Guess Who’s Back: The Return of Julia Allison

julia allison 2009 for web Guess Whos Back: The Return of Julia Allison

Julia Allison at the height of her web-centric microfame, in 2009. (Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for Burda Media)

Since her days on the New York tech/media scene, Ms. Allison indeed moved to Los Angeles and is in the process of shutting down NonSociety, which never meaningfully distinguished itself from Tumblr. In so doing, she has taken away a favorite spectator sport: following her career (read: her attention-seeking antics). For a while, things were quiet. But with Miss Advised, launching on Bravo on June 18, Ms. Allison is staging what will either be her comeback or, like Lisa Kudrow’s embarrassing fake-reality series, her The Comeback.

The show follows three soi-disant dating experts in three different cities: a high-powered New York matchmaker whose ex calls her just as she’s enjoying a solo glass of Champagne, a San Francisco radio personality who’s willing to shock you with her opposition to monogamy.

And Ms. Allison, the ostensible star of the show.

Only nominally a “dating columnist” since wearing out her welcome at Time Out in 2009, Ms. Allison ends up with the most screen time because she’s the most voluble, the least canny about managing her self-presentation. While the two mating-and-dating professionals onscreen seem in-control, if a bit eager to find their mates, Ms. Allison is unvarnished. At one point, we see her trying on tutus (and strapping one on her dog). Later in the season, she forces herself on one date in the back of a limousine, only to ask another if he’s ready to get married immediately.

In the early going of Miss Advised’s months-long taping process, Ms. Allison says she attempted to construct an America’s-Sweetheart persona, but that the constant presence of cameras broke down her obsession with persona. “At a certain point,” said Ms. Allison on a conference call with her castmates, “I did give up trying to be charming. I failed so miserably, I just gave up. If you call that forgetting about the cameras, that’s forgetting about the cameras.” The other two women had said they forgot about the cameras immediately. “They beat me down. I had no idea I was so self conscious. I found it to be the most nerve-wracking experience.”

Ms. Allison had reason to be wary. She had been the object of derision on Gawker and targeted hate sites. She had also lost faith in love—a troubling turn for a relationship columnist.

“The worst thing that happened was that I was dumped a couple times,” she explained. “I never thought once during my tenure—that I might not find my person. Or my husband. I never expected that I wouldn’t find lasting happiness. In the last year, I thought, Oh, shit. I might have totally fucked this up.”

This realization—that she had aged out of eligibility, and that her Google results are full of her critics mocking her—coincided with allowing Bravo’s cameras into her life. “I felt like the Rodney Dangerfield of journalism, I felt like a victim, and I did the show, and my conclusion after the show was—I have to figure out a way to not say this in a cheesy way: I think I have a message now.” That message, she says, is to show people how to love themselves: “I think moving forward, the irony is that my goal for myself is to be genuinely open and genuinely transparent and not worry about what people think of me.”

It’s an irony in part because Ms. Allison’s extreme, blithe openness—turning up at a party in a condom-covered bustier; spilling the details of her every relationship, including, recently, a dalliance with John McCain’s son Jack—in the exact behavior that engendered criticism from sites devoted to savaging her.

An email exchange with the anonymous proprietor of Ms. Allison’s most prominent (and frequently unhinged) critics, the site Reblogging Donk, yielded some information as to why, exactly, Ms. Allison is such a flashpoint. “She provides a very extreme, contorted glimpse of a generation that’s gone right off the rails in terms of narcissism, seeking fame for no reason, the reality show/Facebook generation that wants to to put everything out there and expect to be adored and envied for it. We all have those people in our Facebook feed—she’s the Incredible Hulk version of that.”