The biggest social media romance of the year has taken a disturbing turn. Vine, the looping video app owned by Twitter, has spawned its own set of superstars. “Vine celebrities” are gaining millions of fans and plenty of opportunities to make money promoting brands in their six-second videos.
Two of the most well-known faces on Vine are tattooed, blue-eyed charmer Curtis Lepore (3.4 million followers) and beautiful, witty Jessi Smiles (2.7 million followers).
They became even more famous after they documented their own courtship on, of course, Vine. They met for the first time among a throng of excited fans, turning the start of their romance into another popular video.
It seemed like a picture-perfect (or should I say “Vine-perfect?”) 21st-century love story with a social media meet cute. And then the romance took a dark turn.
Lepore is on trial, accused of raping Smiles. Lepore was arrested last October on this rape charge and released on $100,000 bail. He plead “Not Guilty” at a hearing this week.
TMZ has the back story:
We're told Jessi flew to see Curtis in L.A. last August but things didn't go well and they broke up. Jessi stayed in L.A. and a few days later got a concussion while shooting a Vine video.
Sources close to Jessi tell TMZ ... Curtis then called her and offered to help her while she was recovering. The victim claims Curtis came over, Jessi fell asleep and that's when he allegedly raped her
The day after the incident, Jessi tweeted, "Be careful of who you trust. Always be cautious for your safety. Be strong and don't let your guard down..."
Lepore tweeted today asking fans to keep an open mind:
There are 2 sides to every story. When the time is right I'll have something to say. For now, don't rush to judge. pic.twitter.com/sGNzmyOBAA— Curtis Lepore (@curtisLepore) January 16, 2014
He also implied the rape accusation and subsequent publicity was a stunt:
Wow. TMZ? It all makes sense now. Let the second publicity stunt begin!— Curtis Lepore (@curtisLepore) January 16, 2014
Smiles hasn’t spoken directly about the situation, although fans are now reading into earlier tweets she sent around the time of the alleged incident. I reached out to Smiles and Lepore but haven’t heard back from either camp, but I will update the story if I get a response.
Lepore’s lawyer did issue a short statement to TMZ, saying, "Things are not always as they appear and there are two sides to every story."
Meanwhile, viners are weighing in:
CURTIS LEPORE GOT ARRESTED FOR RAPING JESSI SMILES VINE IS GETTING A LITTLE TOO INTENSE— mel (@tomlimpson) January 17, 2014
Hope the Curtis Lepore and Jessi Smiles trail is a publicity stunt, messed up— Bex White (@Bexisvexed) January 17, 2014
Oooh they saying Curtis Lepore raped Jessi Smiles....nah she just tryna get some attention.— Adrian (@6somewith5H) January 16, 2014
When one man does what Curtis Lepore did, it makes us all look bad. I support Jessi Smiles. https://t.co/csWIlBMUxi— IKtheTroll (@IKtheTroll) January 16, 2014
With just TMZ’s reports of court documents as evidence, it’s way too soon to judge if one party is a rapist and the other is a life ruiner. But this incident should serve as a reminder that even self-made reality stars can manipulate others and each other.