Vancouver’s goddess of gossip Lainey Lui dishes the celebrity dirt
For 19 minutes, she talked trash, self deprecated and ripped open the “ecosystem,” social importance and history of gossip, going back to an Egyptian pharaoh’s dalliances with his general ending up in hieroglyphics.
“Gossip is good,” Lui stressed. “Gossip is knowledge. Gossip is immortal.”
Thanks to her blog and a gig on CTV’s eTalk, 39 year old Lui is a full time celebrity gossip reporter Canada’s Perez Hilton coming by her obsession along maternal lines. “My grandmother ran a Mahjong den in Hong Kong. My mother played, that’s what they do they play Mahjong and they talk sh, all day and all night. They smoke cigarettes and send out for food and talk sh some more. That was how they communicated. Gossip is communication. That’s how I was indoctrinated.”
Lui, who will lecture next week in Edmonton in her ‘Faculty of Celebrity Studies,’ began her crusade by emailing celebrity tidbits to a couple of friends. The list exploded. “It really only occurred to me that it was something I could do as a career when I started being called a spammer. There was a limit on the number of emails you could send out before you got shut down. That’s why I went from a newsletter format to a blog format. It was a several thousand long distribution list. There was definitely an interest and people cared enough to give me their email address.”
Since then, a daily bloodhound with help from multiple embedded sniffers and sources, Lui obsessively follows the details of Hollywood, music, sports and political celebrities. She doesn’t care for reality TV stars, also avoiding stories about death and children of stars, unless they’re being used as a smokescreen. Her biggest scoop was telling the world first that Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes had split. Lui meshes a killer journalist instinct with vicious cattiness, noting this is nothing new in human history. And there’s a difference between reporting on the liaisons of trusted kings (or horny presidents) and making fun of the way Taylor Swift uses a shopping cart at the grocery store, as Lui did this week on her blog. “When you go grocery shopping, do you put your two bags in the cart, then push the cart to the car, then go back and return the cart?”
Well, do you, punk?Her Faculty of Celebrity Studies is in its second year. This is the first visit to Edmonton, part of a six city tour of the country including Victoria, Winnipeg and Montreal. Fifty tickets were given away on the blog.
Explaining the faculty concept with a laugh, Lui cuts through the PR. “We just gossip. We’re trying to gossip in a cerebral way. The reason we’re positioning it as a ‘faculty’ event is oftentimes people who gossip are given this reputation that if they’re going somewhere to talk about celebrities, immediately it’s vapid, not very intelligent and us uggs uk eless.”
Fair enough, but what about being just plain ‘mean,’ a topic absent in her TEDx talk. It may seem old fashioned and even naive to stick up for the private lives of celebrities to Lui, but she responds: “I get accused of being mean by fangirls of Robert Pattinson who don’t like me because I haven’t praised him enough. But mean is not the goal of my blog. Sure, it’s critical, and it’s definitely provocative, but I think these are questions that are worth asking and discussions that are worth having.
“Renee Zellweger was pretty upset with me when she was working in Vancouver. We have a law against idling and she was idling in her car for 45 minutes, and she made a crazy U turn on the Burrard Street Bridge. You just don’t do that. I also said there was tension on set. A publicist contacted me and said I was a dick. She ended up giving an interview to a local newspaper reporter subtly addressing the things I’d written. They can do their job anywhere. When they’re on set, they can drive themselves to a sound stage. There’s no paparazzi on the Universal Studios lot, I assure you. Rowling may not love being so famous, she’s managing it really, really well. She used her money wisely and no one knows what her children look like.”Lindsay Lohan I don’t feel sorry for in particular because I tell you she’s a miserable human being. Like, that is a loser of a human being who doesn’t deserve your sympathy. There are people in this world who are good people and bad people. She’s not a good person.”
“Sympathy, sure. You can, I guess, make a case for Tom Cruise because in the last six months he’s been accused of being a terrible father. But with actors like Tom Cruise, it’s not about resentment, it’s about lifestyle. He was trading on an image. He wasn’t just saying, ‘Here, go watch my movie and that’s all I’m going to give you.’ What he was giving us was the persona off screen, too. ‘I’m a hero. I rescue people all the time. I am this perfect person. I am enlightened.’ These are people who no longer can work just by selling the product; their life is now immersed in the selling.”
It’s here her defence is strongest Lui uggs uk acts as a sort of BS detector, an outsider rebel against pricey propaganda and image manipulation.
The blogger compares the Hollywood PR machine to the way NHL teams are increasingly tight with controlling their image. “You have teams who build up an infrastructure around their communication. The irony of the whole Tiger Woods thing is you have golf reporters who all knew he was a party guy and unfaithful, but none of them could risk reporting all that because then he would ban them, and without access to Tiger you might as well not cover golf. It took the National Enquirer to blow open that story for the mainstream to be able to say the things they wanted to say. Michael Jackson inevitably comes up, a man who made bewildering moves in public, but who was also an abused child who never had any kind of childhood, and was likely mentally ill. And it’s here where Lui’s moral centre lives, beneath the layers of sass and performance. Her voice rises: “What ownership do we collectively not just the media but we collectively as a society have to do with this? The cases of the Lindsay Lohans and Michael Jacksons, yes, it becomes a curiosity and a freak show, to look and to be appalled and to not be able to look away.
“At the same time, we are also a society that was OK in creating a superstar out of a child. Let’s take it back even further and say, what is this compulsion of ours to attack and attack, but more than that, why are we making celebrities out of children? That’s on us. Not the media, but us. I don’t and probably you don’t but it’s on us that we watch Honey Boo Boo. It’s on us that Justin Bieber got famous and his mother isn’t being side eyed for putting his face on YouTube at the age of 12. She snaps “It’s sexist!” and continues: “We are a society of exhibitionists, which is then reflected by the media and certainly magnified through celebrity. But we have to look in the mirror ourselves. That’s what I think is interesting about gossip; there are elements of it where we can’t run away from it ourselves.”
When Lui cut uggs uk s Rihanna for getting back together with Chris Brown after he beat her face to a pulp, she says there are larger issues being discussed, especially after she and we forgive him. “Athletes, celebrities, what they complain about isn’t so much the coverage and the attention the easy excuse is to complain about the attention. But it’s not the attention they don’t want. They would die without it. It’s that they have to be able to control the narrative.
“And my job is to say ‘no, you don’t get to control what we think of you.’ This is not what the free market is about. If we were taking pictures and posting photos and saying how wonderful you are and what a great mother you are, they wouldn’t be so upset. It’s about control.
“Celebrity is rooted in ambition. These are people who want to be famous. They might not admit it or say it out loud, but that’s essentially what they’re there doing. Nicole Kidman wants to be famous. Tom Cruise wants to be famous.
“I’m bitchy, materialistic, superficial, I ‘don’t have children so how can I judge,’ I’m not that attractive, either. All of these things that seem to be the kinds of thing that go around in the blogosphere, I’ll take it! You have to be able to take it. “If I could, I’d show you my inbox,” she laughs.
“But what I won uggs uk ‘t take and that’s why I did the TED talk and why we do the Faculty is that gossip is not important. That it’s silly. That it doesn’t have value. That’s a criticism against the institution of gossip.