PittGirl reveals identity, debuts 'That's Church'

New blog crashed after announcement

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She's 35, a mother of two and the wife of a budding restaurateur.

PittGirl, who captured Pittsburgh's attention with her acerbic but anonymous commentary on the widely read Burgh Blog from 2005 to 2008, outed herself yesterday.

Until she pulled the plug on her blog last November, one of the more popular pastimes in the local online community was wondering who PittGirl really was. Maybe an upper echelon operative within city government? Some frustrated media type who wanted to vent? One of the Steelers?

Virginia Montanez is none of those things.

In her new blog called That's Church (thatschurch.com), Ms. Montanez said she's the communications and marketing director for NEED, the Pittsburgh-based college access program that provides scholarships and grants. Her husband David, who is Mexican -- they got married on the beaches of Cancun -- is opening Las Velas, a Mexican restaurant in Market Square.

They have two children, a boy, 6, and a girl, 2. She posted pictures of herself, her four sisters and her parents, who have been married for 40 years. Her father is a retired engineer and a minister; her mother a homemaker. She was born and reared in suburban Pittsburgh, graduated from Norwin High School, and has lived here all her life.

She said that now was the right time to reveal who she was. "More and more people were starting to figure out my identity. It was starting to get a little too stressful. I just wanted to take control of it," she said.

Reactions to her outing so far have been mostly positive, she said. "I was afraid of disappointing people. Everyone has been so supportive. I'm very relieved about it." (She wrote on her new blog that her husband didn't even know she had a blog until a year after she started it.)

On the new blog, Ms. Montanez explained her decision to kill off PittGirl in November: "For three years I wrote The Burgh Blog under the alias of PittGirl, until one day [she] got too heavy to carry around so I dropped her like a Sheetz paper towel dispenser."

When she suddenly shut down theburghblog.com, a fan site devoted to PittGirl on Facebook.com filled with posts expressing sorrow at the cancellation, and PittGirl said her own e-mail inbox began to overflow in the five hours after her announcement.

If she had known that PittGirl would have achieved this level of notoriety, she might not have ever started blogging, she says. "I'm not a celebrity. I'm a very regular person. PittGirl became this larger than life kind of thing. It's a lot to live up to."

That's Church, which contains the Burgh Blog archives going back to 2005, is "my newest place to hang my keyboard and rant and write about all things Pittsburgh."

"I love that I'm getting a chance to write and have an audience. But the attention -- that's what I've been trying to avoid all along. I'm just happy not to have to hide anymore."

Whether her new blog will be as popular without the cloak of mystery is hard to tell. Her announcement yesterday drew a barrage of phone calls to her home. And by midday yesterday, there was so much traffic to her blog that it temporarily crashed and was inaccessible.

Adrian McCoy can be reached at 412-263-1865 or amccoy@post-gazette.com .


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