Born and raised in Vienna, Monah is the product of an educated, intellectual and cultured, seemingly privileged and conservative background.

After her father- a judge, lawyer, attorney and Superior Judge during weekdays and a Ski-Instructor the rest of the time – met and married his 17-year old ski-student, her mother resumed her medicine studies, while working as a pharmaceutical sales rep. By the time her mother graduated from the University of Vienna with an MD, Monah was twelve, a view days after she had been kidnapped by neighborhood boys, the result of an unsupervised childhood.  One year in Catholic Boarding school ended abruptly, when Monah and her younger sister fed laxatives to their third-and first grade friends. Because of her academic and artistic promises, Monah was awarded a scholarship to a secular boarding school where wealthy and spoiled daughters of diplomats stationed in Vienna were supposed to receive a superior education. Only eleven, she was forced to leave when a juvenile sex-club trading favors amongst girls and teachers was busted and found to be instigated and led by Monah. After a short stint as a teenage runaway, Monah’s freedom – seemingly – ended.

Her mother accepted a fellowship in Stanford USA and took her younger daughter with her. Monah’s father took it upon himself to force Monah into discipline and order. It worked; five years later, Monah graduated with Highest Honors and an Engineers degree from a technical High School/College for Textile Industries.  Her father was a Superior Judge by the time he retired.

Monah studied art, fashion and medicine, never able to make up her mind, she learned a lot without graduating. As soon as she turned 19 – the legal age to be an adult, Monah settled in a controversial rehab for drug-addiction. Without any drug-experience, she was a test-patient for a brilliant Psychiatrist, Doctor Pernhaupt, a friend of the family who wanted to prove that his mix of Primal Scream therapy and free sex was able to cure not only addiction, but also depression and Restless Youth Syndrome.

Still in rehab, Monah married a homosexual heroin addict and hustler. She divorced him less then six weeks later when she returned early from her class at the Academy of Applied Art and surprised her new husband naked and high in bed with her best gay friend. Both lovers died from AIDS a year later but not before they taught Monah about drugs, prostitution and Sandbox-Love – a threesome marked by the absence of hetero sexual sex, saving her from contracting what killed them.

Monah moved to Los Angeles in 1984. However, her decline into drug-addiction required her to return to Vienna where through a strange set of circumstances, she ended up in a sweatshop, operated by her psychiatrist who wanted to become a famous fashion designer and used his patients for state-subsidized labor. He ran the drug-department of Vienna’s State Mental Hospital. Monah was able to learn from the skilled tailors hired by the designer-doc and picked up everything and more she was supposed to learn at FIDM in Los Angeles where she had dropped out after only a few weeks.

A celebrity journalist Monah met on the subway introduced her to Vienna’s High Society where she quickly rose to be the star-designer with her very own studio and boutique. But every evening, she was required to return to the hospital. The discovery of the doctor’s sweatshop was a scandal made worse when his wife jumped to her death, taking their two young children with her. The children died on the spot. The doctor’s wife survived. Paralized and now a murderer, she managed to hoard enough pills to kill herself for good a few weeks later.

After moving to Los Angeles permanently, she married for the third time and had a daughter in 1992. Her memoir “Almost Perfect Fashion Mom” tells of Monah’s success as a fashion designer and creative, original force that became an important part of the blossoming Los Angeles design-scene. Together with the members of the Coalition Of Los Angeles Designers – an organization Alicia Lawhon and Monah started in Monah’s loft in November of 1998 – they put Los Angeles on the fashion map, freeing it of its limiting reputation as a bikini-and surf-wear only garmento village.

During her successful run as the owner of Monah Li, Monah Li Girls and Monah Li Retail (her eponymous store in Los Feliz) and later as design-director of the national retail chain bebe, Monah was seriously hampered by bulimia and her addictive relationship.

Monah battled bulimia since 1986.  Her soon to be published memoir “Beauty And The Lonely Feast” is a shocking account of the desperate struggle she fought to free herself from this deadly trap that she won after 19 years.  Seemingly suddenly, the disease she was about to die from let her go – but this was only the beginning.

Free to pursue her creative fire she had drowned in food, she soon turned her talents towards writing, belly dancing, went back to designing a collection for bebe and wrote a screenplay that was acquired by indie powerhouse Blanc-Bien-Productions in November of 2011.

Monah’s memoir is a story of light and hope. Unlike most of the women she met in various 12-step programs and therapy-groups, she did not gain weight. This book is closest to Monah’s heart – because she knows with absolute certainty, had she had known anybody with a story like hers, she might have been able to quit ten or even 14 years sooner.

While Monah binged and purged her remarkable fashion design-career away into the toilet, missed the best of motherhood, suffered through a 15-year relationship, that was fueled by her shame over bulimia, the only book available about bulimia was  “Wasted” by Marya Hornbacher. A fascinating and powerfully written memoir about anorexia, it touches on bulimia, but the book ends rather hopeless.

After Monah left the father of her daughter, she met “Payne” in 1994. A hero in the underground drug-and recovery scene, Payne was a “bad boy”. By the time they met, he had managed to break free from heroin addiction, wrote an acclaimed memoir about his days as a heroin dazed TV-writer and was soon discovered by Hollywood and again, TV.   In order to write the darkly funny episodes for a successful crime series that he became famous for, he used Monah’s stories of her real-life experience as a dominatrix and submissive, her early years as a teenage-prostitute in Vienna and her eating disorder with its grotesque rituals.

Realizing that her journey was not only a nightmarish past that left her with emotional and physical scars, but a valuable source, a treasure chest of content, Monah was herself inspired to write.

The pair enjoyed a deep intellectual and powerful emotional connection, a crazy and dark love with a powerful sexual addiction that kept them tied up in a tumultuous relationship that lasted for 15 glorious – but also very destructive – years.

Two years after she conquered bulimia, she left him.  Her memoir “I Hate You – Lets Get Married” tells of the magnetic power of a destructive relationship, another addiction that mirrors gambling in its chase of unreliable, but always possible and often manifesting rewards – the fertile ground that breeds Domestic Violence.

Upon reflection, Monah realizes the secrecy of her bulimia was as dishonest and distancing to their relationship as Payne’s cheating, which he did on a grand scale. A passion for writing and belly dancing has since replaced Monah’s less healthy and all consuming addiction to the kind of “love” she experienced with Payne.

Her latest addition to the blog is “Sick A La Americana”: In the beginning of 2012, Monah started to lose weight, by no means something she aspired to. Thin to begin with, she soon became alarmingly skinny. Because of her history of eating disorders it was assumed that she had relapsed – this time into anorexia. Not knowing how this would feel like (she never suffered from anorexia), she reluctantly agreed to sign up for treatment at UCLA’s Eating Disorder Department. She mentioned that she had trouble swallowing, but attributed this to symptoms of anorexia too.

A nightmarish weekend followed.  Concerned and fearing for Monah’s life, on Saturday March 31st at AM, her closest friend drove her to UCLA’s Emergency Room. Malnourished, severely underweight and depressed, Monah stated her complaints of not being able to eat, but also admitted to thoughts of suicide. A few minutes later, she stared at a document, informing her that she was a danger to herself and was being held for 72 hours.

Finally, a few days before her birthday in June, Monah got the surgery she had been asking for. During all the years as a bulimic, her biggest fear – next to gaining weight – was Esophageal Cancer. During a simple surgery, three growths were removed from her Esophagus. The result of the biopsies proofed Monah’s biggest fear true: Cancer.

“Sick A La Americana” starts with the moment she receives the diagnosis, a potentially bad one. Until further tests that took about three weeks, Monah had to accept that she might very likely be dead by the end of the year. Most of the story tells of the time between diagnosis and result of multiple tests, during which she lost her insurance.

Three weeks, during which she carried her desperate prognosis that she promised to keep to herself (but accidentically revealed), met a stranger – also suffering from cancer, a visitor from her hometown   dealt with desperation, financial ruin, loneliness, an estranged daughter, shame and panic and a very different social life then the one she had just learned to enjoy, but also, through sheer necessity, had to find a new way of looking at life and to develop a deeper spiritual connection then she had needed until then.

Nothing will ever be the same again, even when Monah learns that the cancer has been contained and most likely not spread. “Sick A La Americana” will be an ongoing series and describe life before, during and after cancer.

Monah has contributed to various anthologies, like Cara Bruce: Best Fetish Stories, Lydia Lunch: Sex and Guts, Ethly Ann Vere: Love Addict, as well as for the Huffington Post and the LA-Weekly, where she has written about fashion, style, divorce and dating.


Monah’s Li’s literary agent is Lynn Johnston at


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2 responses

19 12 2013
Rene Diedrich

Cool. Well..you know. Not much fun reading some one ‘s soft luck story. Congratulations.

11 05 2014
Monah Li

I have no idea what you’re trying to say. Soft luck story. I like the term. It sounds mean and funny, so I will most likely use it.

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