The date June 22, 2018, probably means nothing to you at this point. Maybe it was the date of your Pride weekend house party, or your first vacation day in Aruba. Maybe you sat on the couch and binge watched Season 2 of 13 Reasons Why, or maybe you refreshed your Twitter moments every hour to check for random new celeb beef. Maybe you remember that date a little differently, however, if you were one of 4,000-5,000 people who arrived at the Anaheim Marriott Suites in sunny California to check in for the ultimate rival to the VidCon monolith, TanaCon.
TanaCon was meant to be the convention of a lifetime for fans, young and old, of the controversial YouTube personality, Tana Mongeau. Enraged by the massive power held by VidCon over its roster of appearances from online creators and vloggers, Mongeau decided to begin the process of throwing her own extravaganza. After enlisting the help of 21-year-old Michael Weist, CEO of Good Times Entertainment and an extremely unlikely partner in such an ambitious venture, Mongeau was ready to throw everything she had towards making the event happen.
Needless to say, the event did not go as smoothly as Mongeau, Weist, or any number of creators in the attendee lineup, had hoped. Sunburns, demands of refunds, "over capacity" scares, and lack of staff and organization were just a handful of the plights that TanaCon faced on June 22, 2018. Shane Dawson delved deep into the controversy in a 2018 YouTube series, featuring claims from disappointed fans and both Mongeau and Weist's sides of the story.
We're not here to rehash what's already been talked about, though. It's been nearly a year since TanaCon, and we're ready to find out the truth. PAPER sat down with Tana Mongeau to talk all about the fateful convention. In the interview, Mongeau addresses the main pitfalls of the event, her shift in thinking that led her to become a Featured Creator at this year's VidCon, her ex Lil Xan and her reconciliation with Noah Cyrus, and so much more. Strap yourselves in, because here's, tap tap, the motherfuckin', tap tap, tea.
It's been a year since TanaCon. Are you thinking about it or perceiving it in your head any different than you did in the moment?
Yeah, definitely. I think in the moment I was so excited for it to be a real possibility and I definitely was harboring a lot of really negative emotions towards VidCon, just thinking in a really unhealthy way. And I think it wasn't until I stepped out of it and left Anaheim, really spent months looking at the whole situation as a whole and everything, that I really looked at it for what it was. It was like, "Wow, this was a giant mistake with so many of the wrong intentions," and all kinds of stuff. I definitely perceive it polar opposite now than I did in the moment of TanaCon.
That's so interesting because the comments I see range from, "How could she have known," to total vilification, but I think as a whole it's such a complex process that I think taking a step back —
Definitely, and trying to explain it to anyone is always really hard, because it isn't like a cut and dry, "I threw a bad convention," sentence. There were so many emotions, so many people involved, so many intentions, and so many things that it really is like a big thing to unfold and I think that's why it took me like a year to unfold it all and pick it apart.
In the literal wake of it, days following, Shane Dawson filmed his series on you and you had to open up in those very immediate days following. What was that like? Did you have any reaction watching it?
Absolutely. I was so angry after TanaCon. My first initial reaction was lots of anger towards Michael Weist, lots of anger towards myself. Obviously the biggest heartbreak I'll probably feel in my entire life. The second that I got back from TanaCon I went straight to my best friend's house and Shane literally drove there. It wasn't even like days in between, that was literally my initial, initial reaction.
I get that, and even then that's open wound status. You're getting the full picture. Having had a year to reflect, what would you say was the main pitfall, if you could point to an ideology or some kind of structure that kind of made everything crumble?
Yeah, I feel like it's a mixture of two things really. And don't get me wrong before I say this, I will always take full blame, I never want to push that off onto anyone else. I think it was a mixture of anger and spite towards VidCon, pain and wanting to, you know what I mean?
Yeah, you wanted to one-up them.
To receive the recognition that I felt like VidCon should've given me and so many other creators. I was so heartbroken and angry and whatever, and trusting someone that everyone was telling me not to. I've always been really bad about that in life. I feel like when everyone tells me not to trust someone, I always want to give them the benefit of the doubt and believe what that person is telling me and wait until they've wronged me because I would hate if everyone told people not to like me. I would want people to give me a chance for who I am, and that's how it was with Michael Weist. I remember days, or weeks, before TanaCon, James Charles really sitting me down and being like, "What the fuck are you doing trusting Michael Weist?" At that time I was spending everyday with Michael, and Michael was pouring his heart out to me about how misunderstood he was, how his intentions were amazing, how smart and business-minded he was, wining and dining me, you know what I mean?
I wanted to believe that he was a good guy and I was really, really fucking stupid for trusting him and that was a big pitfall as well.
Have you been in contact with him at all since we last heard?
Um, no. He tried to start random drama with me over random stuff on Twitter and Instagram comments that had nothing to with it. Then he made that weird YouTube video documentary thing, which was just him secretly filming me for like an hour straight and it was really weird. That was a weird time, but I've done everything I can to fully remove myself from him or anyone associated with him because I think that was a really dark time. Even as wrong as I was, that doesn't make him a good person. In order to grow from that I really had to erase his existence from my life.
In that erasing, did your network of friends change in terms of people who connected with you? Or would you say pretty much everyone, once they got the full story, came back and were behind you 100%?
I think it's very interesting, in any scandal or any time of bad things, to see people who claimed a week prior to be your ride or die now exposing your deepest darkest secrets for YouTube because it's easy to bandwagon hate you. Those kinds of things are very interesting to me, but I don't think my circle of friends changed drastically. It was more that I kind of realized the importance of keeping a small circle and trusting a very small amount of people. TanaCon was also a very big life lesson for me internally on trusting people around you. So, if anything it made me closer to my best friends because I knew I could trust them. To Jordan, to Ashley and Imari, you know, the people around me, Bella. All that kind of stuff.
You have to have a core crew.
Versus a bunch of "yes men" around you telling you everything is fucking great. Exactly, exactly.
That's how situations get so messed up to the point where you can't even point to a certain pitfall at a certain point.
Exactly, agree 100%.
Moving away from that, you didn't shy away from YouTube really, which is something that I think a lot of other people have even said like, "Oh my god, I wouldn't know how to go on. I would be afraid to post again." You kept posting and I think that was a really important step.
I think it was important to keep posting and keep people updated, because a year later fans are engaged and people are excited to see you at VidCon. Was it hard to do those videos right away again?
What's funny is that I'm very obsessed with YouTube and I have been my whole life. After TanaCon, I took a month and a half break from YouTube, which to me felt like an eternity. I'm serious, it sounds crazy now to think about it 'cause now if that happened I would take a longer break, but at the time I was so in love with it. YouTube has always been like my therapy too. That's the only place I even know to go in a dark time, like even taking that month and a half off was so hard for me and then finally coming back it was like, I don't even know. That's the longest break I've ever taken from YouTube, so it was very crazy for me to even do that, you know? I also think that my fans are the one thing that keeps me going. It was literally the advice of so many of my fans in all my comments and my emails, too, that helped me during that time. There was so much valuable advice from the people that watched me, that do know me because they've been watching me for the past three years. So in moments like that I feel like the fans are what keep me going.
It's a three-years-built network over the internet, but it's a network nonetheless.
And they're like my best friends, you know? If they see me switch up in any way emotionally or as a person, or whatever, they're going to be the first to be like, "What the fuck are you doing Tana?," and I take that stuff very seriously. If all the people that love you and are supporting you are like, "What the fuck did you just do?," you know, you take that.
No, I totally get it. I think it's telling, though, that you listen. I know a lot of people and a lot of creators that don't listen. It doesn't have to be a naming game, but we do. I do know a lot of creators that don't really listen, but I think when you're so plugged in, like you are, it's almost necessary to listen.
Absolutely. I think at the end of the day, they make me who I am. I couldn't do anything, literally anything, if it wasn't for the people viewing my videos, watching them for me, loving me. At times when I fuck up, I turn my head and all of a sudden I'm not listening to them, that would be so inauthentic and fucked up. My fans, they give me everything.
What is it about a platform like YouTube that does that for you, versus Instagram? I mean, I'm constantly watching YouTube videos, but I don't really scroll through Instagram as much. Is there a difference for you?
I just think YouTube creates a connection unlike any other platform. Maybe live-streaming is a debatable argument, but I think other than that... When you're watching your favorite YouTuber, you're watching them in their beds at night, you're watching them when they're happy, when they're sad, when they're learning. I know little things about Jenna Marbles that I should not know, you know what I mean? The way that YouTubers connect, taking out the middleman, it's the most personal thing ever. Especially with someone like me, if I'm sad about something I'm literally going to sit down and talk about it on camera, and to me that's my therapy. I was saying this the other day in an interview, for me, I'm at this place right now where any pain or anything I go through to me is worth it, in a way, because at least the young people watching me can learn through the things that I go through.
They get a good idea of it.
If I can help one 14-year-old girl or boy who's going through something, it makes the pain that I go through worth it. I don't know, I think that's what makes YouTube different, it's very connected, it's very raw.
Do you get a thrill out of it? Some of us sat around and watched your Lil Xan video and absolutely had the time of our lives.
Okay, wow, thank you.
The story was crazy. People you don't even know are connecting in those ways to your stories.
I think it's fucking crazy.
Do you get a thrill out of that, though? A lot of the stories are painful, but some of them are even fun to tell. It's kind of how stand-up comedy is for some people.
Yeah, I've always loved telling stories. I've always loved writing, I've always loved listening to people's stories, so to be able to blow up on YouTube for storytime is something I'm still so grateful for because that's always something I've wanted to be able to do on YouTube: to be able to tell my fucking story because I have a crazy life and I attract the craziest, craziest shit. I don't know if it's necessarily like a thrill or a high, it's more so that the shitty shit, for lack of a better word, that I've gone through that someone else can resonate with. I sat down ready to tell that Xan story because it was just funny, you know? Like, what did I think was going to happen dating a SoundCloud rapper? But, to see so many young girls kind of resonate with a story like that or to stop them from dating a shitty asshole or whatever, I think that's where the thrill comes from for me. I always say, if people watching can learn from my mistakes, then that's such a cool added bonus.
I even saw Noah Cyrus tweeted you. You resolved the Noah thing.
And I never thought that Noah and I would be cool. I'm obsessed with Miley Cyrus, I idolize her, I would literally let her hit me with a semi-truck.
Oh my god, do you like "Cattitude?" That's my song right now off the new EP.
Yeah, shit rocks right? But I'm such a soft ass bitch, I like "Unholy" and the most soft ass shit. Whenever Miley would interact with anything, I'd always be like, "That's so dope, but her little sister hates me and that crushes me inside." So to be able to resolve that with Noah, and to talk to her on the phone, to be able to sit there and talk about all the similarities in both of our relationships with a really shitty guy, was cool. I always am about girls coming together, you know? Even in my past relationship that my boyfriend, he just cheated on me, I literally have followed and become really good friends with some of the girls that he cheated on me with.
Now that's empowerment, that is empowerment.
He was telling them another story, they didn't know. I'd much rather girls come together and say, "Fuck that asshole," than girls hating other girls. I don't know, I'm just really about that stuff. For Noah to see that and laugh at the story, resonate with that, was really sick to me. Shout out to Noah, she's great.
That's amazing. I also wanted to talk a little bit about your music. You obviously love doing YouTube, what was the motivation behind starting music?
It's so interesting — the growth and evolving of my music career — because my first song was "Hefner," and I actually had beef with Blackbear at the time. He really didn't like me and was really just like shading me on social media every chance he could get for dating Bella because I guess he was dating her before me. I don't even know, he tweeted some article really shading me and it sparked the idea to write a song lyric, "Got my name all in your mouth/ Yeah, your tweet just gave me clout." So that was true, you know? You're talking about you hate me or whatever, but all you're doing is like adding to my clout. We ended up just writing this elevated diss track, me and a producer friend of mine, and it ended up being called "Hefner," and we ended up making this music video. I thought it would be something funny that kind of came and went, the same way that the "Roast Yourself Challenge" did or something. That was when diss tracks were a lot more popular. It ended up becoming, I think, the most viewed video on my channel. I didn't ever think I'd be able to get 10 million Spotify streams on something.
I was like, "Wow," and that was kind of the moment. So I kind of rode that wave for a second, then I woke up one day and was like, "Wow, if people are going to stream music no matter what, why wouldn't I try to make something with a message, make something that young people can resonate with, take pain and shitty things I've been through and write about them? Try to make art, at least?" The thing that I'm the most obsessed with, and always will be, is writing. I love writing, whenever something bad happens or anything, you know, my therapy is either making a YouTube video or writing. To kind of be able to turn that into music and have fun doing it, make something that other people can resonate with, was a really cool thing to me. So now, I'm kind of at this place where I think, "Okay if we're gonna be putting out stuff that people are going to listen to, let's try to make it cool, let's try to make it have a message." If I'm gonna tour for this music, yeah I can go rap "Hefner" live, or I can try to connect with an audience of people.
I don't know that's where I'm at basically right now.
That's awesome. Are you working towards an album or something, or are you just kind of creating for right now?
Everything is really, really under wraps and kind of top secret for right now.
We are creating so much stuff, but I'm definitely working towards lots more music and ideally want to release a lot more music before this year is over. Some crazy songs about some crazy stuff that I've been through, so I'm excited.
Okay, I'm excited now, I'm getting my workout playlist ready.
You are so nice. I'm like, "Go listen to Halsey or something."
We show her love too!
She fucking rocks.
Love all around. I also wanted to ask about VidCon, you're going this year as a Featured Creator. Your attitude going in is obviously different than last years...
Yeah, literally polar. What excites you about finally getting to do this, and do it as a Featured Creator?
To be honest with you, the thing that excites me most is getting to meet my fans at a place that I've wanted to meet them since I was probably, or a place I wanted to go to, since I was probably eleven years old, in a safe and comfortable environment. I literally, just the other day, was brought to tears because I'm going to get to go into VidCon and have a meet and greet with a line and security instead of some crazy mob at a place that I'm allowed at, but not allowed at. I get to do what I've dreamt of for so long.
Yeah, it's gonna be great. VidCon is so well put together, it's gonna be a great way to resolve this TanaCon thing a year later. I'm sure you'll be vlogging, I'm sure you will be posting up something for that.
Yes, "My Crazy VidCon Weekend."
I'm going to document the whole experience because it really is something I never thought I would be doing a year after TanaCon.
Of course, how could you? In the moment it probably felt like your world was ending, and then here we are, everything's pretty much resolved.
I mean, yeah. I think I'll always kind of carry the pain and the weight, to an extent, of TanaCon, just because letting down the people that I love more than anything is always painful to me, but being able to close the chapter on a lot of other things and move on is amazing.
Photo courtesy of Hunter Moreno