V. Stiviano's Instagram feed is full of bling — designer handbags, the interior of a Bentley, glamour shots of herself.
But on Sunday morning, she was uncharacteristically shy, hiding behind the door of her $1.8-million Spanish-style duplex near the Beverly Center. She told a reporter she was on her way to church.
A photo Stiviano posted on Instagram of herself with Lakers legend Magic Johnson was the main topic of a taped conversation in which a man said to be Clippers owner Donald Sterling asks her not to publicly associate with African Americans.
Since Friday night, when TMZ posted what it said were the recordings between Sterling and Stiviano, she has emerged as a central figure in the scandal, which has generated widespread condemnation and has prompted the National Basketball Assn. to launch an investigation.
On the audiotape, Stiviano appears to spar with the man said to be Sterling, pointing out that she herself is black and Mexican. At other times, she is conciliatory, apologizing and tenderly offering him a sip of juice.
The Clippers have not confirmed that Sterling is the voice on the tape and in a statement said the owner doesn't hold the views expressed in the recording. Stiviano's attorney, Mac Nehoray, said Sunday the tape is authentic but that his client did not release it to TMZ.
Much of what is known about Stiviano and the Clippers owner is laid out in a series of bitter legal filings made over the last few months.
Nearly 50 years Sterling's junior, Stiviano was sued last month by Sterling's wife, Rochelle, who seeks the return of the duplex as well as a Ferrari, two Bentleys and a Range Rover she said her husband bought for Stiviano.
Rochelle Sterling alleges in the lawsuit that her husband met Stiviano at the 2010 Super Bowl in Miami. The suit describes Stiviano, 31, as a seductress who targets wealthy older men like the 80-year-old Sterling.
According to property records, Stiviano purchased the duplex in December 2013. But Rochelle Sterling says that she allowed her husband to pay for the house, believing that her name would be on the deed along with his.
Sterling also gave Stiviano $240,000 for living expenses, according to Rochelle Sterling's lawsuit, amounting to $2 million of community property that he allegedly spent on Stiviano without his wife's knowledge.
In a response to the lawsuit, Stiviano argues that Rochelle Sterling must have known that her husband of more than 50 years had romantic relationships outside of his marriage.
Stiviano's court filing ridicules the notion that the "feminine wiles of Ms. Stiviano overpowered the iron will of Donald T. Sterling who is well known as one of the most shrewd businessmen in the world." Stiviano's papers, however, do not acknowledge that she was in a romantic relationship with Sterling.
"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 Sunday night.
Nehoray wrote in court papers that his client was "a veritable fixture" at Sterling's business offices. A Clippers spokesman said Stiviano does not work for the team, though he said it is possible she is employed by one of Sterling's other business ventures.
An advertisement for a 2011 charity luncheon lists Stiviano as a director of the Donald T. Sterling Charitable Foundation, with Sterling as chairman.
In 2010, Stiviano legally changed her name to V. Stiviano from Maria Vanessa Perez. Her stated reason in a court petition: She had not "yet been fully accepted because of my race."
Since then, she has created hats and shirts emblazoned with "V. Stiviano." Her Instagram is dotted with photos of people posing in the "V. Stiviano" gear.
Nehoray said in a statement that the tape is part of an hourlong conversation between Stiviano and Sterling.
On the tape, Stiviano asks if she should change the color of her skin. The man identified as Sterling said "that isn't the issue" but asks why she is "taking pictures with minorities," referring to Johnson.
"What's wrong with minorities? What's wrong with black people?" Stiviano says.
On another tape, apparently a different portion of the same conversation that was posted by the sports website Deadspin on Sunday, Stiviano says she removed photos of black people from her Instagram. She kept a photo of herself with Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp because Kemp is light-skinned, she says.
"I didn't remove Matt Kemp and Magic Johnson, but I thought Matt Kemp is mixed, and he was OK, just like me.... He's lighter and whiter than me," she says.
Throughout the tapes, Stiviano is heard challenging the request that she scrub African Americans from her social media pages. At one point, she asks if she would be allowed to post a photo of Larry Bird.
"You're supposed to be a delicate white or a delicate Latina girl," the man said to be Sterling says at one point.
"And you're in love with me. And I'm black and Mexican. Whether you like it or not," Stiviano replies.
Times staff writer Bettina Boxall contributed to this report.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times