New and Improved Vivien Leigh Reid: Diva in Controlby Yvonne Collins, Sandy Rideout
All right, so she blew it! The last time she was in front of the camera, she acted like a total diva and ended up losing the gig. But now the new and improved Vivien Leigh Reid is back in L.A. and determined to make it right. While helping her mother plan for her wedding, Leigh unexpectedly lands a featured role in a new television series, and this time she is
All right, so she blew it! The last time she was in front of the camera, she acted like a total diva and ended up losing the gig. But now the new and improved Vivien Leigh Reid is back in L.A. and determined to make it right. While helping her mother plan for her wedding, Leigh unexpectedly lands a featured role in a new television series, and this time she is going to keep her inner diva in control.
It may not be easy as she hoped, though. The all-male cast of Freak Force, an action-adventure series about superhumanoids, isn't exactly thrilled to have a girl on board. Add that to the demands of her mother, who is quickly turning into Bridezilla, and a wicked soon-to-be stepsister, and Leigh's newfound cool may really be put to the test.
Vivien Leigh Reid's first forays into acting, detailed in Introducing Vivien Leigh Reid: Daughter of the Diva (2005) and Now Starring Vivien Leigh Reid: Diva in Training (2006, both Griffin), ended in disaster as her starring role on a TV show led to a big head and her eventual dismissal. Now that her actress-mother is engaged to a producer, Leigh has been offered a role in his new TV show, Freak Force . Eager to prove that she can avoid the diva syndrome, she jumps at the chance to reform her reputation. The role turns out to be more challenging than she expected: she is a humanoid, part female college freshman and part warthog, and doing her own stunts is complicated by an unwieldy costume. Her relationships are complicated, too: her male costars don't want to work with her, her evil future stepsisters are determined to make her life miserable, and her mother is planning a wedding. To complicate things further, she falls for one of her costars. Leigh's first-person narrative (including fantasy sequences written in script format) is engaging. Fans of Meg Cabot's "The Princess Diaries" series (HarperCollins) will enjoy the inside look at life among the famous and identify with Leigh's romantic travails. Though it's not necessary for readers to be familiar with the previous volumes, they may be in demand once this one hits the shelves.
Laurie SlagenwhiteCopyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
- St. Martin's Press
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- First Edition
- Product dimensions:
- 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.70(d)
- Age Range:
- 13 - 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
I scan the crowd around the arrivals gate for one of my mother's conspicuous disguises. With her vast collection of wigs, hats, scarves, and sunglasses, the possibilities are nearly endless but something always blows her cover.
Mom isn't an inept CIA operative; she's an actress, and the disguises are meant to keep her fans at bay. As far as I can tell, the Annika Anderson filmography takes care of that on its own. She has made over twenty films, most of which are simply forgettable, but a fewthe ones my Dad likes to watch again and againare downright awful. So bad, in fact, that Annika was stuck in the B-movie category for years. All that changed three months ago with the release of Danny Boy, an A-list movie that has garnered great reviews. Even so, the odds of her being mobbed are pretty remote, especially in Los Angeles, where everyone's a star.
A hand rises from a nearby knot of people and snaps fingers in my general direction. Unless Mom has shrunk, or less likely still, opted for flats, the hand can't be hers. "Annika?" I call uncertainly.
"Don't ever call me that," the owner of the hand says, folding every finger but one.
The knot of people parts to reveal Sasha Cohen, my former costar on a soap opera called Diamond Heights. As always, she is dressed in white from head to toe. Even the tiny dog under her arm is wearing a white scarf.
As the throng of admirers closes around her again, she says, "Get over here. I can't wait all day."
"Nice to see you too," I grumble, nudging her fans aside. "What are you doing here, anyway?"
She signs another autograph without looking up. "Daddy made me come."
My mother and Sasha's father have been dating for nearly four months, and that fact probably hasn't made Sasha any happier than it's made me. Jake seems like a nice enough guy, but with Sasha coming as part of the Cohen package, I'd rather reconstitute a family somewhere else.
A girl takes her autograph book from Sasha and offers it to me. "I think I've seen you before. You're somebody, right?"
Sasha reaches over and snaps the autograph book closed. "She's nobody. Don't waste your paper." Directing me with her pen, she adds, "I could get through this faster if you'd turn around and stoop."
I let her use my back to sign another dozen autographs. I even hold her purse and her dog without complaint because Dad's last words as he put me on the plane were, "Be nice." It's obviously going to be tougher than I had expected. While I knew I couldn't escape the Cohens entirely during Thanksgiving weekend, I didn't plan on spending a second alone with Sasha.
I assumed that Mom would make that easy by monopolizing my time. After all, I'm only here for four days and we hardly ever see each other. I live with my father in Seattle because Annika abandoned me for Hollywood when I was only three years old.
By "abandoned," I don't mean she left me in a Dumpster. Rather she divorced my father, gave him full custody, and more or less disappeared for twelve years. She claims that Dad didn't want her around me and he claims she didn't try very hard. The only thing they agree on is that she paid regular child support. For a long time, the nicest thing my father could say about Annika was, "At least she's not a deadbeat."
Our family of two (three, counting Grandma Reid) managed just fine until I hit puberty and my newfound preoccupation with boys and makeup caused Dad to arrange a reunion with my mother. Faster than I could say "no frigging way," I was on a plane to Ireland where Annika was shooting Danny Boy.
Mom and I didn't hit it off right away. In fact, we still spend nearly as much time fighting as we do getting along. I guess you can't build a bridge across a twelve-year rift overnight. Our relationship evolves at the pace of a Mardi Gras paradetwo steps forward, one step backbut at least it's moving in the right direction.
It helps that we've discovered some common interests, the most important being acting. Mom was initially reluctant to let me take a small role in Danny Boy, but when that worked out okay, she became very supportive. At her suggestion, I spent the past summer in L.A. taking an acting course at an elite school. She also encouraged me to audition for Diamond Heights and I won the role of Willow Volume over ninety-three other hopefuls.
On the show, Sasha and I both played rich, nasty divas. For her, it was typecasting, although with Jake as producer she didn't have to audition. For me, sadly, it became a matter of life imitating art. Within a matter of weeks, I got so caught up in my role that I started to behave like a diva both on and off the set. By the time the producers created a spin-off show for Willow, my head had become too big for the studio and the role went to Sasha's character instead. Worse, they killed off Willow and I got fired. As in sacked. Terminated. Dismissed. Booted.
It was the most humiliating experience of my entire life and I'm still not over it. There's no mystery about where my diva gene came from, but you'd think that with Dad's sensible accountant genes to offset it, I'd have more self-control.
I've been punished for my behavior by seeing Sasha prosper in the role created for me. She's not the best actress in towneven her father admits thatbut she must be doing something right because Between a Rock and a Hard Place is doing well. If my inner diva weren't in recovery, I'd give the credit to her surgically enhanced bustline, but the new and improved Leigh Reid is a good sport.
Sasha isn't burdened by the same need to be a gracious. "Stand still," she says, jabbing me in the shoulder with her pen. "And stop squishing Olivier."
I reposition my right hand on my knee and hoist the dog a little higher with my left, silently repeating a yoga mantra: From the unreal lead me to the real. From darkness lead me to the light.
After the Diamond Heights debacle, I realized I needed something to keep me sane and grounded, and yoga fit the bill. To my surprise, I actually enjoy it. I don't know if yoga is making me a better person, but it's definitely making me a calmer one. If I decide to pursue acting again some day, I'll have the tools to keep my perspective.
Signing her last autograph with a flourish, Sasha starts off down the corridor, leaving me to follow with dog, purse, and my suitcase. When I catch up, she flicks her dark mane over her shoulders and eyes my jeans, pink zip-up yoga jacket, and sneakers. "I see you still haven't found your style. No one's going to give you a part if you look like that."
"I'm not trying to get parts," I say. "I'm just here for a quiet weekend with my mother."
Ignoring this, she heads out to her white Mini Cooper, which is illegally parked in the passenger pick-up area. The airport security guard hovering beside it accepts the fifty-dollar bill she offers him and rushes to open the driver's door. Sasha takes the dog and slides behind the wheel, chitchatting to the guard while I flip down one of the back seats and squeeze my suitcase into the Mini. When I'm done, I open the front door to find the dog carrier strapped to the passenger seat.
"Olivier gets car sick if he isn't up front," Sasha explains. She gets out and holds the seat forward so that I can climb in behind her. "Don't sit on my cover."
There's a copy of Soap Opera Digest on the back seat featuring her sultry image.
Before she can grab it, I quickly lower my butt onto her photogenic face.
I hear the muffled sounds of Pink's Trouble and retrieve my cell phone from my knapsack. "Mom, where are you?"
"Didn't Sasha tell you? Jake needed my help with the turkey."
"You don't cook," I point out.
"True enough," she agrees. "But I'm a great cheerleader, right, sweetie?" The sweetie in question appears to be Jake because the kissing sounds emanating from my phone are loud enough to make Sasha shudder in the front seat.
"You said we were going out."
"Change of plans, darling. We're having our Thanksgiving tonight because Ursela isn't free on Monday."
Ursela is Sasha's older sister. She doesn't live with Jake, so I don't see why our plans have to revolve around hers. "Can't we just have a quiet night at your place?"
My question comes too late. She is already distracted by clanging pots and pans. "See you soon, darling," she says, and hangs up.
Sasha watches me through the rearview mirror. "When's the last time you spoke to your mother?" she asks.
"A few days ago. Why?"
Her eyes crinkle. "Just curious."
Determined not to play into her mind games, I fish my makeup bag out of my purse. Sasha waits until I'm applying mascara before hitting the brakes to avoid an invisible hazard, thereby causing me to jam the wand into my temple.
"Quiet," she says, over my squeal of pain. "You're scaring Olivier."
I reach for the uneaten tuna sandwich Dad packed for me this morning and consider hiding it under Sasha's seat to rot in the California heat. The words of my yoga instructor fill my head: Anger is one of the six poisons that surround the spiritual heart. Sighing, I put the sandwich back in my bag. Sasha is lucky I've become an enlightened human being.
After a few moments of peace, her cell phone rings. "Hi Gorgeous," she says, her voice soaring up a few octaves into boyfriend range. "I'd be better if you were here with me."
She glances into the mirror again to make sure I'm taking it in. If she's trying to make me jealous, she'll have to work harder because I am on a guy hiatus. Granted, the hiatus wasn't my choice, but after losing two guys this summer, it's actually a relief.
I blew it first with Rory Quinn, the guy I met in Ireland. Rory is cute, kind, and smart, and our long distance relationship lasted an entire year. By the time he visited me in L.A., however, I'd succumbed to diva fever. Under its influence, I'd fallen for someone from my acting class. Gray Cowley has Hollywood roots a mile long and I couldn't understand why he'd be interested in a girl like me. Then I found out he was only interested in what a girl like me could do for his career. Specifically, he wanted to use my connection to Jake Cohen to get a job. By the time I realized Gray was slime, my relationship with Rory had disintegrated.
Losing Gray hurt my pride but losing Rory broke my heart. The only good thing I can say about the experience was that, unlike my firing, the breakup wasn't televised.
Rory went back to Ireland to hate me from afar, and I returned to Seattle to hate Gray from afar. I kept that up until I started yoga class and learned that hatred is the enemy of enlightenment. I can't squander my energy on hating Gray anymore, but that doesn't mean I want to run into him this weekend. Fortunately, L.A. is a big city.
Sasha steers the car onto the Pacific Coast Highway with one hand while continuing to hold her cell to her ear with the other. "As bad as ever," she says, lowering her voice. "She's a loser, just like her mother. It's going to take a week to get the smell out of my car."
It's going to take a lot longer than that. I pull the tuna sandwich out of my bag again and slide it under her seat.
The road to enlightenment is long and I have plenty of time to get there.
The Cohen's palm-lined driveway is crowded with cars when we pull in. Sasha parks between a pumpkin patch and a pen containing a large, ugly turkey pecking idly at fake yellow and red leaves. I seriously hope this isn't the bird Annika is helping Jake prepare for dinner.
I look up at the stone beach house, with its wide windows and breathtaking view of the sea. On the wraparound deck, people are watching the sun set with cocktail glasses in their hands.
"Welcome back, beautiful," a male voice says. I press my face to the car window to see Gray Cowley standing beside the Mini. With his messy, sun-bleached hair, unbuttoned white shirt, and faded jeans, he is so hot that I almost forget how despicable he is. "I've missed you so much," he says, offering a brilliant smile.
He has? The last time I saw Gray, he was making fun of my final performance for acting class. Maybe my role in Danny Boy made him realize what he lost. Or maybe he had a drug problem last summer that he's managed to kick. That kind of thing happens in Hollywood all the time.
Sasha opens the driver's door and steps out into Gray's arms, saying, "I was only gone an hour."
He fastens his lips to hers. Either he still has the drug problem or Gray has realized that Sasha can do more for his career than I could.
They block my exit from the car until I finally clear my throat. Sasha releases him and turns to me. "Leigh, this is my boyfriend, Gray Cowley."
"We've met," I say, unfolding myself from the Mini. These cars weren't built for anyone over five foot ten. Not that I ever admit to being that tall.
Gray slides his hand down to Sasha's butt and grins at me. "Howya doing, Leigh?"
"Oh, right, I forgot," Sasha says, grinning up at him. "You broke Leigh's heart, didn't you, baby?"
"I liked him for about a minute," I admit. "But that was before he flunked out of acting class."
Gray's smile falters but before he can comment, Jake appears on the deck. He is dressed as a pilgrim in black knee-length pants, long white socks, and shoes with big buckles. Beside him is a tall, thin woman in a fringed, buckskin dress and moccasin-style boots. Her face is streaked with bands of red and yellow makeup, and her long black braids are topped by a single white feather. I hope that isn't who I think it is.
A small white dog in a pilgrim hat jumps into the woman's arms and my heart sinks like a stone.
"Osiyo, Vivien!" my mother calls, coming down to greet me. A blond curl has escaped her wig and encircled one of the braids. "That's Cherokee for 'hello'."
"What's Cherokee for 'politically incorrect'?" Sasha asks Gray.
My mother hugs me with one arm and Brando tries to lick my face. I take him and untie the pilgrim hat. "Annika, when I let you keep my dog, I didn't say you could dress him up like one of your Madame Alexander dolls," I say.
"Oh Vivien, try to get into the Thanksgiving spirit," she says.
"It's Leigh," I remind her. My mother named me after her idol, actress Vivien Leigh. I've always gone by my middle name but she can't get the hang of using it. Similarly, I can't get the hang of using "Mom."
Annika tries to pout but her lips are too freshly pumped with collagen to purse properly. "Jakey," she says, "my daughter could use a dose of your charm."
Handsome, silver-haired Jake gives me a smile that probably works on most women but doesn't on me. That's because most women haven't been fired by him. At least, he let the director of Diamond Heights fire me and it amounts to the same thing.
"Leigh," he says, kissing my cheek. "You're even lovelier than your mother."
Neither Annika nor Sasha looks pleased to hear this.
He motions to Gray. "How about taking your arm off my daughter and unloading Leigh's suitcase?"
Gray lunges for the car and Jake leads the procession up the stairs, saying, "Once you're settled in your room, Leigh, come back down and join the party."
I tug on my mother's arm until she slows down. "What does he mean, my room?"
"He means you don't have to share a room with Sasha," she says. "Yours is in the east wing, just down the hall from our room."
I stop in my tracks. "Our room?" It comes out so loud that Sasha immediately turns to watch.
Annika greets some guests at the top of the stairs as an excuse not to answer.
I wait until she turns back before asking, "Are you living here?"
"Well, most of the time," she says, still not meeting my eyes.
Sasha clears everything up for me. "She moved in last weekend."
Copyright © 2007 by Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout. All rights reserved.
Meet the Author
Yvonne Collins and Sandy Rideout are the coauthurs of seven books, including Totally Me: The Teenage Girl's Survival Guide, Introducing Vivien Leigh Reid: Daughter of the Diva, and Now Starring Vivien Leigh Reid: Diva in Training. Both authors live in Toronto.
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