Elaine "Lainey Gossip" Lui Interview
“Whether it’s love or hate, it’s an emotion. It’s a reaction. I’d rather be polarising than boring. I’d rather someone dislike me, even if it’s intensely, if that means they’re not indifferent. And that’s how I’ve approached criticism.”
Elaine “Lainey” Lui is a TV Presenter for CTV’s Etalk and one of the world’s most influential gossip queens. On her hit website Laineygossip.com Ms Lui covers everything from the Brangelinas' latest adoption to JLo’s foray into the publishing world. In an exclusive interview with BW, we chat about dealing with Twitter bullies, negative Asian stereotypes in Hollywood and her Chinese mother the “squawking chicken.”
B is for...book. What is your favourite childhood book?
Sweet Valley High.
A is for… animal. If you could transform into one animal for one week, what would you be?
N is for… necessary. If you were banished to a desert island and could only bring two items, what would they be?
Toilet paper, my electronic cigarette.
A is for… authentic. How would you describe yourself in three words?
Determined, impatient, insensitive.
N is for… novelist. Which writer do you most admire?
A is for… appetite. What is your favourite banana themed food?
Banana cream pie.
Your blog attracts millions of readers every month. Why do you think human beings have this innate desire to gossip?
Gossip is storytelling. And within those stories there are common narratives: love, pain, friendship, betrayal. These narratives are timeless. Which is why gossip is immortal; it’s a form of communication; it’s how we communicate to others our perspectives on our experiences. If we’re talking about Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt, and Jennifer Aniston, we’re not just discussing the romantic entanglements of movie stars; what we’re doing, consciously, is sharing our views on marriage, fidelity, and family. You could say then that gossip bonds and connects us. And, if we were to look back later, the act of gossiping can also be a reflection of social culture. Those discussions reveal who we were collectively and what we believed.
Some people describe you as the blogger that people “love to hate.” How do you deal with criticism and does it affect you anymore?
Whether it’s love or hate, it’s an emotion. It’s a reaction. I’d rather be polarising than boring. I’d rather someone dislike me, even if it’s intensely, if that means they’re not indifferent. And that’s how I’ve approached criticism. Because that means they’ve taken the time to think about something I’ve written and have spared the energy to actually feel something about it.
We can’t expect to go through life without detractors, without rejection. Going about your day trying to avoid that is counterproductive to me. I want to be challenged. It’s how I push forward.
What advice would you give to a new blogger starting out?
I started blogging because I loved it. I’d go to work at Covenant House Vancouver from 8am – 5pm and come home and blog for five hours with no financial gain just because it was fun. During that time, I just focused on writing and improving and enjoying the process. It wasn’t until later that the blog became a business. And by then, the blog had become so much a part of me that I couldn’t NOT do it. I haven’t taken a real holiday in something like 8 years. Even on my 10 year anniversary trip to the Maldives, my husband and I still worked for 4 hours a day. So if you’re just kicking off your blog life right now, be realistic about your goals, and be sure that it’s something you can commit to the way you commit to your job. That is, would you be willing to leave the beach to go post a few articles, even though you’re only there for a week? Are you able to be consistent about your blog schedule so that your readers can depend on you for new content, even if it’s really busy in your life and you’re managing other deadlines and your kids and your friends?
Your blog is your brand. It never goes on break. It should be a priority.
As a child, you attended the Toronto French School where there were only a few Asian kids. You have been quoted as saying, “I wanted to be white.” Being an Asian woman who works in Hollywood, do you still feel very much as an outsider?
I myself don’t feel like an outsider. That’s what’s so great about existing on the internet. You will always be able to find your people. But I do report on Hollywood. And when celebrity is your subject matter, it is frustrating to see that that landscape is dominated by one colour. More and more, I try on my blog to point out the lack of diversity in the entertainment industry. Because for many people out there, they don’t notice it. They’ve never been in a different skin.
That one thing is all they know.
So that myopia frames their perspective. I do get frustrated when I’m met with resistance when talking about race, especially since that denial is rooted in institutionalised stereotypes that people aren’t even conscious of. It’s not always a lack of sensitivity either. I’d rather someone be insensitive initially but follow that insensitivity up with a question, with a willingness to learn. It’s the lack of information and the absence of curiosity that often leads to ignorance.
Internet surfing has opened up new worlds and new experiences. However, one of the negatives of the Internet is cyber bullying and Internet trolls. Have you ever experienced being trolled and what advice would you give to people dealing with bullies?
I know that there’s a lot of bullying that goes on on social media. And that it’s very painful to have to be the victim of that kind of behaviour. I can’t imagine how it must be for a young person in these times dealing with that kind of negativity.
I was called names as a teenager. I’ve had a few online stalkers over the years. People yell at me on Twitter a lot. But I never engage. I just …don’t have the time or energy. You’ll never win and it’ll never end. I was raised by a very tough mother. She was never easy on me. She has always been my first and worst critic. And because of that, I feel like she prepared me for attack by having expectations for me. She wanted me to improve, to constantly work on learning more, think faster and train my mind. She told me that my mind could be my protector and my weapon, and that knowledge was something no one could take from you. Because during the darkest times, when you’re alone, and people are hurting you, if there’s one thing you have, if it’s one thing you can believe in, it’s yourself.
What do you think is the most damaging rumour about Asian people flying around western society?
I don’t think one rumour is more damaging than the other. I think every misrepresentation undermines our trust in one another.
What concerns me most though are that there are so few opportunities for Asians in the acting industry that they’re compelled to take whatever they can get, just to feel like they’re working. And, honestly, how can you blame them for that? They’re already disadvantaged by content, they can’t walk away, even if it means disrespecting their culture. So it all comes back to power. It’s an imbalance of power. And those who don’t have any will always be the ones who struggle.
Gossip Girl Asian style!
Gossip sometimes has the ability to make or break people. Do you ever feel guilty about sharing negative gossip about celebrities?
There are celebrities I don’t report on, stories I won’t cover because I don’t think it’s appropriate. I call it Sad Smut. For example, there was no reporting on Michael Jackson on my blog when he died. Or Whitney Houston. Or Robin Williams.
So when I do report on celebrity scandal, no, I don’t feel guilty. It’s not the gossip that breaks people. It’s their own actions. And you have to remember, Celebrity is an Ecosystem. The star is surrounded by managers, publicists, agents, but without the media and the fans, they can’t exist. There are still those who are naïve to the fact that celebrities need to be gossiped about in order to be able to maintain their celebrity status. Many of them not only condone it, they collaborate on it. Celebrities are active members of the game. We’re all playing it together.
The public image of Lainey is someone who loves to gossip, is funny and has a no-holds bar approach to life. However, before you became a gossip queen, you worked in Covenant House, a charity that helps homeless youth. What type of work did you do with Covenant House and are you still involved in similar projects?
I was a Development Officer for Community Projects. I raised money by working with students, church groups, and social clubs, helping them with their philanthropic initiatives in support of homeless and at-risk youth. I am still active with Covenant House Vancouver both as a donor and a volunteer. I also consult on special fundraising campaigns. I will never not be involved with the organisation. It’s one of the most important relationships in my life.
So, what is the latest gossip about Lainey’s next steps?
I’m working on a few exciting projects that I’m not quite ready to share yet – I’m sorry! We’re still waiting for a few things to fall in place. But it involves books (not mine) and style. Also, we’re releasing Listen To The Squawking Chicken in paperback in 2015. BW
You have recently published the book that has been on your heart for many years Listen to the Squawking Chicken: When Mother Knows Best, What's a Daughter To Do? A Memoir (Sort Of). What other dreams do you want to achieve in the next ten years?
I just want to keep writing – in various forms: blogging, features, hopefully, maybe, another book. I want get better at writing. If possible, I’d like to find more time to travel. And, at some point, perhaps when things slow down, I’d love to go back to school in a foreign country. A couple of years ago, I visited St Andrews University in Scotland for a work assignment and I thought to myself – man, when I was in university, I was too young (and stupid!) to appreciate how GREAT it was to be in class all the time. I’d love to study for pleasure.
Chinese mothers love to give advice whether you like it or not. What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
Work hard. You can be the best at working hard. Make sure that no one can beat you at hard work.