Alexis Neiers' Road From the Bling Ring to AA
The former Hollywood burglar and reality TV star tells The Fix about the heroin addiction that led her to her bottom—and how she began a new life.
Between October 2008 and August 2009, a group of mostly Southern California teenagers—who eventually became known as the "Bling Ring"—burglarized the homes of numerous celebrities, including Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Orlando Bloom, and stole roughly $3 million in cash and merchandise. One of the seven members, Alexis Neiers, initially denied any wrongdoing—but later pled "no contest" to residential burglary and was sentenced to six months in jail (she only served 30 days).
She next became the subject of a reality TV show, Pretty Wild, along with her two fellow-socialite sisters. But after being arrested in December 2010, this time for possession of heroin, she was sentenced to inpatient rehab for a year. She's been sober ever since. Now married and a new mom to daughter Harper, Neiers had plenty to tell The Fix about how her addiction led to becoming involved with the Bling Ring, as well as the movie of the same name—directed by Sofia Coppola and featuring Emma Watson as Neiers—that hit theaters on June 21.
Your mom has said that you were upset about your portrayal and factual inaccuracies in The Bling Ring. What’s your take on the movie?
I actually haven’t seen it yet, so I don’t want to be that person who criticizes a movie without seeing it first. Having said that, from the looks of the trailer and a lot of the reviews I’ve read, the characters are supposedly quite one-dimensional. I’m obviously not a screenwriter and am not trying to tell Ms. Coppola how to do her thing, but I do know that character and story and theme is hard to get “right.” Maybe those aren’t important things for Sofia, who I know goes for more of a “feel.” All I know is that if they made a movie about her and the only thing that she does is ruin the Godfather franchise, she probably wouldn’t think that was fair and the audience would find it kind of boring. Where is the arc?
"Drugs were the only reason I personally had anything to do with [the Bling Ring]."
The problems with the facts are hard to talk about since I haven’t seen the movie and know that facts have to be overly simplified in order to fit into a film format, as opposed to a book. This truly is a case where truth is stranger than fiction. I’m looking forward to a more nuanced and accurate account of how the events unfolded, at least from the perspective of where I was involved in them. Instead, the movie was based on interviews with the detective who, as everyone now knows or will be finding out more about soon, lied about the facts of my involvement in the case. I gladly share my deepest and darkest secrets to the world in the hopes of helping others with my story. Why wouldn’t I admit to stealing to support my drug habit? But people will hear what they want, I guess. It fits with their version of reality.
When did your drug use start and when did it escalate into heroin use?
My first drugs were prescribed to me by a well-meaning doctor when I was in the fifth grade. Teachers were noticing that I was anxious and depressed and not mixing well with others. It was recommended to my mother that I see a doctor, who put me on anti-depressants, anti-anxiety pills, and ADHD medications. No one knew the root of my anxiety and depression and ADHD, which was the result of growing up in a fairly dysfunctional family. My parents were divorced, my father was an alcoholic, my mother slipped into a depression after her mother died, and I was sexually abused by a family member from a very young age. I’m happy to share openly about these things because, unfortunately, they are all very commonplace. For me, they were where my self-medication began in order to cope with the pain. Soon enough, I was smoking Oxys by age 16, smoking black tar [heroin] by age 17, and shooting it by 18.
I now understand the traumatic events of my past not as a way to blame my parents or feel sorry for myself, but to understand myself compassionately. I’ve been freed from the shame, anger, and fear that plagued me for years, so there is nothing I love more now than having opportunities to help other young people be freed from theirs.
Were you or the other Bling Ring members under the influence while these robberies took place or did addiction play a role in any way?
Drugs were the only reason I personally had anything to do with that whole thing. Tess [Taylor] had become good friends with Nick Prugo, and I knew that if I was going to get to keep hanging out with her, I’d better make friends with Nick. I was totally loaded with him one night in Hollywood and he told me that he had to go pick up some clothes for a photo shoot he was doing that week. The next thing I knew, we were parked up in the Hollywood Hills. I never stepped foot in that house.
It’s almost funny now that I’m pegged as being such a key player. The truth is that I was the one who called the police on multiple occasions to tell them what I witnessed. When the cops showed up at my house to search for stolen goods, I mistakenly thought they were there to take a statement from me. I told them everything.
I won’t speak for the others, but my addiction is the only reason I was ever involved with the so-called Bling Ring and I take full responsibility for that. I don’t blame anyone else or identify myself as a victim. Getting caught up in that craziness, going to jail, going to rehab for a year—this was the best thing that ever happened to me. It was truly divinely orchestrated.