She has a reputation.
Just like Welsey Shaw.
She doesn’t think she deserves it.
Just like Welsey Shaw.
Kristen Stewart, who used to be, if not America’s sweetheart (she’s too dark and moody for that), at least America’s favorite vampire, has somewhat fallen out of favor, even as she’s worked hard to distance herself from her Bella character and take on new and different roles. But somewhere along the way, she’s gotten a rep for being unapproachable. Disdainful of her fans. A bit of a brat.
Just like Welsey Shaw.
This pisses her off.
Just like…Okay, I’ll stop.
This isn’t to say, by the way, that K-Stew is the basis for the character of Welsey. Welsey is an amalgamation of lots of famous people, plus a good deal I just made up. Or, in many cases, think I made up, only to discover some celebrity has in fact uttered that statement, been in that experience, thought that thought.
But in an interview a while ago, the 26-year-old actress got downright annoyed that people think she’s “unapproachable.”
“When I hear that people are intimidated or they think I’m, like, reposed or like, unapproachable or something that actually—I hate it. I’m always like ‘Dude, come up say anything to me. I would love to engage with you.”
If you watch the clip carefully, you’ll see she’s about to say it “pisses her off” when she quickly changes to “I hate it.” That in itself really makes her endearing to me.
But it’s true, and it’s an enigma: fans want to talk to their favorite celebrity, but as Daniel Ferreira finds out, it’s tough finding something to say when you get the chance.
I have a list of creative people whom I’d like to ask something regarding some aspect of their work. At the same time, if I ever found myself sitting on an airplane next to Meryl Streep or Wallace Shawn or David O. Russell, I’d probably hesitate to talk shop—because I figure it’s the last thing they’d want on their day off. They might even get justifiably angry at me and tell me off in no uncertain terms, and I’d go away upset that my hero turned out to be a jerk.
Another thing that struck me about the Kristen Stewart interview. She seems a genuinely reluctant celebrity. Like you-know-who. It seems an odd turn of affairs—you really have to throw yourself into the limelight to get discovered usually—but it actually is a lot more common than you’d think. Susan Sarandon went to a casting call with her then-husband Chris, who couldn’t drive at the time, and although he didn’t get cast, she did. Kristen Stewart grew up with parents in the business, but behind the camera, which is always where she thought she would end up. She says she didn’t want celebrity, and still finds it difficult. Which brings us to the question of whether or not they “owe” their fans anything beyond the work they do and put on the screen. Does spending eight bucks on a ticket entitle you to get to see them on their own time? There’s no easy answer.
But Stewart, among others (Mila Kunis is another) seems to love unscripted encounters with people—provided they’re respectful and considerate. Following another event that happened just last week, the shooting death of a reality TV singer for reasons still unknown, it’s important to remember that stars have good reason to fear the very people who pay their salaries. Kristen Stewart knows that too. Just like Welsey Shaw.
The world’s most famous vampire has this to say about Hollywood:
“It’s like the most gnarly popularity contest in the world…You take high school and make it like in the real world…Hollywood is boring, nasty and dog-eat-dog.”
Pretty frank talk from someone who’s only recently made her reputation, and whose career is still pretty fresh. Usually, this kind of jaded talk comes from vets, retired megastars with nothing to lose.
In part she’s talking this way because she’s coming out in a Woody Allen film that is about this very reptilian aspect of Hollywood. Still, the star of the Twilight franchise pulled no punches.
“There’s definitely an undeniably-opportunistic, hungry, insane fervour that occurs,” says Stewart. “I think human beings are always clawing at each other to get on top. I think that’s true in most industries but Hollywood can have a surface nature that makes it more obvious.”
Perhaps it’s ironic that she’s talking about how rough-and-tumble her business is when she’s promoting an Allen film. Though considered a director who’s easy to work with, Woody has come under fire for some inappropriate behavior off the set that also arguably informs the subject matter of some of his films (Manhattan, most notably.)
Kristen isn’t alone is saying Hollywood is a vast spiritual wasteland. Chloë Sevigny is also talking about her bad experiences—this time of the sexual kind. Sevigny has recently recounted several directors who used auditions to hit on her, try to get her to go out “clothes shopping” with them, and engage in other extra-curricular activities.
Possibly the best line she heard from a director: “You should show your body off more. You shouldn’t wait until you’re as old as this certain actress who had just been naked in a film, you should be naked on screen now.” Whoever he was, subtlety wasn’t his forte.
In all cases, she says, she didn’t get cast, but it shows you what many young women have to go through to end up with their name in lights. It also may explain why many mediocre actresses seem to get more than their deserving share of screen time, while others who are excellent fade away quickly.
As Welsey Shaw knows, it’s a rough world out there, where looks and sexuality determine, often more than talent, who gets cast and who gets passed.
Doesn’t stop a long line of movie star-wannabes from flocking to Hollywood every year, however. The allure of fame is strong.
It’s hard to think of stars as having it tough. They get everything they want. They’re rich. They’re famous. Fans stand in long times for a few seconds with them, or for them to scrawl their name on a piece of paper.
One of the themes of Entertaining Welsey Shaw is how things aren’t what they seem when it coms to people in the spotlight. Another is how stressful the lives of those who “have it all” can be.
Kristen Stewart—I refuse to call her “KStew”—has recently told a well-known magazine that for the majority of her fame, she has felt anxious, isolated, frightened.
In other words, the 25-year-old thespian has felt exactly like Welsey Anne Shaw.
“Between ages 15 and 20, it was really intense. I was constantly anxious. I was kind of a control freak. If I didn’t know how something was going to turn out, I would make myself ill, or just be locked up or inhibited in a way that was really debilitating.”
Interestingly, as with my heroine, a large part of the stress was the dichotomy between what she was and what she told she “should be,” at least to fans.
“I believe the words are, ‘accessible,’ ‘easy’ and uncomplicated,” she said. That’s how we rate our celebrities—another theme in Entertaining Welsey Shaw—is by how “accessible” they are. (How accessible was Katharine Hepburn, after all? How about Greta Garbo or Marilyn Monroe?)
It didn’t get easier when she got a bit older. She describes her early 20s as a “really traumatic” period that “kick-started” something in her that made her more “feral.” She was unable to trust people, and became wary of almost everybody. Many celebrities describe exactly this same experience. They all know you; you don’t know them, and don’t know who your friends are. It’s no wonder so many of them are rude, brusk, even paranoid. This is often mistaken for arrogant, entitled, haughty.
There seems to be an unwritten rule that these most extraordinary and rarified of people must be the most common folks in the room. From Shailene Woodley talking about how she took a retail job in New York between early acting gigs to Keira Knightly assuring us she lives on a modest budget despite being rich to Anna Kendrick posting self-deprecating tweets all over Twitter, stars are constantly pressured, after they make it big in the most extraordinary of careers, into assuring us they’re really not any different than they were before, and honestly, not all that terrific.
Stewart says she used her long, tousled hair as a crutch to hide from the glare of fame. She says her life changed when she cut her hair. She could no longer hide behind it. She had to reveal herself. Similar my protagonist Daniel Ferreira often comments on Welsey hiding behind her “curtain of hair.”
She says she’s better now—more confident, smarter, uncaring of what people think—but of course some of the anxiety remains.
When you live your life largely in public, it never really goes away. Just ask Welsey Shaw.
Read more of Kristen Stewart’s interview here.
Kristen Stewart took the words right out of my mouth.
The Twilight star says in a recent interview she and most actors feel isolated by their fame.
She tells the new issue of Loaded magazine that famous people aren’t seen as approachable by…well, the rest of us…and as a consequence they spend a lot of their time being very lonely.
Not that the average person, seeing them surrounded by flashbulbs and adoring crowds on the red carpet, would think so. When the studios are packaging and presenting them, they appear to be people who have it all, who live the perfect lives we all want.
“Actors become so isolated. It’s like people aren’t allowed to talk to us. Like if you’re a big star, or whatever, if you’re like a famous person, it’s kind of lonely. Like people don’t want to talk to you.”
She goes on: “You’re just constantly thinking about what other people are thinking about you. I think it’s people who want to be movie stars – and this is such bullshit – but the life really is a huge driving force in so many actors and actresses. Solely. And they won’t be happy at the end, because they’re not doing anything for themselves, everything is for someone else.”
I was struck by how much this sound like Welsey Shaw. There’s a scene in my novel—which is going out into that mysterious place called Agentland right now—where she quotes a mantra from her therapist, the one stabilizing force in her life. “My therapist constantly warns me against confusing fame with love,” she says. “He tells me that fame isn’t love, that love comes from someplace else.”
This is a riff of a quote from Claire Danes, who once said, “I think people confuse fame with validation or love. But fame is not the reward. The reward is getting fulfilment out of doing the thing you love.”
But Stewart takes it even further. She talks about the need for validation and approval in ways I’d have thought, if I’d put it into Entertaining Welsey Shaw, would have been too over-the-top. Apparently nothing in Hollywood is over the top.
“I’ve seen people hire a friend. Literally, like, you hire someone. They’re your assistant but then lines start to blur and now they’re a co-worker, an associate, an employee, my friend, my sister, somebody that I’m attracted to.”
Wow. Friends for hire. Maybe that’s something for the sequel.
In the same magazine, another superstar actress, Keira Knightly, talks about her own issues with fame. She claims all the trappings of celebrity—she’s married to a hot-shot Britush rocker—don’t impress her, and says hubby handles it better than she does even as she says it’s different for men: “I think it’s a very different thing for male bands, male folk. They get adulation on stage and they might get a couple of people outside, but they’re not dealing with a media that is obsessed with female celebrity.”
I’ve written about Knightly before. She seems to keep herself distant from fame and its distortion of reality, going so far as to “hang out” in places like coffee shops and cafes watching other people, so’s not to get out of touch or find herself in a bubble. Again, this is straight out of my novel. I’m glad I seem to have hit the nail on the head, at least as far as how some celebrities handle their fame. There are those who will always live just for the spotlight, even though they have precious little to offer it (won’t name names, but I can think of a whole family of daughters that does this, driven by a very business-minded mom whose very life is a TV show taunting you to keep up with it). The difference between people like that and Knightly and Stewart is enlightening.
Knightly was asked in the Loaded interview about the first time she realized she was famous. She said, “Luckily it was so long ago that I can’t remember what it was like when it happened.” But, “I’m still alive and I’m not a drug addict so it must have been all right.”
As Stephen Sondheim might say, I’m Still Here.