Tina Fey looks lovely on the January 2009 cover of Vanity Fair, though, after reading the accompanying cover story by Maureen Dowd it's tempting to never mention her looks again. So much of the lengthy profile is devoted to marveling at the weight loss and makeover that transformed the "very mousy" Fey into everyone's favorite "brainy glamour-puss" that we almost wish Fey would revert to her "quite round" physique and dig out the thrift-store sweaters that she used to sport. However, the article is redeemed by featuring plenty of what really made Fey "A New American Sweetheart:" her funny quips, not her figure. A selection, after the jump.
It is true that in the past year we have become a nation of "Fey-natics" (with the exception of Nancy Franklin who calls her performance on 30 Rock "not-so-great" in this week's New Yorker.) But clearly the new found celebrity status has not gone to Fey's head:
Her true vice is cupcakes. I've brought her a box, one frosted with the face of Sarah Palin. She chooses that one, which is bigger, joking that it's O.K. if she gains weight before her Annie Leibovitz photo shoot in a few days, because "Annie's going to photograph my soul, right?"
Looks do matter for American Sweethearts, though. Veteran Hollywood agent Sue Mengers warned Lorne Michaels against putting a pre-makeover Fey on-air for "Weekend Update" because she wasn't attractive enough:
"Lorne brought her over to my house when she was head writer," Mengers recalls. "She was very mousy. I thought, Well, they gotta be having an affair. But they weren't. He just appreciated her talent. And now, suddenly, she's become this sexy, showing-tit, hot-looking woman. I said to Lorne, ‘What the fuck did she do?"'
Fey says that she gets her acerbity from her Greek mother, and adds that she got something else Dowd finds important from her mom's side.
"Because of the Greek-girl thing, I have, like, boobs and butt," so "I only have two speeds- either matronly or a little too slutty. I have to be steered away from cheetah print."
But it wasn't just her looks that scared off the boys in Fey's youth:
"I remember bringing people over in high school to play-that's how cool I am-that game Celebrity. That's how I successfully remained a virgin well into my 20s, bringing gay boys over to play Celebrity."
Fey has never publicly explained the origin of her scar before, saying that talking about it upsets her parents. Now it's easy to see why:
... a faint scar runs across Tina Fey's left cheek, the result of a violent cutting attack by a stranger when Fey was five. Her husband says, "It was in, like, the front yard of her house, and somebody who just came up, and she just thought somebody marked her with a pen."
Her husband adds:
"That scar was fascinating to me," Richmond recalls. "This is somebody who, no matter what it was, has gone through something. And I think it really informs the way she thinks about her life. When you have that kind of thing happen to you, that makes you scared of certain things, that makes you frightened of different things, your comedy comes out in a different kind of way, and it also makes you feel for people."
Fey doesn't think the incident was as life changing as her husband does:
"It's impossible to talk about it without somehow seemingly exploiting it and glorifying it," she says. Did she feel less attractive growing up because of it? "I don't think so," she says. "Because I proceeded unaware of it. I was a very confident little kid. It's really almost like I'm kind of able to forget about it, until I was on-camera, and it became a thing of ‘Oh, I guess we should use this side' or whatever. Everybody's got a better side."
But she does say that the childhood attack may affect her as a mother:
"Supposedly, I will go crazy," [says Fey]. "My therapist says, ‘When Alice is the age that you were, you may go crazy."'
Fey also discusses why she didn't want to interact with the real Sarah Palin while she was playing the fake Sarah Palin on SNL:
"I just didn't want to have to do the impression at the same time with her," she said. "One, it would shine a light on the inaccuracies of the impression, and, two, it's just always … the only word I can think of is ‘sweaty.' It just always feels sweaty."
Fey also calls out the media for insinuating that she hadn't been gracious to Palin backstage:
"What made me super-mad about it," Fey says later, "was that it seemed very sexist toward me and her. The implication was that she's so fragile, which she is not. She's a strong woman. And then, also, it was sexist because, like, who would ever go on the news and say, ‘Well, I thought it was sort of mean to Richard Nixon when Dan Aykroyd played him,' and ‘That seemed awful mean to George Bush when Will Ferrell did it.' And it's like, No, that's not the thing. This is a comedy sketch on a comedy show." "Mean," we agreed, was a word that tends to get used on women who do satirical humor and, as she says, "gay guys."
What Tina Fey Wants [Vanity Fair]
Related: Sketchy Comedy: Tina Fey's 30 Rock [The New Yorker]