The Adderall tasted sweeter than a macaroon from Laduree, the famed Parisian tea room, and for Cat Marnell it was ‘holier than taking Communion’.
She could feel her heart beating harder and thought to herself: ‘Ahhhhh. Now that’s what a relapse was supposed to feel like’.
Aged just 26, Cat Marnell was living her dream life in her dream job as the beauty editor for Conde Nast’s Lucky, once one of the hottest fashion and lifestyle magazines for young women.
In her new memoir: How to Murder Your Life, to be published January 31, the woman once considered the enfant terrible of New York tells how she partied with celebrities and traveled to Europe on glamorous fashion trips – and descended into a hell of addictions and eating disorders.
In her new memoir: How to Murder Your Life , Cat Parnell, the woman once considered the enfant terrible of New York, tells how she partied with celebrities and traveled to Europe on glamorous fashion trips – under the influence of a cocktail of drugs
This picture, she explains, is after she lost her mind in the ‘rat apartment’ in 2007, and started smearing beauty products all over her face
No veggies, just pills in her refrigerator crisper. Cat would stumble into editorial meetings in a Tuleh blazer and designer heels – with injection marks in her arms and neck
Cat captioned this photo of cocaine packets ’50 shades of yay’
But her personal life was off the rails and she would stay up for a week in her grubby East Village apartment doing cocaine, heroin and a cocktail of prescription drugs.
At 5ft 4in tall and weighing 97lbs, she suffered from severe bulimia and was in abusive relationships with men who stole from her and spat in her face.
For years Marnell somehow held it together and stumbled into editorial meetings in a Tuleh blazer and designer heels – with injection marks in her arms and neck.
Marnell’s brutally honest accounts of her life earned her legions of fans and turned her into a media darling with profiles in the New York Times and The Guardian newspapers.
When she lost her job at Lucky, she got a job blogging for lifestyle website xoJane then became a correspondent for Vice before that fell apart too.
Now 34 and scared (almost) straight, Marnell has written her unflinching account of her downward spiral.
Marnell was born into privilege and grew up in a wealthy family in Bethesda, Maryland. Her mother was a therapist and her father a psychiatrist. She had a fraught relationship with both.
Marnell has called her mother a ‘vacant lot with a Cartier watch’ and in the book describes her father as ‘ultraconservative’ with whom she had frequent and physical fights.
At 15 Marnell she was diagnosed with ADHD and given Ritalin to help with her studying.
She later switched to Adderall, which became the drug she would remain addicted to until this day.
Her father provided many of her prescriptions, unaware she was an addict.
Cat, pictured in blue, describes her downward spiral in new book How to Murder Your Life
Emily McCombs, anager editor editor, Jane Pratt, center, creator, and Cat Marnell, beauty and health editor of Sassy and Jane magazines
Marnell in the messy room she describes as her friend’s drug den. Her psychiatrist father provided many of her prescriptions, unaware she was an addict
Marnell attended the $52,000 a year Lawrence Academy boarding school near Boston where lost her virginity at the age of 15 in a hotel room toilet to a man she calls ‘Varsity’.
Marnell describes it in frank detail: ‘Varsity was standing there smiling – waiting for me.
‘He sort of gently pushed me back inside (the toilet). I went in and out of consciousness as I had sex for the first time – on a bath mat!
‘And it wasn’t rape or anything. I mean, I’m still going in and out of consciousness during sex today! Eighteen years later. I always take my sleeping pills too early’.
In her senior year, at the age of 17 Marnell became pregnant by her boyfriend who would later ditch her for her close friend. She had an abortion.
After getting kicked out of Lawrence Academy for drug use she lost her place at Bard College, so Marnell moved to New York to pursue her dream of becoming a beauty editor, something she had longed for since she was a girl.
She was 18, living in Manhattan and extremely lonely. That year she became a bulimic.
She also started going to clubs where she finally felt she belonged and became a regular at A-list hangouts like Pangea, where P Diddy used to party.
With her new crowd of friends, Marnell’s drug use spiraled out of control.
She spent four days on a cocaine binge inside the apartment of a Calvin Klein model whose face was on giant billboards throughout Manhattan.
The model was so addicted he did cocaine in the shower, Marnell writes.
Each night they would lie in each other’s arms as the model told her how the male models used to give each other oral sex while on photo shoots.
She describes their affair as ‘really dreamy.’
Marnell’s first job in fashion was working in the beauty closet at Vanity Fair, followed by Nylon magazine where she was an intern.
None of the jobs were paid and Marnell appears to have relied on handouts from her parents to get by.
Whenever Marnell needed more prescription drugs she would go ‘doctor shopping,’ trying out all the new psychiatrists in her neighborhood as if they were new clothes shops.
She writes: ‘The more amphetamine I took, the more fun being by myself was, actually. Speed was like magic! Lonely magic’.
While attending acting school in Manhattan she became an intern at Teen Vogue followed by Glamour magazines.
Cat at the Jane Hotel with Instagram celebrity The Fat Jewish – in 2012, duringa period of dramatic weight loss due to drugs that led to her exitfrom XoJane
Cat in a blue wig with photographer PJ Monte and designer Sean Kinney atArt Basel Miami
Cat Marnell and ex boyfriend, rapper Riff Raff
Cat is loved up at the Hudson Hotel with ex-fiancee Alex Wilmot. She was 19
Partying in pink at at nightclub Suede in 2003 with Robert Iler (left of Cat in photo) who played AJ Soprano on the iconic TV show Sopranos
Marnell writes that her ‘addiction was progressing, as addictions do’ and that she had an ‘amphetamine work ethic’.
Her bulimia was worse too and she would draw the curtains in her Upper East Side apartment and throw up the junk food she had bought at four different stores so nobody would know that she had a problem.
Finally she got her big break at Lucky magazine where she became a beauty assistant to the beauty director, Jean Godfrey-June.
In additional to keeping Godfrey-June’s desk perfect at all times, Marnell had to attend B-list celebrity parties and sample endless free beauty supplies.
She was one step away from her dream of being a beauty editor, but her life was unraveling.
Wracked by self-hatred and loneliness she dreaded leaving work and one night she crept back into the Conde Nast building and slept in her boss’ office.
Sometimes I took Adderall at two in the morning just to make my bulimia stop, but then I couldn’t sleep. I’d crash at two o’clock Saturday afternoon and then wake up around ten at night, go out and buy food, and do it all again. (Is reading this stuff getting repetitive? Welcome to addiction).
For her first bylined article she stayed up all night popping Adderall as she was unable to focus under the stress.
When the cleaners started coming in the next day she changed her dress and pretended she had been home.
Marnell stopped going to clubs and spent Friday nights binge eating and vomiting pizza and muffins.
She writes: ‘Sometimes I took Adderall at two in the morning just to make my bulimia stop, but then I couldn’t sleep. I’d crash at two o’clock Saturday afternoon and then wake up around ten at night, go out and buy food, and do it all again. (Is reading this stuff getting repetitive? Welcome to addiction).’
Then in 2009 at the age of 26, after round of staff cuts at Conde Nast, Marnell finally achieved her dream and became the beauty editor at Lucky.
Not that it changed much about her personal life.
A stint at the $28,000 a visit Silver Hill rehab facility in Connecticut failed to stop her addictions.
Cat at Soho House with artist SAME the night she was “fired” from XoJane in 2012
Toilet Graffiti photo with manager Osvaldo Jimenez at Private Partyclub in Brooklyn in 2016
Marnell accidentally set fire to her own hair at a launch for the Lucky Guide to Mastering Any Style at the trendy Bowery Hotel in Manhattan – incredibly none of the other fashion editors saw her.
On her first foreign trip, to Rome, she missed her flight and once she arrived had to call her 81-year-old grandmother to wire her $3,000 because she had no money.
That night she holed up in her hotel room, her bulimia in control of her.
Marnell writes: ‘I was in a half-hypnotized state, truly – and ordered room service: a cheese and charcuterie plate, a basket of bread, another tiramisu. Another order came up on another rolling tray. I threw all that up, too.
‘By then it was six in the morning and all of the alcohol had worn off….at nine, I met the other editors in the lobby. The publicists were at the front desk, checking out. I wanted to disappear. But no one looked at me funny; no one said anything. At least, not to my face’.
Demeaning, marathon ‘coke sex’ challenged both my dignity and my gag reflex.
During perhaps the most disturbing episode in the book Marnell becomes convinced her apartment is being invaded by rats and that she killed one by beating it with one of her heels.
She later discovers that it was actually a hallucination brought on by taking too much Benadryl.
Marnell’s relationships were about as healthy as her drug habit and her boyfriends included rapper Riff Raff and AJ Daulerio a former editor at Gawker, the shuttered gossip website.
Another boyfriend whom she calls ‘The Artist from LA’ subjected her to ‘demeaning, marathon ‘coke sex’ that challenged both my dignity and my gag reflex’, she writes.
Her most volatile relationship was with her boyfriend with whom she spent an entire week indoors one Christmas on a binge snorting heroin watching Eyes Wide Shut on a constant loop.
Marnell writes that this guy was abusive and used to steal money from her purse in front of her.
Hanging out with artist Mikhail Sokovikov at the Guggenheim in 2014
This is Cat Marnell2008 rehab admission Polaroid taken when she was 25 at Silver Hill Hispital in New Canaan, Connecticut
He would also steal her designer clothes which he sold for drugs and would buzz her apartment at all hours then demand they do drugs together.
He once sprayed a syringe full of blood over her dress, but their worst fight was far more serious.
Marnell writes that he spat in her face and threw her into her closet before stealing her white Balenciaga handbag which contained her keys and passport and walking out.
The man came back because he had forgotten his phone, kicked in her door and trashed her apartment by smashing up the plates and pots while her horrified roommate looked on.
He also smashed the beautiful art deco mirrors on the landings of the apartment building and spray painted his signature in green in letters 5ft high and 8ft long.
She foolishly let him back into her life only for him to clean out her entire apartment including all her expensive clothes when he stole her key.
Marnell parted ways with Lucky after failing to turn up for work for a week.
Cat says she was on heroin when she borrowed a Lucky magazine flip camera to film herself and Marco. ‘We spent hours on drugs filming each other… pathetic,’ she says
She began writing for xoJane where her frank post about the death of Whitney Houston went viral and turned her into an Internet star.
In it Marnell wrote: ‘So many of you have expressed your disgust about how much I talk about drugs. I really tried to stop for a while, but you know what?
‘No one else in women’s magazines or websites is writing about this stuff, so there’s nowhere for a female community to read it.
‘Why can’t we acknowledge that lots and lots of women abuse drugs? That they are a huge part of so many women’s lives? Including mine?’
Marnell was interviewed by New York magazine in a feature which said that ‘her job is to be f***** up’.
Rolling Stone called her a Hot Bukowski after the confessional and drug taking author Charles Bukowski.
As her fame rose, Marnell admits that she was a nightmare to deal with and at xoJane was ‘as abusive, entitled, and openly intoxicated at the office as ever’.
She got away with it until the editors had enough of her not turning up and told her to go rehab.
I may be back on speed, but I take way less than I used to – and I feel like a totally different person’
She responded by emailing the New York Post that she did not want to spend ‘another summer meeting deadlines behind a computer at night when I could be on the rooftop of [nightclub] Le Bain looking for shooting stars and smoking angel dust with my friends?’
Marnell was hired by Vice and began writing blog posts under a column called ‘Amphetamine logic’, which won her yet more fans.
They were her most explicit about her drug use; a typical one was called ‘Coke sex for teen sluts’ in which she talked about how she couldn’t stop thinking about her father when she was having sex with stranger in a club toilet.
Marnell carried on like this until 2014 when she bought a one way ticket to Bangkok and checked into the The Cabin in Chiang Mai, a rehab center where Libertines singer Pete Doherty had gone.
In theory she was on assignment by Vice – a fraught prospect if there ever was one – but it seems to have been the moment that Marnell finally took control of her life.
Since then Marnell has been to two more rehabs, had another overdose, been through two boyfriends and got pregnant again, she writes in her book.
She got a reported $500,000 advance for the memoir and finally started work on it. She also mended her relationships with her family, her father in particular.
In the book Marnell says she is still addicted to Adderall but has a much more balanced life.
She exercises, starts each day with a banana smoothie doesn’t go out to clubs or do drugs, at least those which are non-prescription.
Marnell writes that she feels ‘embarrassed’ about how she behaved at xoJane and has realized that all these years she was using drugs to avoid dealing with her issues.
As she puts it: ‘I may be back on speed, but I take way less than I used to – and I feel like a totally different person’.