My take on celebrity gossip queen Lainey Lui evolved over the course of my day on the set of THE SOCIAL.
When we first met in the co-hosts' office, she stood up to greet me, and offered a polite handshake. I told her I enjoyed her book (Listen To the Squawking Chicken, about her Chinese mother) as well as her Smut Soiree event, she thanked me, then got back to business.
This didn't surprise me, as Lainey is known on the show as being very direct, matter-of-fact, and unsentimental. I wasn't expecting her to throw her arms around me and start braiding my hair.
I do think that I underestimated how much actual work and focus would be happening before the show. I had envisioned these four friends, chatting it up while getting their makeup applied, but it seemed like there was always something to be done: a producer talking to them or research happening on the computer, not leaving much time for idle chitchat. (Lainey herself has more jobs than I can count, co-hosting THE SOCIAL being just one of them.)
My little notebook was full of questions for each of the co-hosts (some of my own, and several submitted by readers), but as time flew by and 1:00 neared, I assumed that I wouldn't be getting any one-on-one time with the gossip maven.
However, after the show, Lainey made a point of coming over to the publicist who was helping me out for the day, who relayed that Lainey would like to make some time to speak with me later, if I didn't mind following her over to eTalk, where she was needed on set. Uh, no, I didn't mind.
Once we made our way over to her second desk, she could not have impressed me more. She sat right next to me and I felt like I had her entire laser-focus. She leaned in, looked right into my eyes, elaborated on her answers and gave me exactly what I needed for her profile.
Here's what we chatted about:
I loved the book. Any plans for another one?
Eventually. I spent all last year writing and promoting the book, and I feel like writing and words are like a well and I have depleted my well so I need to build it back up again.
Any themes in mind?
I have some ideas. It wouldn't be memoir-y, it probably would be fiction. We'll see. Or maybe I'll never write one, I don't know. I've got enough jobs!
You've spoken before about the importance of gossip is society. How do you feel intelligent women with rich lives can justify such an interest in what's happening with celebrities?
It's about balance. We can still do our cerebral reading and our jobs and also make time for entertainment. I think sometimes it's an unfair question because nobody asks a man when he's doing his job and has an important career why he takes time out to watch the football game. I feel like the more that question is asked the more I bump up against it because men don't have to justify why they watch sports, so why should we have to justify why we like knowing about Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie, especially when the conversations about Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie could lead us to a better understanding of ourselves. In my TEDTalk I talked about the sociology of gossip and what those conversations reflect back to us about our culture and our understanding of each other and I don't think people are having those understandings when they're watching a home run, but I do think that there is an exchange of information that can happen when you're talking about the breakdown of a celebrity marriage or the breakdown of a celebrity friendship.
I'm going to take advantage of this time with you right now to put you on the spot about my favourite celebrity. At Smut Soiree you talked a bit about her indirectly in terms of her marriage, but I'd love to know what she's really like as an individual: Jennifer Garner.
Professionally Jennifer Garner is really nice. When you're interviewing her, when she goes to a junket, she's there to give you what you need. She doesn't complain, she isn't rude. A lot of celebrities can make you feel that you're beneath them or wasting their time but she doesn't. In terms of how she is in life, this is somebody whose image is the soft earth mother, and it's true that she cares about her children, but she's a lot more calculating and ambitious than people credit her for. I don't think these are two bad adjectives, but I think many people who have this image of her as being the perfect mother would consider it a little duplicitous.
Let's move on to country music stars. Are there any country musicians you find gossip-worthy, or can you give us the scoop on anyone?
I haven't interviewed a lot of country music artists, but I have interviewed Tim McGraw, who is probably the biggest one. He was very accommodating, very on point, there's not a lot of warmth that comes from Tim McGraw from interviews which doesn't mean that he's mean, he's just not warm and fuzzy. He's not Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson!
I've been at a party with Taylor Swift, and essentially, no matter how you feel about her she is totally in control. She's about as successful as you can get, and I think that's worthy of discussion. And she hasn't fallen off the rails yet, and for a child star, quite rare. Some people would say "give her time", but I think the difference between Taylor Swift and a lot of other artists who start young is that she had to make her way by writing her way, whereas a lot of them were prepackaged with material made and tweaked for them whereas she actually knows the construction of a song, and I think that's going to carry her forward.
There's no better gossip in country music than Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, the way they got together, the rumours swirling about them now, those two are definitely watchable. I would like to have this conversation with you in five years and see what we say about those two because I think some shit's coming! Only by virtue of the fact that nothing lasts in this business. When they got together she was quite young, and there are so many obstacles thrown in the way of love when you're famous that it's rare for a relationship to last so I'm not saying anything is wrong right now, but because it's so rare for relationships to last, I wonder what's going to happen and what they're going to have to deal with.
With all of the different things you do - writing a book, working on two shows, maintaining a hugely successful blog - do you have any time-management tips to offer? How do you manage to be so productive when you've got the same 24 hours as everyone else?
I see it as the same 24 hours, so I know that this isn't the sexiest answer, but I think sleep is overrated. I think people can happily function on less sleep than is prescribed. From Sunday to Thursday I work on four to five hours' sleep. When it's Oscars season and I'm in LA for eTalk and we're shooting during Oscar weekend and on Oscar night I don't sleep. We do a red carpet show that ends local time 5:30, then we watch the Oscars, then I start working on my blog all night, then I do voiceovers for eTalk the next day and then about noon LA time I'm on a plane headed for home. I think that when you use all your hours you do more.
People are like "Well, the doctors say you have to have eight hours' sleep," or "I can't function on less than seven," or "I'm a zombie," but I feel like that's a self-fulfilling prophesy so you believe it. When you wake up after having only four or five hours of sleep you think "I'm going to be useless today". But what if you woke up and said "I've gotten enough sleep, and I just gotta do what I gotta do"? I say this too because you do it when you get up and feed your baby - so I hear - and I say if you can keep a child alive during that time it's a pretty big responsibility, so if you're able to keep something alive after that little sleep, I'm pretty sure you can go to work and push a few buttons, take some calls. That was a long way of answering that I just don't sleep that much. And I'm okay with that.
When I asked for a photo at the end, Lainey made a point of finding out if we could use the eTalk set for a better background, and also took time to pose with a friend of mine - and huge LaineyGossip fan - who had been in the audience with me and joined us after the show.
Conclusion: Like Tim McGraw, Lainey Lui doesn't come across warm and fuzzy (and she has never claimed to - last week on the show she jokingly referred to her "black heart"), but I'm afraid I have to out her here and say that her kindness and consideration certainly showed in her actions. Plus, THE SOCIAL (and the world of celebrity gossip) wouldn't be nearly as interesting if she was all sweetness and light instead of the "CompLainey" we know and love.
Follow Lainey on Twitter, check out all her celebrity gossip (and she has GOOD stuff) at LaineyGossip, and of course catch her on eTalk and THE SOCIAL weekdays on CTV.