Carrie Fisher owns her tragicomic life like no other public figure I can think of.
Confession: In college, after reading her first two autobiographical novels, (Postcards from the Edge and Surrender the Pink) I wrote letters to Carrie Fisher. Lots of letters. Daily letters, about my angst, my constantly ongoing breakup, and the challenges of being the only smart person in the world besides her. They were trash and I never mailed them (or intended to), but time has proven to me that my crazy, self-absorbed 18-year-old self was onto at least one thing: Carrie Fisher is a genuine role model.
Carrie is currently making the publicity rounds to promote her new one-woman show on Broadway, Wishful Drinking, based on the same material as her recent book of the same name. Any loyal Carrie Fisher follower (correction: any loyal CF follower for reasons that have nothing to do with Star Wars) will recognize old familiar Carrie catchphrases popping up in interview after interview, like her description of her two moods as a person with bi-polar disorder: they're named Roy and Pam :
"Rollicking Roy and Sediment Pam... One mood is the meal, and the next mood is the check."
And the phrase that has become her motto:
"If my life wasn't crazy it would just be true."
In her book, and in interviews, Carrie talks about growing up in Hollywood with America's Sweetheart, Debbie Reynolds, for a mom, Eddie Fisher for a (mostly absent) dad, and Elizabeth Taylor for a (brief) stepmother. She's open about her past drug abuse, her stints in mental hospitals, her ongoing electro-shock therapy, and her powerful Hollywood agent ex-husband, with whom she had a daughter before he left her for a man. (And really, that's just the start!) None of these problems are even slightly recognizable to the average person, and yet Carrie's ability to survive it all with her wits about her, and her view of life as a dark comedy, not a tragedy, are lessons we can all learn. I'd take Carrie's journey of enlightenment as a bible over Eat Pray Love any day — now here's a broad who's survived some real problems.
In the best interview with Carrie so far on her Wishful Drinking press tour, New York Magazine got some great quotes:
On mean websites (the one to which she's referring filled me with such fan-outrage that I've silently "boycotted" it to this day):
"You know how they say you're your own worst enemy? Well, you're not. Read what they say about you on the Internet if you look fat. I don't give a shit, by the way, but they say I look like Yoda."
"When I was just becoming conscious-around 13-is when my parents' careers began to fade," she tells me. "And I saw what it did to them. Celebrity is just obscurity biding its time."
Interviewer Amy Larocca makes a keen observation about Carrie Fisher's TMI versus that of other celebrities, mentioning that "her musings operate on a higher plane than Courtney Love's tweets or Kanye West's blog posts."
Reading Carrie's book, or reading her (scatterbrained, but sharp) personal blog, you realize what she's doing isn't TMI. She's simply owning the parts of her life that are public knowledge anyway, with grace and self-deprecation and an intelligence rarely found in celebrity writing. (Because if they were writers, they probably wouldn't be celebrities.) We're used to the train wrecks (the aforementioned Courtney Love) and the un-self aware megalomaniacs (the aforementioned Kanye, Rosie O'Donnell), but watching Carrie is, if not like watching a train wreck in reverse, at least like watching a train wreck with funny stories to tell and lessons to share. (RIP, that metaphor.) And what makes me admire her the most is the fact that her public persona, as open and vulnerable as it seems, isn't the whole story at all. Like any smart person who puts any part of his or herself out there for public consumption, she's playing an character - giving us just enough to feel like we know her, but not enough to diminish her self-respect:
"If you feel there's some part of me you're not getting, then that means that something's sacred."