Which Vancouver-based blogger and self-proclaimed “opinionated bitch” has become a big-name in the world of celebrity gossip? To smuthounds around the city, the answer should be obvious.
Elaine “Lainey” Lui, is the writer and creator of LaineyGossip, a site that bills itself as the source for “advanced celebrity gossip."
"Lovers, Cheaters, Homewreckers, Superstars, Famewhores, Hot Homos [and] Closet Homos" are spliced apart on her her candy-coloured blog.
"This is a Friday night conversation with your girlfriends [so] you talk about sex, tampons, parents, relationships, all that kind of stuff. Deeply gossipy," Lui told me.
Like other sites devoted to all things Hollywood, Lainey serves up the standard juicy tidbits and endless photo galleries of celebrities at premieres. But she is also part of a breed of writers, who offer their own spin on the escapades of the rich and famous. LaineyGossip is no People magazine; into each post Lui injects her distinctive brand of snark.
When we met for coffee at a Starbucks in Kitsilano, she had no qualms about telling me how she developed her unique voice.
“When I was ten I wanted to be Miss Hong Kong, which lasted for about 10 minutes, until my mother told me I was too fat, squat and not attractive enough,” Lui said.
Her mother's harsh realism helped her develop an inner source of strength.
“I love her for that because I think that too many parents say to their kids that they can do anything. No. There are other ways to empower your kids, not by telling them they’re pretty.”
Despite dreaming of being crowned a beauty queen at age 10, Lui claimed she never wanted to be famous. "There’s something about the pursuit of fame. More people want to be famous these days than they want to be intelligent," she said.
There's an obvious irony in her chosen calling documenting the misadventures of celebrities. But this Toronto native's ambitions started off ordinarily enough. After pursuing a degree at the University of Western Ontario, she moved out West and worked as a fundraising officer at UBC. It was here that she began to realize that she could channel her bitchiness into something creative.
As is often the case these days, it began with an e-mail that she sent to co-workers of her musings on pop culture. That e-mail was forwarded to other friends, until she had unwittingly developed a small following.
She moved back Toronto to care for her mother during a kidney transplant but she later returned to Vancouver where she found a job at Covenant House, a nonprofit for street youth. It was here that her blogging career took off. A friend built her a blog back in "2004 or 2005 when blogging was the new thing."
In the beginning this meant that she was working at Covenant House by day and blogging up to five hours at night. But her blog became popular enough that she left her day job to begin a career as a full time blogger and in 2006, she became a reporter for CTV's etalk.
"If there were forty hours in a day, I’d still be able to do Covenant House and etalk and this," she laughed.
As a TV personality and celebrity correspondent, her career has done a 180 from the days of administrative work at a nonprofit. She arrives at Starbucks wearing a floaty white dress and turquoise Ray-Bans.
Lui lives in Vancouver, where she said she enjoys a "quiet, domestic life" with her husband. But Canadian celebrities are not the primary subject matter of her blog. Canadians, she said, don't want to read about their own.
"For some reason we can’t take our own celebrities seriously. It’s almost like they’re jokes. They’re punchlines. There’s something about the Canadian psyche that’s embarrassed of its own. It’s almost as if, if we’re not at some root folk festival, it’s a sell out."
On the other hand, we are pratically rabid with enthusiasm when it comes Hollywood stars. As soon as an American celebrity comes to town we lose our shit, Lui said. She was distainful of stalker fans and she wouldn't name celebrity hang-outs in Vancouver. It encourages loser behaviour, she said. "The whole Twlight fantasy when it was happening was completely mortifying."
We spend some time discussing how she feels about gossiping for a living. It must be a question that she is asked frequently: how does it feel to spend your time picking apart other peoples' lives?
"I’m not going to sit here and say that what I do is important. It's not life changing, it's not important. But life is about balance...I read other things, other than gossip magazines."
Lui said that she has her limits when it comes to what she will cover on her site. For one, she has no interest in allowing reality stars to take up space on her blog.
"We are truly lacking in celebrity these days. It's fucking criminal. I can’t believe the same word can be applied to these people. I don’t know why we, the collective we, have made these people stars."
Lui claimed that she has never watched an episode of the Bachelor.
Coming from someone who makes a living lobbing verbal grenades at people, it seems borderline hypocritical to take such a stance, but Lui is nothing if not confident of her opinions, especially regarding the rich and famous.
She had biting words, bording on the vitriolic, for a certain former Friend.
"I don’t identify with Jennifer Aniston. I think that she’s weak. I think she doesn’t do good work, I think her movies are pathetic. I think she’s a fraud."
Angelina Jolie, on the other hand, is an example of a woman doing things her way in Hollywood and in the bedroom.
Who does Lui think had better sex: Angelina and Billy Bob, or Angelina and Brad Pitt? "Brad Pitt. I think that she was able to dominate Billy Bob Thornton."
It's clear from our conversation how to avoid landing on Lui's verbal hit list - act just as strong as she does. Lui respects strong women, and she is energized by her friendships with other women.
"My comfort zone has always been around girls. I’m a girls’ girl. You have women who don’t have a lot of girl friends, who feel more comfortable in male environments, we all know girls like that."
But she's also conscious of the stereotype of the gossiping, meddling harpy. Gossip might be considered have a reputation as the purview and weakness of women, but boys gossip too, Lui said.
"I think that gossip is an immortal way of communication and I think that women are more open about acknowledging gossip as a part of our lives because we’re just more evolved that way."
Perhaps surprisingly, Lui said that she maintains a cordial relationship with other gossip bloggers, including Perez Hilton and Michael K at DListed. "We’re all trying to help each other. We’re all trying to share traffic." She's even encouraging of up-and-coming bloggers, "My first piece of advice is to find your voice, whatever that voice is. My voice is snarky, bitchy but also deeply, deeply gossipy."