The Real Terra Newell From Netflix's 'Dirty John' Becomes Instagram Sensation

You might know that Netflix's Dirty John is based on the true story of con artist and sociopath, John Meehan, but you might not realise that real-life Terra, who killed him in self-defence, is now an Instagram influencer in her own right.

The popularity of the true-crime dramatisation has helped Terra Newell gain a strong online following. And she uses her platform to share her experience with PTSD following the events that the series covers.

Debra Newell's daughter was played by Julia Garner in the series.

She was 25 when she stabbed her mother's fifth husband 13 times in 2016 in an act of self-defence as he attempted to abduct her with a knife, which she grabbed from his hand.

She was protected by the wellies she was wearing at the time of the attack because she was en route to a music festival and was inspired to defend herself by scenes from The Walking Dead.

Terra, now 27, has amassed over 17,000 followers on Instagram and has become an influencer. Her bio states:

"Official Instagram of Terra Newell :heart: only positive vibes please Dogs•Zombies•Country•PTSD•Travel•Fashion• and @dirtyjohnbravo."

She encourages followers to seize the day, think positive and celebrate the happy moments in life - perhaps inspired by her near-death experience.

Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

She is a fashion and lifestyle blogger posting outfit shots and discount codes for what she's wearing like "Dirtyjohn20 for 20 per cent off".

Terra's Instagram is full of photos of her practicing what she preaches, enjoying holidays, hikes with her dog, Cash, and spending time with friends.

Terra also blogs candidly about her struggle with PTSD (Post-traumatic stress disorder).

In a recent post Terra shared her top tips and coping mechanisms to relieve her anxiety disorder.

She wrote: "Ever since the attack, I have had to deal with many problems. A couple months after the trauma my PTSD had gotten so bad that I really had to find some activities to help calm and settle me.

"These were things I needed to do in addition to my weekly therapy sessions. Some of the activities that I tried were yoga, rock climbing, hiking, massages, warms baths, and photography."

There are also snaps of her cosying up with stars of the Netflix show such as Connie Britton ( who played her mother Debra), Eric Bana (who played her stepfather, John) and Juno Temple (who plays her sister, who choses to stay out of the public eye).

The Californian gained more followers after the drop of the documentary about her stepfather: Dirty John, The Dirty Truth.

Her mother Debra also appears in the documentary, but her older sister - whose real name was changed to Ronnie for the series - had her identity concealed.

Credit: Netflix
Credit: Netflix

Dirty John was based on Christopher Goffard's 2017 Los Angeles Times articles and critically-acclaimed true crime podcast of the same name.

It was turned into an eight part series on Netflix this February.

The moniker 'Dirty John' or 'Filthy John' was coined by classmates in the University of Dayton, Ohio, due to his bragging about all the women he'd slept with.

John met Debra Newell in 2014, and just five weeks after their first date, moved into her newport home.

But soon interior designer Debra would learn he'd actually been lying about being a doctor, was a sociopath, a drug addict and had a long history of domestic abuse.

Debra's daughters, Terra and Jacquelyn, became suspicious of his motives and hired a private detective to look into him and uncovered his shady past.

In 1990, John, who was actually a nurse and not a doctor, married his first wife, but led an illegal double life, until his behaviour became menacing when he demanded a divorce.

In 2002, John was caught with a gun in an operating room and it was revealed he'd been stealing the opioid, Demerol he should have administered to patients.

John was sentenced to six years in prison, but was released in 2004 after 17 months.

Just two days later he met Debra Newell and began isolating the four-time divorcée from her family members.

Debra ended their marriage in 2016 and filed for a restraining order but a judge ruled there was 'no imminent threat'.

He attacked her daughter Terra her outside her apartment complex with a 'kidnap kit' of duct tape, a vial of drugs and kitchen knives in his car. Terra stabbed John 13 times to defend herself: in his shoulder, arm, back, chest and through his eye.

"I just started stabbing him. I thought if he got back up he's going to kill me" Terra told Dateline.

John suffered severe brain damage and died four days later.

Terra was questioned by police but it was decided she acted in self-defence.

Speaking in the bonus episode of Dirty John: Inside the TV Series, executive producer Jeffrey Reiner explained: "The most important thing in the fight was seeing it through Terra's eyes.

"So, I actually met with Terra for an hour and recorded her telling me what she smelled, what she saw, what she felt, what her heart was feeling like, what her body was feeling like, and she was unbelievably giving in the moment.

"She gave us a lot of imagery, so when you look at the sequence it's really kind of told from her point of view."

Bravo has renewed Dirty John for a second season, with the next chapter focussing on a new story and cast.

Featured Image Credit: Netflix, Instagram/Terra Newell

Amelia Jones

Amelia is a freelance journalist and editor specialising in beauty, health, fitness and lifestyle. She has previously worked for titles including Women's Health, Cosmopolitan, Stylist, Red and the Mail on Sunday. Follow her on Instagram @ameliajeanjones or contact her via email at ameliajeanjones@gmail.com.

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