Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling has come under fire for insensitive racial remarks. Along with Sterling, V. Stiviano has been at the center of the controversy.
The recorded conversation, which celebrity news website TMZ released over the weekend, reportedly included the voices of Stiviano and Sterling. Stiviano has been described as Sterling’s girlfriend, and many have suspected that she leaked the tape to TMZ.
V. Stiviano was born Maria Vanessa Perez, though she legally changed her name in 2010, according to the Los Angeles Times. Stiviano’s attorney, Mac E. Nehoray, says the 31-year-old does not claim to be Sterling’s girlfriend and isn’t responsible for giving the tape to TMZ.
"Neither Ms. Stiviano nor this office has ever alleged that Ms. Stiviano is, or ever was, Mr. Sterling's girlfriend," Nehoray said in a statement.
Despite Stiviano’s claims, there’s no denying that she has a close relationship with the man who is nearly 50 years her senior. The Clippers owner purchased Stiviano a $1.8 million duplex in December 2013, and the house has become the center of a lawsuit between Stiviano and Rochelle Sterling, Donald Sterling’s estranged wife. Rochelle Sterling asserts that she believed the purchase would include her name on the deed, which wasn’t the case.
TMZ described Stiviano as a model. According to the Clippers, she is not an employee of the organization, but she has been listed as the director of the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation.
Stiviano can often be seen at Clippers games, sitting courtside next to Sterling. She’s active on Instagram, often posting pictures of herself with celebrities. In the tape that TMZ released, Sterling chastised Stiviano for posting photos of herself and minorities. When Sterling scolded Stiviano for posting a picture of herself and NBA legend Magic Johnson, she told the Clippers owner that she is both black and Mexican.
Stiviano has done her best to ignore attention from the media, following the release of the tape. She refused to speak to reporters, wearing a mask over her face when leaving the house.