On a bright and humid Saturday morning, a tanned woman approaches a Dunkin' Donuts counter, brandishes an iPhone, and informs the employees they're under "video surveillance." They'd forgotten her receipt the night before, she proclaims, so now she's returned for a free meal.
In a hoarse voice, she orders the entire menu — twice. Then the brown-haired model threatens to "nuke" Dunkin' Donuts from Mars, settling her gaze upon an Indian employee named Nidi at the coffee machine. "You're a complete cunt sand-nigger whore," she seethes. "I hope you're happy with your little fucking sand-nigger self because I'm about to nuke your whole planet. You think you're tough? Big fat Arabs bombing the Trade Center. I'll show you tough."
In one of the purest examples of how a cyber-connected, media-saturated America can catapult an obscure individual into nationwide notoriety, this self-shot video featuring 27-year-old Taylor Chapman started on Facebook — then went supernova. In a matter of days, Chapman became the most hated woman on the internet. Gawker called her "pure evil" and the "worst person ever." The Smoking Gun described the Oakland Park resident as "horrible" in an article that spawned nearly 3,000 comments. One online commenter advised: "This bitch needs to kill herself." Another posted: "I hope [Chapman] lives a very long and lonely life. [She's] so deserving of it." (New Times also published five articles calling Chapman a "local racist.")
What most of those million-plus readers worldwide didn't know, however, was that Chapman has struggled with mental illness for most of her life and been hospitalized at least twice. That's what New Times learned by consulting with Chapman, her fiancé, her friends, a former roommate, and public records. In 2011, she was arrested in Marion County under the Baker Act after exhibiting multiple personalities, according to police records. "I was first diagnosed when I was 7," she told us in her first public comments since the Dunkin' Donuts rant went viral. She declined to elaborate. "I will make my public statement when I'm ready. And I'm not doing it for free."
The contrast between Chapman's vulnerable background and the hatred leveled at her raises questions about how viral internet posts can instantaneously create heroes and villains without including all the facts. Since June 10, when the Smoking Gun posted her video, Chapman has changed her phone number, lost her job, and deleted her social media footprint. Yet it's a digital scarlet letter that won't soon disappear. "Everything's changed now," says Krystal Hosch, sister of Chapman's fiancé, Sean Hosch. "Taylor's sick. She's sick. She's been off her medication, and that's absolutely what caused this. That video will ruin her life."
Chapman's friends, former roommates, and past coworkers say they don't know much about her past or family. "I think she came from Fort Lauderdale," said Cherie Born, who lived with Chapman for ten months in 2011 in Ocala. "I don't really know anything about her past."
In fact, Chapman is from Indiana but went to school in Henderson, Kentucky, according to Henderson County High School's 2003 yearbook. Then she bounced to South Florida, where she listed a single-story house on Orchard Tree Lane in Tamarac as her residence on a driver's license. Later, she enrolled in Nova Southeastern University, graduating with a bachelor-of-science degree in 2010, said a university spokesperson.
Around this time, she met tall and sandy-haired Sean Hosch at a party. They had an intense romance, fighting constantly, recalls Cherie Born, who is the Hosches' aunt. "[Sean and Taylor] would go into their room, and they'd fight, but then hours later, they'd come out, and the next day or evening, everything would be fine."
Ross Buehrer, 22, attended Fort Lauderdale High School with Sean Hosch. "He was just a normal kid," says Buehrer. "But when he stole our dirt bikes, everything kind of changed." According to a police report, Hosch and another young man broke into a storage unit on SW Seventh Avenue in Pompano Beach in February 2011 and stole two dirt bikes. Hosch was charged with three felonies, pleaded no contest, and was put on probation for 18 months.
Weeks later, Fort Lauderdale Police busted Hosch for reckless driving and possession of cannabis. He pleaded no contest to those charges as well. Within months, he and Chapman had moved north to Belleview, near Ocala, where Cherie Born moved them into a vacant house she owned.
Born thought the bucolic setting would calm the couple, but problems followed. "The first week, Taylor called me a fat fucking whore," says Born, who had hired Chapman as her marketing director at the local family business, Comfort Care Medical Equipment & Uniforms. "She just snapped and called me that for no reason... I said, 'What the hell is wrong with you?' She was ready to fight."
Later, Born said, Chapman apologized and furnished a medical report detailing severe mental illnesses to explain her behavior. One minute, she'd dote on Born, referring to her as Aunt Cherie, and prepare her dinner. But then, without warning or provocation, an entirely separate Chapman would emerge. It was confounding and terrifying. "She was very beautiful and very personable," Born remembers. "But she would just snap and flip out. She would yell profanities. And I was in shock. She'd make these little outfits, take a dress and cut it really short, and take the extra cloth and make a headband."
One afternoon, Born recalls, Chapman walked down the driveway wearing nothing but a G-string bikini. "She went down to the construction site down the road," Born said. "Then she leaned against the fence with her butt poked out and made all the wives mad. Sean came and got her, and I don't know what was said, but they fought for an hour. And the next day, everything seemed to be fine."
Chapman was getting worse, Born says. On July 11, 2011, the 20-something confessed she needed help, so they climbed into Born's white Ford van and made for the nearby Marion-Citrus Mental Health Centers. Halfway there, she suddenly rolled down the window. "This woman's kidnapping me," Born recalls Chapman yelling. "She's holding me hostage!"
Born blew through four red lights to keep from stopping, but when she pulled the van into a gas station to remedy a wrong turn, Chapman exploded out the door and sprinted across Highway 200, dodging cars. Police found her around 10:30 p.m. and arrested her under the Baker Act, which allows police to detain people acting irrationally. "The subject started rambling about different information, going from being very polite to very rude," a police report says. "En route to the Centers, she rambled on in different personalities."
Born kicked Hosch and Chapman out of her house weeks later. "My nephew and I don't talk now because of all the crap she was doing," she says. The couple moved into a small apartment on 16th Street in Oakland Park behind a lime-colored house. Chapman landed a few jobs working as a video spokesperson for something called Power Sales Team, which has posted videos on the internet. Hosch repaired cars, according to his LinkedIn profile.
But the modicum of stability ended that day in Dunkin' Donuts. Soon after the Smoking Gun posted its first article on "the horrible Florida woman who filmed herself berating Dunkin' Donuts workers," the piece had snared 58,000 Facebook "likes" and 1,250 tweets. "I don't have an exact number," Editor Bill Bastone said. "I just know a significant number of people read that article."
Just before 1:30 a.m. Saturday, a week after Chapman had stormed Dunkin' Donuts, O. Williams of Power Sales Team announced Chapman's termination in a peculiar and cruel video, broadcasting several voicemails clogging his phone. "You need to fire that ugly bitch," one woman hissed. "She is repulsive. Taylor, the racist, is disgusting."
Whether the totality of someone's existence can be summarized in an eight-minute video, however, isn't a question that troubles Bastone. Chapman, he said, was simply a story to write. "Chapman posted the video to her Facebook page," Bastone said. "She did that. She made it public. It was sitting out there. And to ignore it because it was dopey isn't our job... We did a follow-up and moved on to other things."
But Chapman hasn't. When her phone rings, she worries it's a stalker. And on a Tuesday afternoon, she and Hosch slipped out of their apartment on 16th Street to evade a news reporter. Chapman wore a polka-dot black sun dress, a tan baseball hat, and big sunglasses. She looked like Lindsay Lohan fresh out of drug rehab. "Get in the car, Taylor," said Hosch, smoking a cigarette, as they ducked inside his gold Nissan Altima and departed. "My girlfriend has mental issues," he declared.
"I'm not scared," Chapman said. "I'll be ready to give a statement in a few months." But by then, likely no one will care what she has to say.