But other events, like the birth of two sons in two years with ex-husband Kevin Federline, are transformed by Spears’s telling, as she describes her struggles with depression and the loneliness she felt at the height of her fame. And those details are causing readers to reexamine their feelings about the celebrity.
“I hope any new mothers reading this who are having a hard time will get help early,” she writes. “Because I now know that I was displaying just about every symptom of perinatal depression: sadness, anxiety, fatigue. Once the babies were born, I added on my confusion and obsession about the babies’ safety, which was ratcheting up the more media attention was on us. Being a new mom is challenging enough without trying to do everything under a microscope.”.
It’s this kind of intimate detail that draws readers in, making them feel as if they alone are privy to the secrets of the ultra-famous. And for many, that connection challenges their preconceived notions of celebrity authors.
Amelia, 39, a copywriter who lives in New York, says she is “obsessed” with celebrity memoirs, especially those written by women who were notorious during her teenage years. She says The Woman in Me has caused her to re-examine her adolescent feelings about Spears. “Britney was one of the stars who taught me the rules of being a woman, but it was through the lens of gossip bloggers like Perez Hilton,” she explains. “Now, as an adult and a mother to a daughter I am doing my own internal correction. I think, ‘whoah, I grew up during a toxic time’. Hearing from Britney Spears herself is just really nice. It’s not just nostalgia, it’s almost like an apology for participating. Like yeah, I’m really sorry we gossiped about you in such a nasty way back then.”
A lucrative partnership
Celebrity memoirs have existed in some for as long as people have been famous: stage actress Sarah Bernhardt published hers, My Double Life, in 1907. Now, as social media has allowed A-listers to connect more intimately (or at least para-socially) with fans, many celebrities are keen to continue that connection, and to wrest the larger narratives of their lives from tabloids and gossip blogs. And fans are eager to read all about it.
Layton Turner says that feeling of connection is common and intentional. Many of the most successful celebrity authors of the last decade have chosen to collaborate with a ghostwriter, a professional who can help create a riveting narrative arc that is faithful to the source material. Layton Turner notes that even while working with a ghostwriter, celebrities themselves are still doing a great deal of literary and emotional heavy lifting. For many of the mega-famous, writing a book may be the first time they’ve had a chance to sit and reflect on the experiences that shaped them – and that sense of raw emotion is what makes them so popular with readers.