***This excerpt is from an advance uncorrected proof.***
Copyright © 2014 by Tom Fitzgerald and Lorenzo Marquez
“Dear Tom & Lorenzo,” the email began, “I have wide hips and small shoulders. From the time I was a child I’ve been shy and awkward. I want to make a change before I turn forty and I want to start with my clothes. How can I bring some red carpet glamour to my day-to-day life?”
We didn’t used to get emails like this, but we’d recently started a semi-bitchy, totally gay fashion and celebrity blog that surprised us by gaining an audience, and since we’d tricked people into thinking we were style experts, we occasionally received sweet missives from pear-shaped ladies who needed a boost of confidence more than fashion advice. But how to continue the illusion that we know what we’re talking about while still giving her some helpful tips?
We’d somehow stumbled into a hobby, which later—against all odds and reason—turned into a profession that had us reading publicist press releases, obsessing over red carpet photos all day, and conducting celebrity interviews. Despite giving pear-shaped ladies the impression that we’re somehow insiders to this world, that was not the case. Prior to the unlikely series of events that resulted in our becoming pop culture and fashion bloggers, we tended to have a positively Elizabethan attitude regarding celebrities: namely, that people who choose to go into the entertainment field are most likely deranged, with severe attention-seeking disorders, and that no respectable person would dare consider interacting with any such person whenever he or she appears somewhere that isn’t a stage. Alas, we live in a world where people revere their celebrities and don’t say things like “alas” anymore, so our ideas about this sort of thing tend to come across a little, shall we say, archaic.
Don’t get us wrong; we love celebrities. Adore them, actually. Not only do they work to provide entertainment to the masses, they also tend to have insanely melodramatic personal lives that provide us with something to talk about during smoke breaks, in waiting rooms, or while seated with strangers at a wedding. Politics and religion make terrible conversation topics, but a pop singer gaining twenty pounds or an action star crashing his car into a palm tree can bring people together like a natural disaster that happened somewhere far away. Other people’s problems will always be infinitely more entertaining than our own, after all.
Most of us would find it hard to get out of bed if millions of people judged us every day for our clothes, hair, faces, bodies, romantic entanglements, financial status, and sexual history. But celebrities blithely sail through their days, eyes straight ahead, even if their field of vision is dominated by a bunch of screaming photographers who would sell their children for a chance to get a picture of an Oscar winner with spinach in her teeth. For a celebrity, every day is a slog through throngs of people clawing at you, both figuratively and literally.
But when you get right down to it, isn’t every day like that for most of us, on some level? Didn’t Lady Pear feel a little beaten down by a world that punished her for being shaped like the wrong fruit? Isn’t that really what she was asking us for, a little dose of the kind of blissfully unflappable self-confidence pumped into most celebrity psyches by a team of enablers and a public ready to worship them? And weren’t those very celebrities responsible on some level for making her feel like she wasn’t shaped correctly in the first place? Didn’t they owe her something for that? Didn’t we owe her something for being a small part of that celebrity machinery ourselves?
This was too perfect. Lady Pear felt bad about herself at least in part (a big part) because she lived in a world where circus performers with eating disorders were worshipped like golden idols. Who better to turn to for the kind of advice she really needed than those very clowns and tumblers? Wouldn’t it be delicious if we could pull something from the yawning wastelands known as the celebrity mindset and turn it around so it could be useful to a person without an entourage? What is the essence of the celebrity philosophy and how could we boil it down to one refrigerator magnet of inspiration? Like we tend to do so very often, we pulled an idea directly out of our collective ass.
“Darling, ever y day, before you leave the house,” we instructed Lady Pear, after giving her some standard style recommendations, “look in the mirror and tell yourself, Everyone wants to be me or do me.”
Sure, it sounds more like something a serial killer would scrawl on a mirror in lipstick rather than an affirmation, but it perfectly represents the self-absorption that characterizes the way celebrities see themselves. Lady Pear loved the sentiment, and we sent her out into the world with our blessing to be as happily self-involved as she needs to be. Last we heard, she was seen strutting.
But this got us thinking. Our hobby-turned-career had us firmly entrenched as another cog in the massive celebrity-ego-inflating machine, and we couldn’t help wondering how it was affecting the many Lady Pears out there, mistakenly led to believe that life somehow had given them the short end of the stick when all they really needed was their own inner publicist to tell them constantly how fabulous they are. Knowing what we know about just how false the modern celebrity image is, it annoyed us that people like Lady Pear were inadvertently buying into it. What people like her really needed was a shot of wake-the-fuck-up on the topic of stars and just how wrong it is to look to any of them or compare any of their lives to their own. Their lives are based on a double-barreled combination of conformity and illusion, and their value is wrapped up in their looks and how young they can plausibly appear to be. These are not role models, these are cautionary tales.
Even worse, celebrities write countless books and give endless interviews telling people their philosophies of life, and somehow they’ve not yet managed to improve humankind in any measurable way, except for a brief period in the eighties when everybody took up aerobics, but there was a lot of spandex involved so it was kind of a trade-off.
We don’t believe anyone should look to us for advice any more than they should look to celebrities, but if you must look up to them, then at least look up to them for their self-confidence and the ways in which they use it to craft a seemingly invulnerable persona and then force the world around them to accept it. We could all use a little more of that in our lives and a little less fretting over our hips or whether our clothes are cool enough.
What if we wrote something about all the ways in which celebrities essentially convince themselves and everyone else that they’re special? What if we looked—really looked—at all the things they do to get famous, stay famous, and hold on to that fame at any cost when it starts slipping away? What if we wrote something to help all those Lords and Ladies Pear realize that they are no different from celebrities and that all fruits are beautifully shaped, no matter what the fashion and gossip magazines tell them; that everyone is exactly who he or she needs to be; that we’re all starring in our own movie; and most important of all, that life is all about resisting the impulse to believe the world when it tries to tell you who you are?
Okay, what if we just made fun of celebrities a lot? Same thing.
So this book isn’t about us imparting advice to you. Unlike celebrities, we’re more than willing to ask the question, “Why the hell should you listen to anything we have to say about life?” No, this is about taking a hard look at what celebrities do to become and then remain celebrities and taking the real lessons away from it, boiling them down to sometimes hilariously simple affirmations that don’t so much build up self-confidence as they render the opinions of the rest of the world utterly moot (which, from a distance, looks like the same thing). It’ll be up to you to decide if the lessons imparted here are helpful or monstrous. We suspect they’ll fall somewhere in the middle and be either monstrously helpful or helpfully monstrous, but the point to all of them is the same: The stars have entire armies of people dedicated to telling them how fabulous they are every day of their lives. You have a mirror. Get in front of it and be your own publicist, darling.
Before They Were Stars
CELEBRITY AFFIRMATION #1
Nobody gets to say who I am except me, and I’m not done talking yet.
T H E P U PA L S TAG E
Somewhere, at this very moment, a little girl is standing in front of a mirror in her bedroom, wrapped in a sheet to approximate a couture gown, clutching a softball-league trophy in both hands, and thanking the empty room for this honor. “I didn’t even prepare a speech,” she says breathlessly, her eyes glistening, her face a perfect mask of faux gratitude and humility, just like the ones the stars wear. It doesn’t matter what her name is. It’s likely she’ll change it some day anyway, to something less ethnic and more generic, like Jennifer—or more likely...