On Sunday, Elle published a fascinating glimpse into the mind of a woman who detailed how she met and upended her life for former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli. And now, while serving out a seven-year prison sentence, Shkreli will no longer speak to her.
Christie Smythe, 38, first encountered Shkreli in early 2015, just months before the moniker "Pharma Bro" would become a part of the mainstream lexicon. At the time, Smythe was covering white-collar crime for Bloomberg and had initially reached out to Shkreli to comment on a story she was writing after having learned that he was under federal investigation for securities law violation.
Over the months and years that followed, the line between professional and political relationship increasingly became blurred—particularly as Smythe began following Shkreli for a book proposal she was drafting. At times, Smythe compared herself to a "political wife" as she was always by Shkreli's side during public events and speaking engagements.
"Maybe I was being charmed by a master manipulator," says at one point, a woman who was definitely being charmed by a master manipulator.
Though Smythe and Shkreli never became involved in a physical relationship before he was convicted of securities fraud charges in 2018, the conflict of interest forced Smythe to quit her job and, soon after, her four-year marriage fell apart. Eventually, during a prison visit, Smythe confessed her love to Shkreli and the two became involved as romantic partners. Or as much as they were able, across a federal correctional institution visiting room table, anyway.
Smythe says that the point of going public with her story was an attempt to humanize the man whom she loves. Shkreli, however, was not so much into the idea and has since evidently broken things off with her. In a narrative that was already gripping with jaw-dropping twists and turns, the author saved the following ultimate gut-punch for the end of the story.
"I tell Smythe I’ll need to ask Shkreli for comment. 'Maybe this will be a reason for him to reach out to me,' she says. Later, when I relay Shkreli’s statement—'Mr. Shkreli wishes Ms. Smythe the best of luck in her future endeavors'—to Smythe via video chat, she says, 'That’s sweet,' quietly, not convincingly."
Ouch! I mean, ouch. The story was a hell of a read even if Martin Shkreli wasn't one of the main characters. But setting fire to your entire life for someone who was at one point arguably the most hated man in America, and then getting spurned by him while he's in prison, in the middle of a pandemic? It's all just too much. She even froze her eggs for him!
As the story quickly went viral, "Martin Shkreli" began trending on Twitter for the first time in years, as people couldn't contain their fascination and queasiness.
Others dropped jokes and memes roasting the woman who had it all and lost it for Martin Shkreli.
The morning after her story published, Smythe took to Twitter to thank Elle for "letting [her] tell [her] crazy tale." "It takes bravery, too, to publish it," she wrote. "It still amazes me HOW HARD it is to get a story as messy and complicated as this to see the light of day. But it's out now. At least that's done."
But that ... also went over about as well as could be expected.
Hey, on the plus side, ladies, it sounds as if Martin Shkreli is back on the market, and he'll also be a free man sometime in 2023. He's already basically the most eligible bachelor in America!