Kristin Chenoweth, Kathy Najimy, Linda Perry, Chely Wright and Lauren Blitzer are the celebrity compilers of a forthcoming book that, inspired by — but not limited to — the #MeToo movement, lets women from the entertainment industry and other walks of life describe a crucial point of adversity that propelled them into forward motion for good.
The essay collection, titled “My Moment: 106 Women on Fighting for Themselves,” has been acquired for world rights by Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, and will come out April 26, 2022.
“For so long, women have been silent about things that have hurt them or made them feel ashamed,” says Chenoweth. “I’ve kept my story quiet for a long time, and yes, it was scary to tell, but I’m doing it because I feel so empowered to stand with these incredible girls and women. Working on this book has changed us all, and we cannot wait to share it with the world.”
The book was country-Americana singer Wright’s brainchild, as she looked at group text threads that were already sharing these kinds of sometimes proudly public, sometimes long-hidden stories and thought they should be actively collected and ultimately published.
Although roughly half of “My Moment” is made up of stories from women who aren’t “in the biz,” figures from the worlds of entertainment and media are featured throughout, including musicians Brandi Carlile, Rosanne Cash, Cyndi Lauper, Reba McEntire and Chrissie Hynde, actors Cynthia Erivo, Debra Messing, Carol Burnett and Alicia Silverstone, and TV news personalities like Brooke Baldwin, Soledad O’Brien and S.E. Cupp.
“It’s not a Me Too book,” Wright tells Variety — although many of the 106 essays and mini-essays do fit that criterion. “But the genesis of the idea was during the Christine Blasey Ford testimony, when I noticed my phone blowing up in a new and different way that I’d never experienced. It was sister, cousin, people you grew up with, artist friends, my friends in finance and all these different pockets of friendships that I’ve had for a long time. Those text threads began to become something different in that Christine Blasey Ford moment where she raised her hand and just told it, with no motivation other than ‘I have to say this out loud.’ Women I’ve known my whole life began just kind of saying, saying, ‘You know that one teacher we had? Guess what he did that one time.’ Or ‘I don’t think I was sexually assaulted, but this guy was masturbating in his car in the mall parking lot and got me to look at it.’ And so we all began to kind of talk about the many complexities of navigating the world as girls and women.
“Kristin Chenoweth and I were talking about a song that we were working on, that was being produced by Linda Perry, called ‘Learn How to Fight.’ And I texted Roseanne Cash and began asking other people: What was the moment in your life when you first realized you were ready to fight for yourself? There was no thought of a book or ever collecting these stories, but I just thought it was an interesting question to ask people I knew. And then I started asking women on airplanes and in hotels and the gal driving the runner van at shows, and they were always interesting. So we began talking about what it would look like to compile these stories. We brought Linda and Kathy Najimy in, and of course, Lauren, my wife, was in on every time I would get an answer from a woman and I’d go, ‘Lauren, check this out: Daisy Fuentes said this.’ It was as organically born as anything I’ve ever experienced.”
For the breadth of the book, Wright says, “Honestly, there were a few kind of marquee, tentpole women — like Kristin said early on, ‘We’re going to get Carol Burnett in this book. I think she’s going to be excited to share a story.’ We all know she’s cool, but she’s so much cooler. There weren’t many women really going to battle for women and girls back then, but she was definitely a pioneer. But we wanted to talk to educators, attorneys, stay-at-home moms, artists, politicians, media folks. We have gay women, trans women, street women, butch women, femme women and women who lead more traditional, conservative lives.”
Some of the stories revolve around themes involving racism, sobriety, body shaming, coming out, motherhood and other eternal hot-button topics. But it should be no surprise that some of the entertainment business stories in particular involve harassment or callousness from those in power that spurred women to stand up for themselves, if not then, then later in their careers.
“I think that in some ways we women in entertainment feel like it’s best to not die on that hill,” Wright notes. “But the world has changed a lot in the past few years and there’s definite power in numbers. WIth Chenowith’s story, she says, ‘I’ll probably never work on CBS again.’ Debra Messing and Melissa Peterman brought really powerful story. They and others talked about what it’s like to be told, ‘Go sit down, we really don’t want to hear from you. There are women lined up 10 deep and 10 wide to have your spot. So Chenowith, if you complain, we’ll move on to the next Chenowith.’
“I think it’s going to make some people uncomfortable. But our goal in this book was not to make people feel uncomfortable, but to make girls and women feel more comfortable to share these stories sooner, and to lock arms sooner and build coalitions among ourselves sooner. So rather than waiting until we’re 51 or 55 or 70 to tell that that shitty thing that happened to us, we want girls and women to start using their voices at younger ages. And one of the great things about the new generation of girls and women in the world is they are doing that.”
Others to be featured in the book include Lena Waithe, Marlo Thomas, Jennifer Esposito, Shoshanna Bean, Gloria Steinem, Rosanna Arquette, Allison Russell, Ricki Lake, Beanie Feldstein, Renee Fleming, Rosie O’Donnell, Peppermint, Chelsea Handler, Jann Arden, Kelli O’Hara, Aisha Tyler, Kimberly Reed, Jill Fritzo and Emily Saliers.
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