Lainey Gossip: Celebrity Fandom Goes Professional
by Anne Helen Petersen — Whitman College
June 14, 2010 – 00:02
Over the last decade, Elaine "Lainey" Lui has risen through the ranks of the professional gossip world. Initially, she emailed her celebrity musings to a select group of friends; the audience grew exponentially, prompting the creation of her gossip blog Laineygossip.com. In 2006, Lui, a native of Toronto, was hired as a gossip correspondent for CTV’s eTalk; she has since reported from The Oscars, Sundance, and Cannes, mixing with the very celebrities about whom she has written.
Lainey plays favorites, gushing over the rotating members of her Freebie Five, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brangelina, the list goes on. Preferential treatment is nothing new: Louella Parsons, Hedda Hopper, and Walter Winchell all had "teacher’s pets." If you supplied Louella Parsons with scoops, she would reciprocate with preferential coverage. If you lied, her wrath would have no bounds. Parsons and Hopper were imbricated in the Hollywood scene; Winchell had a reserved table within the New York ‘cafe society.’ While Lainey brushes elbows with the stars on the red carpet, she is neither their confidant nor friend. Rather, she’s a fan — a fan who has parlayed her devotion and affection to a place of privileged interaction.
Here, Lainey reports on her first-hand experience at Cannes, emphasizing her proximity to the action with quips like "I was waiting in line behind Diane Lane….." Between taping such segments for eTalk, Lainey frequently updated her blog, including the following concerning an encounter with perennial favorite Ryan Gosling:
….But it’s the way he looks at anyone he’s paying attention to. You get ALL his focus. When he speaks to you, and when he listens to you, you are the only thing that matters in his life at that moment….I watched them walk away from us towards the other side of the palais. His gait, his pants, I can replay it all day in my mind.
Lainey the Fan became Lainey the Professional Gossip through the use of new media technologies: email, linking, rudimentary blogging software. What does her ability to realize the "dream" of fandom — and the general rise of celebrity gossip blogging — say about the current line between fan and celebrity, between amateur and professional, between gossip and journalism?
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