Ellen hilariously talks about the secret of life, how to be a supermodel, and much more!
Whatever the topic, DeGeneres's compulsively readable style will appeal to fans old and new.—Publisher's Weekly
Fans will not be disappointed. This hodgepodge...displays throughout the author's gift for capturing the absurd hilarity of internal monologue...[DeGeneres's] trademark wit and openness shine through.—Kirkus Reviews
- Grand Central Publishing
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Meet the Author
Ellen DeGeneres is a beloved stand-up comedian, television host, bestselling author, and actress. She hosts the syndicated talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and was also a judge on American Idol in its ninth season in 2009.
DeGeneres has hosted both the Academy Awards and the Primetime Emmys. As a film actress, she starred in Mr. Wrong, appeared in EDtv and The Love Letter, and provided the voice of Dory in the Disney-Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, for which she awarded a Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first and only time a voice acting won a Saturn Award. She also starred in two television sitcoms, Ellen from 1994 to 1998 and The Ellen Show from 2001 to 2002. She has won twelve Emmys and numerous awards for her work and charitable efforts.
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Read an Excerpt
By Ellen DeGeneres
Grand Central PublishingCopyright © 2011 Ellen DeGeneres
All right reserved.
Writing This Book
Over the last year or so since I decided to write this book, people have been asking me how I have the time and why I chose to write it. The truth is, last June I was driving through a tunnel while I was on the phone with my agent and my cell service was spotty. I said, “I just got a great IKEA table for my breakfast nook.” My agent thought I said, “I’ve got a great idea for my newest book.”
By the time we figured out our hilarious misunderstanding I had signed a whole bunch of papers (who has time to read all those words?!) and I was under contract to write a book. Similarly, a few years ago, I told my agent, “I think I got some fudge on my lapel,” and he thought I said, “I want to be a judge on American Idol.” Since then I got a new phone. And I found out my agent’s name is Marvin, not Blarvin.
But the real truth is, I’m glad I decided to write this book. I love writing and I do feel like I’ve learned a lot about life and love and other “L” words since I wrote my last book, and there are things I want to share with the world.
As it turns out, writing a book is hard. It’s not as hard as mining coal or teaching teenagers to drive, I know that. But it is hard. I didn’t think it would be so hard because I go on television every day and talk for an hour and I usually have plenty to say. Plus, I’ve already written other books—two as myself and dozens more under my pen name, Danielle Steel.
When I first sat down to write, I stared at the blank page and tried to think of some strategies for getting started. When I want a guest on my show to start talking and telling a good story, I ask them a question. So I asked myself a question that I would ask a guest: “When did you first fall in love with Tim McGraw?”
That didn’t get me anywhere and I quickly realized I shouldn’t ask myself questions that are so specific to Faith Hill.
So I asked myself a different question.
“What made you take on the role of Precious?”
That didn’t work, either.
So then I began to think about you, the readers. Who are you? What are you doing? What are you wearing? (Not in a weird way.) I thought it would help to put myself in your shoes for a moment. It always helps to think about other people instead of just ourselves. Like, if you want to know what I’m doing right now, I’m driving to work with my top down. The roof of my convertible is up. I am wearing a beret—it helps me think and it makes me feel French. That is also why I’m pretending to smoke a straw, and that is probably why a bus full of tourists is staring at me.
So what would you like to hear about as my reader? I wondered. Perhaps you might like to hear about some of the highlights that have occurred throughout my life and career, but it’s hard to know what highlights you would find exciting versus the highlights I think are exciting. For example, a few years ago I called my credit card company and got a late fee reversed that quite honestly I didn’t think they’d reverse. That was a really big moment for me because you know how cranky some customer service representatives can be when they’re having a bad day. But I don’t know if that qualifies as the type of highlight you’re looking to hear about.
I let my mind wander through some of the biggest moments in my life and then I realized what I needed to do. Since I don’t know specific things about each and every one of you, except that a lot of you are probably brunettes, I decided to include a little something for everyone in this book. You’re going to find some short stories for adults, coloring pages for kids, and many things for all ages in between. You’ll also find self-help tips, some medical advice (from someone who has no medical background nor the authority to dole out medical advice), nutrition facts, and you might even learn how to be happier in your everyday lives. I hope you do.
There are a few things I wanted to include in this book but decided instead to save for my memoir. The following is a list of things you will not read about in this book:
Details of my long-term relationship with Javier Bardem.
My years spent in juvie.
My early days as a pioneer of disco.
My involvement with the Milli Vanilli lip-synching scandal of 1990.
My recently discovered half-sister.
The leaked sex tape.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
Beauty is only skin deep.
Beauty is not in the face; beauty is a light in the heart.
Throughout my entire life, I have believed in these sentiments. I’ve believed that true beauty is not related to what color your hair is or what color your eyes are. True beauty is about who you are as a human being, your principles, your moral compass. And then in 2008 I was finally able to throw all that hogwash out the window because I was named the new face of CoverGirl cosmetics! Take a bite out of that, world! Check out these cheekbones! I’m a beauty queen! (This is where flashbulbs go off and I turn my head from side to side, posing like a supermodel. It was apparently “too expensive” and “not possible” to put mini lightbulbs in every book, so you’re just gonna have to imagine it. I’m sorry.)
The truth is, I still believe that above all things physical, it is more important to be beautiful on the inside—to have a big heart and an open mind and a spectacular spleen. (Actually, most people’s insides are disgusting. Even pretty people have very unattractive insides. Have you ever seen those surgery shows on Discovery? Not pretty.)
To me, beauty is about being comfortable in your own skin. It’s about knowing and accepting who you are. I’m happy being who I am. I’m confident, I live honestly and truthfully, and I think that’s why I was chosen as the first fifty-year-old, openly gay CoverGirl. It’s just a bonus that I have devastatingly blue eyes.
But we really are a society that focuses so much on physical appearance. I realized this recently when I accidentally looked into one of those mirrors that magnify your face to five hundred times its actual size. They sell them at Bed Bath & Beyond in the “Things That Make You Feel Bad About Yourself” aisle. They’re right next to the bathroom scales, usually on a shelf you’re too short to reach. I’m sure you’ve all looked into one of them at some point. On one side, it’s a totally normal mirror. And then if you turn it over to the other side, your face looks like the surface of the moon.
Portia and I have one in our shower. I never look in it because it’s usually blocked by the person who washes me. But for some reason I looked in it one day and, oh Lordy, that is a horrible invention! Who invented that thing and why haven’t they been jailed? Those things need to come with a warning. Car mirrors have warnings that say, “Objects are closer than they appear.” Magnification mirrors should have warnings that say, “Objects are not as attractive as they appear.”
They show you things you didn’t know were there, that no one can possibly see. I looked at my hairline and I found a family of doves living in it. It was shocking. The only people who need to see things that close up are surgeons who are performing delicate operations and jewelers. That’s it. No one is gonna see you the way you see yourself in those mirrors unless you’re married to a surgeon or a jeweler and they come home from work still wearing that apparatus. “Honey, I’m home. Oh my goodness, your pores are huge!”
I don’t know why we ever need to look into those. They’re not accurate. They point out every single one of our flaws. We don’t need that. That’s why we have mothers. The fact of the matter is that everyone has flaws. No one is perfect, except for Penélope Cruz. Our flaws are what make us human. If we can accept them as part of who we are, they really don’t even have to be an issue.
I feel the same way about age. I’ve never been someone to lie about my age. I don’t understand it. Actually, I don’t know how people can lie about their age anymore now that the Internet exists. Not only can people easily find out what year I was born, they can find out what time, what hospital, how long my mother was in labor. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was footage on YouTube of the doctor spanking me. The only reason there isn’t is because YouTube didn’t exist when I was born.
Our age is something we have absolutely no control over; it’s just a fact of who we are. I enjoy growing older and wiser and learning from my mistakes every single day. I’m happy, for example, that I no longer eat paste, like I did when I was twenty-four. And I’m happy that in a few years I’ll be able to get half-price tickets to movies and museums. Considering how often I go to the movies and museums, I could save upward of thirty dollars a year.
When we were kids, all we wanted was to be older. When we were seven and a half and someone said we were only seven, we were furious. We probably even cried about it. Can you imagine doing that now as an adult? “This is Marsha. She’s forty-two.” “Forty-two and a half! You always forget the half! I’m practically forty-two and three-quarters!” I don’t know at what age people stop wanting to be older. People seem to enjoy their twenties and thirties. It must be around forty, when you’re “over the hill.” I don’t even know what that means and why it’s a bad thing. When I go hiking and I get over the hill, that means I’m past the hard part and there’s a snack in my future. That’s a good thing as far as I’m concerned.
People seem to be shy about their age through their fifties and sixties, but then once they hit seventy or eighty, they start telling people again because it’s such a huge victory to have made it that far. No one gets to one hundred and tells people they’re only ninety-five. So I don’t know why anyone has to lie about those middle years. We should celebrate every year that we made it through and every year that we’re happier and healthier. Because honestly, that’s the best-case scenario. And the bottom line is we are who we are—we look a certain way, we talk a certain way, we walk a certain way. I strut because I’m a supermodel, and sometimes I gallop for fun. When we learn to accept that, other people learn to accept us. So be who you really are. Embrace who you are. Literally. Hug yourself. Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.
I know it seems easy and breezy for me to say, but trust me—it’s okay to be you. If you had called me fifteen years ago and told me I was going to end up being a CoverGirl, I would have said, “No way” and “How’d you get this number?” But look at me now. I’m totally myself and I’m an internationally known, widely sought-after supermodel. I even went to Paris one time.
How to Be a Supermodel
Since I am a CoverGirl, I thought if any of you are interested in learning a little bit about modeling I could offer you some tips. I’ve sashayed down plenty of catwalks in my day—well, one. But I know what it takes to make an impression. So here are some suggestions, as long as you are willing to be fierce.
One: The Look
Always look like you’re angry at the universe for making you too pretty.
Two: The Walk
Trot. Aggressively, like you’re a horse that’s trying to avoid puddles.
Three: The Squint
Squint like someone is bouncing sunlight off their watch and directly into your eyes.
Four: The Pout
Get those lips out there. Purse your lips like you’re trying to sip out of a straw that someone keeps moving away from you.
Five: The Pose
Be mysterious. Always pose with one hand in your pocket as if to say, “I’m so mysterious, this hand in my pocket could be a hook hand. You don’t know.”
Six: The Breeze
Carry a giant oscillating fan with you at all times. No exceptions.
Now put it all together. Trot! Squint! Get the straw! Who’s a pretty girl? You are. Keep trotting!
I don’t like clutter. I firmly believe that there is a place for everything and everything should be in its place. And I know there’s a name for people like me: neat.
It is astounding to me how much stuff we all have. Our closets are full of stuff. Our drawers are full of stuff. Our stuff is piled on top of other stuff. And the older we get the more stuff we have because over the years we buy more and more stuff and we never want to let go of anything. Nowadays people are a little more aware of how much stuff they have because there’s a bit of a social stigma if you have too much stuff. There’s even a name for the people who have the most stuff. They’re called hoarders. Back in the day they were just called grandmothers.
If you want to clean out your house and get rid of stuff, you can always do a good spring cleaning every year. Or you can do what I do. Move. I move a lot. I’ve moved about ten times over the past fifteen years. I don’t move for the sole purpose of getting rid of stuff. I’m not crazy. I also move so that I never have to wash any windows. “Is that a smudge? Time to pack it up. Let’s go.”
When you’re packing up a house, you’re forced to decide what you really need versus what you can get rid of. You might have been holding on to cases and cases of empty glass jars, but once you have to pack them up and move them, you realize maybe you’re not going to harvest your own honey.
My mama is similar to me in that she also likes to move a lot. Mama has moved thirty-two times since 1952. It’s so funny because I remember sometimes I would come home from school and there would be a note on the door that said, “I moved. Try and find me!” And I would spend hours and hours trying to find the new house. Sometimes I would find it by nightfall but sometimes I wouldn’t. Actually this is really funny—one time she accidentally forgot to leave a note and I had no idea she had even moved. I was living in the house with a beautiful Mexican family for about three months before I realized they weren’t my cousins visiting from out of town. They were so nice. They called me “Quien es, quien es,” which I thought was a beautiful name.
Anyway, my mama might be similar to me as far as moving around goes, but as far as clutter is concerned she’s a little different. When she moved into the house she lives in now (I think she’s gonna stay there for a while—they say the thirty-second time is the charm), she made it a point to tell me how excited she was because she was going to downsize. She was getting rid of all the stuff she didn’t need anymore and starting fresh in her new house. I was so proud of her. I went over to help her settle in and I assumed when I got there I wouldn’t have to unpack much more than a pillow and a spoon. Not so.
Let me share with you all of the items Betty “I Am Downsizing” DeGeneres asked movers to wrap up, place in a box, seal up in the box, put in a van, and move into a whole new house so that I could cut open the box, take out the items, and unwrap them:
A three-hole punch.
A single-hole punch.
A VHS tape of Abs of Steel.
An unopened VHS tape of Hip Hop Abs.
A third harmonica.
A rusty sifter.
A colander from 1953.
Many of those items have moved thirty-two times. And I should point a few things out. First of all, Mama moved into that house in 2010 not 1987, as the VHS tapes would have you believe. Second of all, Mama is not in a blues band. She doesn’t play the harmonica and even if she did, the ones I found in that box looked like they had been dug up next to some train tracks. If Mama put her mouth anywhere near them I would immediately take her for a tetanus shot. Thirdly, Mama does not cook or bake or prepare food in any way. I don’t know what sort of imaginary biscuits she thinks she’s going to cut.
I could not believe how much stuff my mama still had, but it’s because we all justify holding on to things. We do this especially with clothing. We all have so many things in our closets that we never wear but we convince ourselves to keep just in case we ever need to paint. We don’t paint, we won’t paint, but we have dozens of old Wham! T-shirts just in case.
A lot of people hold on to clothing just for the sentimental value. They say, “I can’t get rid of this jacket. I love it. I wore it on my first cruise.” Of course you love it. You bought it. But it doesn’t fit you anymore and the shoulder pads make you look like a 1980s football player who loved the color salmon.
I’m guilty of it, too. I still have the shirt I wore my first time on Johnny Carson. Only now I use it as a tablecloth at dinner parties. It was very blousy.
We’re always worried that we’re going to get rid of something and then it’s going to come back in fashion. But even if it does—and I assure you that paisley jumpsuit you’ve been holding on to won’t—they always make a tiny tweak so that it’s a little bit different so we have to buy the updated version.
One year, big collars are in and the next year they make collars an eighth of an inch shorter. So we go out and buy the collar that’s an eighth of an inch shorter because heaven forbid someone sees us walking around town with last year’s collar. As if strangers on the street are going to come up to us and measure our collars. “Oh no. She’s wearing last year’s collar, everyone! She’s wearing last year’s collar!”
It’s not just clothing we hold on to. It’s old electronics and old furniture and I’ll tell you one thing I recently discovered in my own home—lotion. Portia hoards lotion. I don’t know how it took me so long to notice but she has bottles and bottles of lotion. There are some lined up on the counter, some in baskets under the sink. She has cheap ones from drugstores and real fancy ones from the Sheraton and the Holiday Inn.
She has every kind of lotion there is—and there’s a lot. There’s lotion for your face, lotion for your hands, lotion for your feet, lotion for your body. Why? What would happen if you put hand lotion on your feet? Would your feet get confused and start clapping?
Each kind says it has something special in it for your skin—aloe, shea butter, coconut, cocoa butter, vanilla, lemon extract. That’s not lotion. That’s one ingredient short of a Bundt cake.
Don’t get me wrong. I like lotion. I use a moisturizer on my face. I have to—it’s my moneymaker. And I like to use hand lotion. I shake a lot of hands and I want people to experience my suppleness. But hand lotion is tricky. You have to know exactly how much to put on. You don’t want to overdo it. Portia once put too much on and got stuck in the bathroom for an hour trying to turn the doorknob. Then I had to remind her we have a door that slides.
My point is everyone who has buckets and buckets of lotion should get rid of all the lotion they don’t use anymore. And by everyone I do mean Portia. Or at least she should think about combining all the half bottles into one giant bottle so we can get rid of some stuff and she can smell like a baby eating a cucumber in an orange grove. I hope she reads this.
I really do think it’s important to let go of things and give things away, to declutter and get out from under that pile of papers and old cereal boxes and harmonicas. It’s cathartic. It’s freeing. Plus you can get good money for some stuff on eBay. A “vintage” colander goes for just under $3.50. Mama’s gonna be rich!
I spend a lot of time exploring my body. Hang on, that doesn’t sound quite right. What I mean to say is, I like to constantly be in touch with my own body. Okay, that’s not right, either. My body is a wonderland. I don’t even know why I just said that.
What I’m trying to say is that as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to pay closer attention to my body and to my physical well-being. I think we all have to do that as we get older. We have to check ourselves out, literally, to make sure nothing has appeared or disappeared or grown or shrunk or tightened or loosened or sagged or ulcered or bulged or inflamed. I really hope you’re not eating.
Once we hit forty and fifty years old, our bodies go through a lot of changes. Even if we’re in really good shape (read: I have buns of steel) things start to slow down. Our metabolism slows down, our reflexes slow down, sometimes we become slightly more forgetful. I don’t want to alarm anyone who isn’t there yet, but you should know that a day will come when you leave your keys in the freezer and try to start your car with a bagel. You should also know that studies have shown that after age fifty there is a 97 percent chance you will pull your groin while putting on a bathing suit. It’s a proven fact. You can do the research on your own time.
I actually pulled my groin once a few years ago. I don’t even know how I did it. All I know is when it happened I was right in the middle of auditioning for the Rockettes and it ruined everything. The problem with pulling your groin, besides pulling your groin, is that there isn’t a delicate way to treat it. Whenever I pull a muscle in my back, I get a massage to make it feel better. When you pull a muscle in your groinal region, it’s much trickier. You can’t ask a stranger to massage it. That’s why I had to ask my gardener to do it. And I’ll be honest—at first it was awkward. But then it was beautiful.
Excerpted from Seriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres Copyright © 2011 by Ellen DeGeneres. Excerpted by permission.
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