I was lucky enough to snag a free copy of Kendra Wilkinson’s memoir, Sliding into Home. After two semesters of reading nothing but sociological studies and gay literary fiction, I needed a healthy dose of ghost written celebrity memoirs. Boy, did Kendra deliver! She brought the expected gossip—orgies, dirt on Holly, and episode after episode of drug use—and also the unexpected self-portrait of an honest, hard working individual—the type of individual that makes memoirs like Angela’s Ashes classics. (Not that this will be a classic. The second her fifteen minutes—or fifteen hours—finally fucking end this book is hitting the Strand discount box.)
In retrospect, I should have expected this portrait. After watching Kendra on television for seven years (yes, we have been watching Kendra and the other “girls next door” for seven fucking years), I should have known that Kendra doesn’t fool anyone. She is what she is. If you don’t like what she is, she’ll tell you to fuck yourself… actually, she’ll just laugh in your face, flash you, and then get into a fight with Hank.
There’s a long history of feminists criticizing and praising Hugh Hefner and the Playboy brand. Some say porn demeans women. Others believe Playboy’s classy and can lead to career opportunities. Some essayists write that Hugh’s a polygamist who really loves women. I’m sure you know the drill, and I have no desire to bore you with a gender studies interpretation of Sliding Into Home. First of all, it’s a celebrity memoir made to entertain. This is Kendra, not Bob Dylan. Secondly, Kendra lived by her own rules. Yes, she shared a boyfriend with two girls and was not allowed to have multiple partners. Yes, she flashed her booty. Yes, she’s not Hillary Clinton, and that’s my point.
She is nobody except Kendra Wilkinson. While this means she’s clumsy and that she apparently can’t grocery shop (Oh, the pilot episode of Kendra! How I love you!), it doesn’t mean she has no self-awareness. In fact, she has a complicated view of her identity. (I think I just started writing a gender studies interpretation of a celebrity memoir. Oh, well!) As she says multiple times, she enjoys to party but also sees the “Kendra Wilkinson” role is a job. She plays up her clumsiness for TV. When she started dating Hank, she carried on flashing audiences even though he asked her not to, because she knew her fans expected to see her titties. At times it looks like she got naked and dated “Hef” for the money, but she never put herself in situations that made her uncomfortable. She had multiple arguments with Hef about wearing the bunny suit. “I am not… a bunny,” she writes. She’s a sporty girl, not Holly. Yet at the start she still sleeps with the man for cash. But anyways, what’s more demeaning: minimum wage or fifteen grand to give a bj?
It’s unfair to judge a girl for getting down and dirty on a stage when she’s a party animal at heart. (Probably, a socially constructed party animal, but a party animal nonetheless.) The New York Times and parent organizations love to rip starlets to shred, but when did Kendra call herself a role model? She has virtues and rules; those rules just happen to be her rules instead of the morality police’s. Do I share her lifestyle? No, but does that doesn’t make Kendra or her memoir immoral. Kendra plays the Kendra role by her own rules, gaining her own fortune and independence, without selling out and wearing a bunny costume. She’s an independent woman who could care less what you think of her. Isn’t that what all teachers and parents want their student and children to grow up to be?