Celebrity memoirs are a favorite indulgence so when I got the chance to review You Have No Idea by Vanessa and Helen Williams I signed up with a big happy smile on my face. Not just a celebrity memoir, but a celebrity I like! I totally dug Vanessa on Ugly Betty. Disclosure: I was compensated for this review but all opinions are my own.
Overall I enjoyed this book a lot for the candor that Vanessa and Helen show in describing their relationship and the insider peek on what it’s like to be a public performer over the long haul. The book was co-written by Vanessa and her tough as nails mother. They alternate chapters sharing their perspectives on key moments in her life. Helen Williams is a great personality and including her perspective adds a lot to the story.
A lot of attention is paid to the Miss America scandal. She describes the events that led up to her nude photo shoot, how she ended up (pretty much accidentally) becoming the first African-American Miss America and the challenges that she encountered during her "reign". It was honestly heart-breaking to hear about the ugliness she endured in her quest to be a good representative of the pageant: multiple death threats being sent to her parents’ house, incessant racism and criticism from the black community over her perceived lack of “appropriate” blackness. To know that she and her family persevered through those events only to be abandoned abruptly when the pictures came out was a depressing commentary of the disloyalty common in show business. It’s a testament to her talent and durability that she made it in the end. She was marked for years by the scandal. In the book she describes how she was cast in a Broadway show only to lose the role after the producer said, “I don’t want that whore bringing in the wrong kind of people”. I can only imagine the challenge of having to continually confront a mistake made at age 19 well into your 30s. Strangely, her experiences seem ironically antiquated in light of today’s current trend of starlets releasing risque pictures for the purpose of self-promotion.
Like many celebrity memoirs this wasn't the best-written book. It's not cohesive in it's overall editing. There were many underdeveloped stories and unnecessary tangents but despite these shortcomings there was a ton to enjoy about this book! I would recommend it to any fan of celebrity memoirs or Vanessa Williams.
This book is a BlogHer book club pick. To learn more and join in the discussion click here!