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0. With Love From the Confession Booth

0. With Love From the Confession Booth

This is the introduction of “Scammer,” a serialized novel about ambition, fame, and influence in the age of the Internet.

Yes, I peed in a stranger’s teapot when I went back to San Francisco last May.

After being canceled so many times, my brain just kind of does this thing, like: No, Helena. Get the fuck out of there. These people don’t get to see your creamy core. So when that Twitter user first revealed my Airbnb reviews to the world, my walls instantly went up. But I’m not hiding this time. Staying soft in a world that calls for you to put your defenses up is hard. It is labor. It is warfare against the patriarchy, and the work I must do right now is admit that #teapotpissgate did in fact happen.

I was blackout drunk and staying in one of those old-timey Victorians where everything is dark and the hallway bathroom is indistinguishable from the linen closet. How was I supposed to know which door was the right one? I didn’t want to be rude and leave a smelly mess for the owner to clean up the next day, so I grabbed the nearest container and managed to keep everything contained.

I do feel bad that my host found the urine-filled teapot in the back of the kitchen sink after I checked out a week later. I intended to do the dishes before leaving, but then I got this great idea and my mind just ran off on its own. Debbie, shoot me a DM on Instagram and I will pay you back for the teapot right away. I’ll even throw in an extra $25 so that you can buy yourself a nice orchid plant. Then you can remove the review you left on my very public profile. Deal?

I’m learning to accept my imperfections, to be open about my mistakes and fuckups. A lot of leaders are scared to really show people what’s going on, but if you haven’t noticed, I do things a little differently around here. I’m ready to start writing honestly about my feelings again. This will start with coming clean about everything — where that Harvard plate went, what exactly happened between Nevaeh and me in Los Angeles, and the sequence of events that led me to pee in that teapot.

My name is Helena Holloway. You probably know me from the Internet. I want to flatter myself and claim that you know me for inventing long-form Instagram captions or for bringing NipNop Stories to the world, but it’s more likely that you know me as a scammer. A self-obsessed mess. A rock that never hits bottom. A train that will never stop wrecking.

If “scamming” means frequently making promises that you can’t keep, playing up your innocence to avoid getting called out, and ignoring the advice of people who try to tell you that you’re making the wrong decisions, then I am a scammer. I pretended to be one-half of a heterosexual power couple for clout, manipulated NipNop’s Discovery algorithm for my own personal gain, finessed my way into the Falcon Ibis Literary Agency, and wrote a bestselling book of lies about it all.

I, Helena Holloway, did not have anyone’s best interests, including my own, in mind. What can I say, except that I let my ambition cloud my judgment? That I was so desperate to be important — to be somebody — that I was willing to do anything?

I’m so sorry that I let my greed and desire to be heard get in the way of being a good person who keeps her word. I’m sorry for giving advice in And We Weren’t Like that didn’t even work for me. I admit that I couldn’t have cared less about the process back then. I only saw my audience as a monolith of idiotic eyeballs that I could rely on to fund my every whim. This is why I’m releasing this second book online, for you, completely for free. While the real damage has been done and trust can never truly be repaired, I hope that this will redeem me some in your eyes.

Scammer will contain the whole, unvarnished truth. I’m going to tell you everything — from how I became a co-founding member of the largest social media startup in the world to my misguided writing collaboration with Nevaeh to what happened during that first meeting in Wren Falcon’s office. I no longer have anything to hide. I want to bring to light every one of my mistakes so that some other aspiring founder won’t go down the same dark paths that I did. I hope that someday in creative writing workshops at Iowa, entrepreneurship classes at Stanford, or modern-lit seminars at Harvard, students will unpack these misadventures more thoroughly than I ever could.

After this goes live, I’m going to order some strawberry green tea from the boba place down the block, walk down to the marina to see the sunset, and effectively log off forever. I am done with the founder lifestyle. I am done with my “online brand.” In the six years that I’ve kept this all up, all I’ve done is stunt my own emotional growth and alienate myself from the ones I love.

My name is Helena Holloway, and I have nothing to hide. Here I am, in my full fucked-up glory, for all the world to see. I invite you to read me, see me, pick me apart.

After all, the antidote to shame is exposure.


Next chapter

Chapter 1: A Memoir Named Desire

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