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Celebrity Memoirs: Telling Women’s Stories

By Holly Butterfield, Gemma Mathers, Brittany Holness and Imogen Bristow

The trend of celebrity memoirs in publishing is hardly a passing fad. These books have been hitting the shelves for years, with audiences and admirers rushing to pick up the tell-all tales and learn more about their favourite celebrities. We are digging a bit deeper as a more specific niche develops in the publishing world, putting the focus on giving women the chance to tell their stories. This is an opportunity to subvert the misconstructions that have been printed in tabloids, with falsely misleading headlines and tales that often have little or no roots in reality.

Stemming from earlier periods of time, specifically the late 90s and early 2000s, women were often, and frustratingly still are, portrayed in unflattering ways in the media. This includes, but is not limited to, being sexualised and painted as a villain in an attempt to sell more stories. And sell they do.

What the consumers didn’t know was how these portrayals had affected these women. Now some of these women have told their side of these stories and have given a glimpse into what those years were like for them. They have begun to share their versions of the truth in ‘”tell-all’s,” reflecting on the facts that were often excluded or overlooked. These women have also provided deep dives into the emotional toll that these situations have taken not only on themselves, but on their families as well. As they have also had to adapt to those difficult moments, these women have shared how they have done this as a way of self-preservation. They delve into deeper topics that are often ignored, such as sexism and other prejudices that are deep-rooted in society and allow audiences to take the headlines at face value. Why question something which seems to be the truth? Despite these memoirs from involved parties, there are still critics who dispute their truths, opting to believe the media. 

These book recommendations reflect a new wave of women’s brave and vulnerable story-telling. First is The Woman In Me by Britney Spears, whose demonisation by tabloids was shaped by the rampant misogyny of the late 1990s and early 2000s. Spears’ global portrayal as a sexual harlot and negligent mother is foregrounded by her father’s abusive conservatorship. The memoir successfully lifts the lid on Spears’ sensitive, playful personality, unyielding resilience and endearing commitment to her children and performing. By the end of this heart wrenching memoir, you too will want to “Free Britney.” 

From the comedian Fern Brady, her memoir Strong Female Character tells the story of sexism, neurodiversity and how her autism got in the way of her fulfilling what people expect a woman to look and act like. Brady peels back all the layers of her life in this telling tale of sex work, abusive relationships and growing up working class in Scotland. Raw and honest, Brady shines a light on the struggles of being a woman with autism in a world fascinated with looks and perceptions.

The final recommendation is the recently released Only Say Good Things: Surviving Playboy and Finding Myself by Crystal Hefner, the wife of the now deceased Hugh Hefner. Set in a world of pre-MeToo sexual politics, Crystal Hefner enters the Playboy mansion and marries the 86-year-old Hefner when she is just 26 years old. Crystal’s exposé reveals a nightmarish world of 6:00 p.m. curfews, drug use, sexual exploitation and near-constant camera surveillance. In it, Crystal commends Hefner for dying only a month before the viral MeToo movement in 2017, narrowly escaping accusations of sexual assault by former “Playmates.” Wielding an important message, this memoir critically reassesses Playboy as the sexually liberating magazine of its era and instead positions Hefner’s empire as harmful to women’s wellbeing. 

Publishing these memoirs and putting them in the spotlight can never change the media’s misconstruction of these women and their struggles – but it can give audiences the other side of the story, including the truths that are often ignored in favour of sensationalist headlines. It’s a trend that’s going in the right direction, putting the focus on the women who were directly involved rather than allowing the media to share only the bits that are guaranteed to sell. If you find yourself in a bookshop any time soon, then why not see if there’s a memoir or two that takes your fancy?


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