How a Hot Tub, Tequila, And A Pandemic Inspired Chelsea Devantez’s New Celebrity Memoir Podcast
When a celebrity releases a memoir, it’s easy to anticipate a book only full of gossip and scandal. But writer and comedian Chelsea Devantez is changing the way we view memoirs with her new Stitcher original podcast, Celebrity Book Club, premiering October 28th.
Each week Chelsea invites a talented friend to help recap and celebrate the memoirs from, as Chelsea calls them, “badass celebrity womxn.”
Her aim is to shine a light on the memoirs that reveal the multifaceted nature of female celebrities who are more complex, triumphant, and stronger than we realize. For Chelsea, these memoirs not only reveal the secrets deep within the entertainment industry but act as a form of self-help, especially during a pandemic.
What inspired you to start a podcast dissecting celebrities’ memoirs?
It all began when I was on a girls’ trip, drinking tequila and Spindrift, chillin’ in a hot tub, reading Jessica Simpson’s memoir. My drunk brain felt a deep urge to let everyone know how good this book was! So I made myself another drink and started recapping. Immediately my friend Niccole messaged me and said it should be a podcast.
As I kept going I was flooded with similar messages. But at first I was hesitant — I’m a TV writer, and that job is sometimes akin to listening to podcast, but for like ten hours a day, so I wasn’t sure I had the capacity. But as I was recapping my damn fingers got tired of typing! There was so much more I wanted to say, and so many messages from people I wanted to share, and all these deep dives I was going on, and at that point I realized I needed to do the podcast just to be able to get into all the juice and talk about these women’s stories. Plus, now that it’s a podcast, each episode will have one of my amazing female friends on to discuss the book with me, and bring even more insights and stories.
You started by posting your memoir recaps on Instagram stories. What was the reaction like initially?
This whole thing grew so organically and so quickly, it was shocking at first! We’ve entered a time in media where Hollywood has heard that feminism is “in’’ and inclusion is “cool” (i.e. people want real stories that reflect the real people in their lives, who knew!) and they churned out all this material with female characters who are supposedly “badass” and “strong,” but are actually widely one dimensional and missing all nuance and they don’t speak to us, because in attempting to create a strong female character they made her be positive all the time and have no weaknesses and no love story. That’s not how all the actual incredible women I know are living and experiencing life and yet I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard “if she does this she’s not likable” about a female character in a show I was working on. But unlikeable to who? In these memoirs I’m getting all the things I crave and I think other people crave it, too: complex women, who are strong and badass and crazy and fucked up and have enemies and have incredible female friendships and harmful female friendships and they make mistakes and rise from the ashes and sometimes spiral further into darkness. Those are the types of women we crave to watch and follow because these are the women we are and know in our lives. Plus the side characters in these stories are like John Mayer, Ashton Kutcher, and Eddie Murphy, it’s so fun.
What’s been your favorite part of doing this podcast so far?
Connecting with women from all over, who relate to the trauma and drama inside these books and have their own gossip or pieces of information to share that relate to the book. For example, a woman I know auditioned to be Tom Cruise’s wife when they did the casting call to find Katie Holmes! Never would have known that if I hadn’t recapped Leah Remini’s book.
In your Instagram recap for Jessica Simpson’s memoir you reveal “Rock Doc” is a secret term for a kind of doctor that gets celebrities drugs. Can we anticipate more secrets like this on the podcast?
Oh man — yes. Even the vaguest, most buttoned up memoirs have a secret or two in them. And they have so many practical tips in them — Carol Burnette’s taught me how to get an agent, Gabrielle Union gives cheating advice, Mariah goes deep on a Jennifer Lopez feud, Jane Fonda teaches you how to stand up for yourself, Ali Wong tells you what makes a good stand up comedian and how to pick a great Asian restaurant. Every book is filled with treasures.
Your podcast reveals that these memoirs aren’t just filled with gossip and scandal, but they’re stories about perseverance and growth. Are there any memoirs in particular that surprised you most in this way?
When I was a teenager I discovered that these books were amazing self-help literature covered in gossip and glitz, which is the only way I want to learn lessons! I don’t come from a life that leads to working as a TV writer, filmmaker and comedian, which is what I do for a living. I had no idea how you even get near this business, no connections, no money, no one who had a friend who had a friend. It was all so wildly mysterious, and each of these memoirs shed light on all the “how the fuck do you do that?” questions I had. My mom gave me Jane Fonda’s book in 2005 and that’s when I really became obsessed. All of these women are powerful figures. They have been through so much and the majority of them are artists — they taught me how to get through heartbreak, haters, family fights, and career obstacles. They make me feel all my own trauma is okay, and really bring to light that old adage that we think we are the only ones dealing with intense bullshit, but everyone is covering up their pain.
Who are some celebrities you wish would write a memoir?
Christina Aguilera. Britney Spears. Salma Hayek. Britney Spears. Angelina Jolie. Britney Spears. Gina Prince-Bythewood. I wish Whitney Houston could have written a memoir. I hope Jennifer Lopez writes a second one. Britney Spears!!!!
You sometimes call out the ghostwriters for grammatical errors or odd phrasings. What have you learned about the ghostwriters helping celebrities write their memoirs?
I have learned, from a DM from an actual ghostwriter, that these memoirs are not fact checked! I guess the publishing companies fact check anything they could be sued over, but don’t go beyond that. People who follow my Instagram have caught so many errors and typos, it’s hilarious. But that’s what makes these books so great. Joe DiMaggio played center field, but you learn that Mariah Carey thinks he was a shortstop, the same position as Derek Jeter, and because of her obsession with Marilyn Monroe, and Marilyn being married to Joe, that reason played into Mariah thinking her relationship with Derek was fate! And it’s not even true! I love stuff like that, it’s so relatable.
Who’s a dream guest you’d like to appear on the podcast?
The authors of any of these books! Demi! Dolly! Tina! Mariah! Gabrielle! Jane! Almost every time I read someone’s memoir I fall in love with them and find deeper adoration and understanding of their art and who they are.
In your recap of Mel B’s memoir you wrote a quote that stuck with me: “Behind every great woman is a man trying to stop her.” Have you found this to be true in the memoirs you’ve covered both for Instagram and the podcast?
Sadly this is one of the biggest themes that you see across seventy percent of these memoirs — how a man saw a powerful woman and through romance becomes her manager and slowly destroys her life and takes away her autonomy all while profiting off her: Mel B, Tina Turner, Jessica
Simpson, Mariah Carey, Cher…the list goes on. Reading about it makes you stronger in your own life though, and able to see the red flags when they are headed your way. Another theme across these books is including the moment they went to see a psychic and how it changed their lives — I live for the psychic moment in these books!
What are you hoping listeners gain from the podcast?
Reading these memoirs and sharing them has been the only thing that’s kept me sane in the pandemic. They are gritty enough to hold your attention in a world filled with misery, but gossipy and dazzling enough to give you a fun little break. I hope it brings people the sanity it has brought me.
– Ian Scott Goldstein