Until now, I had no idea Olivia Palermo's career began with an email scandal.

Olivia Palermo’s style guide is like my creative crack.

The flair she has with clothes is effortless and she exudes the kind of uncomplicated style you’d assume comes part and parcel with a personalty to match. Uncomplicated and cool.

Except the rise of Olivia Palermo, US socialite, style queen and former reality star of The City wasn’t as effortless as one might expect.

Instead, as I stumbled across a piece on Spring St about New York’s Socialite Society, I realised Palermo’s rise to prominence was plagued by controversy, lawsuits, accusations of being a social climber and total New York humiliation.

In 2007, well before reality TV days and Instagram fame, Olivia Palermo was the daughter of a real estate developer and at the centre of an Upper East Side social scene fraught with a sensational charity ball circuit.

For Gossip Girl fans playing along at home, Palermo today gives off the ultimate Blair Waldorf aura – one brimming with money, sass and style. In reality, Palermo’s younger years were defined far more by a Jenny Humphrey-like existence, old enough to be close to the socialites but too young to be accepted.

So, as she steadied herself to make waves with the socialites in 2007, a website called Socialite Rank — which did exactly as its name suggests  — published a letter purported to be written by Palermo. The letter was sent to five of New York’s most untouchable socialites.

“Dear Ladies,” the letter began. “I know some of you maybe a bit surprised to receive an email from me, but I have been meaning to clear the air for quite some time and I ask that you bear with me, and do me the favour for reading this email.

“It took me a lot of courage to write this. I know I have gotten off on the wrong foot with many of you and there may even be some of you that do not like me,” she wrote, going on to ask for the opportunity to be part of their clique.

Olivia Palermo and Whitney Port starring on The City.

"I can also be a great friend. I am trust-worthy, responsible and discreet. I like to laugh a lot but I am also a great shoulder to cry on. I can hang uptown and downtown with the best of them.

"You all are a group of amazing, intelligent, beautiful, talented, well-rounded, kind and generous women and I would be honoured to have the opportunity to start fresh with you all and hopefully one day, call you my friends."


The letter did two things: it shot Palermo in the foot and shot her to fame. Instantaneously the Upper East Side elite turned their backs on her, shunning her cheek and shaking their heads at her desperation. And if it sounds like the works of a Gossip Girl novel, that's because it might be. Socialite Rank was like a real life Gossip Girl, spreading secrets, innuendo and gossip. There's rumour her story inspired parts of the books.

So did she actually write that letter?

Palermo instantly denied writing it, saying she did not own the Yahoo account the letter was sent from and claimed her identity was being stolen. She threatened lawsuits and spoke of hiring a lawyer.

Despite eye-rolls and disbelief, quietly, that's exactly what Palermo's dad did, hiring one of the nation’s premier litigation firms.

A post shared by Olivia Palermo (@oliviapalermo) on

Just a month after the letter was published, Socialite Rank closed it's doors and ran its final post.

So was it because of the lawsuit, or rather, the threat of one? It's hard to say.

Socialite Rank denied it fell victim to the clutches of the Palermo family and closed because of lawsuit or threats, saying they had only ever intended to publish for a year.

And although the letter scandal made waves through the social scenes of New York and had short-term implications for Palermo's social status and reputation, money, it seems, is power.

It's rumoured Palermo's dad went on to hire a great PR team to settle the scandal, and within a year the Olivia Palermo name was a brand. Her face was also all over international TV screen as she was starred as Whitney Port's best friend in The City. All was good in Palermo's world, and the money and fame followed quickly.

The rest, as they say, was history.

Tags: celebrity , entertainment , pop-culture
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