World-renowned gossip queen, Lainey Lui, is one of North America’s top celebrity and pop culture experts. Her blog, Lainey Gossip, is read by MILLIONS of celebrity gossip enthusiasts every month. She was the first to report the details of the infamous Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise divorce and has been on the ground covering some of the world’s biggest events, including the Oscars Red-Carpet, SuperBowl XLII and BOTH royal weddings, including the recent wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry (which she called a “really well-produced show”).
Her insights and achievements landed her a spot as a reporter for CTV’s Etalk and co-host of CTV’s new daily talk show, The Social.
But Lainey’s extraordinary career has humble beginnings.
In 2003, Lainey began writing a regular, informal newsletter with her take on the latest Hollywood news. She shared it with two friends, and they sent the newsletter off to more and more people. When a friend offered to build her a blog, Lainey Gossip was born.
On this episode of Fierce Feminine Leadership, Lainey and I discuss:
- How she turned her blog into a powerhouse career.
- The long history of gossip and it’s value to society.
- Why women’s conversations need to be prioritized.
- The connection between celebrity gossip and pro sports.
- Strategies on how you can get things done despite a full-on schedule.
- How to build a strong, professional network.
- What five celebrities she would love to have dinner with.
Lainey is a bold woman with a strong moral compass. I am a HUGE fan of her work, and you will be too.
Full Podcast Transcript:
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You are listening to Fierce Feminine Leadership episode number 273 with gossip queen Lainey Lui on why we need to prioritize women’s conversations.
Voice Over: Welcome to Fierce Feminine Leadership: The success podcast for women in business. Each week, we feature interviews and advice to help you step into your power and lead your way. Now here’s your host women’s leadership expert, Eleanor Beaton.
Eleanor Beaton: Hello there Fierce Ones. Eleanor Beaton here and welcome back to another episode of Fierce Feminine Leadership: The success podcast for ambitious women in business.
I’m so excited to be here with you today and especially excited about today’s guest. But before I get there, I’ve got a question for you. How do you feel about gossip? And maybe even more apropos of today’s conversation, how do you feel about celebrity gossip?
So people magazine, or Page 6, or other media outlets that dissect celebrity culture. Now my guest today says that we should probably regard our obsession with celebrity culture in the same vein as our obsession with competitive sports. She argues they’re actually not that much different. And that both give us a way to engage in a worthwhile conversation that enlightens us on our relationship to ambition, to achievement, to relationships.
Now gossip has had, arguably, an important evolutionary purpose. By gossiping it helps us understand people. Can we trust this person? Can we trust that person? What is our moral code? Gossip can cement relationships and deepen social bonds.
And when it comes to celebrity gossip, I mean I can’t actually remember a time when I wasn’t interested in celebrity culture. I mean, growing up, I don’t know if you had this, but I remember magazines called like TeenBeat, and I think there was another one called Tiger Beat. And then it became 17, and Sassy Magazine. And then later Vogue Magazine. But I would save up my babysitting money, buy these magazines, obsess over them from front to back cover. Take the pictures out of like Corey Haim and Corey Feldman and, like Alyssa Milano, tape those pictures up on my walls and imagine what their lives were like.
I mean it really was kind of a fun obsession. And then, as I grew up and got into my 30s, I had kind of a resurgence of interest for some reason in celebrity culture, specifically when sites like Perez Hilton.com started to emerge, that again, sort of dissected celebrity culture, told you what was going on. And I can remember sitting down for dinner one day with my friend Carrie, and we were talking, we were sort of confiding in each other about our guilty pleasure of reading celebrity gossip sites. And Carrie said to me, have you heard about Lainey Gossip?
And I was like, ‘No, I don’t know who this person is.’ She’s like: ‘You have got to check out lady gossip.’.
So I go home that night. I pull up my computer, I type in Lainey Gossip, and that was 2012, let’s say, and so has ensued a daily love affair, an obsession with a site that is known as LaineyGossip.com.
And the reality is that I became hooked, not so much on the gossip itself, but on Lainey. And when I say Lainey Gossip, I’m actually referring to Lainey Lui, the founder of the site, as well as her stable of incisive, hilarious, irreverent, smart writers.
Now today, Elaine Lui is world renowned for her blog, Lainey Gossip, which attracts millions of visitors a year. She’s also a reporter for CTVs ETALK and the co-host of CTVs new daily talk show called The Social.
But her path to celebrity maven hood began in 2003. So she started at that time writing a regular sort of informal newsletter to friends and colleagues with her take on the latest Hollywood news. After about 12 months or so she found that that newsletter had actually grown to thousands of loyal readers and that’s when she launched her site, LaineyGossip.com.
Now she tells us about the launch of that. In 2006 it became a full time job. Now I have literally visited her site almost daily for about the past five or six years, and one of the reasons that I keep coming back is because I admire the bold opinions that both Lainey and her writers share on the site. I admire and appreciate their take on feminism, and their very women-oriented, women-focused view that they bring through that blog.
She’s got a moral compass. She has bold opinions and she doesn’t hold back. Now you’re going to hear a lot of that sort of bold opinion, cutting to the chase, not holding back, over the course of this interview. And in fact, during the course of the interview Lainey actually calls me out for unconscious gender bias. And she does this in response to when I ask her for her response to the argument that gossip is frivolous and superfluous.
Now she’s also going to take you behind the scenes of her totally full-on work schedule. She’s going to share some of her strategies on how she gets everything done. She’s going to share with you why we need to prioritize women’s conversations even more than we do. She’s going to take you behind the scene of Megan Markel’s wedding to Prince Harry, which she covered. Actually she also covered the previous royal wedding between Kate Middleton and Prince William. And she also has a very cool response to the question that I have to ask about: if you are going to take five celebrities out for dinner, who would it be?
All right. Without further ado here is the queen of celebrity culture, Lainey Lui.
Lainey Lui welcome to Fierce Feminine Leadership.
Lainey Lui: Thanks for having me.
Eleanor Beaton: So, I am so excited to have you on the show. And I’m also really excited to talk to you about the royal wedding. You were there, you covered it for CTV. What were your thoughts. What are your thoughts on the wedding and how you think Meghan Markle will kind of impact the royals.
Lainey Lui: I thought the wedding was a great show. And that’s what you want out of a wedding, especially like this. I think a lot of us were expecting that it would be similar to Prince William and Kate Middleton’s wedding. That it was going to be all kinds of Churchie, English properness. I don’t think that anyone expected there to be so much joyfulness and so much emotion. So I thought it was a really well-produced show. Which I guess, when you think about it, should not be surprising, because this woman comes from television. She comes from show business. And she put the show business into that show.
Eleanor Beaton: A hundred percent. Do you see her as kind of the mastermind behind that?
Lainey Lui: I don’t want to take anything away from Prince Harry. And of course, she had a lot of help. A very impressive communications team comes along with being royal. So, I don’t want to say she put everything on her shoulders, that would be unfair to not credit the people who need credit. But I do think it was her vision. And I do think that she understands, more perhaps than than many people who may be in a similar position. Well, there are no people in a similar position, but I feel like she would have understood more than let’s say Kate Middleton, how to deliver something to an audience, internationally. Not just the people in the church. How to appeal to… The majority of the people watching that wedding were watching from TV. And I think that she delivered a wedding that could be consumed when you weren’t inside the chapel.
Eleanor Beaton: So true. Now speaking of Meghan Markle the wedding. I mean, this is all something that you have covered in depth on your site, LaineyGossip.com. That site gets 1.3 million monthly visitors according to a recent Washington Post article. My friend Kerry told me about that site in about 2012. I have visited it every weekday ever since, and I am not alone. I know a lot of people who are visiting Lainey on a daily basis. Where does this fascination with celebrity culture come from? So obviously you’re doing a ton of amazing things on the site, and I think it also speaks to our fascination with celebrity culture. What drives that, do you think?
Lainey Lui: I think it’s human nature drives it. We have always gossiped, as human beings. Right now, in our current time, we are gossiping about celebrities, but human beings have gossiped from the dawn of communication.
So back in the day, and by the day I mean maybe in Egyptian times, they would gossip about pharaohs and kings and Cleopatra and warriors. I did a TED talk about this and that was my opening. I talked about hieroglyphics and how hieroglyphics reflected the gossip of the time. You would see sketches of people sneaking out of the Queen’s chambers or the queen sneaking out of her chambers to go visit a colonel, or some sort of warrior, plotting something or romancing something else.
A few decades ago we’d gossip about politicians. Now we happen to be gossiping about celebrities. We’ve always gossiped about royals. I mean, in the Royal Court, in every Royal Court in every country, there was gossip and there was gossip and exchange of information happening among the court. So I don’t think that it’s just celebrity and it’s just a recent thing. I think that the urge to gossip is very human. And what I think we do when we gossip about celebrities is to do that very human thing, which is to exchange between us our values, our beliefs and our standards.
Eleanor Beaton: Why do you think it is then, that gossip is sometimes written off as either frivolous or harmful. Why do you think we do that and what is your response to that?
Lainey Lui: I think it’s written off because it’s been feminised. Gossip is mainly associated with women. And as we have seen women’s interests, the things that women spend time on and the things that are connected to women’s interests are denigrated and considered to be less important. I obviously don’t agree. But this is something that’s been institutionalized. We’ve all been conditioned to believe that. Nobody interviews you know a sportscaster and has to say to that sportscaster, and I don’t mean to criticize you. I’m not saying it that way. But nobody asks of a sportscaster: “Hey, why is this trade important. Why do we have an hour long show about highlights, about what happened in the game last night? Why is there a half hour show talking about just sports?’ That dude doesn’t have to justify the existence of sport culture. And women are asked all the time, to justify why they like talking about celebrities.
And I don’t know, I think that throughout the course of my career, this is a question I get asked and I wonder when it’s going to stop? And I feel like we, you too, are part of a community of people doing the work to push back against that.
And it’s not unlike that conversation that we have about parenthood. It’s very, very rare that a man is asked: ‘How did you manage it all?’.
Eleanor Beaton: World’s most annoying question.
Lainey Lui: You’re always asking the woman: ‘Well, how do you manage having a job and kids?’.
And it’s the same thing. If we really want to subvert this I wonder if, the next time, maybe I’ll be put in a position. If I’m ever talking to a sportscaster. Who’s really famous sportscaster. Here in Canada it would be like Don Cherry. If I ever were to sit down interview Don Cherry, it would be hilarious if I said to Don Cherry: ‘Hey Don, why is it important for us to care about hockey?’ That would be funny.
Eleanor Beaton: Listen it’s on. I’m fully expecting you to do that. It would be great.
So tell us a little bit about your upbringing. What early experiences did you have that shaped where you are today as a figure of real importance in helping us to understand and dissect celebrity culture?
Lainey Lui: Well I can’t say that I had any experience growing up with celebrities. And I don’t think that you need to. I think that. We all can dissect and be an expert a celebrity culture because celebrity culture is a mirror of our society. As long as we are participants in our own community, the behaviors, and the trends, and the dramas, and the scandals that happen in Hollywood should be recognizable to us because they’re things that we’ve seen in our own lives.
The most common celebrity stories are people hooking up, people breaking up. Maybe people cheat on each other. Maybe they betray each other. Maybe they become friends and collaborate. After they collaborate, maybe they get into a fight. After they fight, maybe they Mean Girl each other. Maybe they write things on social media that criticize their former friend, now enemy. That shit happens in real life. So you don’t have to have any kind of background to really combat celebrity culture and have this conversation. I may be doing it for a living, but the thing is the reason I get to do it for a living is because it’s a conversation that is so democratic. Everybody gets it.
You can have a conversation about a certain sport. Not everybody’s going to get it because not everybody plays that sport. Or has had experience with that sport. But everybody gets the story lines that happen in celebrity culture because we’re all participants in our own culture.
Eleanor Beaton: When you looked at the royals we used to talk about, Roman gods and goddesses and the obsession that people had, they were very often about the same kind. Who is Zeus marrying or impregnating now.
Lainey Lui: Exactly. Exactly.
Ad speaking of kind of that we might not necessarily need to have a background to be able to dissect, to contribute to the conversation, to have the conversation, to be interested in it. You had a job in social work up until your early 30s. That’s when you left Vancouver to move back to Toronto to care for your mom. And at that time, as legend would have it, you started a daily email about celebrities, which started just going out to some friends and then kind of grew from there. I love for you to take us back to those early days and kind of take us through how did your gossip blog, LaineyGossip.com get so big?
Lainey Lui: As you mentioned, it was a newsletter at first that I sent to two friends at the very beginning, and they started sending it to other friends. And so that distribution list ended up being so long, and this was back in 2003, that a friend of mine, he builds websites. And he said, ‘I’m just going to build your blog.’.
Now back then in 2003, nobody knew what a blog was. And so he built me a blog and then I launched the blog. And what happened was that as soon as you get online, your audience expands and more people were reading it. And from there, I had people reaching out to me who did work Hollywood adjacent or even in Hollywood and they liked what I was writing. They liked the perspective and they started sharing stories with me. As for how it became a career though, it wasn’t a career at the beginning. It was a hobby, a passion. I would work by day. At this point my mother had gotten well enough for me to move back to Vancouver and I started working at Covenant House Vancouver. And so I would work by day until like 5, and then I would go home and I would write the blog from six to nine, for free. Like, I wasn’t even thinking about someone paying me to do it. I just really enjoyed it. I really enjoyed being part of a community. I enjoyed the fact that people were reading it. And it wasn’t only.
It wasn’t until almost two years later where my husband and I decided to start monetizing it and start turning it into a business. So it definitely wasn’t an overnight thing. I have no claims to these amazing stories of people who are like: ‘I did this and then five minutes later people were trading me on the New York Stock Exchange.’ There was a lot of time spent really honing the voice and developing the product if you will, which is my writing without any financial expectations.
Eleanor Beaton: You were showing your work.
Lainey Lui: I didn’t know it at the time but, yeah, looking back I was. I was getting better as a writer. When I look back on the things I wrote back then, it wasn’t very — not that my writing is very sophisticated now — but it wasn’t very good. It wasn’t good at all. But I don’t think I’m going to be ashamed about it because I don’t think anybody starts off perfect.
Eleanor Beaton: Now, one of the things that you mentioned is, as you start blogging and and your audience is growing, you start being contacted by people who are sharing stories with you. Sources, and your sources, are obviously something that’s so important to you. Your site broke the Katie Holmes kind of ghosting Tom Cruise story back in the day, which was huge. You broke that. And that obviously is coming from sources that you have. My question for you is, what has your relationship with sources taught you about how to build a strong professional network?
Lainey Lui: Well, what I will say is that, first of all I didn’t actually break the story. The story was released by Tom and Katie themselves. They were like: ‘hey, we’re splitting up.’ What I did do was provide, immediately, exclusive details about how Katie Holmes made it happen. And how she had put in place for weeks prior, a ninja-like security team, and had changed her PR and met clandestinely with lawyers and all of that. Yes, that absolutely was through sourcing.
I think that there is a misconception that people in my business pay for information. Some do, but by and large the ones who are really good at it, and have been doing it for a long time, no money is exchanged. Rather, it’s as you say, relationships that are built on trust. The irony is that gossips, and good gossips, are the best secret keepers. There are probably more things that I have not reported, than things that I have reported. Because I’ve been asked not to say certain things. And in not seeing them I’ve been able to build the trust of the people I need to protect who are giving me information. So, clearly, as in any relationship it’s trust. But it’s also execution, in that if they’re trusting me with a particular story, they are trusting me to tell it in the same spirit. It’s not like, you know, puking out: ‘I got her from a source that this happened. ‘ They they want the nuance there. They want the analysis. They want it to be part of a larger conversation.
And so, what I will say is that in those relationships that I have with my sources, my work is important. The track record is important. Confidentiality is important. But also, it’s mutual appreciation. I also value what they do. And I can’t really say what they do, because that would compromise them. But I appreciate that they have value in their own lives. As part of the celebrity ecosystem.
And oftentimes, celebrities themselves don’t offer that same appreciation. And that’s sometimes why they get into trouble.
We have heard, and I do a lot of coverage of this on Lainey Gossip about how spoiled celebrities can be. And how indulged. And when that happens, they almost stop noticing that there is an entire infrastructure that orbits them, and all those people are critical. Including the media, including the blogs. That are doing the work to make them, or to maintain them. So I think it’s really an interesting question about the safeguarding and the nurturing of relationships, not just in the work that I do, but even within the celebrity ecosystem itself.
Eleanor Beaton: Now, switching to your career path. Today, you lead a team and you you are maintaining the LaineyGossip.com website. You are on The Social, you film that daily. Getting up early, early, early. And of course we had the executive producer of The Social, Michelle Crespi, on the show for a fabulous interview. Also, eTalk, flying to cover the royal wedding. Tell us a little bit about efficiency. How are you able to maintain this? Any sort of strategies that you employ to really be able to contribute at the level you’re contributing today.
Lainey Lui: I struggle with efficiency a lot. Today for example was not a very efficient day. I dicked around. I didn’t dick around, but. Usually what happens is that if I do not have a good start to the day, and by start I mean the site opens every day with dear gossips, and if I if I’m not writing well that day, or if I’m really struggling that open, that can set me back two hours, which is what happened this morning. I wrote an open that I really wanted to put extra care into. I mean I care about all of the opens, but today in particular was a very sensitive thing I wanted to cover. So I started that at 7:15 and I didn’t get that post up until 10 o’clock. It took me over two hours to write. So I can’t say today is the best today. That said, sometimes that’s just the writing process, and you can’t get mad at it. I’m quite happy with what ended up on the site in the open today, even though I had to sacrifice efficiency, the quality I think was there.
Overall, yeah I do balance a lot of things. My main priority is Lainey gossip. And then, as you mentioned, I’m on the social which shoots live at 1:00. But there’s about three to four hours of prep that goes into the social before we go live, which includes research and rehearsals and other meetings. And then on a day like today, I went straight from the social to eTalk, so that usually takes about 45 minutes to an hour for me to shoot. And so, for me to be able to get from one place to the other, I’m pretty good at making the most of a minute. So, when I say that I make the most of a minute, I’m usually not doing one thing at a time. There are lots of experts, and we have them on on The Social all the time who are like: ‘Multitasking is bad for you. Because it means that you’re not devoting yourself to one single thing.’ Sometimes I agree with that, but I don’t think I could handle what I do without multitasking.
So, for example, I’m never just driving. When I’m driving, I’m listening to a podcast. The reason I’m listening to that podcasts is because I’m doing research on whatever it is that I’m researching. So, that’ll be one example. Where I’m never just driving, I’m driving and listening to the podcast.
When I am getting my hair done in the morning, my hair is done in my office behind me, while I face my laptop and write. That has been built into my schedule, because otherwise frankly it’s a fucking waste of time.
Eleanor Beaton: Quite true.
Lainey Lui: Sitting in a makeup and hair chair, to me, it makes me crazy because I can’t write. So, they have made it here at the social and accommodated me so that I am able to write the site while my care is happening. Make up is one of those things where you kind of have to sit there in front of a mirror, because the makeup artist has a job to do and they you know they wouldn’t appreciate it if you’re like looking down at your laptop all the time. So my fix for that, is that my makeup only takes 10 minutes, and I do the same look every day. I do not mess around with different eye shadows. Nothing like that. I just wear eyeliner. No eyeshadow. Same skin, face, whatever. Takes 10 minutes. And then I’ll just change up the lipstick everyday. That’s it. In and out.
Eleanor Beaton: Smart.
Lainey Lui: These are the corners that I cut, and then I have really really great colleagues who are there. You spoke to Jessica, who works on the communications team here at Bell Media. I have really great producers. So Jessica, for example, is someone who understands what my schedule is like, so she’ll try and make it as efficient for me as possible. Right now I’m talking to you over Skype, but I’m looking at my laptop and I’m not going to lie, I also have been multitasking and I’ve been looking at a few e-mails. I really try and do three things at the same time and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
Eleanor Beaton: So final question for you is, if you were having a dinner, you’re inviting five celebrities, who would you choose to be your guest?
Lainey Lui: Well, I think, you’re talking to me, what, four days after Harry and Megan’s royal wedding? So probably Harry and Megan today, right? Everybody’s curious about that. They’re kind of the superstars of the world. And I would throw them together. Som you said five people?
Eleanor Beaton: Yes please.
So, then I would go Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. Just to make it awkward and to see what would happen. I just think that that would that would amuse me.
Eleanor Beaton: That would be, yeah. And then who’s that fifth?
Lainey Lui: And Beyonce.
Eleanor Beaton: Of course. Why her?
Lainey Lui: I worship Beyonce. And I think that if there is a person out there who doesn’t, I don’t want to know them. I think Beyonce is, for somebody who studies celebrity culture right now, nobody is more fascinating, nobody is more complicated, and nobody is more of a visionary than Beyonce. She is excellent at being a superstar. I am drawn to excellence, like I think excellence is an amazing narrative. And so it would be impossible for me not to, if I had the opportunity, to want to be in Beyonce’s space and understand how all that excellence comes together.
Eleanor Beaton: Lainey Lui, thank you so much for joining us on Fierce Feminine Leadership.
Lainey Lui: Thank you for having me. Good luck with your brand. I think this is a great endeavor and I really really am excited to see where you take Fierce.
Eleanor Beaton: Thank you.
Voice Over: Fierce Feminine Leadership is executive produced and hosted by Elenaor Beaton. Technical producer is Kate Astrakhan. Content producers are Adriannr Alexander and Marie Hanifen. Special thanks to Kelly Fillman and Amy Bleser. Find Eleanor on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram @ Eleanor Beaton. Thank you for listening. Stay Fierce.
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