One of my main goals, not just for 2024, but for life, is to spend more time reading books in the hammock I got the kids last christmas. Gently swaying in the dappled sunlight between two trees whilst reading a book is pretty much my ideal afternoon. I love reading, and for the last 6 months, I’ve taken a break from my normal business / self improvement books and jumped head first into my celebrity memoir phase. 

I’ve never really paid much attention to celebrities or famous people - not because I don’t care but it was just never on my radar. I’ve always been terrible at remembering who’s who and how they’re connected. Matt will frustratingly confirm that I normally need more than a few prompts when trying to remember who starred in what movie. Celebrities have never been my area of expertise.

This all changed six months ago when Sam Neil released his book Did I Ever Tell You This? I love Sam Neil. Matt often refers to him as ‘my King’ since I’m from New Zealand and so is he - even though he was actually born in Ireland - I didn’t know that until I read the book. His book is delightful - he is such a humble dude and treats fame with sexy indifference. I already loved the guy but learning more about his story, in his own voice and words made me love him even more.

From my understanding, being a famous person is a double edged sword. The shiny side of the sword is the success and notoriety that is broadcast in the public sphere. The dull and less glamorous side is the lack of privacy and pressure that comes from that recognition. There is a weird sense of ownership that people have over celebrities - if someone is famous then we have the right to know everything about them, especially the juicy personal stuff. It seems unfair to me that if someone is really good at their job it comes with this condition that you may never be able to go to the supermarket alone again. 

There is a multi billion dollar industry that has been built on the reporting and recording of famous peoples lives. I got caught in an internet worm hole the other day and watched The Real Story of Paris Hilton after reading her book Paris: The Memoir. Now Paris Hilton is someone I feel VERY disconnected from - I can’t imagine we have anything in common at all but that doesn’t mean that her story isn’t incredibly fascinating and really sad in some parts.

Paris was arguably one of the biggest celebrities in the world when the paparazzi was at its most extreme. At the peak, photographers would get anything from $50k to one million dollars per image of Paris Hilton. She got more famous because of these images as she became a household name but ultimately she was still a human beneath it all with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness like the rest of us. I recommend watching her movie - it’s obviously a giant ad for her empire but again, it's her telling her story using the voice and words she wants to. 

It's interesting now with the paparazzi being less of a thing with platforms like instagram giving celebrities more control over their public image. There is still a huge appetite for catching celebrities looking shit - which is ridiculous because most of us look like that all the time anyway. Why people relish in seeing another human having a bad day, or not even a bad day, just going to the supermarket or doing a really boring human thing, irks me. 

Maybe it's just because I’m paying more attention but it feels like more and more celebrities are taking back their own narratives. Long format mediums like podcasts, documentaries and books are all ripe with famous people telling their stories. Here are just a few others I’ve seen recently that are worth a look.

David Beckham’s documentary Beckham was excellent. Considering I had no idea about his career other than he married posh spice, I really enjoyed the 4 part series and was amazed at how the professional sporting world works. Same with Arnold, Arnold Schwarzenegger documentary. That guy's success is prolific - being a world champ bodybuilder, then mega movie star and the governor of California for goodness sake. 

The most shocking memoir was probably I’m Glad my Mum Died by Jennette McCurdy - her rise to fame and her mothers role in that makes her Mum one of the most vicious and vindictive villains in any story. I had to keep googling the author to see if she was a real person or not because her story is so fucked.

Some memories are hilarious like Yes Please by Amy Poelher - I laughed out loud several times throughout this book. She is a funny lady and learning about her journey made me appreciate her fame even more. I love reading about the struggle. The self doubt that had to be overcome in order to make the next leap. It reminds me that these people are famous for a reason and everyone is just doing their best.

The most humbling memoir could be The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl. I’ve loved Dave Grohl since I was a teenager and I honestly believed that we would be best friends if we ever met in real life. His book just confirmed everything I ever thought about him. Kind and generous, his optimistic attitude is something I strongly connect with. Again, I love reading about the ‘how’. How he pulled himself out of the massive slump when Kurt Cobain took his own life at the peak of Nirvana's success and recorded the first Foo Fighters album by himself. The struggles are real.

Without this further investigation it's easy to assume that celebrities have these amazing and fulfilling lives - fame and fortune is the dream for so many people but the reality is a far cry from easy. I’ve just finished reading Worthy by Jada Pinkett Smith which was pretty amazing. Again, I knew very little about her but her upbring was rough with very little stability or love. This obviously has implications for every relationship she's had since and the book is unpacking a lot of that.

It could be considered a privilege to be able to tell your story the way you want to (Beckhams had a $20million contract with Netflix) but I think if given the opportunity, anyone would want to tell their story in their own words. You often hear about people opening up on their deathbeds in a last ditch effort to set the story straight. Sharing stories is how we connect with others. Having some control over that narrative is empowering. In retelling your experiences to others you have another opportunity to learn and gain understanding from what happened to you. 

I’m currently reading Be Useful by Arnold Schwarzenegger and have The Woman in Me by Britney Spears and Time of my Life by Myf Warhurst lined up ready to go. I love the vulnerability required to reflect on one's life, this blog is my version of that. I haven’t read one memoir where the author has regretted being vulnerable. Infact, most author’s say sharing their story, warts and all, has changed their lives for the better, gaining respect and genuinely connecting with people they may not have otherwise.

Authenticity is awesome. It’s the sharing of the everyday struggles that connect us all, not the successes because we’re not all going to win an Emmy but we’re all going to feel lost at times. Take me and Paris Hilton for example, we both have money problems, they're just at different ends of the spectrum. We’re all humans at the end of the day and have the opportunity to gain value from listening to others if we choose to.

Video of the week
The Real Story of Paris Hilton | This Is Paris Official Documentary
Podcast of the week
The Futur: Receiving feedback from others
Font of the week
Base Neue: Font of the week by Power Type

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