I Think I Need To Stop Reading Celebrity Memoirs

Two weeks ago I read Anna Kendrick’s book Scrappy Little Nobody because I adore her and think she’s funny, so I was interested to see what she had to say in a book. I’ve read a fair handful of books by famous people (Amy Poehler, Tina Fey, Jane Lynch, Neil Patrick Harris, Naya Rivera…) and here’s the thing: they’re all the same in terms of content. The exact same. They’ll cover their childhood and career with brutal honesty, highlighting any struggles and emphasising how blessed they know they are, add in some cute anecdotes, and, if they’re known for being funny, describe events while being very dry with their humor in a way that doesn’t really set them apart but attempts to show that they’re ‘just like us regular people!’ and ‘very humble and real!’

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I don’t know what else I expect, but I end up pushing through because they’re light reads and more interesting than reading their Wikipedia page.

The thing about these books is that I end up usually very conflicted about how I feel. I don’t enjoy this confusion, and in the end, I don’t feel like a better person after reading these books.

First of all, my opinion changes on the person a little. I guess in their honesty, these people usually end up talking about something I’m not thrilled about (drugs, sex addictions, ect…) and I end up feeling bad for judging them on their past actions/mistakes. It’s easy for me to judge them, too, because they are just famous people I don’t know, and I’d like to think that if I magically got famous over night next week, I’d be smart enough to avoid any of those bad habits. And I still like these people, it’s just my opinion usually changes a little…

The second thing I feel is jealousy. I know this sounds so stupid but it’s true. Every time I read about a happy or proud moment or consider how great these people’s lives are, I get jealous. And jealousy is not a good colour on anyone. I can’t help it, though. These people are talented, are living their dreams, and wake up each morning with a purpose. They’re attractive, popular, funny, and probably don’t spend their weekends alone.

The last thing I feel is kind of annoyed. Most of these books have an underlying message of ‘follow your dreams!’ and that drives me insane because like, dude I’m trying. It’s tiring to hear the same speech from accomplished people or people who really don’t understand what it’s like out here. To use Anna Kendrick as an example: at the start of her book she mentions how she kind of wishes she was still a scrappy little nobody (hence the title) but then chapter two literally starts with a line about being nominated for a Tony at age twelve and I kind of had to stop reading for a second to roll my eyes there. These people have set in stone careers by now. They’re not desperate for work and they don’t have to feel guilty for buying a four dollar Happy Meal. And now they’re here telling us to keep at it and work hard because if they can do it so can you! But that’s not true. Think about how many twenty-somethings are in LA right now struggling for a big break. Think about how many never got one. And it’s a different world now. There was no social media twenty years ago. I know these people have to try to be positive and all, but it’s just not want I want from them.

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So between my judgemental attitude, my immense jealousy, and my frustration regarding the privilege these adored celebrities have, I end up not really feeling inspired or even happy at the end of these books. That is the opposite effect books should have.

I know it’s not the celebrities’ intention to have me feeling this way and perhaps the publishers forced them into maintaining such rigid book formats, but I’m getting tired of it all.

And while you may think means I’m never again reading a celebrity memoir, I assure you, it does not. I know myself well enough. If Darren Criss tweeted tomorrow that he’s got a book coming, you can bet that I’ll be at the nearest Chapters faster than you can say memoir. I still adore so many celebrities and would love to read what they say, I just wish the books had a bit more personality and humour and a bit less preachy aspects. I want to know secrets and thoughts and the inside, honest details, not be reminded that I am just a nobody.

I know Ellen DeGeneres has written several books, but her 2011 one Seriously…I’m Kidding is one of my favourite books because the whole thing is just a joke and she’s just writing small essays that make me laugh and really don’t have a theme. Maybe because it was her third book, she didn’t feel the need to share her teenage woes again.

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What are your thoughts on celebrity memoirs? I am just reading them wrong? Is there one that you really love and think I should read?

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28 thoughts on “I Think I Need To Stop Reading Celebrity Memoirs

  1. I was thinking about reading Anna Kendrick’s and Amy Schumer’s, but I read Tina Fey’s and just thought it was okay. When I was looking at others in the book store, none of them seemed different or inspiring to me.

  2. People rarely buy books by regular people; but somehow I suspect one may learn more from a regular person who had a long and somewhat unsuccessful life than from these people who everyone knows their name.

    Excellent post, very well done and interesting. Thank you.

  3. I have also noticed that celebrity memoirs are often the same. I think that may be more because not all celebrities are writers, though. It’s their agents capitalizing off of what has worked for celebrity memoirs before, so celebrities who aren’t good at writing follow the same outline, because they know those are well-received. I do feel your pain though. I’ve read my fair share of celebrity memoirs (because memoirs are the BEST) and it can be disheartening.

    • You’re right, I’m sure most of these people never really planned to write a book or have any passion for writing, which is too bad, because I think they do have interesting things to say.

  4. OMG! I just read Scrappy Little Nobody and I agree! While I found it somewhat intriguing- I found her a bit off-putting. The whole chapter about ‘If I was a normal person at holidays- these are what my parties would be like’? WHAT? I don’t want to read that- I want to hear about things that happened on movie sets- a little behind the scenes gossip…. not your hidden pinterest desires.
    I am glad to hear I am not the only one. I love celeb bios and memoirs- but some just should not make it to print!

    • I didn’t mind the chapter about parties. You’re right, it isn’t what I wanted to read at all, but I found it amusing and it was a part where her fame or history didn’t play into much.

  5. I’m not really a celebrity memoir reader (I started Yes, Please! and haven’t finished it yet) but I can see what you’re saying. I think I’d roll my eyes a bit too – were you ever a scrappy little nobody if you won a Tony at the age of 12?

    I’m a scrappy little nobody and I volunteer as tribute to swap places with Anna Kendrick!

  6. This is a really interesting post. I’ve actually never read a celebrity memoir 🙈 I suppose it’s because I don’t really trust them to be that honest. I get the feeling that they just want to be liked by the public so they make more money xD xx

  7. No, I think you hit the nail on the head. It’s why I gave up reading celebrity memoirs ages ago. The one exception I made recently happened in the last year, and it was Misty Copeland’s autobiography (and it was partly because I’d never heard of her until 2014 and really wanted to know more about her). She doesn’t gloss over her struggles, and she makes it clear she didn’t have it easy even after hitting success. She comes across as very down to earth, and having seen interviews with her, I could tell that her ghost writer did an excellent job of using a lot of her actual tone and feelings. And she never made me feel like she was so spoiled or had it all, to the point of where I had to do the eye roll. Even if you’re not a fan of ballet, if you’re a fan of the arts I think it’s a great read.

    • I don’t know who she is, but thanks for the recommendation!
      It is very important to have the book match who the person is (or at least perceives to be in real life).

      • Misty Copeland is a ballerina with the American Ballet Theatre in NY City. Most people who don’t follow classic arts didn’t know who she was until a couple years ago, when she did some commercials and had a run on Broadway.

  8. Interesting article! I personally never buy celebrity memoirs because I agree that you don’t get a lot out of them. I would only buy them if I really like the celebrity. Say if Emma Watson writes a memoir, I will buy it in a heartbeat.

  9. I hate the idea of celebrity memoirs. I’ve never read one so all my judgements are pretty much uninformed but your thoughts have reinforced them. The people who write these are already megafamous and not really devoted writers so have to adopt a conversational tone. Writers in general are probably the least successful and well known in terms of celebrity so a celebrity memoir to me is the last book in need of support. Its hard to be completely honest about your own life so there will always be an intrinsic bias kind of like the way these Katy Perry, Justin Bieber movies are (but not as bad). So besides not needing support, I always assumed the ultimate message of these books would be shallow and kind of self congratulatory. A lot of these celebrities get famous at really young ages so they never really experience the ‘normal’ life and are detached from everyday struggles and then try to pander to us normal people. Yes they feel normal human emotions like us but they live in a bubble of privilege that makes them unable to grasp what it’s like on the outside. I think that there are far more interesting autobiographies out there like one written by a woman who dressed up as man to experience what its like for the opposite gender, a man whose father was a terrorist, Malcom X and other people’s whose experiences can really open you up to be perspectives.

    Ps the one time I read an page from a more coffee table-esque Jennifer Lopez memoir and it was just as bad I thought it would be. I know her divorce from Marc Anthony must have been tough but she opens up that chapter by talking about how her shallow pop garbage song On the floor was number one and her career was in such a great place so she shook have been on top of the world etc.

    • Yup, yup, yup. This is exactly right. The conversational tone isn’t bad (my whole blog is conversational) but they should not be on the same level as real writers who’ve honed their skills. And yeah, they are kind of self-congratulatory. The ones I’ve read at least certainly don’t try to teach anything really deep because it’s firstly about them, so if you’re inspired then bonus!

      • I don’t mean that the conversational tone is bad. It’s much much better than pretentious writing it’s just that the whole book can read more like a shallow interview or conversation rather than a tool to impart a message.

  10. I really really loved Amy Poehler’s “Yes Please”. Man, I loved it. I can’t even tell you exactly why, because I usually don’t like celebrity biographies. I think I enjoyed it because of the range of the stories she told in the book, from her sons to her laptop and a really lovely TSA lady –none of them felt patronising, which a lot of celebrity stories do. I appreciate this post!

    • I’m glad you liked it! That’s what books should do, and even though I didn’t love it, the fact that some people like you did, means that it’s still worth having. I don’t mean to turn people off these books, I’m just offering an alternate viewpoint to consider when reading. But you’re right, she didn’t seem patronizing at all, which was great.

  11. I just never really have had any interest in reading ‘celebrity stories’ and don’t understand why any publisher would even give most of them paper space. But i guess supply meets demand – or is it the other way round. You surprised me though with the jealousy thing as you seem really confident and capable and such a good writer you even make things I’m not interested in an enjoyable read (topics such as television and movies). I’ve got no idea who any of these ‘celebrities’ are that you mention in your post – just actors/actresses i guess, kind of people who do ten a penny jobs like film and tv and nothing as special as the glossy sheen on a magazine page. If i was as unfortunate as to become famous overnight next week I’d do whatever i’d normally do and to hell what anyone thinks cos you cannot keep your sanity by trying to please others or worry about what other people think unless you’re ‘plastic people’ material and become false and then you’re no longer you and then who are you if you’re not you.

    • I think there is a demand. Like I said, I still will likely read them and I know that people who are bigger fans than me love them, so that’s good.
      I’m not jealous of their writing, I think my writing is decent and on par with a lot of these memoirs, I’m mostly jealous of their overall lifestyle. As someone who loves the entertainment industry, the fact that they’re in it makes me a little jealous, and that’s just how it is. But thank you!
      I don’t think these celebrities are trying to be someone they’re not, I just think they’re playing up a different, less seen side that they think people want to relate to.

  12. I love the memoir genre, but I actually tend to shy away from celebrity memoirs. I don’t have a lot of book money to throw around, and often celebrity memoirs are quite pricy for, I fear, not a lot of substance. I’m interested in the Ellen book you recommended, though. And if I had a lot of book money to throw around, I’d probably buy a ton of celebrity memoir.

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