Celebrity Proust Questionnaire: Alyx Vesey

1.) What is your name, occupation, website?

I’m Alyx Vesey. I received my MA in media studies from UT Austin back in 2008. I pay the bills as an archival aide and have written for BitchFlowTom Tom MagazineI Fry Mine in ButterScratched Vinyl, and Elevate Difference. I also volunteer as a music history workshop facilitator for Girls Rock Camp Austin, which prompted me to pick up a guitar. I founded the blog Feminist Music Geek in April 2009. She’s an Aries. I’m a Leo. We get along.

2.)  What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?

Roseanne was family viewing growing up. I know some friends weren’t allowed to watch it because it was supposedly like Married With Children, which might mean that some adults thought all working-class people were crass and mouthy in the same ways. Anyway, I grew up in a matriarchy, so mom and I bonded over the show. I studied Sara Gilbert because I was obsessed with Darlene. Around this time I also learned that I was more like Lisa Simpson.

3.) Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?
Critics and essayists are my heroes and heroines, especially if they write about music. I love getting the scoop, nodding along, arguing, and being knocked over by how they use words to convey elegant ideas. They also kind of disassemble the star system, because they tend to be cash-poor and write their feelings and occasionally look like they haven’t shaved or bathed. This conceptualization of celebrity might have more than anything to do with why I got involved in college radio and started championing independent music. In short, these people seem like they could be friends and I tend to lionize my friends, particularly the ones who write, teach, and take action.

I read Ann Powers obsessively in middle school, and she led me to the late, great Ellen Willis. Some folks whose work I enjoy are Molly Lambert, Maura Johnston, Audra Schroeder, Laina Dawes, Sady Doyle, Stacy Konkiel, Jenny Woolworth, Tom Ewing, Jessica Hopper, Latoya Peterson, Carrie Brownstein, Nelson George, Julie Zeilinger, Jennifer Kelly, Alex Ross, John Leland, John Savage, Simon Reynolds, Joy Press, Patrick Neate, Caroline Coon, Tricia Rose, and the contributors at I Fry Mine in Butter, Sadie Magazine, and Elevate Difference. 

I also have a sneaking suspicion that I’d be friends with Jody Rosen and Rob Sheffield–the former because he seems to want someone to argue with him about his absurd love for Brad Paisley and the latter because of our boundless love for new wave girls.

4.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the history of stardom, and why?

Linda Manz for teaching children how to smoke cigarettes. Christeene for doing what Gaga can’t or won’t. Tony Wilson for being a terrible businessman. Kara Walker for throwing it on the wall. Meryl Streep for continuing to charm. Beth Ditto for teaching new generations how to bellow in a southern accent. Pauline Oliveros for being smarter than just about anyone. Wendy Carlos for theTron score. The good people who run Matador, Merge, anticon., Warp, Kill Rock Stars, Doomtree, and M’Lady–among others. Pam Grier for being both foxy and a survivor. Alison Bechdel for putting words and pictures together. Lily Tomlin for coming out and giving it right back to David O. Russell. Angela Davis for continuing to inspire and call bullshit. Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo for doing their jobs and being good men. Liza Richardson and Alexandra Patsavas for turning music supervisors into industry players.

5.) You can only be best friends with one person in all of celebritude, past and present.  Who? How did you two meet? What’s your favorite thing to do together?

Did anyone read Wendy Shanker’s piece about imagining a slumber party with Gwyneth Paltrow, Claire Danes, and Winona Ryder? Okay, none of these people. . . . Maybe Winona.
Anyway, Björk seems like the perfect ex-girlfriend with whom to do art projects. We would have met after I told her that I have all of her albums and that I think she’s a total feminist regardless of what she says, and she would find me charming.

6.) You can only date one person in all of celebritude, past and present.  Who? Where would you first date be?  What would he/she get you for your birthday?

Ack — of all time? But crushes come and go. Jeff Buckley is my longest-standing crush, but I’m going to leave him out of this because it’s none of your business what we do with our free time. Suffice it to say I like short boys because we can share clothes.

Dating also connotes a certain innocence. If that were the case, I’d like to gallivant with Donald Glover and pump the new Childish Gambino mix before I appear as a guest on Troy and Abed in the Morning. But his star is rising and I don’t know how much free time he has. Also, our connection would seem like the kind honors students might have on a school trip, meaning nothing under the shirt and lights out by midnight.

But if we’re taking innocence out of the situation, it’s Leisha Hailey with our guitars and her gift to me would be reinking the arm tattoo she had removed.

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?

Anne Hathaway and Taylor Swift seem like smug jerks, but at least they’re good at their jobs. I’m not sure what the Palin family and the Jersey Shore cast do. I’m about the work, dammit! And tabloid items, cosmetic surgery, and red carpet appearances aren’t work to me, no matter how post-structural we get.
8.) Name a celebrity that is:
Overrated: Zooey Deschanel
Underrated: Parker Posey
Appropriately rated: Chloë Sevigny

9.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever?
(Example: A-Rod posing for a photo shoot as a centaur)

Britney shaving her head.

10.) Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest?  Explain more?

People I follow on Twitter (see #3, add grad school friends because they’re always scooping and adopting).

11.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activities?

I write about pop stars and commercially viable indie musicians. I do this partly because I like Beyoncé and Kanye’s Twitter feed is fascinating. But I also believe people need to directly engage as media consumers. Image construction is a major part of this, along with an understanding of how various entities come together to create a convergent media culture. I also teach a form of media literacy to girls, some of whom will be involved in the music business or media industry at some point as adults. So I hope that helping them develop agency through criticism might change the images we see.

12.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it — important

I wobble with this question all the time. Frankly, I’m not sure that it is, though I have a lot of fun with it. I have trouble bringing gossip into this. The ex-Protestant in me just wants to focus on the work. Of course, we know that gossip and creating a persona can be just as labor-intensive as albums, movies, and TV shows. But as a workshop instructor for GRCA, it’s been made very clear to me how savvy kids are about gossip and celebrity culture. Yet at the same time, they absorb sexism, racism, sizeism, transphobia, and homophobia. Some of them are also already aware of how society understands and represents women and girls and it’s kind of a bummer for them. They may already feel defeated or defensive and have to work through that on- and off-stage. So, to reiterate #12, I hope that providing tools and a space in which they can engage, challenge, and respond to these images will impact the future of celebrity culture, media production, and criticism for the better.

 

Celebrity Proust Questionnaire: Melanie Haupt

Olivia-Newton-John-Physical-67137

1.) What is your name, occupation, website (if applicable)?
Melanie Haupt, PhD candidate in English at UT-Austin, where I teach Women’s Popular Genres (read: Twilight in the college classroom!). I’m also a freelance writer for the Austin Chronicle (archive here). I keep a food-and-family blog here.  (Annie’s note: Melanie also wrote the profile of this blog for the Austin Chronicle, which is how we became fast social media friends).

2.) What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?
I have two discrete memories of being drawn to a star or celebrity. The first is an early obsession with Laura Ingalls Wilder. I am pretty sure that the Little House books were the first series that I gobbled up and reread multiple times. Back then, I didn’t really understand Ma’s racism or the fact that Almanzo was much, much older than Laura (creepy!). I just really loved the evocative way in which Wilder wrote of pioneering life. This love of the books extended to an obsessive love of the TV show, which I watched religiously every week until it ended in 1982. I even watched “A New Beginning” when it started, but lost interest quickly. (I should note now that I absolutely don’t find pioneers or pioneering even remotely romantic; in fact, I find it kind of gross.)

The other memory I have is of being totally and completely obsessed with Olivia Newton-John (this is in the very early ’80s, right after Grease). Physical was the very first album I ever bought — with my very own money, I might add. Dudes, I was NINE. And I was listening to my hero sing, “Let’s get animal/animal/I wanna get animal”?! WHUT. Of course, I had no idea what any of it meant. And I remember being very shocked and confused when I heard her speaking voice (and Australian accent). I think my mom was amused by having to explain to me why my beloved Olivia talked so funny.

3.) Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?

Oh, gosh, that’s a tough one. At 38 and as a mother of two, I don’t really have the mental space to have celebrity heroes, but if I had to pick one right off the top of my head, it would have to be Annette Bening. I don’t think she’s a very good actress, and I thought that her performance in The Kids Are All Right was beyond shrill (and don’t get me started on how that movie is SO NOT PROGRESSIVE), but I admire the fact that her face looks like a 50-something woman’s face and that she has managed to keep her private life private (once the initial splash of her marriage to Warren Beatty subsided).

Oh, and Kathryn Bigelow, who not only spells “Kathryn” correctly (that’s my middle name), but is one bad-ass filmmaker. The Hurt Locker rocked my world, and I think it’s a story that could only have been told by a woman.

By the way, I feel like I’m really aging myself here.

4.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the history of stardom, and why?
Elizabeth Taylor, because she just did her thing, man, and no-one was going to stop her.
Audrey Hepburn, such a classy lady. I think of her as just that, a lady, graceful and glamorous and good.

5.) You can only be best friends with one person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? How did you two meet? What’s your favorite thing to do together?
Michelle Williams and I met browsing in the classics section at BookPeople, and our favorite thing to do together is drink wine and eat moules frites at Vino Vino and talk about great books and our kids, and sometimes movies. Sometimes I ask her for the real dirt on celebrities she’s worked with, but I don’t want to exploit that part of our friendship. But mostly we talk about our kids because that’s what moms do. Sometimes, after we’ve killed a bottle or two, she talks about Heath Ledger and we both cry.

6.) You can only date one person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? Where would your first date be? What would he/she get you for your birthday?
If you’d asked me this 10 years ago, I would have said Russell Crowe, and my answer about what our first date would look like would be too filthy to publish.

These days I’d say Jeremy Renner, even though I’m pretty sure I’m taller than he is, and our first date would be at a really awesome sushi place in Boulder that I love. He would drink sake and I would drink pinot grigio and we would get one of those giant boats of sushi and just eat and talk for hours. And then we would walk up and down the Pearl Street Mall and talk and talk until it’s time to chastely say goodnight. For my birthday, he would get me a new iPod loaded with a bunch of mixes he hand-picked for me (and they’re all perfect because he just knows what I like). That and some roses.

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?
Anyone who has ever been a castmember of the Real Housewives franchise. Elisabeth Hasselbeck. Speidi. The Kardashians. Fucking Snooki and her crew.

8.) Name a celebrity that is
a.) Overrated: Sorry, Annie, but that is Angelina Jolie. You can only ride the allure of steak lips so far. Oh, and Zooey Deschanel. You can only ride big ole blue pixie eyes so far.
b.) Underrated: Jeremy Renner. Until he is nominated for and wins Master Of The Universe, he is underrated.
c.) Appropriately rated: Joseph Gordon Levitt, I guess?

9.) What is your favorite celebrity nickname and/or celebrity culture-related slang? (e.g. “Manslinger” for Kate Hudson)
I really love all of those couple portmanteaus, like Bennifer and Swiftenhaal. If there is one for Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard, that is automatically my favorite.

10.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever? (Example: A-Rod posing for a photo shoot as a centaur)
File under bombastic: Kanye West’s infamous “I’ma let you finish, but….”

11.) Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest? Explain more?
I really hate to say this, but I get most of my celebrity gossip from Jezebel and Gawker. I am too busy frittering away my internet time on food blogs. Oh, and Entertainment Weekly. Does that count as gossip, tho?

12.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activites?
Well, I think any cultural critic worth her salt is conversant in the ways of celebrities and stardom. I find that my students really like to talk about star images and how they relate to what they see in the movies and on TV. (I’m thinking in terms of Kristin Stewart/Bella.) Also, I am a notorious sticky-beak and just love to know what everybody’s doing. (Except for Snooki. That trash can just go away now.) Which means that I devour every issue of Entertainment Weekly while on the elliptical.

13.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it — important?

Well, I think celebrity culture is a reflection of our cultural moment, no? I totally agree with you when you say that we work out things that are difficult to talk about via talking about celebrities and their images. That said, I find it kind of tiresome to see celebrities mucking about in world affairs. I don’t really care what Ashton Kutcher has to say (or Tweet, if you will) about Egypt, you know?

Celebrity Proust Questionnaire: Matt Thomas


1. What is your name, occupation, website (if applicable)?

Matt Thomas, PhD candidate in American Studies at the University of Iowa. I blog at http://submittedforyourperusal.com and tweet http://twitter.com/mattthomas.

2. What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?

I wasn’t really into in any celebrities until I was a teenager, at which point I would clip magazine photos of, save newspaper articles about, and read books on the people who fascinated me. This was before the Internet, when researching your favorite celebrity required legwork. I got my celebrity news at the public library. As a kid, however, I was more into characters than celebrities. My first real introduction to celebrity was likely the moment I realized that Harrison Ford played both Han Solo and Indiana Jones. Also, as a kid I got told I looked like Fred Savage a lot, so I paid extra attention to Savage’s late-’80s oeuvre: The Boy Who Could Fly, The Princess Bride, Little Monsters, The Wizard, and The Wonder Years. Here was a kid, only a few years older than me, who was famous, who had a book called Fred Savage: Totally Awesome written about him. I wasn’t famous. No one had written a book about me. Not only did celebrities exist, I realized, but they were different from regular people.

3. Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?

I admire celebrities who shun, in whole or in part, the limelight, yet despite this fact, or some cases because of it, they’re able to maintain their fame. I’m thinking here of people like Greta Garbo, Jackie Onassis, Thomas Pynchon (of whom not even a recent photo exists), and Stanley Kubrick. Even someone like Jack Nicholson, who’s seen regularly at Lakers games, but who seldom gives interviews, and hasn’t appeared on a late-night talk show since 1971, qualifies. As does anyone whose career is marked by gaps and elisions, but the moment they poke their head out from behind the curtain, the spotlight swivels their way, and the public greets them as if they had never left.

The best example I can think of here – though he probably doesn’t fit everyone’s definition of “celebrity” – is Terrence Malick, who took twenty years off between Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998), but as soon as he stepped back on the scene, every male star in Hollywood wanted to work with him. Celebrity is incredibly seductive, and it can consume, even destroy, people. Think Norma Desmond or Michael Jackson. I admire people who resist getting too caught up in it, people who focus instead on doing and making stuff that seduces the rest of us. That’s not only harder than it looks, but it requires a certain amount of courage, I think.

4. You can only be best friends with one person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? How did you two meet? What’s your favorite thing to do together?

I’d want to be friends with Peter Bogdonivich so he could teach me how to ingratiate myself with Hollywood’s masters. I realize this is like asking the genie for unlimited wishes with my one wish, but I’ve always envied Bogdonivich’s ability to effortlessly strike up lifelong friendships with people he admired (e.g., Orson Welles) and would love to learn his secrets. We meet when I interview him. Our favorite thing to do together is watch movies.

5. You can only date one person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? Where would your first date be? What would he/she get you for your birthday?

Elizabeth Taylor. I can’t tell you what we’d do. For my birthday, she’d pay for a vacation for just the two of us. Someplace hot. For her birthday, I’d buy her diamonds.

6. Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?

Anyone who clings desperately to the spotlight à la Heidi and Spencer. Again, see my answer to question three.

7. Name a celebrity that is:

a) Overrated: Lady Gaga

b) Underrated: Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta

c) Appropriately rated: Madonna

9. What is your favorite celebrity nickname and/or celebrity culture-related slang? (e.g., “Manslinger” for Kate Hudson)

“The Situation” is pretty good, and I’ve always found gossip-mag portmanteaus like “Bennifer” and “Brangelina” amusing.

10. What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever? (Example: A-Rod posing for a photo shoot as a centaur)

Prince changing his name to an unpronounceable symbol in 1993.

11. Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest? Explain more?

Mostly Twitter and entertainment news shows like Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, Extra, TMZ, The Insider, and E! News, all of which, I’m semi-ashamed to say, I stop and watch when I stumble across them whilst channel-surfing. Now, if you had asked me this question a few years ago, I would have said gossip blogs like Perez Hilton, The Superficial, TMZ, et al., but I rarely go to any of those sites today, mostly because I feel like it’s too easy to spend the whole afternoon reading them, but also because Twitter does a pretty good job of keeping me abreast of celebrity news, even though I mainly follow academics. Magazines like People and Us Weekly have never been my thing.

12. How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activities?

Professionally, and I suppose personally as well, I’m interested in American popular culture, particularly Hollywood cinema, of which celebrities are an inextricable part. Personally, and I suppose professionally as well, I’m interested in capturing and holding people’s attention, and celebrities offer clues about how to do that.

13. What is celebrity culture – and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it – important?

Not to get too grandiose, but celebrities symbolize the nation in psychodramatic form. To quote my former teacher Leo Braudy, author of The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and Its History, “Modern fame is always compounded of audience’s aspirations and its despair, its need to admire and to find a scapegoat for that need. To dismiss the circus of contemporary notoriety with pat versions of Daniel Boorstin’s phrase, ‘a celebrity is someone who is famous for being famous,’ too easily allows us to ignore the importance of even celebrity in shaping the values of our society, not always for the worse.”

Celebrity Proust Questionnaire: Kelli Marshall

1.) What is your name, occupation, website?

Kelli Marshall, Visiting Assistant Professor of Cinema Studies, University of Toledo, http://kellimarshall.net/unmuzzledthoughts

2.)  What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?

Probably Aileen Quinn in Annie (John Huston, 1982). After watching the film many, many times, I wanted to know the actor’s real name, what color her hair was underneath that wig (if that was even a wig), if it were really her voice singing “Tomorrow,” etc. In fact, I was so enamored by Quinn and the musical that I named my childhood dog Sandy.

3.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the history of stardom, and why?

Gene Kelly. The short answer: he represents a complicated form of heterosexual masculinity that is largely absent in cinema today. The long answer: “Elation, Star Signification, and Singin’ in the Rain; or Why Gene Kelly Gets Me All Hot and Bothered”

6.) You can only date on person in all of celebritude, past and present.  Who? Where would you first date be?  What would he/she get you for your birthday?

Honestly, I don’t think of celebrities this way. I enjoy analyzing them from afar, watching them onscreen, and reading about them (I’ve devoured loads of star memoirs, for instance). But I’ve little interest in befriending them (or meeting many of them) either in reality or fantasy.

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?

Reality TV “stars”

8.) Name a celebrity that is
a.) Overrated: Nicole Kidman
b.) Underrated: Catherine Keener
c.) Appropriately rated: Colin Firth ;) // Denzel Washington

10.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever?

I don’t know if it’s the greatest, but it’s certainly memorable: Humphrey Bogart and the panda incident. An inebriated Bogart allegedly shoved a woman because he thought she was going to take a stuffed panda he purchased for his son, Stephen. Time reported: “When Columnist Earl Wilson asked him if he was drunk five years ago after an ultra-shapely young woman accused him of knocking her down at El Morocco (Bogart said that she tried to steal his stuffed panda), he replied, genially: ‘Isn’t everybody drunk at 4 a.m.?’” The case was eventually dismissed.

12.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activites?

Occasionally in Introduction to Film and Cinema History courses, I dedicate a lecture to stardom and the star system, and sometimes my students and I discuss celebrities on Twitter and the like. I’ve also recently written an essay on Humphrey Bogart’s star image in light of Lauren Bacall’s latest autobiography By Myself and Then Some.

13.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it — important?
Because, as I point out in my Gene Kelly post, celebrities function as ideological texts on which viewers project their desires; they reinforce dominate cultural ideas about sex, gender, race, religion, politics, etc.; and they compensate for qualities lacking in our lives and (as Richard Dyer writes) “act out aspects of life that are important to us.” In short, for good or bad, “our” celebrities teach us something about ourselves.

Celebrity Proust Questionnaire: Katherine Feo Kelly

This questionnaire comes from Katie Feo Kelly, who I’ve known since my second semester of my Ph.D., probably has better hair than you, and is currently writing a dissertation on the trend towards organization (and the commodification thereof: think California Closets, The Container Store, Real Simple). She’s also in my dissertation reading group, a sharp editor, and a HUGE FAN OF THE CAPSLOCK JUST LIKE ME!

1.) What is your name, occupation, website (if applicable)?
Katherine Feo Kelly, grad student, The University of Texas at Austin. Occasional tidbits @katiefeokelly on Twitter.

2.) What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?

Macaulay Culkin, circa Home Alone. He was a kid inspiration! I had, then only slightly more than now, a hard time distinguishing between the ingenious 10-year old who could foil robbers, and the boy who played the ingenious 10-year old in the movie. What a guy!

3.) Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?

When I lived in England I read all of the Katie Price/Jordan autobiographies and celebrated her as the greatest celebrity of all time.

The Greatest Celebrity of our Time!

I think at the time I felt like if I could really know British celebrity culture and the UK’s weird B-list celebrities as well as I did American ones, I’d be fully immersed in the culture (someone is going to read this and find me very sad). It took me the whole three years I was there to accomplish this, but I finally learned all the names, backstories and cultural references (so many girl/boy bands!). Since then I’ve tried to keep up with only moderate success. And in the meantime, I’ve not really found anyone who can match Price’s guilelessness/absurdity/good humor/pathos, but even so she’s sort of dwindled in my consciousness as a celebrity to watch.

4.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the history of stardom, and why?

I am essentially ignorant of the history of stardom before Matt Damon. Good Will Hunting was the first time (fine, since Home Alone) that I was interested in following a celebrity’s personal life, and basically since then it’s provided the North Star for my interest in celebrities, aka the Damon-principle, aka who-is-my-celebrity-crush?, aka please give me a reason to be interested in you. Therefore, I have done very little research or thinking about celebrity before the era of my own adolescence. I am sure there is much to say about Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, but I am not the one to say it.

5.) You can only be best friends with one person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? How did you two meet? What’s your favorite thing to do together?

My actual best friend works in the film industry and went to a screening of Black Swan and said that Mila Kunis seemed like a normal, fun girl you might actually, in real life, want to be friends with. So, since I trust my actual best friend in all things, especially her taste in best friends, I will choose Mila Kunis. We met through a mutual friend, obviously.

6.) You can only date on person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? Where would you first date be? What would he/she get you for your birthday?

Dating a celebrity sounds like a tiresome and potentially psychologically damaging scenario. But, like most people, I do have a few that rotate in and out of my favor. I generally only care about one at any given time, but I have allowed myself some slack by opening a new category (“British”) so as to eliminate unfair competition.

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?

Any and all of the Housewives. There are many times when I’m a little startled by theextremes of American culture (Hollywood churns out people that seem to exist in a different world than the rest country/universe). The celebritude of the Housewives seems especially insulting, though, because they are “real” people who are celebrities only because they live insanely out-of-touch lives in and around the rest of us. I mean, I get the fascination: we watch them act like we’re watching them because there is something legitimately interesting, talented, etc. about them. I guess it’s consistent with a political scenario that favors the fabulously rich at the expense of the majority of the rest of the country, but I still find it totally odious from an entertainment perspective.

8.) Name a celebrity that is
a.) Overrated: Easiest answer ever: Anne Hathaway.
b.) Underrated: Is there such a thing? All attention seems a blessing in this industry, but OK. Though I do have another question: does this mean that their talent is underrated, or their celebrity? Talent and celebrity seem like different, only kinda-related things. I was watching Southland the other night and remarking to myself that I could watch Regina King do anything, anywhere. Is her talent underrated? Not sure– she’s top billing in that show, but then there don’t seem to be a glut of roles for African American women around, so who knows if she could do even more? And does this mean her celebrity underrated? Perhaps for the level of quality acting that she delivers, less celebrity means more credibility, and so it’s fine that she’s not always in the public eye. OR does it hurt her career? I mean, a good number of actresses seem to leverage celebrity for work, right? There are just so many untalented celebrities that the two traits almost seem antithetical, but that’s not always the case, is it? I wonder what Regina King would say about this.
c.) Appropriately rated: Jennifer Aniston–I actually think she’s a good comedienne, but also fairly bland, therefore just appealing enough to most audiences. If she receives professional criticism, it generally seems warranted (I mean, her movies aren’t that great). She seems to provide just enough gossip to stay in the public eye, but not so much scandal as to be dragged down into the mud. More importantly, she puts good work into being a celebrity, so I’d like to give her credit for that. She has celebrity-status hair.

9.) What is your favorite celebrity nickname and/or celebrity culture-related slang?

Any of the winners of “Hot Slut of the Day” on Dlisted. GOOP-y is pretty good, too.

10.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever?

I liked when Kayne West said that President Bush hated black people after Katrina. I thought it was weird that he took it back later (who was making him take that back other than President Bush?), but I DID appreciate when Jay Z said that it was problematic that President Bush thought the worst moment of his presidency was Kanye saying he hated black people. Oh yeah, and I also enjoyed John Mayer’s slide out of grace in Playboy or Rolling Stone or where ever it was he gave those insane, drug-addled interviews.

11.) Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest? Explain more?

Well you know I love Michael K at Dlisted. Although he often hides behind vulgarity and a cultivated tawdriness, he’s actually very intelligent and “on” with his assessments, and generally hits all the big news (or links to others who do). Also, though he doesn’t pull his punches, when someone is sick or has died he manages to write posts that are funny, respectful and snark-free. It’s a very humane time-out. I appreciate it.

12.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activites?

Ha! Are you kidding? Guess where I’m writing this. Just kidding. Not really.

13.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it — important?
Well, there are the reasons you hit on in your work (as a society, we’re working out our social mores and standards of acceptable behavior, whether good or bad, through the way we interpret and make issue out of the actions of celebrities). But celebrity culture is also, I think, a good way to get a little of the power back. Yeah, we’re saturated by media images and pop culture and it’s hard to get a break from the messages society is ramming down our throats in various cultural outlets (TV, movies, magazines, news sites, the circus, et. al.). But when you read good celebrity gossip–not the sugary, celebratory stuff, but the snarky, intelligent, politically savvy stuff–it’s like you’ve taken the upper hand back, just a little. I’m not arguing for the paparazzi to stalk celebrities because they deserve misery for being celebrities (then again, I’m not exactly crying over it, either), but I do kinda feel like you’ve got to take your lumps along with the good stuff, you know? Take the Oscars–it’s a farce, right? A bunch of the most privileged people in the world celebrating themselves AGAIN at the end of an ENTIRE SEASON OF CELEBRATION. So then I ask you, what’s better than watching the Oscars with scathing commentary? Very little.

Celebrity Proust Questionnaire: Tiffiny Mackey Fisher

Today’s answers come from longtime reader Tiffiny Mackey Fisher, who’s been my friend since we tap danced together in 2nd grade (and, in hindsight, wore inappropriate saloon girl costumes to dance to “Hippy Hippy Shake??). We also spent several years together in the Nerd Classroom, also known as Gifted and Talented.

1.) What is your name, occupation, website (if applicable)? 
Tiffiny Fisher
Data Analyst (sexy, I know)
@elliephant1209 via the Twitter

2.)  What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?  
I remember being obsessed with the royals even when I was really young. My grandparents owned a law office and one of the reception area magazines they’d pass down to me was People, and I was fascinated by Princess Diana and her life played out on the People covers. I even had these fancy-pants Prince Charles and Princess Diana paper dolls that I would spend hours playing with at my grandparents’ house. When she died, I cried for hours. And I’m still hopeful that I could talk Prince Harry into being a brother-husband to my current one.

3.) Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?  
I think the Brange plays the game well. They know their brand and they sell it to the max.

4.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the history of stardom, and why?  
Elizabeth Taylor is the Queen of Stardom. I don’t think there is anyone that can come close. Her entire life is fodder of the highest order for gossip and speculation. Also, she has violet eyes! Violet! No one else has ever had purple eyes, come on.

5.) You can only be best friends with one person in all of celebritude, past and present.  Who? How did you two meet? What’s your favorite thing to do together?
I don’t know that I would want a celebrity as a best friend. I don’t do well with insecure narcissists. But if I had to pick, I’d choose Emily Blunt. She seems pretty cool and we could lunch like ladies and maybe I could make her laugh at my semi-horrible English accent.

6.) You can only date on person in all of celebritude, past and present.  Who? Where would you first date be?  What would he/she get you for your birthday?  
John Cusack, circa Say Anything. We would reenact all the romantic scenes from that movie, leaving out all the angst and creepy thieving father stuff. He’d get me a dozen Sprinkles cupcakes and we would eat them at the park together with some pink Prosecco and he’d laugh at all my jokes, even the really lame puns that no one in their right mind would find truly funny.

I gave you my heart, and you gave me a pen!

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?  
Anyone that is photographed in public wearing Lucite heels. I’m talking to you, Shauna Sand. And Phoebe Price. And Heidi Montag.

8.) Name a celebrity that is
a.) Overrated: Lindsay Lohan and the rest of the Lohans. JUST GO AWAY.
b.) Underrated: Taylor Kitsch. I need more of him. A lot more.
c.) Appropriately rated: Is there such a thing? I guess James McAvoy. He only comes to play when he’s promoting a movie and I miss him when he goes away.

9.) What is your favorite celebrity nickname and/or celebrity culture-related slang?  (e.g. “Manslinger” for Kate Hudson)
I’ve always loved The Brange for Brad and Angelina. Also, when Lainey first pointed out Miley’s beat-me mouth, I actually laughed aloud. Such a perfect descriptor for it.

10.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever?  (Example: A-Rod posing for a photo shoot as a centaur)  
Oh, Annie, must you remind me that my long-time athlete crush did that? Gah. Anyway, I don’t know that you can top Tom Cruise jumping on a couch and acting a fool on Oprah. It was crazy on a whole new level. Also, MJ’s dancing on a car outside the courthouse during his first (second?) molestation trial to throngs of admirers. I mean, holy crap.

11.) Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest?  Explain more?  
LaineyGossip, Go Fug Yourself, DListed, Gawker, Deadspin (excellent sports gossip). Basically, if it’s snarky, witty gossip, I’m on board.

12.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activites?
In my work life, it’s how I look busy on days when I’m not. Outside of work, it’s my primary hobby. The lives of the rich and famous are total escapism for me. Like Posh and her endless supply of Birkins. I know how much a base-model Birkin costs…it blows my mind that she can afford so many – and highly custom ones at that. Because you know Hermes doesn’t give their stuff away free for publicity.

13.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it — important?
For some people, celebrity is aspirational. And for others (like me) it’s a cautionary tale. Either way, talking about celebrities is a way to connect with those around you. Nearly everyone has a take on celebrity and the people that inhabit that world. To discuss and debate and gawk at them is to find a common interest between yourself and say, the 50-year-old grandmother at the grocery store when you both are rifling through the latest US Weekly or People. It’s oddly comforting.

Celebrity Proust Questionnaire: Colleen Laird

Brief note from Annie: I promise I’ll come back soon and say something excellent about Channing Tatum and every other celebrity — the dissertation is in its final weeks, and then I’ll be free to eat bon-bons and write blog posts to my heart’s delight. In the meantime, enjoy answers from my most excellent colleague Colleen….

1.) What is your name, occupation, website (if applicable)?

Colleen A. Laird
Doctoral Candidate (ABD)
Japanese Cinema and Gender Studies

2.) What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?

I believe Jeremy Brett, or rather his version of Sherlock Holmes on
the U.K.’s Granada Home Television Series (aired in the U.S. on PBS’s
Mystery! series back in the 80s) predates my lengthy, childhood
obsession with Harrison Ford, but only just. Then again, that was so
early on that I don’t think I thought of Jeremy Brett AS Jeremy Brett
the person until much later. Maybe I still don’t. I still don’t.

I wish I didn’t think of Harrison Ford as Harrison Ford. It would
have been much better for all concerned if he could have stayed
Indiana Solo.

3.) Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?

Tina Fey, Ellen Degeneres, Johnny Depp, Yakusho Koji, and (shock)
Nicole Kidman.

Lady Gaga had me up until the meat dress; it’s been downhill ever since.

Contradictory, oppositional reasons.

First, there’s something a little different about comedians, isn’t
there. I recently watched a series of interviews on You Tube between
Dawn French and smattering of British comediennes. She asked each one
outright if their draw to humor was connected to their body image and
childhood struggle to fit in. Although force-fed questions are a
little circumspect, each woman agreed that comedy was a way of
overcoming perceived sex and beauty barriers, of getting attention and
fitting in by some means other than looks.

I’ll buy that. Even though all celebrities—and us non-celebrities,
too, for that matter—are performing constantly, the performance of
humor is rooted, in this sense, in actually bridging interpersonal
distance and getting along with other people. Of being liked. But
this is a certain kind of humor; by distinction it is NOT the more
abrasive humor of, say, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman,
and Zach Galifianakis. Ellen Degeneres and Tina Fey, with their
self-deprecation, general good nature, and attentive, topical, clever
wit, are focused on making their audience feel at ease and
entertained. They want people to like them and it works. I like
them. They fall into the celebrity category of People I Want to Hang
Out With Slash Want To Be: smart, funny, gracious, hard working,
articulate, and seemingly levelheaded.

Second, Johnny Depp and Yakusho Koji are exactly what I want my male
movie stars to be: gorgeous and completely, unattainably bizarre. To
be honest, I’m not really into the idea of a celebrity’s “real life,”
not the least of which is because I know, like hopefully everyone who
is paying attention to your blog, that I will never know about these
celebrities “real lives”…unless I actually, know them. Then again,
I’m not really sure I know about most of my friends’ “real lives.”
I’m pretty sure Facebook is the everyman’s star vehicle. Anyway, I
am, however, deeply fascinated by creative weirdos. I’ll spend hours
watching old clips of The Actor’s Studio or Letterman interviews, but
I don’t read celebrity gossip columns. Which is to say, I’m
interested in watching these people perform more, to see how they
perform themselves. I’m not so keen on what they are actually telling
Letterman, so much as how they are saying it. Johnny Depp owns an
island in France and had most of his teeth capped in gold. As far as
I’m concerned, he is not a real person. And I don’t want him to be.
Yakusho Koji is Japan’s most celebrated and versatile contemporary
actor. He is basically the Japanese Johnny Depp, but with generally
better hair. I’m pretty sure he would, like Depp, take a role for the
opportunity to shred a table with his bare hands.

Similarly, Nicole Kidman is basically everything I want in a bone fide
Hollywood female star: she makes me feel star-struck. I don’t care
about her first marriage, or her kids, or her botox equivocations
(although clearly I know about all of these things), but I absolutely
am occasionally obsessed with what she’s wearing, her acceptance
speeches, her posture, her mannerisms, and her changing accents. I
will watch any film that woman is in. Even a Noah Baumbach film.

Johnny Depp, Yakusho Koji, and Nicole Kidman all fall into the
celebrity category of Imaginary People I Want To Look At A Lot.

Recently, I’ll admit I’m kind of impressed with Jesse Eisenberg’s
public persona. Man, that kid is not sincere about anything
(publicly); it’s all a big ride on the irony train. Lady Gaga had
that going for her for a while, but then, you know, meat dress.

4.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the
history of stardom, and why?

My favorite participants, not my favorite stars.

Well, I’ll cheat and say that here are a few I find fascinating:

Katherine Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn, Katherine Hepburn. She owned
it. I’m sure all film scholars feel this way.

Tyra Banks. I mean, have you seen her shows? Have you seen her be a
tiger? Have you seen her tell young women to not smile like this but
like this? Have you seen her smize h to t? Incredible business
woman; completely bonkers.

Mia Farrow. Oh. So. Tragic. Mia Farrow has one of the strangest and
just mind-boggling Hollywood narratives I’ve ever read on wikipedia.
Did you know she has 14 (formerly 15) children?

Yoko Ono. DID YOU KNOW SHE BROKE UP THE BEATLES?!?! I find Yoko Ono
fascinating for a number of reasons. First and foremost is because
she is seemingly hated by an entire generation of Beatles fans. I
don’t know why, precisely, the Beatles broke up, but I’m pretty sure
it’s not Yoko Ono’s fault. However, there is a lot going on (as they
say) in this celebrity narrative, not the least of which, I have a
feeling, has everything to do with lingering post-WWII sentiments.
That aside, Ono and Lennon are incredible celebrities: consider their
peace work, numerous controversies, bizarre collaborations, and
Lennon’s tragic death.
At the risk of sounding like I just don’t get it, I’ll just ask you to
think about the nature of her performance art. Have you ever heard
her…sing?
With all that in mind, I can’t help but think about Ono in the
following terms: she was born in 1933 in Tokyo and she grew up, in
Japan, during the Pacific War (Japan was embroiled in war long before
Pearl Harbor). She lived through the Tokyo fire bombings and was the
first woman to enroll in the philosophy department at Gakushuin
University. And so on and so forth.
Maybe it’s because I am currently neck deep in Japanese post-war
women’s history, but I think “Yoko Ono” and I think, “wow.”

Dustin Hoffman. He won me over with his scathing Oscar speech. Who
am I kidding? He’d already won me.

Stephen Colbert. Multiple Personality Disorder.

Oprah. She’s so powerful. She own’s the letter O.

5.) You can only be best friends with one person in all of
celebritude, past and present. Who? How did you two meet? What’s your
favorite thing to do together?

Little does Liz Lemon know that she's about to become best friends with Colleen

Tina Fey is my knee-jerk choice, but I suspect that if I picked Ellen
then I’d also get to hang out with Portia.
We met at a hoagie convention.
Our favorite thing to do is eat while being brunette and wearing glasses.
I guess it’s Tina after all.

6.) You can only date one person in all of celebritude, past and
present. Who? Where would you first date be? What would he/she get
you for your birthday?

Long before I met my current, wonderful partner, I dated Archibald
Alexander Leach (stage name: Cary Grant). He took me out to dinner and dancing in Paris. He forgot my birthday because he was working overtime, as always, with
Randolph Scott. It wouldn’t have worked out anyway; he’s a much
better dancer.

As for a living person, I would have gladly taken Benedict
Cumberbatch. If I had to.

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?

The depth of celebritude is a noxious concoction of sleeze, hate
speech, ignorance, flamboyant wealth, and misanthropy: Sarah Palin,
Ke$ha, Paris Hilton, Perez Hilton, Mel Gibson, Kim Kardashian, that
girl from the internet who said Obama attacked her, the Trumps,
Octomom, Bill O’Reilly, Katy Perry, Hugh Hefner, etc etc

8.) Name a celebrity that is

a.) Overrated: Tom Cruise. Leonardo DiCaprio. Christina Hendricks.
Natalie Portman. Charlotte Johansen. James Franco. Michael Cera.
David Letterman. Marilyn Monroe. Kristen Stewart. Robert Patterson.
Ten years ago it would have been Helen Hunt. And Tom Cruise. THERE
ARE SO MANY.

b.) Underrated: Michael K. Williams. Seriously, why is that guy not
in everything all the time?

c.) Appropriately rated: Gwyneth Paltrow.

9.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever?
(Example: A-Rod posing for a photo shoot as a centaur)

Bombastic: Kanye West interrupting Taylor Swift. Or Jack Palance’s
pushups. Or Monroe’s birthday song to the president. Or Bono’s
sunglasses. Whatever is new this week on GOOP. Lindsay Lohan’s
entire paparazzi-ed career.
Greatest: the Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview and subsequent SNL parodies
AND
The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear
AND
Stephen Colbert’s White House Press Conference Roast
Shocking: the Michael Richards meltdown

10.) Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest? Explain more?

Your blog. Otherwise, I don’t read celeb gossip. I don’t even read
the blurbs on imdb. I do, however, watch a lot of interviews and
speeches on youtube.

11.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work
activites?

I find the Japanese star system fascinating and completely enigmatic.
After I complete the diss, I’m thinking about wading into those murky
waters. To some extent, one of my chapters deals with contemporary
female directors (in Japan) as stars, particularly in regards to how
they and their films are marketed to spectators.

13.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and
discussion of it — important?

Study of celebrity culture matters because celebrities matter to people, otherwise they wouldn’t exist. Teens obsess and fantasize over the images and personas of celebrities, ultimately shaping their ideas and expectations about themselves and relationships with others. For that matter, adults do it too (e.g. Twilight, Baywatch…Audrey, Marilyn, James, Roc, Clooney, Pitt, Jolie, Johansen). Kids, adolescents, and adults—male and female—hold celebrities up as standards for everything from public morays to body image. Celebrities tell us the news, perform our breakup music, teach us how to make holiday wreaths out of pipe cleaners, persuade us how to vote, tell us what books to read, and help us figure out what kinds of haircuts to get. Celebrities give us stuff to talk about at obligatory family gatherings and awkward first dates. Celebrities give us a Bacon Number. And none of that is accidental.

The Celebrity Proust Questionaire: Karen Petruska

1.) What is your name, occupation, website?
Karen Petruska, doctoral candidate, Georgia State University. For fun, I write about The Vampire Diaries and participate in a podcast for the Monsters of Television website.

2.) What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?
Most likely, Michael Jackson. That was my first big crush. I had a post of Michael that I was thrilled to affix to my wall. Tragedy, though, that at night, he looked like a werewolf on that poster (foreshadowing “Thriller”?), so I had to take the poster down. That was also the time during which my (kinda mean, looking back) best friend dressed like Madonna. For reals–with the permed hair, lace gloves, flouncy skirts. She has real commitment, and I had no idea how anyone could devote so much time to emulation.

3.) Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?
Gotta be honest–using the word “hero” next to celebrity kinda seems wrong. I do think Angelina Jolie is awesome–she uses her celebrity to do something useful as an ambassador. Clooney’s latest gig with satellites as a peace-inducement is kinda awesome, too. For me, “hero” definitely conveys someone who sees beyond their own affluence. It doesn’t count to go to Africa becausey ou are trying to be trendy.
Stars I “like” right now are James Franco (for being straight up nutty–love all his interests) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (for HitRECord. He seems super cool on Twitter, and I admire his passion for this particular project. I like watching a child star become a man worth rooting for).

4.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the history of stardom, and why?
Katherine Hepburn. She had ups and downs but always persevered. Plus, she seemed tough. I also really like that Mae West was famous.

5.) You can only be best friends with one person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? How did you two meet? What’s your favorite thing to do together?
Reese Witherspoon, cause she’s type A like me. We would have had to have met before her kids, because I’m not sure why we’d be friends now with such different life circumstances…oooh, an easier answer. I used to know the younger brother of Scott Foley, so perhaps when Jennifer Garner was married to him, I can into her in St. Louis. Jennifer Garner might be a cool best friend. Notice how I have to find plausibility to make this scenario work? I’m not sure I want to be best friends with a star–I don’t like to be jealous, and being around someone with so much might make me dissatisfied with my own life–unpleasant.

Karen's best friends Kate and Reese waiting to come over for a sleepover.

Wait, I got it–Kate Winslet. We met when she was filming “Sense and Sensibility.” I’m such an Austen fan, I got a set visit somehow, and we met there. Kate and I simply like to grab a coffee. We used to sneak secret smokes together, but now we talk about her kids an awful lot. She takes seriously not trying to be too skinny so she can represent a more balanced portrait of femininity, and I admire that about her. We have a book club.

6.) You can only date on person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? Where would you first date be? What would he/she get you for your birthday?
I used to have a mad, passionate crush on Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance. We’d meet backstage, and he’d be super chill and super shy. I’m not sure I ever imagined us dating, like going to a restaurant and whatnot. Kinda wanted to tour around with the band on their tour bus, though. For my birthday, he’d surprise me with plane tickets to whatever awesome city he happened to be in–and a suite at a fancy hotel.

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?
Easy–the debutante star (Paris, Kim), the reality wannabe (that poor girl destroyed by Spencer Pratt). True stardom is more akin to royalty (hence, Angelina Jolie). The star must live at a remove, have a commitment to form and etiquette, demonstrate a sort of discipline and a lack of need for the trappings of stardom. Anyone that needs to be famous automatically sucks.

8.) Name a celebrity that is
a.) Overrated: Julia Roberts, Shia LaBeouf, Halle Berry
b.) Underrated: Joseph Gordon-Levitt (kis is gonna be HUGE!), Leonardo diCaprio (works hard to keep put of the spotlight, and that’s cool)
c.) Appropriately rated: Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp, George Clooney (yes, they are the best)

9.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever? (Example: A-Rod posing for a photo shoot as a centaur)
Nothing will ever top Tom Cruise totally cracking up–the couch and all. If it wasn’t for the fact that I like Katie Holmes and didn’t want to see her become part of the borg, his decline (under his sister’s not-so-capable managerial efforts) would have been deeply, deeply, satisfying.

10.) Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest? Explain more?
I kick it old school–I flip through People and US Weekly in the grocery aisle (never guying the magazine, of course.) I sometimes check out Tyler Durden because I like to see dumb stars made fun of, and he does that well. But he also tends to be terribly to women, so I’m conflicted about that site. I am one of those people that LOVES the photos of stars being “just like us.” Those photos are like crack, even though I know the people getting those photos are among the lowest forms of life on the planet. I’m a bad person.

11.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activites?
When I had a real job, taking two breaks a day to read up on TV reviews and gossip was a big highlight of my day.Now that I study media, I ironically have less time to follow the news.

12.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it — important?
Celebrities seem to point toward the best and worst in humanity. We root for the underdog (Lindsay Lohan will be given an endless number of chances to become a useful person) and celebrate the triumphs (hence, awards shows somehow being entertaining). We also always aspire to be more, have more, achieve more. Celebrities seem like achievers because they represent the trappings of success in modern society (dominated by stuff–clothes, shoes, makeup, cars, fancy hotels, etc).

I’m also intrigued by why we enjoy seeing them fail. How much do celebrities bolster our own sense of what is meaningful, valuable? Would I prefer that we celebrate intellect and genuine talent over charisma and bodies? Sure. But we live in a superficial world that celebrates excess and indulgence. Our values are radically out of place. Celebrities put a spotlight on that.

New Feature: The Celebrity Proust Questionnaire. Edition 1: Kristen Warner

So the Proust Questionnaire was not actually invested by Proust — just taken by him. And so named. You see it on the final pages of Vanity Fair every month, with answers oscillating from the banal to witty to moving. Only celebrities are the ones answering the questions in that case — here, various friends, colleagues, and general smarties will be answering the questions about celebrities.

Note: This is a (very liberal) celebrity-themed variation on the Questionnaire. I figure it’ll be a great way not only to introduce you to others who are interested in the analysis of celebrity, but who also take different approaches (and have different loves/hates) than myself.

This will be a semi-regular feature, with dozens participating over the next few months. If you would like to participate — the blog would love to have you! Send me an email (see the “About Me” section, message me on Twitter, make on a note on the Facebook page.

And so, for our inaugural edition, Ms. Kristen Warner…..

1.) What is your name, occupation, website?
Kristen aka Kaydubya aka Dear Black Woman, Assistant Professor,

2.) What is your first memory of being drawn to a star or celebrity?

Two parts to this question because before I knew what stardom or celebrity was I knew about gossip. And, my first encounter with gossip was when Maria and Luis got married on Sesame Street in 1988. I had a subscription to Sesame Street magazine (Oh I was in the KNOW about what happened on that damn street) and remembered reading the story and finding myself so curious about all the drama and details around it. I thought it was FOR REAL. Changed my whole life. Second part to that question was I was drawn to the Brat Pack. In my head it was like a conspiracy.


Sesame Street- Maria & Luis Get Married
Uploaded by aardvark917. – News videos from around the world.

3.) Who are your heroes of contemporary celebritude, and why?
I don’t have any. Celebrities are so fallible and strange that I consider none of them heroes. They mostly function as people in a fishbowl to me.

4.) Who are your favorite participants, broadly speaking, in the history of stardom, and why?
Tom Cruise has always been a fascinating dude to study. I have narrativized and re-narrativized his story so many times I feel like Andrew Morton. And, when in 2000 he divorced Kidman, I’ll never forget the shocked feeling. A brilliant story. Brilliant. And Bert Fields scares the shit out of me so I’m curious about him too.

5.) You can only be best friends with one person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? How did you two meet? What’s your favorite thing to do together?
So, I’m gonna cheat on this question a little. I always had this fantasy about starting an organization with all the powerful black women in Hollywood (I remembered reading a story about Goldie Hawn and Kate Capshaw and Sally Field and Rita Wilson having a similar club and thought we should have one too). We would all be BFF and change the landscape of how Hollywood hired women of color. We’d have monthly meetings and close down restaurants (like the white ladies above did) and plan our takeover. We would mentor the young and wayward black women and we’d systemize the process of casting so we all knew who was auditioning for what. So, my best friends (and the leadership of our org) would be Jada Pinkett-Smith (pre-Scientology), Nia Long, LisaRaye, Vivica A. Fox, etc. We would invite Halle but she’d never come (she was still angry that we chastised her for doing Monsters Ball. If Angela said no, she sure as hell should have). Oprah drops in on occasion.

6.) You can only date on person in all of celebritude, past and present. Who? Where would you first date be? What would he/she get you for your birthday?
Ben Affleck. He’d take me to a Tyler Perry movie and watch as I laughed my ass off only afterwards to have a full-on debate with me about why I laughed and why Perry is important to study and take seriously. Birthday: He’d take me to Stuart Weitzman and say, “Go.” I’d cry (I love shoes) and force him to drive us to the Justice of the Peace.

7.) Who do you regard as the lowest depth of celebritude?
The pit of celebritude is made up of the following: The Kardashians, Speidi, Snooki, Paris Hilton, Olivia Wilde, Miley Cyrus and Katherine Heigl.

8.) Name a celebrity that is
a.) Overrated: right now? Olivia Wilde–who gives a shit about her? And yet, she’s every-damn-where. Go back to the videogame and stay there.
b.) Underrated: Melissa Leo–those “consider” ads might be tacky and unpolished but I think that makes her more normal and just like us then anything. I mean, she’s not made of money. But she wanted some frakkin attention!
c.) Appropriately rated: Colin Firth. He comes and goes in the limelight as he pleases because of this very fact.

9.) What is your favorite celebrity nickname and/or celebrity culture-related slang? (e.g. “Manslinger” for Kate Hudson)
Cold Fishstick= Gwyneth. Ted Casablanca christened that name and even though he’s since rescinded it, I have not.

10.) What is the greatest/most bombastic moment of celebrity ever? (Example: A-Rod posing for a photo shoot as a centaur)
Hands down, couch jumping on Oprah. That is sealed into the memory of public consciousness.

11.) Where do you get gossip on your celebrities of interest? Explain more?
ONTD primarily, Bossip, Sandrarose (where the black people live)

12.) How do celebrities and stardom relate to your own work/extra-work activites?
I am a celebrity gossip. I have been a celebrity gossip. I refused to write hard news in college journalism courses because I was a celebrity gossip. This is me.

13.) Why is celebrity culture — and our attention, analysis, and discussion of it — important?
I’m not sure I can answer this question adequately or generally. For me, celebrity culture spoke to my love for storytelling and drama and intrigue. Those kinds of rituals and narratives helped make my own mundane, banal childhood more interesting. And it is the same for me today.