When celeb gossip maven Elaine Lui announced on her popular blog, Lainey Gossip, that she was releasing a book, fans of the Canadian gossip site were beyond excited -- and that's an understatement. But they were in for a surprise.
Instead of the expected gossip tell-all (Did Brad Pitt cheat on Jennifer Aniston with Angelina Jolie? Who are the actors involved in this blind riddle?), "The Social" talk show host revealed that her first book would be a memoir about her and her mother, Judy Yeung, who she (sometimes) affectionately refers to as the Squawking Chicken.
The book, called "Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of)," details how Lui grew up under the sometimes frightening (and always right) tutelage of Yeung, a Hong Kong native, who doled out harsh life lessons left and right.
But the book isn't Tiger Mom tips; it's ultimately a love letter from a daughter to her Squawking Chicken, and her realization that even though her mom sometimes made her life uncomfortable (Yeung once told Lui that she would rather have had a piece of barbecued pork than give birth to her after the future blogger disappointed her), she became a better person for it.
HuffPost Canada TV sat down with Lui and talked about the very personal stories she details in the book (including her mom's rape when she was a teen), who she wants to see Gwyneth Paltrow hook up with, what she really thinks of the Kimye Vogue cover and the TV shows she's ready to drop everything for.
HuffPost Canada TV: When you announced on your blog that you were releasing a book, what did you think of the fan reaction?
Elaine Lui: From the people who visit the site, who've been reading for a long time, it was really lovely to get messages of support and encouragement. I think when you have a blog that you maintain, the blog begins "Dear Gossips" every day, and I genuinely believe that we’re having an intimate gossip conversation.
I didn’t write that "Gossip Girl" book, I write it every day. I have been writing about [the Squawking Chicken] for a long time and I wanted to give people some insight as to why she is the way she is, but also to honour her as her only daughter; I wanted to pay tribute to her.
What is the most valuable lesson your mother has taught you?
To work hard. I think that advice is the best when it's tangible and achievable. You can't expect somebody to be the smartest or the best editor or the best writer but working hard is achievable to everyone, no matter who you are, and you can actually be the best at working hard.
In the book, you talk about Chinese astrology and Feng Shui. Can people who aren't familiar with these beliefs still learn from them?
I think it's valuable, but I'm not writing this book to be in the position of telling people what's valuable and what's not valuable. All I can say is what worked for me. And what worked for me is my mother telling me that I could work harder than anybody else, and what worked for me are the methods that my mother used. They were sometimes spiritual, sometimes harsh, magical in a way, superstitious. There was supernatural involved, and those were the things that worked for me, and she tailored them for me and only me.
How did your mom feel about you sharing her rape in the book?
She says in the book, you can tell the story of the worst thing that's ever happened to you and it’s never going to own you. So she's totally fine with the story being in there, you know, she has no embarrassment, she doesn't feel like a victim because she didn't allow it to victimize her. She'd be the first person, if it came up, to reveal it about herself, so nothing bothers her.
What was the hardest part of writing the book?
Writing is really one of the few jobs, maybe the only job, that you have to do it all by yourself. There are difficult jobs, like an astrophysicist must have a difficult job and a radiologist must have a difficult job, but if the radiologist couldn't show up that day, somebody could come in and know the steps in doing what he or she is supposed to do. When you write a book, those words have to come from you; you choose each word and each verb tense, you order the words in a certain way in each and every sentence and then that goes into a paragraph and it's all you, nobody can substitute for you and that’s what makes it so hard, but also really lonely.
Why do you think it's important to look at gossip through anthropological eyes?
Because we’re doing it, because we’re interested and if we’re interested and doing it there must be a reason. Dismissing it as being losers and degenerates is not good enough, because we both know that there are people who aren't losers and degenerates who're into it and talking about it and doing it, so why? What could be more important than answering the question 'why?' when it relates to us and relates to human behaviour and conditions? Nothing could be more important. So that’s why I crusade for gossip because gossip is not going to go away. It's here, we do it, we’re doing it more and more and there's a reason and I refuse to accept that it's negative and not helpful.
How is celebrity different now than it was 10 years ago?
Social media is changing celebrity because it's eroding the gap between celebrity and civilian and as we approach them, the veil drops. Mystery used to protect them because it used to protect the illusion that we had in our minds about who they were. When you strip away the mystery, what has been emerging is ugliness. This is not the illusion that we've upheld them to be, and it's going to be very tricky for celebrities to continue to navigate the social media landscape while maintaining the aura of 'specialness.'
Who do you want Gwyneth Paltrow to hook up with?
Jake Gyllenhaal would be fun. They've worked together on a movie, they’re friends. We could do a little Jude Law; he’s single right now, that would be fun. I would like to see [Gwyneth with] young and hot, but he would have to have some stature. Not too young either, because it's fine, but I don’t want us to fixate on any cradle-robbing and that’s so boring, so you want someone with some stature and Hollywood gravitas.
I'm glad J.Lo is getting 25-year-old sex, fine, but couldn't you find someone hotter and more famous? At least someone better-looking. I mean, look at how Madonna does it: she goes out with nobodies but they're all hot.
Why do you think Anna Wintour put Kim Kardashian [Lainey will only refer to her as "Kanye West's fiancée"] on the cover of Vogue?
I don’t know, I feel like it was definitely related to personal relationships. Anna Wintour has, like it or not, become friends with Kanye West and as we all know, sometimes we can't say no to our friends even when it shakes the integrity of your publication. But if you want to believe that Anna Wintour was not coerced by her friend Kanye West, then it has everything to do with branding and the direction and listen, we have all been hearing reports that publishing is losing money, and like it or not Kanye West’s fiancée makes money, she's popular.
What's on your PVR right now?
We are days away from the Season 4 premiere of "Game of Thrones" so obviously that. Can't wait for "Orphan Black" to come back. I will watch the last season of "Mad Men" just because I've been following the whole time but I have to say, I don’t feel about "Mad Men" the way I felt about it before. I wasn't into "True Detective." I was like, "Oh, two white cops? Wow, that’s a new story."
I'm so happy they’re not doing the "Friday Night Lights" movie. I think it's time for me to crack [the DVDs] open again.
"Listen to the Squawking Chicken" is for sale now in Canada and will be released on April 22 in the U.S. This interview has been edited and condensed.