Author Nancy Jo Sales Reveals the Story Behind the 'The Bling Ring' (Plus a Giveaway)
StyleList: You published this article in Vanity Fair in 2009. Did you expect the story to garner so much attention?
Nancy Jo Sales: I didn't expect anything. I was just really fighting to get the story, and there was competition from almost every news outlet you can think of. I was just really excited to get access to the kids and the lawyers, and to get access to the courtrooms. If you look at the issue (of Vanity Fair) that it came out in, it was not the lead feature. Sofia Coppola, Emma Watson? I could never have imagined.
SL: What do you think makes this story so compelling?
NJS: Well, it's this potent pop culture cocktail. You have "hot" girls, teenagers committing crimes, (and) you have some of the biggest celebrity names of that time. I think the fact that they (the teenagers) were from this affluent community in the Valley also made people interested. You have the luxury brand element of it - the Chanel, the Hermes, the Louis Vuitton. In (writing) the book and the article, I found myself wanting to list all of these things. These names have become so iconic, and they mean something beyond (just a) specific purse - it's this image of luxury that people, for better or worse, aspire to and glamorize. The kids in the burglary ring certainly did, and that was really what motivated them.
SL: Nick Prugo (a member of the Bling Ring) has been quoted saying that he and his friends just wanted to be a part of "the lifestyle." What did he mean by this?
NJS: (He meant) the lifestyle as seen on TV shows that these kids grew up on like Entourage, Gossip Girl, and Sex and the City. One thing that's sort of been left out of the discussion so far, (is) when the kids are talking about "the lifestyle", they're also talking about nightlife. For the kids, appearing in nightlife became very important. When they went on these so called "shopping trips" to celebrities' houses, part of what they were doing was to find clothes they could wear out at night. To them, getting access to certain nightclubs where celebrities went and having this nightclub experience - in the book I called it a "copy of a copy of a copy." It's like something that goes back to these late '90s hip-hop videos, where you're popping Cristal, and you're in the club, and there's celebrities, and everybody looks fine.
They wanted this particular lifestyle - not just living in a mansion and having Louis Vuitton luggage, but the kind of lifestyle they thought of as the "Young Hollywood" lifestyle.
You pull up to a club in your fancy car, and you're whisked inside because you're on the list. I think they wanted to live like celebrities, and appear in nightclubs with celebrities in celebrities' clothes - in like, their actual clothing.
SL: Why do you think the Bling Ring had to steal directly from the celebrities who owned these items of clothes they wanted to own?
NJS: The logistical answer is that it's a lot easier to steal from someone's house than it is from a store. It started off kind of haphazard but it became a very organized, methodical, criminal organization. They were pinpointing where they (the celebrities) were, on Facebook, Twitter, TMZ, and Google Earth, and they go inside (the homes), and the celebrities are young people - just like the burglars. They live in these big houses in affluent communities, they have lots of windows and doors, and if they're going out to the club at night they might not really think to turn on the alarm. Lindsay Lohan, age 25 when this happened - the main thing in her mind when she goes out isn't locking up.
So, that's one reason - that it's a lot easier to steal from Paris Hilton, who has a key under the mat, than it is from a store on Rodeo Drive.
The other (reason) is there was an increased value to the things because the celebrities had worn them and owned them. The biggest auction that Christie's (Auction House) ever had was for Elizabeth Taylor's jewelry. Her jewelry was worth twice as much as the Duchess of Windsor's. It's not necessarily that these diamonds were more valuable - it's because they were on Elizabeth Taylor's neck at one point. The lawyers (involved in the case) said that they (the Bling Ring) didn't want a Marc Jacobs bag. They wanted Lindsay Lohan's Marc Jacobs bag. That made it cooler for them. And then, they couldn't resist bragging to their friends, and that's how they got caught.
SL: The Bling Ring is in theaters on June 14th. Are you happy with the way the movie reflected your book and article?
NJS: I love it! I think it's so brilliant. She's (Coppola) an important filmmaker. I'm absolutely honored and thrilled that she made this movie. I think what struck me so much is the way that she conveys all these things that we talk about - materialism, conspicuous consumption, celebrity obsession, social media obsession, how the world is changing, being famous for being famous, reality television - she conveys all these things in powerful images that are so striking. I think the film is about really heavy stuff. The fact that it's centered on this story about fame and trivial things doesn't make it trivial or lightweight.
Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring hits theaters June 14th, but you can get the story behind the film by reading The Bling Ring: How a Gang of Fame-Obsessed Teenagers Ripped Off Hollywood and Shocked the World, by getting a copy here. Better yet, StyleList is giving away copies of the book by Nancy Jo Sales to five lucky readers. Enter to win here!