Photo: Vanity De-pressing: Chuy Bravo and Lance Bass
Bio-Degradable: 5 Worst Celebrity Books Ever
By Alex Santos Murry • In his most recent interviews, Justin Bieber, 16, has discussed two upcoming projects with great anticipation: his pubescent vocal changes and his forthcoming autobiography. It seems that Mr. Bieber, born in 1994, has been commissioned by Harper Collins to impart wisdom and philosophy upon the world’s readers through a 300-page account of his long, revered life. And, if consumers don’t have the stamina to struggle through sentences, Justin is also releasing a biopic and comic book series that recount his path from Canadian YouTube stardom to universe ownership. My, how time flies – it seems like just a year ago that we were watching a young man croon pop ballads to a webcam. Oh wait, it was!
Bieber is not the first celebrity to attempt a premature odyssey, though. No, in the world of the famous, the allegedly self-written autobiography is something of a staple. It is, in effect, a pinnacle of narcissism on the level of, say, an interview or a cover story—book publishers scramble for the rights to any celeb of even slight notoriety. And, of course, public figures, ghost writers safely in tow, jump at the chance.
We wondered: Who are the most preposterous of all celebrity authors? Just who, exactly, has a stack of memoirs on bookstore shelves? A sixteen year-old whose voice has yet to crack is buckling down to document his life story. What nobodies have trod this ink-stained path to oblivion before him? We did some hard-hitting investigative journalism to uncover this definitive list.
1. Chuy Bravo
Real Name: Jesus Melgoza
Claim to Fame: Being the Butt of Chelsea Handler’s Jokes
Chuy Bravo, the diminutive talk show assistant on E!’s cult hit Chelsea Lately, is one more person of vague notoriety to grace the Self-Help aisle with his, um, genius. Chuy’s publication is not so much an autobiography as an advice book, but seeing as it draws from his own life experience, which includes starring in a porn movie, seems a highly suspect premise.
Mr. Bravo’s tasks on the late night show consist of walking back and forth, presenting guests and grinning while Chelsea makes crude jokes about him. There is often a sheepish giggle attached to his contributions, but more or less his place on Chelsea Lately is as mini-model: Vanna White of the vertically challenged. Riding entirely on Chelsea’s coattails, Chuy even cribs his collection, Little Nuggets of Wisdom, from his show nickname.
2. Sanjaya Malakar
Born: September 10, 1989 (age 20)
Claim to Fame: American Idol Cast-Off
Remember those few months that one year when a skinny, glittery, fluffy, technicolor-haired young man was on just about every pop culture website imaginable? That time when an American Idol contestant who was clearly under-qualified managed to move up in the ranks, despite Simon’s criticisms? We do. Sort of. Anyway, after being booted off the A.I. stage, that controversial vocalist, one Sanjaya Malakar, procured himself a publishing deal for his own autobiography.
The interestingly titled Dancing to the Music in My Head: Memoirs of the Peoples’ Idol is an account of Malakar’s (surprise!) ascendance to fame via reality television and his candid commentary on what it’s really like to be on Idol. Sanjaya appears as precious as ever on the cover, posing in his signature, normal-person way: smiling genuinely but not doing anything remarkable. His mane is feathered and highlighted and a beaded necklace decorates his collar. On the inside, a dedication in which Sanjaya writes a very new-age ode to the “supreme spiritual personality that flows through every living thing,” referring to said higher being as “it” and signing “with love, Sanjaya.” How sweet.
Amazon.com allows readers to preview the first six pages of the book. On page 4, we get an introduction to Sanjaya’s shocking candor: “If I got cut, I’d move on to the next phase of my life. But you know what? I didn’t want to get cut.” We are also treated to an immediate launch into painstakingly detailed description of choosing a rock song that “musically [sounds like] grrrrrrr.”
Sanjaya released Dancing to the Music alongside his debut album, and in interviews his innocence and sincerity—let’s face it, his major selling points—seem amiss. Sanjaya appears almost jaded, and, dare we say it, sort of full of himself. When asked by AccessHollywood if he thought 19 wasn’t too early to be publishing a memoir, Sanjaya smiles knowingly and responds: “That’s what I thought too, but I realized that I had a story that no other past contestant has said, which is purely the story of what goes on—what happens from the audition to the end. What it’s like to be on American Idol.” Somehow, we feel like we have already heard the story of what it’s like to be on American Idol. Over and over and over again…
3. Vanna White
Notable Skills: Crochet, Knitting, Smiling
From the Book Jacket: “You'll go with her on her early modeling assignments in Atlanta, watch her land bit parts in Hollywood movies, and feel the suspense as she auditions for Wheel of Fortune and skyrockets to fame.”
Vanna White is yet another minor-league celebrity who published her fascinating life story. Vanna, of 80’s showhorse Wheel of Fortune model fame, was 30 years old when her autobiography was released. At that point, she had been on television for a venerable five whole years. If that doesn’t say lifetime achievement award, we don’t know what does.
The blonde beauty’s memoir is full of savvy tips on how to be the best game show beauty robot: “Merve [Griffin, creator of Wheel of Fortune] says that he hired me because I turn the letters better than any of the other 200 women who auditioned. And what’s my secret? As I told 60 Minutes, it must be in the wrist.” Interestingly enough, in his final on-camera interview, “Merve” revealed the audition process. “I needed a girl on the show, so I said to the producer “please find 12 pictures, and put them on my desk and point to [one]. And she did that, and I walked in and I said “her”—and it was Vanna. And that was it.”
But wait, there’s more!
Readers are treated to more of Vanna’s sage advice: “Informal surveys have shown that many people tune in to see what I wear. I used to spin around, but now I only turn if my dress has an interesting back.” Moreover, “Basically, one show is very much like the rest, but in fact, there is enough about each that’s different to keep things interesting. We never know what’s going to happen next. The puzzles are different. The contestants are different. And there’s always the Wheel. You just never know…”
Though perhaps the shiniest gem amongst the pages of Vanna Speaks is this enlightening sentence: “Sure, it’s not the most intellectually challenging job in the world—few jobs are—but it is hard work.” We’ll take your word for it, Vanna.
4. Danielle Staub
Wait...who?: Real Housewife of New Jersey
From the Book Jacket: “How she survived—leaving her husband, changing her name, and finally giving birth to two lovely daughters—is one shocking story you have to read to believe.”
Search “Danielle Staub” on Wikipedia and you will get a reference page that consists of about one paragraph and…nothing else. Ms. Staub, screeching member of Bravo’s Real Housewives of New Jersey cast, hails from one of the Garden State’s most affluent sectors, Wayne. Her most notable controversy—and excuse for having written an autobiography—is that she was arrested in 1986 for drug possession and extortion, mostly due to the fact that she was married to an undercover FBI informer Kevin Maher. Staub’s brush with the law caused quite a stir in the marble floored mansions of Real Housewives-dom, and was succeeded by a sophomore scandal of a supposedly stolen sex tape that will be released by Hustler Magazine. Yawn.
In any case, Simon & Schuster decided that a weekly one-hour recap of Staub’s life was not enough. The public needs more. Enter: the redundant memoir. Staub appears stoic—quite literally, too. From what we can tell in the picture, her face appears petrified from what is either buckets of botox or some under the knife action. Maybe both – on her cover, perched on a stool in a most uncomfortable manner but mysteriously clothed (her book is called The Naked Truth. We thought the air brushers would be all over this one.) The story pretty much goes as expected: Danielle, a former model-slash-exotic dancer, marries rich and canoodles with Miami Vice actors along the Florida coast. She then proceeds to undergo a painful divorce from her back-stabbing, arrest-causing husband and somehow, through all the hardship, finds her way to peace, happiness, and class – New Jersey.
5. Carrie Prejean
Celebrity Best Friend: Bristol Palin
At this point, we’re sure you get the picture: do something stupid on live television and get a book deal. And, surprise! That’s exactly what our next author did. Carrie Prejean, Miss California 2009 and Miss USA runner-up, became more than a tiara when she responded against gay marriage (remember, she’s from a state in which same-sex unions are now legal) during the final rounds of the national pageant. “I believe that marriage should be between a man and a woman, no offense to anybody out there.” What followed was a country-wide uproar and fierce debate, with her questioner, media blogger Perez Hilton, calling her a “dumb bitch…[who] alienated so many people.” Miss California crumpled under the pressure but glistened beneath camera lights, resulting in her name becoming synonymous with religious politics and liberal scrutiny. But Carrie made sure that she defended her hard-won title. She wrote a book.
In her autobiography, Still Standing: The Untold Story of My Fight Against Gossip, Hate, and Political Attacks, Prejean cements the idea that her entire life is about this one episode. The memoir is more or less a 256 page overtly defensive account of why we should feel sorry for Carrie Prejean. Of course, she goes over some of her pre-Miss USA hardships first. On beginner’s modeling, the pageant-thin woman writes “I was worried about twisting an ankle, or even worse, it was entirely possible from the place where I was standing—to fall over the cliff, into the sea. I was struggling against the sea breeze to keep my footing.”
But then we get the bulk of the book. “I strode over to the center of the stage. When you’re on a stage like that, all eyes are on you.” (On what stage are eyes not on its occupants?) “I stepped forward, I reached into the glass bowl, I removed the folded card that revelaed the identity of my questioner. It was judge number eight: celebrity blogger and professional gossip.” And the very articulately put, metaphor of a climax: “Silence was screaming in my ears. I had to break down the silence with my answer. And I had to do it now before the silence grew and grew and crippled me.”
All is redeemed when we see that the memoirist still has her pride, though. In a totally mature, rational response to the Miss America events, Prejean writes: “My own pageant officials viciously undercut me, actively worked to betray me, and came to the aid of my enemies at every turn.” Nice to see that you understand what went wrong, Carrie.
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