Chrissy Teigen team member says designer Michael Costello faked the DMs that showed her bullying him

Entertainer Chrissy Teigen (R), designer Michael Costello (insert).
Entertainer Chrissy Teigen (R), designer Michael Costello (insert). Photo by Phillip Faraone/FilmMagic, Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images
  • Designer Michael Costello accused Chrissy Teigen of bullying him in purported Instagram DMs.
  • The designer said Teigen’s purported messages and blacklisting caused him to want to kill himself.
  • A member of Teigen’s team says the messages Costello posted are fake. The screenshots appear to be manipulated.
  • Read more of Insider’s digital culture coverage here.

Chrissy Teigen’s team is pushing back against bullying claims made by designer Michael Costello. A team representative for Teigen told Insider that the purported Instagram direct messages from her in 2014, posted by Costello on June 14, are fake.

Costello – who rose to prominence on season 8 of “Project Runway” and has since dressed celebrities like Beyoncé – posted the purported messages amid backlash against Teigen, who has apologized for “awful” old tweets, including a 2011 tweet that told then 17-year-old Courtney Stodden to take a “dirt nap.”

Costello’s post has been covered in global news outlets, but Insider found technical inconsistencies in the purported DMs that could suggest they are manipulated. Several visual identifiers in the images appear to come from various iterations of Instagram and Teigen’s profile throughout the years, which is oftentimes a signature of manipulated imagery.

  • In the images Costello posted, the verified checkmark is missing from next to Teigen’s name. Verification was introduced to the platform in late 2014 and Teigen was verified by early 2015, which would seemingly suggest the screenshot was taken in 2014.
  • But the messages in the images have purple and blue backgrounds – a design change that wasn’t implemented until February 2020, at which point the “@chrissyteigen” account was verified. The background color and the lack of verification appear to be temporally inconsistent.
  • There is a video chat icon at the top of the image, but video chat wasn’t introduced to Instagram until June 2018.
  • Teigen’s profile picture in the images is the same profile picture she had in 2014, according to archived images of Teigen’s profile. But Teigen changed her profile picture no later than December 2016, according to archived pictures of her account. A screenshot taken after that time would have shown her current profile picture.
Purported Instagram direct messages between Teigen and Costello contain technical inconsistencies that suggest they are manipulated.
Purported Instagram direct messages between Teigen and Costello contain technical inconsistencies that suggest they are manipulated. Instagram/@michaelcostello

In a statement attached to the purported DMs, Costello wrote “In 2014, I received a public comment from Chrissy Teigen on my Instagram page, accusing me of being a racist. She apparently formed her own opinion of me based on a photoshopped comment floating around the internet which has now been proven to be false by Instagram and since taken down.”

Instagram confirmed to Insider that its misinformation policy, which went into effect in May 2019, uses third-party fact-checkers to identify, review, and label false information. However, Instagram does not remove false information, and the fact-checking policy was not implemented in 2014.

Costello declined to comment for this article.

The full statement posted by Costello on Instagram in addition to the purported DMs.
The full statement posted by Costello on Instagram in addition to the purported DMs. Instagram/@michaelcostello

Teigen called out Costello for saying ‘racist s—‘ in 2014

In 2014, Costello was involved in a scandal over whether he used the “N-word” slur in response to claims that he posted a Black designer’s work on his Instagram page as if it was his own. His cousin, Stephanie Costello, took responsibility at the time for purchasing the Black designer’s dress and posting a picture of it on the Instagram page she said she co-ran with Michael.

Michael also denied that he used the “N-word” slur to respond to the Black designer, writing on Tumblr at the time that the image circulating of his comment was photoshopped, possibly by a disgruntled ex-intern.

Michael Costello and Chrissy Teigen
Michael Costello and Chrissy Teigen. Manny Carabel/Getty Images/Greg Doherty/Getty Images

Teigen commented on one of Michael’s Instagram posts in October 2014 and wrote “So you say all that racist s— and get that horrible press with people using the hashtag #michaelcostello to call you out on it, then you create a contest where you beg people to use the same tag but in a positive light. Covered up all the negative press. Genius and shady all at once. Start a PR firm.”

Following Costello’s 2021 Instagram post, singer Leona Lewis said that Costello had also participated in bullying by refusing to dress her at a 2014 event because of her size. Costello asked if he and Lewis could have a “heart-to-heart” in an Instagram story responding to Lewis’ claims.

Teigen recently apologized for past ‘attention seeking’ behavior

Teigen has received massive public backlash following her apology to Stodden, and she has apologized twice publicly, writing “I’m mortified and sad at who I used to be.” In a 2021 interview with The Daily Beast, Stodden – who is non-binary and uses they/them pronouns – accused Teigen of bullying them.

“She wouldn’t just publicly tweet about wanting me to take ‘a dirt nap’ but would privately DM me and tell me to kill myself. Things like, ‘I can’t wait for you to die,'” Stodden told The Daily Beast.

-chrissy teigen (@chrissyteigen) May 12, 2021

Teigen apologized to Stodden on Twitter on May 12 and again in a Medium post posted hours before Costello’s June 14 Instagram claims.

“I’ve apologized publicly to one person, but there are others – and more than just a few – who I need to say I’m sorry to. I’m in the process of privately reaching out to the people I insulted,” Teigen wrote.

Got a tip? Email Kat Tenbarge at [email protected]