Aug 6 • 10M

Chapter 5, Part 6: The Lauren Duca Incident

This is Chapter 5, Part 6 of SMIRK, a serialized memoir of my relationship with “Pharma Bro” Martin Shkreli.

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My experiences uncovering the story of, and falling in love with, Martin Shkreli.
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So it wasn’t my finest moment…but in the grand scheme of things, looking plainly at what happened, can you really say what I did was all that bad? I didn’t lob any insults. I didn’t violate any Twitter rules, or any professional social media policy that I’m aware of. I didn’t even say anything cruel or negative in the tweet.  

At worst, it was a hopelessly awkward attempt to initiate a dialogue with a much more well-known media person than myself about an ongoing public drama that she likely had no desire to discuss with me. But wasn’t Twitter meant for having provocative discussions? At least, that was my operating assumption.

A number of factors contributed to it ending up so weird: At the time tweets were limited to 140 characters, so I didn’t have much space to explain myself very well. Meanwhile, I also wanted to make sure I got her attention. Her social media following was exponentially larger than mine, and I figured the more likely outcome was that I would be ignored. 

If at all possible, I also wanted to keep it light and mildly funny. (Although that turned out to be a pretty bad tonal error.) I packaged my punchy message with a photo I knew would attract engagement: of me, holding the famous single-copy Wu-Tang Clan album, Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, the musical work Martin Shkreli had purchased for $2 million. 

The actual tweet appears to have been lost in the great dustbin of the internet, and that’s probably not a bad thing. But its contents were accurately reported in the Elle profile of my relationship with Martin which went hugely viral in December 2020. The tweet, posted in late July 2017, said: “I don't think [Martin Shkreli] would hurt a woman, even a journalist. Behold me and the #wutang album.” 

A photo of me holding the Wu-Tang album, which i posted on Twitter in 2017.
A photo of me holding the Wu-Tang album while at Martin Shkreli’s apartment, which i posted on Twitter in 2017.

And I tagged the writer Martin had been kicked off Twitter for harassing earlier that year: Lauren Duca. 

Lauren Duca was a liberal political writer for Teen Vogue whose star rose enormously following the election of former President Donald Trump —  especially after she authored a poignant column accusing him of “gaslighting America.” Her brand of loud feminism and acerbic attitude on social media, where she attacked targets regularly in the name of social justice causes, allowed her to build a base of tens of thousands of impassioned fans. 

In August 2016, she also showed up at an impromptu media gathering Martin had thrown together (as some sort of attempt at earnest conversation) at Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Kitchen in Times Square — a restaurant that also been sort of “canceled,” in effect, by a vividly scathing 2012 review in the New York Times. Rather than talk to Martin, however, Duca apparently simply showed up, took a photo of him and posted it on Twitter with a snide comment. 

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