Nothing could have prepared Tessica Brown for the hate she says she received after posting a video detailing how she used gorilla glue spray — a permanent spray adhesive meant for crafts — on her hair. Millions of views later, the 40-year-old mom and daycare owner was an internet sensation and the subject of a lot of public opinions.
“It got to the point where my email was blowing up, my Facebook messenger, my Instagram inbox — everything. I took the phone, threw the phone in the corner,” she said. Her daughter later brought her phone as she was receiving a call, and Brown answered grudgingly. On the other end was a woman named Gina, offering to help her with the overwhelming attention. Brown says Gina executed all her promises, helped her tremendously and is now her manager.
Her manager connected her to Los Angeles-based plastic surgeon, Dr. Michael K. Obeng, who was offering to remove the glue with a unique concoction he had created. Almost immediately, Brown was on a flight to Los Angeles to get the glue removed, and later back for a free “mommy makeover” from Dr. Obeng, which included breast implants.
In the process, two lumps were discovered in each of Brown’s breasts, sending her into a tailspin. “At this point, right then and there, it was cancer. Nobody couldn’t have told me,” Brown said. “I have five kids. Now my boys are grown, but I have an 8-year-old, 11 year-old, 13-year-old girls, and now I’m sitting around here with lumps,” she said. Thankfully, the lumps turned out to be benign and Brown got to enjoy her mommy makeover. She says Dr. Obeng changed her life.
The attention continued, including free offers, calls, gifts from celebrities and free wigs. But the spotlight wasn’t as glamorous as one would think. Brown and her children were subjected to hate and unkindness. “My little girl came home and she fell in my arms,” Brown remembers. “She said ‘A bunch of little boys came up to me singing the Gorilla Glue song.’ So, I told her, ‘Don’t worry about it. We’re gonna learn the words, and next time they sing it, you sing it with them.’ She did a little smile, she walked off. But now I go in the bathroom and I’m crying because I’m the reason my baby is getting bullied at school,” Brown said.
She recalls one of the most shocking displays of hate she’d received. “I got a letter in the mail, I opened it,” she said. “It was a man holding a head. A cut-off head. And it said ‘just cut your head off.’”
Regular strangers weren’t the only ones on Brown’s case. Several high-profile public figures also had words for her. A man named Thaddeus Matthews, known as “the Cussing Pastor” made a video about Brown calling her the “dumbest person alive.” He compared her name to a male body part and also accused her of faking the whole thing for money. “His post, the Cussing Pastor, was the one I felt like that took me all the way out. His post was the one that had me with the cry that I couldn’t catch my breath,” Brown said.
Even talk host Wendy Williams had some things to say about Brown.
“Wendy Williams, when this first happened, called me a ‘nothing-ass girl,’” she said. Brown said just days before, she’d held a watch party for Williams’ new movie. “She [Williams] said I’m making it look bad for people our color. She talked about me that Monday, she talked about me that Tuesday. Wednesday she was like, ‘let’s talk about that Gorilla Girl again. She’s 40 and she has 5 kids. I wonder how many baby daddies she has.’ What does that have to do with anything?” Brown asked out loud.
Brown says her mother eventually called “The Wendy Williams Show” asking her to give her daughter a break. Brown says after that Williams left her alone.
The entire experience has given her a new perspective on public figures. “If they go through what I’ve been through in three weeks, I feel horrible for them,” Brown said. “I see why Britney Spears cut all her hair off and started beating up cars and stuff. I understand all this now. Y’all really, really go too far. It don’t matter if you’re a celebrity or not. On the inside you’re still a regular person that has feelings.”
When asked what she was doing for her sanity and mental health, Brown admitted not much. “I cry in the bathroom,” Brown said. “And they keep telling me stop reading those comments. I can’t stop reading the comments because I love to read the good ones and the bad ones just sneak in there,” she said. She also admitted that while the people around her have encouraged her to talk to a professional about her mental health, she’s skeptical about doing so.
“I don’t wanna go talk to nobody ’cause then they’re gonna put ‘Now she’s crazy. She’s seeing a psychiatrist.’ It’s pretty much I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t, just like when I was posting the video,” Brown said. “I’m either gonna get help or get talked about. But I mean I’m glad I posted the video ’cause I did get the help. I knew I’d get talked about, but not that much.”
Still, Brown has stayed committed to doing her best with her new platform, including donating $20K she received from her GoFundMe to Dr. Obeng’s nonprofit for reconstructive surgery, and the rest to outreach in her own community. “I picked 3 families in St. Bernard Parish and ordered these big, huge checks and I gave them $1000 cash,” she said. She says even before this experience, she frequently gave back to her community with a dance team that she’s involved with. She’s also filled with gratitude and has a message for those that have been following her story.
“To everybody, even the people talking bad about me: God bless everybody. I feel like I’m being blessed at this point, and I want everybody to just be blessed,” Brown said. “And if you feel like you’re being backed into a corner, push. Pray until something happens. Just push it through. And another thing: Don’t let your hair define you. You don’t want to be put in a position that I was put in.”