Internet Fame, Being Judgmental, And Celebrity Culture: An Interview With The Creator Of Suri’s Burn Book
Celebrity kids, from before the moment they’re officially brought into this world, are something of a public commodity. Whether we like it or not, the extreme exposure of their famous parents bestows upon them a kind of persona before they have a chance to develop it themselves. And few celebrity kids typify the “overexposure” factor quite like little Suri Cruise.
Allie Hagan, the creator of the immensely popular blog Suri’s Burn Book, which has now become its own book, featured everywhere from People magazine to The Daily Beast, only added to that persona by creating the tongue-in-cheek version of Suri who spends most of her pampered days critiquing the famous people (and kids) she sees around her.
To find out about what it means to be a professional mean girl (especially through the eyes of someone as young, and arguably as innocent, as Suri), I talked to Allie about what it’s like being the girl behind the burn book.
TC: What made you start the blog?
Allie Hagan: I would sometimes make jokes on my own Twitter account about what Shiloh was wearing or what Suri was up to. A friend suggested a start a blog based around those kinds of jokes, and while I knew I had enough content to fill a blog like that, I knew that if I wrote it in my own voice, it wouldn’t sound right. (It would have sounded really mean and way too serious.) I thought about it for a while and eventually came up with the angle that it would be written from Suri Cruise’s perspective.
TC: What does it feel like to “be” Suri?
AH: It’s like playing a character on paper, one I’ve played every day for a year and a half. She’s in the back of my mind all the time now.
TC: What is the strangest thing about having an “internet personality”?
AH: I think it’s just that I have one to begin with. I thought the blog would be funny for two weeks and then everyone would get over it — and that was if I got lucky and people saw it to begin with. The fact that it grew and is a book is crazy to me.
TC: What is your strangest internet-based experience so far?
AH: The day Tom and Katie split. I cried on the phone with [my agent], I was so stressed about what the Suri character would say. Twitter was blowing up, my phone was blowing up … it was exciting to have a lot of eyes on the blog, but also a lot of pressure and not something I wanted to mess around with — Suri is a little kid, after all.
TC: What do you think of celebrity worship culture?
AH: It’s crazy and stupid and WEIRD (especially around the kids — why do we care what Harper Beckham wears to the airport?), but I’m also very guilty of reading Us Weekly, even before I had the blog.
TC: What is your normal life like?
AH: Until recently, I was working full-time as a consultant at a lobbying firm in Washington, DC, then doing Suri’s Burn Book at night. In September, I became a full-time writer. I miss the 9-5 schedule — it’s weird to take my dog to the park in the middle of the day in sweats now.
TC: Where do you draw the line as far as talking about celebrity’s lives?
AH: I won’t post grainy, wide-lens stalker paparazzi pictures, and I don’t generally use pictures where Suri (or anyone) seems upset that their picture is being taken. Also, the worst I’ve ever felt about it was when a reader emailed me a photo of a celebrity child running around in a dress that was too big for her, asking when I was going to post about her embarrassing “nip slip.” I never ever ever would have used that.
TC: Have you ever heard from the Cruise camp about any of this?
AH: Nope! They have better things to spend their time dealing with, and I’m sure if they knew about it, they’d realize it’s all in good fun.
TC: What do people in your life think about this?
AH: I think my mom is just relieved I’ve finally found a productive use for all the knowledge I’ve had about Jennifer Garner’s personal life for the last ten years.
TC: What is your favorite part about writing?
AH: I’m trying to learn a lot of different structures, because I don’t know what format I’m going to be best at or like most — I just know I want to be a writer. And those challenges are really fun. It’s all a big learning experience right now.
TC: What would you say to someone who was looking to get into writing?
AH: Get a Tumblr. The mix of blogging platform and social network makes it the best way to get your work noticed right now. There’s so much to be inspired by on Tumblr, too.
TC: What is your favorite thing about the book?
AH: There’s a joke in the book that I love, about how Shiloh Jolie-Pitt’s closet looks like such a warzone that soon Angelina is going to want to adopt children from there. I was really cheesily proud of that one.
TC: What are your plans for the future with Suri?
AH: I mean, it’s on the Internet, so it’s not going to last forever. I just want to keep doing until people stop thinking it’s funny — but I definitely won’t stop before Kate Middleton and Diane Kruger both have children.
TC: What, if any, other kinds of writing do you do?
AH: I’m trying a lot right now, but I have no idea what I’ll end up doing professionally. If all else fails, it looks like vampire fanfiction is where it’s at right now.
TC: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
AH: Hopefully here in California with my dog, just drinking more expensive wine.
TC: What are your favorite blogs to read?
TC: Do you read negative comments about yourself?
AH: When people first started noticing Suri’s Burn Book, I read everything anyone wrote. But when the book came out, there was some negative press and definitely some negative comments on articles. I stopped reading the comments section (nothing good ever happens there), and I eventually stopped reading the articles altogether. My dad still reads everything and gets really upset about it, though.
TC: Do you leave negative anonymous comments? (Be honest.)
AH: I don’t, honestly, because I don’t really leave comments on anything, ever. Which I think is kind of lame behavior, too — I get the nicest notes from people every once in a while, and I don’t send those, either.
TC: Do you ever receive hate mail?
AH: Not really. The meanest things I see are from people who, for instance, track the Britney Spears tag on Tumblr and see a post making fun of her redneck kid’s shiny pants without knowing the context. People love Britney and will defend her forever.
TC: If so, what is the funniest/strangest one you’ve ever received?
AH: Someone was really bothered by something I said about Emily Procter from CSI: Miami. It wasn’t even anything particularly mean, if I recall, but everyone has fans.
TC: What do you predict Suri will grow up to be like?
AH: Oh, gosh, who knows? I think she and Katie are probably more normal than they get credit for.
TC: Do you hope to meet her some day? (If you haven’t already)
AH: I’ve not met her, and we probably don’t have that much in common right now, since she’s six years old. But when she’s a grown-up, sure. Like many people, I’m very curious what her life is really like!
TC: Tell me one thing about yourself that people would be surprised by.
AH: Probably that I love kids and think they’re hilarious, even if they wear clothes from Target.
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Will it feel the same when you tell me you love me over the phone? Will the peacefulness of those words still floor me from thousands of miles away?
I was conflicted. It felt like one eye was trying to look away while the other soaked it up. I felt the heat rise in my face. This was wrong. But it didn’t feel wrong.
Any nervous flyer knows the progression of descending panic: bile, sweaty palms, social awkwardness and self-induced sedation.
I know how it feels when the weight of darkness crashes down onto your chest in the middle of the night, and how you wish things would stop spinning because the axis seems tilted now. I know, love, I know.