She’s a wildly-famous blonde superstar who’s been in the spotlight since she was a teenager, and she nearly lost her mind because of the relentless scrutiny she found herself under.
But we’re not talking about Welsey Shaw.
Britney Spears could probably identify with my blonde heroine. No matter what you think of her talents, you have to admit she must have stamina to live her life with paparazzi camped outside her door and reporters following her every move.
She recently told the magazine Marie Claire UK that for many years she didn’t know who she was or what she was. She was living a life defined by other people, unable to form her own self.
I can’t justify the craziness of the public eye for Britney’s former irresponsible behavior. She endangered her children, of whom she lost custody (since re-won, at least on a 50/50 basis with her ex, dancer Kevin Federline) and did some truly wacked out things. Shrink-type people said she was crying out for help. Probably true. If she really were suicidal she’d have succeeded.
But I find it interesting how so many stars-since-they-were-children have their childhoods snatched away from them, and make up for it in overdrive later on. How what everyone thinks they would like—fame, fans, riches—can lead to madness, depression, desperation. Interestingly, one of her most well-known comeback songs is “Piece of Me,” and it’s from an album called Blackout.
Critics have criticized Spears’ art for not being deep. That may be true, but I have a feeling she’ll get deeper. When she was younger, she didn’t know much, because she wasn’t allowed to live a life. So she couldn’t have been deep. Her rebellion might have ultimately been the best thing to happen, artistically.
Something has to set childhood stars free. For Britney it was an unlikely bumpy series of events that, after a lot of loss and pain, liberated her—or at least so it seems. For Welsey Shaw, part of it was equally-unlikely, Daniel Ferreira in a Midtown Manhattan Starbucks who lets her discover what real conversation, real people, real experiences and opinions, feel like. The road through fame is filled with twists and turns, and it’s different lengths for everyone.
Jennifer Aniston again.
It may seem hard to believe that people who always appear to be confident are as doubt-filled as the rest of us. Here is Jennifer Aniston responding with surprising candor to a question asked at a film festival in Italy. She was asked by a young girl if she ever woke up in the morning not knowing who she was. You’d think at this stage in her career, her life, such feelings would be far behind her. But not only are they not, but the very question caused the normally guarded Aniston to tear up.
“We’re all human beings at the end of the day, whether we’re a waitress or a baker or a student or whatever we are; at the end of the day, you kind of hit walls and think, I kind of can’t go any farther. Or this is too much. My heart can’t take it or the pain is too great, or am I good enough?”
She says “there are not enough fingers and toes” in the entire room for her to count how many times that has happened to her.
This in a nutshell is what Entertaining Welsey Shaw is about. Everyone thinks they “know” celebrities because they see them in wildly fantastic situations, being treated like royalty, being touted as living lives no one lives.
Of course there’s money and privilege, but one can have that and still be unhappy. But that aside, it’s clear these things don’t make insecurity disappear. Or unhappiness. Welsey tells Daniel near the end of the novel that she spends most of her nights “in here” (her apartment) alone, with the TV for company. Even if your TV is bigger and your apartment nicer, it can be a lonely life. But no one understands. Which only makes it lonelier. So you’re isolated by the very nature of your loneliness, despite the fact that it’s the same feeling anybody else has. Nah, couldn’t be the same.
Which makes it more astonishing that this girl’s simple question made Jennifer shed tears, and blot her eyes with a tissue. I’m trying to remember the last time I’ve seen a celebrity so unguarded in public and failing. And it happened with a celebrity who’s famous for her detached demeanor, her control, her desire to project herself with every hair in place.
“Am I good enough?” It was impressive that she admitted—to the world: to casting agents and fellow actors and the likes of TMZ—that she’s not secure.
Jennifer Aniston is tired of people judging her by her body.
Her…well, look at the picture.
The perpetually-in-the-news-even-though-she-hasn’t-done-anything-notable-in-decades actress complained recently about all the body shaming that’s going on in Hollywood. She is among a growing number of stars who are angry because they can’t tuck into that bacon cheeseburger, as they have to keep their bodies perfect for the camera.
“The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty,” says Aniston.
Sounds reasonable. But Piers Morgan is having none of it.
The British-born celebrity sleuth says the former Friends star has made her fortune off her bodacious bod, and should, basically, STFU, because she’s a hypocrite.
He says she’s reaped as much from the objectification as it’s taken from her. He says she’s helped create the attention by posing for dozens of magazine covers over the years that he says have been airbrushed to improve her looks.
Mr. Morgan continues
You may want to dismount from that high horse at this point, Jennifer.
There’s another reason why the media objectify and scrutinise famous women, and why little girls get confused about beauty and body image.
It’s this: female stars like Jennifer Aniston deliberately perpetuate the myth of ‘perfection’ by posing for endless magazine covers which have been airbrushed so much that in some cases the celebrity is virtually unrecognisable.
Not a sympathetic ear, is he?
But he makes a point. The manipulators benefit from the manipulating.
Welsey Shaw certainly knows how to do this, as do all great celebrities. (And yes, there are “great” celebrities and “not so great” celebrities. Some just can’t handle fame, and whatever their talents they disappear in a tear. Others with no great talents seem to be with us forever.)
She would say it’s fair game, that you use all the tools you have at your disposal, and when you’re in your 20s and 30s, your bodacious bod is one. Aniston has probably made enough dough off her flesh to afford her scrumptious $22 million Bel Air mansion. With that as the reward, being airbrushed doesn’t seem like too much of an indignity, does it?
Alas, most of us will never know.
With people feeling humiliated having to go through TSA screenings, perhaps complaining about a little magazine cheesecake seems a bit whiny.
On the other hand, a lot of stars surely get sick of being asked if they’re pregnant every time they put on ten pounds. Welsey Shaw goes through that experience in my novel too. There are constantly rumors she’s pregnant, and she doesn’t like it one bit.
At another point Morgan says, “I’ve been in numerous Beverly Hills restaurants when she’s walked in, and watched as every table descended into an instant frenzy of elbow-nudging and staged whispers. I suspect the same thing happens wherever she dines in the world.”
He seems to miss the point: she can’t control this and probably doesn’t like it.
It gets old really quick.
Here’s Aniston’s entire text.
And here’s Morgan’s entire reply.
Does he have a point? Or is his point of view off-base?
Kylie Jenner has a confession: “People think that since we have a reality TV show and I show so much of my life that they know who I am. But on Snapchat I show people what I think they want to see.”
Okay I’m actually writing about a Jenner/Kardashian. Time to start looking for that Fourth Horseman.
But seriously, I thought what she had to say in the recent issue of Allure magazine (my bible, in case you’re wondering) was very relevant to all celebrities, not just those we’re sick of.
Jenner says—surprise, surprise—most of her glamorous life is made up, and that the image she puts forth on all the social media sites is “a projected image. A brand.”
She explains why: “I usually don’t show my true personality to the world, because when you open yourself up so much, there’s more room for people to say things about you.”
Welsey Shaw could relate. The notoriously reclusive star of my novel avoids letting people into her life because for the famous, privacy is the one thing they cannot buy, and at the same time the most valuable commodity.
Some celebs build up a phony social media presence, like the Jenners and Kardashians. Some avoid it all together, like Claire Danes and Jennifer Lawrence. “We work so hard to maintain some sort of life and privacy, why would we intentionally put ourselves out there?” says another Jennifer—Aniston this time.
Back to Kylie.”I can’t remember what it’s like not to be famous. So I’m able to appreciate what true happiness is all about,” she insists. That quote could have come from Welsey Shaw. In another interview, from February, she says she’d like to move out of the spotlight, as Jessica Alba, Gwyneth Paltrow and so many others have. “I want to be a businesswoman,” she says in another recent interview, “and be behind the scenes. Kylie Jenner needs to retire.”
“People think that because we have a reality TV show that they know everything, but it’s like, I’m not filming right now. That’s maybe 5 percent out of my day.”
This last quote made me think of two movies, one recent and well-known, the other older and obscure. The well-known one is The Truman Show, which had the character Truman Burbank living in a round-the-clock reality show that he thought was his real life. The movie came out just before the deluge of TV shows depicting unscripted people began to appear, and remains astonishingly prescient.
The other, older movie is called Real Life, and it was made by Albert Brooks in 1979. Like most of Brooks’ work, it has slid into obscurity, which is too bad, because it’s brilliant.
The movie is about a TV filmmaker who wants to film a Phoenix family in their everyday life. But he soon discovers that this is pretty dull, so he starts tampering with reality. This raised a question back in 1979 that people in more modern times seem to have forgotten or not realized: how do you portray your intimate “reality,” whatever that is, with a camera operator inches from your nose? The mere presence of a film crew alters how you act, what you do, whether you realize it or not. And there’s no doubt reality shows are heavily tampered with—ever notice how every episode of Masterchef or Undercover Boss follows pretty much the same structure? Brooks knew back in the 1970s that when a camera intrudes, “reality” goes out the window, and we start posing, no matter how much we might think we’re being “natural.”
And eventually it must get wearying. I really, truly believe Kylie Jenner when she says she’s sick of this facade, and wants to chuck it. But so many are drawn to it because it empowers while not really requiring any particular talents. It’s the classic Faustian bargain—give me your soul and I’ll give you whatever “riches” you want. But after a while, many decide they want to take those souls back. After all, there’s always a fresh supply.
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.