When you think of Alexis Haines (née Neiers), one infamous image probably comes to mind. It’s from 2010, when she starred on the short-lived E! reality show “Pretty Wild.” With mascara streaming down her face, she leaves a hysterical voicemail for Vanity Fair reporter Nancy Jo Sales, who wrote a less-than-flattering story about her involvement in the Bling Ring, with a pointed complaint: She had in fact not worn six-inch Louboutin heels to court.
They were actually “four-inch little brown Bebe shoes.”
While that image — one that launched a thousand memes — may be cemented into the minds of viewers who not only followed the Bling Ring trial but also watched “Pretty Wild,” it’s a far cry from the Haines of today. Now, the former TV personality spends her mornings doing prayer and meditation and watering her garden while her dogs play in the backyard. When she’s not taking care of her two daughters, Harper, 9, and Dakota, 6, she’s taking an alcoholic to an AA meeting and spending the remainder of the day taking calls from her sponsees and other women in recovery. It is, in fact, pretty wild.
If it were two years ago, Haines probably wouldn’t be calling, let alone Zooming. But she is currently revisiting the colorful past, thanks to “The Real Bling Ring: Hollywood Heist,” a three-part Netflix documentary where Haines and Bling Ring member Nick Prugo tell their sides of the story surrounding the 2008-2009 string of Hollywood burglaries. Cozied up in the streamer’s Los Angeles office after a long day of press, Haines has traded in the majority of her glam for a dark brown sweatsuit, the only remainder of the tireless day — and her Hollywood past — being her pageant hair, smoky eyes and glossy nails.
Over the years, Haines has attempted to distance herself from the Bling Ring. So what made her decide to participate in a buzzy docuseries about it? Director Miles Blayden-Ryall’s nuanced approach to storytelling, Haines says.
“A couple of years ago, I just wished that my name and the Bling Ring would no longer be associated because I felt like I had done so much more with my life,” she sighs. “And the longer I’ve been sober, I’ve realized that we don’t heal by pushing away our recovery or our story, we recover by owning all of the messy, complex parts that often make it really magical,” she gestures as if she’s casting air spells.
Beyond recalling how a group of teenagers were able to steal from the homes of celebrities like Orlando Bloom, Paris Hilton and Rachel Bilson, the documentary tackles the motivations behind burgling these homes: not justifying it, not condoning it, but contextualizing why the Bling Ring happened in the first place.
For Haines in particular, it was much deeper than stealing from celebrities. “If it was about getting stuff I wouldn’t have robbed Orlando Bloom’s house, I would have been at Audrina Patridge’s,” she laughs.
The 31-year-old’s part in the Bling Ring stemmed from her addiction, which was a way for her to mask her trauma from abuse. “My story is one that involves incest, early childhood sexual abuse, rape, and it started when I was 4 and went on until I was about 8. I was also abused by my dad’s girlfriends and by babysitters, and I was raped when I was 17 by a really powerful man in Hollywood,” she recalls. Haines needed money to fuel her drug use, to help her cope. “Addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum,” she asserts. “You don’t just become a heroin addict.”
But the documentary sees Haines taking accountability in a way she perhaps hasn’t in the past — something that she thinks will surprise Prugo, too. She was finally ready to speak her truth, and she wanted there to be the potential for closure for the victims.
“I think Nick probably expected me to come in and to deny everything like I had been for 10 years. I don’t think it was me going, ‘Yeah, I robbed Orlando Bloom’s house.’ He might actually be shocked by me owning all of that, saying what I stole and taking responsibility,” she says.
And Haines has done the work to get there: She’s been clean and sober now for 11 years. “The Bling Ring was a massive part of why I ended up getting sober,” she admits. It’s why she doesn’t really mind her name being associated with it anymore. But she has one caveat: She wants the work she does in the addiction and mental health spaces to be recognized — not for herself, but so that people will have the critical conversations that can help others heal.
For more than a decade, she’s tried to spend her life in service, both as a doula and helping others going through recovery. She’s also shared much of her personal life, from the intricacies of her marriage to parenting to reflecting on her teenage years on her podcast, “Recovering From Reality.”
Along the way, her social media presence has grown; she’s become what can only be described as a wellness-meets-sexuality influencer. The trust she’s built with her online community, she says, comes from her own “authenticity and vulnerability.” “I can’t tell you the amount of messages that I’ve received from people who now share with me their stories of child sexual abuse, rape, drug addiction, surviving narcissism or their complex traumas because of my choice to be as vulnerable as I am,” she reflects.
But she’s also found herself frustrated over the years, wanting to share those conversations on a larger scale. Around 2014 she began writing a column for Vice and it seemed like she might have the opportunity. “I wanted to go across America, talk to junkies and hear their stories,” she recalls. But a TV episode she filmed for the media company, in which she spoke with someone who was prostituting himself for drugs, never aired — and since then, Haines has tried countless times to pitch what she believes is a necessary show about recovery, to no avail.
“I’ve sat down in the offices of the head execs at CBS,” she says. “I had a show idea I pitched that was like ‘Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown,’ but about drugs, and I’ll host it.” She contrasts her proposed approach with that of A&E’s long-running reality series “Intervention.” “‘Intervention’ is just watching junkies get loaded, and then their families yell at them, they feel like s—, and they feel forced to go into treatment, but they never achieved sobriety,” she explains. “It’s so much more complex and nuanced than that.”
In the meantime, she’s used her online presence to reintroduce herself to a broader public — including parts of herself she had never previously shared so widely. Last year, Haines revealed that she and her husband, Evan Haines, were opening up their marriage and that she was queer. “My sexual identity was something that needed to be honored at that point in my life and explored,” she asserts.
During that journey of self-discovery, she posted images of her girlfriend(s) and partners, answered unsolicited questions about the state of her marriage with grace, educated followers and trolls alike on non-monogamy and showed how seamlessly her partners fit in with her family. When Haines revealed she and her husband had separated by December 2021, she endured comments about how their decision to open up their marriage had contributed to the end of the relationship. (Haines is keeping the reason for their split between them.) “It’s hard being a single mom,” her voice cracks. “It’s hard rebuilding your life.”
Still, Haines is reveling in how grateful she is. She has a boyfriend who is a supportive partner, and she’s contemplating a new job opportunity, working for a friend’s recovery center in Portland. And she has everything she’s ever wanted: a house with a little piece of land and a garden in the backyard where she plays music all day. Maybe one day, she says, she’ll have a bigger backyard with some goats and chickens, but for now, she’s at peace. “My life is so good, I don’t f— care what happens next,” she smiles. “When you get a second chance like this, the rest is just icing on the cake.”