Nobody Ever Asked Me About The Girls: Women, Music and Fame
published: 29 /
In her 'Raging Pages' book column Lisa Torem reflects on music journalist Lisa Robinson’s new book which looks at the changing role of women in the entertainment industry through a unique lens.
Lisa Robinson’s previous book ‘There Goes Gravity’ namechecked many of her famous peers and revealed scintillating stories. Similarly, the new one, ‘Nobody Ever Asked Me About The Girls: Women, Music and Fame’ promises an entertaining and provocative read. To her credit, Robinson has maintained relationships with many of her interview subjects, and it seems to follow that she has inspired trust among her 40 interviewees here, who continue to confide in her.
Interviewees include Donna Summer, Whitney Houston, Joni Mitchell and Stevie Nicks. The women air their views on multiple topics, including monogamy, substance abuse, fame and motherhood versus committing to a childfree existence.
When replaying a conversation about management with Janet Jackson that took place in the 1980s, Robinson finds the artist getting straight to the point. “He works for me”, Jackson asserts, about her father who managed her siblings for their formative years.
While walking the reader through essential musical eras, Robinson also debunks popular myths about female artists, myths that have often created roadblocks in their careers. Some of her interviews illustrate how unpretentious many celebrities are, and how fame strongly affects the quality of their everyday lives - Rihanna talks of how she dreams about “buying her own groceries”.
Robinson spends a major portion of the book discussing image and how the pressure to maintain society’s desired weight has increased since the 1960s. She references a photo of singer Janis Joplin and emphasizes that Joplin was of average weight back then, which didn’t seem to matter to the public, although Joplin didn’t escape a litany of derogatory names.
“No one used words like anorexia or bulimia in the 1960s”, Robinson points out. Rihanna also explains to Robinson that she’s “been in the gym all day because of this” when they sit down for a generous plate of pasta.
“From the ‘60s right up to today, the way women look - their clothes, their hair, their makeup - has been analyzed, dissected, praised and criticised,” Robinson asserts. She talks of how Cher, Gwen Stefani and Jennifer Lopez age in public while male stars evade the same scrutiny.
While there are many additional insights to behold, as well as colourful anecdotes and Robinson’s personal reflections, the photo section, which shows the author with her favorite stars, is also helpful when reviewing the colourful passages.
Robinson tells us how Bette Midler and Alicia Keys assume a laid-back attitude in spite of these challenges. When it comes to cosmetics, Keys often bristles. She prefers the “natural look”. Similarly, Christina Aguilera “never looked better than when she appeared on the cover of ‘Paper’ magazine without a trace of makeup on her face”. Midler, apparently, grew up without household mirrors. Linda Ronstadt, like many ambitious singers, got caught up in the search for the perfect, professional look, yet now admits: “I don’t know what it has to do with my work.”
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