didn’t go in on Friday. Then I used drugs heavily that weekend, which was my choice, whatever, I party. And I had forgotten my phone at the office by mistake, but I didn’t even care. And then the Internet got turned off in my apartment, and because I didn’t even have a phone I couldn’t turn the Internet on, and I had no way of getting ahold of anyone. And then I got sort of depressed, as pillheads are wont to do. And put up my blackout curtains and just went to bed for a week. I didn’t call them [my co-workers at xoJane.com], didn’t tweet, didn’t do anything. And this alarmed a lot of people. My older sister is a publicist — she lives in Gramercy, and she’s a year older than I am, and she finally came and knocked on my door. I was like, “Who the fuck is there?” Literally, all I did was watch TMZ Live on my computer because I love Harvey Levin and I would just let him lull me to sleep, because it was the only way I could sleep. I was out of sleeping pills and I was out of benzos, and I had lost my Adderall bottle. I was like, in zombie time.
You went dark.
All I was doing was like, taking baths. I was just like, domo arigato. That’s what happens when you go off all your medication, you’re fucked. You have to understand, I’ve been on a big cocktail of drugs since I was 15, and when those things ran out I couldn’t call my psychiatrist because I didn’t have my phone. And my body just couldn’t get up and go to the office and get the phone and face them, and be like, “Oh yeah, I haven’t done posts,” and have them angry at me, especially when I’d just met with HR. So, I was just like, fuck it. You know, fuck this life. I have that saying tacked up next to my bed. This was just my way of quitting basically. I knew I was going to get fired, and I was just ready. I’ve had so many offers, and I had a book agent already, which Jane knows about, which everyone knows about. I have publishing houses that have been working with me and wanting to meet me. I have all of these people wanting to do reality shows with me and meeting with me about that.
Would you want to do a reality show?
Everyone’s like, “We can make you into the next Rachel Zoe.” I’m like, “What exactly are you going to brand about me?” I always wanted to do a perfume called Angel Dust. But really, my interest is in art. All my friends are artists, and so if it was a platform that would elevate that, I would definitely do it. Like, if it was about doing really gonzo photo shoots. I have a big imagination, and I know it’s annoying of me to say this, but I do think I have some black magic, and some wickedness that’s just fun and entertaining. But yeah, I am sick, you know, so I have to be realistic. Maybe if there was something inspiring, I could get it together. I don’t plan to be like this all the time.
How do you mean?
Well, I want to make it clear that I’m not like, dying. All the commenters on the site are like, “Oh, when’s she going to hit rock bottom?” And I definitely cannot like, hold down a job, but I’m fine, you know?
Can you tell me more about your book?
I just turned down the first offer. I have not written my proposal yet, but I have an agent. My book is a memoir about all my pills, and doctor shopping. It’s about my days at Condé Nast, which I loved. I worshipped everyone I worked for, and I worked very hard. And it’s about being beauty editor, and about nightlife, and graffiti writers, and getting away with everything in my crazy life. I live in extremes and I believe in doing that, but you do pay a price.
Do you ever wish you didn’t live in extremes?
It’s hard. You definitely crash and burn as much as you fly. I don’t know, I’m sort of a show-off, which is annoying. You can’t do what I’m doing quietly, and I’m embarrassed about it sometimes.
Do you ever get tired of it and want to change?
I don’t want conventional things. Like, I’ve never had a boyfriend — well, I had one when I was 19, but that doesn’t really count. I do not have a relationship with my family at all, except for my sister. I don’t talk to my parents. I never go home for Christmas or Thanksgiving; I spent Christmas Eve with Jane and Courtney Love. I don’t eat or go to restaurants, and I don’t date. I don’t do normal stuff. I’m just a fucking freak show. I don’t even own a single plate; I don’t have traditional values. But I can have this life, which seems like such a dream and it is! I quit my job and now I’m on “Page Six” talking about Angel Dust and shooting stars, and now I have this book deal and the numbers that they’re giving me are just beyond. I can’t believe it, because I didn’t go to work for a year, and it must infuriate people, especially people that I work with. But I think what people really want to see right now is someone who’s being honest about being a complete mess. I’m really, deeply unhappy all of the time, but I just work it. But I’m also on speed all the time, like I’m on speed right now, so I never shut up. So like, people get to hear about it and I think they like that. It feels like a running narrative.
Do you ever feel like you’re being exploited?
No. Well, there was one time at xoJane when they wanted to photograph my apartment, and they were like, “The readers will love it.” And I was like, no. All I did at that time was have people over to do coke, and all these gross cokehead girls would steal anything with a Chanel logo on it and go through my makeup. It was like a flophouse. I didn’t have any furniture, because when I was on Adderall, I was like, “I want to live on a lily pad,” and I’d throw out all my furniture. And I had drug bags pasted on the walls because I collected dope bags, and I had the blackout curtains up. It was horrible. All drug addicts’ apartments look the same. And I was describing it one time, and Jane was like, “We have to shoot it.” And I was like, “No way!” But Jane kept insisting on it, and CC’ing me on e-mails about getting a photographer, and all this stuff. And I was like, “Yo, I don’t want to do this. I am not going to do this.” And they kept pressuring me. It was the one time Jane really ignored what I was saying, and I was finally like, “Fuck no!” But I love Jane, I love her as a person.
It seems like you parted on good terms.
I love Jane, but she’s like a sphinx. She’s Andy Warhol. She’s like a silver balloon. I love her, and as far as I know, she loves me, but she’s also probably a little scared of me, because everyone’s scared of me, since I’m a loose cannon. Like, really loose. But I don’t have anything bad to say about her.
Jane wrote yesterday that she felt conflicted about enabling your drug addiction by giving you a paycheck.
That is so stupid! Jane knows she wasn’t enabling me. I am a walking syringe. Whatever, I would have been doing drugs no matter what. I always do drugs. But I wrote great stuff for them! And also, my drugs cost no money, because they’re prescriptions. I don’t buy coke — I haven’t paid for a bump of coke my entire life. Are you joking? To think I would pay for coke in New York City. It’s offered to me. That’s how I live.
How do you have health insurance?
That’s my major concern as I approach my next chapter, because I fill so many prescriptions every month. Walgreens has a fabulous prescription drug saving program that I would recommend to any young addict. If you’re a Vyvanse fan, there’s a Vyvanse savings card that you can get from your psychiatrist. Vyvanse is really wonderful. Adderall makes you really jangly and crazy, and makes you write in all these weird rhymes; I fucking hate it. I don’t abuse Vyvanse, not that my psychiatrist would read The Cut. He did read the New York Magazine article and it fucked up my steeze for a while. He’s, like, 78 years old.
Are you still going to contribute to xoJane.com?
Yeah. I would love to do a few things. I started this thing called the Cat Marnell Beauty 100, and I would love to finish it. And I would do that for no money, I don’t give a fuck. I just want Jane in my life and I always will.
* This post has been corrected to clarify that Marnell attended Lawrence Academy in Groton, Massachusetts, but not St. Timothy’s.