Creating Myself: How I Learned That Beauty Comes in All Shapes, Sizes, and Packages, Including Me

Creating Myself: How I Learned That Beauty Comes in All Shapes, Sizes, and Packages, Including Me

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by Mia Tyler
     
 

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On the surface, Mia Tyler led a seemingly perfect life. She was a world-renowned plus-size model and the daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and seventies It girl Cyrinda Foxe. But growing up under the shadow of celebrity wasn't as glamorous as it's cracked up to be. From a poverty-stricken childhood in New Hampshire to running with troubled rich kids on Manhattan's… See more details below

Overview

On the surface, Mia Tyler led a seemingly perfect life. She was a world-renowned plus-size model and the daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and seventies It girl Cyrinda Foxe. But growing up under the shadow of celebrity wasn't as glamorous as it's cracked up to be. From a poverty-stricken childhood in New Hampshire to running with troubled rich kids on Manhattan's Upper East Side, she has an incredible story to tell.

In Creating Myself, Mia shares scintillating details about her rock-and-roll family, as well as battling her own personal demons: dumping her mother's cocaine vial down the toilet at just eight years old, running around backstage at her father's concerts (including the one where she first met her sister, Liv), and attempting to distract herself from her pain through drug addiction and self-mutilation. Yet this memoir is ultimately a tale of redemption. Mia learns that in order to truly grow up, she must forgive both herself and those who hurt her, give up the quest for perfection, and acknowledge that she is still a work in progress.

Creating Myself is raw and inspirational, the tale of a hell-and-back journey from the depths of depression and addiction to triumphant self-discovery.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Tyler, daughter of Aerosmith's Steven Tyler and sister to actress Liv, feels she's had a difficult life. Growing up, she disliked her mother and longed for more time with her famous father. After her parents split up, she and her mother lived in New Hampshire before moving to Manhattan, where Tyler was enrolled in several fine schools-only she spent her time hanging out with her buddies getting high on pot, acid, cocaine, Ecstasy, etc. Her father intervened after she suffered a massive overdose: "it paid to have a rock star for a dad," she says. Once on her feet again, Tyler was kept therapeutically busy with a lucrative offer from Lane Bryant to model clothing for plus-size teens. Months later she came to visit her mother and found her slimmer and in love. They bonded-but then her mother was diagnosed with a brain tumor that proved fatal. Tyler, constantly falling in and out of love, finally realized that the point wasn't to find herself, but to create herself, a questionable insight. Not only that, she comes across as spoiled and shallow. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

This is a paean to self-acceptance and self-esteem. Initially, though, first-time author Tyler-famous as a reality-TV star, a plus-size model, and a daughter of Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler-sketches a life fraught with addictions to drugs, cutting, and eating disorders. Fortunately, she gains valuable insight into her destructive patterns to re-create herself as a healthy, loving adult. For teens and twenty-somethings who can identify with Tyler's struggle.-Lynne Maxwell

From the Publisher
"A dishy account of growing up in a dysfunctional rock 'n' roll family." — The Boston Globe

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781416558620
Publisher:
Atria Books
Publication date:
08/26/2008
Sold by:
SIMON & SCHUSTER
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
842,321
File size:
1 MB

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Prologue

The End

On a warm spring night in 2001, a few months before my twenty-second birthday, I had an absurdly stupid, pathetic, and desperate thought — one few would have suspected coming from me, a successful plus-sized model featured in magazines and typically described as a self-confident role model.

I was going to kill myself.

I was up in the Hollywood Hills, at a home filled with a couple dozen people partying their brains out, some jumping naked in the pool and others dancing to music that thumped loud enough to feel like a series of small earthquakes.

Was it possible to be around so many people and still feel absolutely alone? Yes, sadly, and I was proof.

I opened a sliding door and stepped out onto a balcony that was cantilevered over a deep canyon. Standing there, I had the sense of being on a platform over nothing, a six-foot-long sidewalk suspended in the sky. Straight ahead, far beyond the drop, in a carpet of twinkling lights, clouds, and stars, sprawled Los Angeles, the City of Angels. Corny as it sounds, I wondered where my angels were, whether they were out there, and if they were, would I find them?

One thing I knew for sure. If I jumped, no one would find me at the bottom of the canyon.

I sat down and let my legs dangle over the edge. I puffed on a joint that I'd brought out with me and tried to figure out how I'd ended up in this spot — me, the daughter of rock star Steven Tyler and legendary '70s glamour girl Cyrinda Foxe. I knew better than to think that a gold American Express card and a famous last name guaranteed anything more in life than entry to a club. Then, as in the past, I had to ask if I wanted to be anyplace where they only cared about my last name.

What about me? What about my first name?

But never mind how other people reacted to me and what they thought. What did I think? How did I feel about me?

Why was it worthwhile going on? Was I happy? Had I ever been happy? Was there any meaning to my life?

Those questions and others went through my head. After I found myself repeating the word no, as in no, I'd never been happy, and no, there wasn't any meaning to my life, I stood up, gripped the rail with both hands, and with tears streaming from my eyes I prepared to jump.

Thoughts of the past and the future vanished from my head as I girded myself for whatever the end would feel like and the start of the next experience, if there was indeed some kind of life after death. I felt my heart beating fast and hard, and I filled up with fear. I wondered if it was going to hurt. If it did, it wouldn't matter for more than an instant, right?

Then, as I began to count my breaths toward the last one, I looked up at the sky. Through puddled eyes, I searched the stars and, though not religious, I asked God for a reason not to jump.

"Just give me a sign," I cried softly. "God, please give me a sign if I'm supposed to go on. I don't care what it is. Just give me something that will let me feel like I have a reason to face tomorrow."

Nothing happened.

"God?"

I don't know why, but I was waiting.

Less than ten seconds later, my cell phone rang. The sound startled me. I didn't get service up in the hills. I took my phone out of my pocket anyway and saw that I had a message. I noticed that it had come in earlier that day, but due to what I supposed was bad cell reception, it didn't get to me until that moment.

What a moment, though. Right?

The message was from a talent executive at MTV saying that I'd been hired as the network's new metal chick VJ. He wanted me to return to New York immediately.

"We know you don't have any experience doing this," he said. "But we saw your tape and we like who you are. So let me know when you can get back here and we'll get you on air."

I listened to the message again. Then I sat down cross-legged on the balcony and cried till I ran out of energy.

Knowing that call had saved my life, I was overwhelmed by emotion. More important than the job was the message itself. Someone had found something worthwhile about me when I had no sense of my own self-worth. Someone wanted me when I was ready to give up. The timing was freakishly amazing. I'd asked for a sign and received a clear statement.

We like you.

That moment was a point when my life seemed to stop and restart, like rebooting a computer after it freezes. Some of the reasons for that were immediately obvious (like the fact that I didn't kill myself) and others became clear to me as I worked to figure out why I didn't like myself, why I was so unhappy, what I was supposed to do with my life, and how I could change to make things better. I remember saying to myself, "One day the pain will be worth it."

At various times I could only hope that was true — and fortunately it's worked out. Transformation is a lifelong process. The sun doesn't come out overnight. It didn't for me — and I still have days when the sky is dark and gloomy. But you can change no matter how desperate or dire your circumstances are. For me, it began with baby steps in a direction other than the one I'd been going. In other words, I faced my demons instead of running from them. That was never more true than when my mother lost her eighteen-month battle with brain cancer in 2002, and that's what this book is really about: dealing with life rather than hiding from it.

When I was three years old, Aerosmith guitarist Joe Perry's wife gave me a big brown-and-white quilt. It was uglier than sin, and I loved it. I wrapped myself in it, wore it like a queen's cape, and if anything shitty happened, which it inevitably did, I hid beneath it. I felt safe under it. It was my secret place, my safe haven.

In writing this book, I want to talk about the things that made me hide under that blanket, and more importantly, I want to talk about the changes I went through when I finally came out from under it. My hope is that one day someone will pick up this book, recognize themselves in these pages, and find hope, strength, and some direction from the way I dealt with my problems. If nothing else, they'll know they aren't alone — something I frequently wished I'd felt as I struggled through difficult times.

I receive thousands of e-mails every week from people wanting help or advice as they deal with issues that are too familiar to me: body image, drug abuse and alcoholism, cutting, sexual abuse, and simply feeling fucked up and cast off. Recently, a seventeen-year-old girl wrote to me about feeling unloved and neglected by her father. "I've drank myself to the point where I can't feel anything," she wrote. "I've cut myself to the point of passing out. I've smoked pot, snorted pills, and slept with and dated and thought I fell in love with too many different guys just because I needed someone to say they were here for me, cared about me, and noticed when I was not okay."

Another girl corresponded about her suicidal thoughts. "Today I thought I'd lost the battle and thought life would be better without me."

Do I know all the answers? No, and I don't pretend to know them. At twenty-eight, I'm still asking the questions. With my black hair and tattoos, I may look like I have a little more edge than most people, but inside I'm pretty normal. I freak out when I lose my ATM card. I'm addicted to handbags. I just paid a huge bill to the vet. I wish I had more money. Last week was just shitty, but a few weeks before that I got engaged and talked seriously about having babies. In other words, I'm living every day just like everyone else. Sometimes it's good. Other times it sucks.

Life doesn't happen by itself. There's no magic formula. There's no book of directions to follow. There's no map leading to the place you want to end up. A situation that seems overwhelming is really part of an ocean of experiences. You have to push through. Keep on truckin', as the saying goes. Don't stay in a rut. Don't look to blame other people. Look for solutions.

If there's a reason I'm around today to write this book, it's because I discovered a powerful message in a simple phrase. I think it was coined by motivator Scott Ginsberg, but I first came across it elsewhere.

Anyway, it's this: Life isn't about finding yourself. It's about creating yourself. I think that's a message to wake up to every day.

And as you'll see, I'm a work in progress — and that's a good thing.

Copyright © 2008 by Mia Tyler

One

Liner Notes

My dad's offhand comment caught me by surprise. We were on our way to New Hampshire to see his parents. We had started our road trip in Massachusetts, where my dad lived. Dad was behind the wheel, while I enjoyed the view from the passenger seat, realizing how much I liked the lush countryside and dense woods compared to the concrete and crowds of New York City, where I lived.

This was the first time Dad and I had ever been alone for this length of time, and it gave us time to talk without interruption, a rarity around him.

We caught each other up on our recent travels and personal lives, then lapsed easily into conversation about the past. For us, it was always a favorite topic. In our own ways, both of us were interested in figuring out what the hell had happened back then. The past was also a fitting topic since we were going to spend the night at the family home on the lake in Sunapee, where I grew up.

"By the way, you should go over to the Gray House and see if you want any of the stuff in it," he said. "I'm going to tear it down."

Wow. The Gray House was an old four-bedroom home. It was next door to the larger, nicer, and completely refurbished residence where I had lived until I turned eleven. I shut my eyes and pictured both places perfectly. Images of my mom and me flooded my head. I could even see the power cords that my mom had run across the lawn from the big home into the Gray House after circumstances had forced us into the less desirable place. We'd stayed there for a year before moving to New York.

"What's in there?" I asked.

"I don't know," my dad said. "You gotta look around."

I could only imagine. Our move to the city had been abrupt and hurried, like an escape, even though there was nothing to escape at the time other than my mom's inability to restart her life after splitting from my dad. Our stuff must've still been in the Gray House sixteen years after we'd left it.

"Take anything you don't want thrown out," he added. " It's probably a bunch of junk."

"Hey," I said, pretending to take offense, "are you calling my New Kids on the Block posters junk?"

The conversation moved on to my mom. On a very personal level, one of the benefits of my dad's fame is that he has given so many interviews that few subjects are off-limits in conversation. He will, and can, talk about anything, including my mom. She was a sore, confusing, frustrating, and sad subject for both of us. My dad had divorced her, and I'd never liked her. Scratch that. I was angry at her for being so unhappy and not doing anything about it. When she died from brain cancer in 2002, I was relieved to know that she no longer had to suffer, but goddamn it, I was pissed at her for having wasted so much time being miserable and feeling sorry for herself.

"I should've tried to get her into rehab when I went," he said of the time he got sober in the late '80s. "Maybe things would've been different."

"Maybe," I said. "But you don't know if they'd have been better or worse."

"But your mom — "

I shushed him.

"I'd be a different person, not who I am today," I said. "And I like the way I've turned out. Mommy lived her life a certain way. You did, too. No regrets."

As soon as my dad turned down the dirt road leading to the house, I craned my head from side to side, trying to see everything at once. Suddenly there weren't enough windows in the car. I hadn't been back for a while, yet the familiarity of this place that I still considered home rushed at me until I was swamped by memories that hung in my brain like mental sticky notes.

The main house looked the same from the outside, but the interior had been redone by my stepmother in a faux Native American theme that made me think of cheap hotels and tacky souvenir shops. I didn't mention anything to my dad. After dinner, I spent the night in my old room and had weird dreams about my mom that disappeared as soon as I opened my eyes.

The next day, following a warm visit with my grandparents, I walked around the property. I wanted to take in the smells and feel of the woods and the lake. If New York was on one side of the planet, this felt like the opposite end. I was in no hurry to get to the Gray House, and when I finally did walk up to the front door I was telling myself that it wasn't a big deal.

I was wrong. As soon as I opened the front door, which was unlocked, I felt as if I had stepped into a time warp. It was a sci-fi movie starring me in dual roles, as myself in the present and as a little girl in the past. Weird. For a moment, I expected to see my mom come around the corner and tell me that I was going to lose my TV if I didn't clean my room. I shook my head. I could almost see myself unplugging the TV in my room and putting it in the hall outside my bedroom door.

That made me laugh. I so didn't give a shit about being in trouble as a kid.

Then I blinked a few times and returned to the present. I walked through several of the downstairs rooms until I came to a few large, green, extra-strength garbage bags. I knew they held the stuff I probably cared about, all of it crammed together and sealed with a twisted tie like time capsules.

One by one, I opened the bags and rummaged through them. I actually found myself having fun. Why hadn't I studied archaeology in school? Better question: why hadn't I studied, period? At any rate, I wasn't expecting to find anything of value or interest, but I surprised myself when I found a couple of my old sketchbooks. I sat down and looked through them. The pages were filled with drawings (horses and landscapes) and poems (variations on the "I hate my mother" theme). They came back to me as if I'd just done them.

From another bag, I pulled out some costume jewelry. I also found a couple books that meant something to me. Ah yes, then I came upon my old posters of Axl Rose, Sebastian Bach, and the New Kids on the Block, who were as cute as when I'd last seen them on my bedroom wall.

I spent a couple hours sifting through things, and at the end of that time I sat in the midst of a pile of stuff — some that I wanted and some that was fun to look at for the moment but I was going to be fine without. I didn't go through the things that had belonged to my mom. I'd already done enough of that after she'd died.

It was still emotional. Several times I was close to tears. At other times I felt like laughing. Once I did actually chuckle out loud. I also wondered if I'd feel my mom's presence. I know it sounds strange, but several times after she passed away I know that she visited me. There was an occasion when my computer kept turning on and off by itself. There was also another time when my cell phone kept ringing but no one was calling me. Both times I'd sensed my mom.

But not this time, and after a couple hours, I was ready to close up the house. I had a pile of things that I wanted to take with me — enough to fill a box. Nothing I found was going to change my life, but I did wonder why my mom had left so much stuff behind when we moved.

I knew the answer. She was always running away from her life; this was more proof. I wanted to be angry with her, but I couldn't. I realized that in her haste to leave she'd given me a gift. She'd allowed me to return to our life together here in a way she never could while she was alive: with forgiveness in my heart.

Then a weird thing happened. Before shutting the door, something on a table caught my eye. It was my Puss 'n Boots pop-up book — the only book I remembered my mom reading to me when I was little. I hadn't seen it on the table earlier, but seeing it then made me smile. I put it in the box of stuff I was taking with me.

"Thanks, Mom," I said, taking one last look around before shutting the door.

Later, as my dad and I got ready for the drive back to Massachusetts, he saw me put the box of stuff in the back of the car. I described a few of the things that I'd found. Some of those items, like my Sebastian Bach poster, inspired a few stories that made us laugh. As we hit the highway, we stopped talking and listened to the radio.

Somewhere during that stretch I realized that I'd taken more from the Gray House than was in the box.

Copyright © 2008 by Mia Tyler

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