Sunday, May 29, 2011
Elizabeth Berkley: An Interview with a Goddess
Elizabeth Berkley did something quite rare with her career. After being viciously attacked in every which way possible for her performance in the legendary film Showgirls, Berkley kept on, taking on challenges roles on screen and on stage, and more recent, creating a forum for young women to discuss their everyday issues, thus, Ask Elizabeth was born. The forum became a website, then upon request, a book.
A lot of her pain from the reaction to the film Showgirls went into Ask Elizabeth, a book penned by Elizabeth with the aide of young girls talking about real issues. The pages are filled with stories and advice that is directed toward young women, but could easily assist in the lives of any gay man as well. Ask Elizabeth deals with bullies, body image, friends, family, drama (something gays know nothing about) and much more.
Showgirls may have taught us how to land a spot in Goddess, how to watch our figure (brown rice and vegetables), and the proper pronunciation of Versace (“Ver-sase” ), but the newest project of Berkley ’s teaches us how to survive in the real world. From Saved by the Bell to Ask Elizabeth, Berkley has, and always will be, a goddess.
Eric Chavez: First of all, I would love to congratulate you on the success of the book. It’s an amazing piece of work. I’m a male, but I can understand everything you discuss in your book, from bullies to body image. I think that the book, aside from a few things, could be for both sexes.
Elizabeth Berkley: Yeah, it’s funny because the teachers have told me that the boys have been reading it too in discussion groups at school, which is so cool to me that it’s opening up that dialogue.
EC: Definitely. Now in the book, you discuss how people have criticized you in the past, and how one time a journalist even called you a “failure.” When I read that, my heart just dropped! I couldn’t believe it!
EB: It was real! I’m being honest. I mean people say awful things. No one goes unscaved, we all go through things. We just can’t let people’s nasty words become our beliefs about ourselves, you know?
EC: You know what, though? Maybe without that past, there might not have been an Ask Elizabeth book or website.
EB: You’re probably right. I may not have had the same level of desire to be of service in this area. I think often times when people choose to be part of a charity; it’s usually because something is very personal.
EC: Now that the book’s out and a success, is there still a television show planned in conjunction to the book?
EB: There are some tv ideas now that I’m exploring that could be a really powerful platform. It would just have to be different from what I’m doing because no one will want to watch a two hour workshop! I can’t wait to show it to you and share it. My original intention was to help the girls in an interactive way to give them a form to feel safe enough to ask the questions that they might feel alone in. For a long time they were asking me to create a website, but it’s not a real meaningful connection, it’s just sound bites, and so the girls asked me to make a book. I was so excited, so that’s why I took 15 of the most asked questions to create the book.
EC: You know, It’s hard growing up, period. This book doesn’t have one single answer, but it deals with issues that no one else really is, and the thing about it, because you’re a celebrity, people might see you in a movie and be like, “I like her, so I’m going to check this out. “ But I was shocked to see some bloggers show some disrespect to the book when it was originally announced to come out because it contains the writings from these young girls.
EB: For people, Ask Elizabeth has been such a private journey between me and the girls and their schools, until people understand, well first of all, I don’t care about people like that anyway, because they were not informed on what Ask Elizabeth is. Ask Elizabeth is a community of voices, it’s not me standing on a podium telling people how to run their lives, it’s girls helping each other sharing their wisdom and advice and I create a space for them to do it. So, there couldn’t be an Ask Elizabeth without their voices, just like I have a column on Oprah's website where it’s moms asking question, but it’s me and the girls answering. It’s not a celeb-vanity project.
EC: I know! In so many ways you are going to help girls and boys so much in the future. I don’t even know why they would hate on that! Speaking of that, I’ve always admired you because after Showgirls, and all the criticism, the unfair criticism, mind you, you carried that film brilliantly and no one else could have! I’m waiting for another vehicle starring you. You made Showgirls work. I mean that’s why it’s a cult film. I mean people don’t just love it or like that movie, they adore it! And I’m one of them! You made that movie magical.
EB: Thank you so much! I really appreciate what you’re saying, thank you so much for acknowledging me like that; it’s really beautiful to hear that from you. It is funny; I mean if that movie was so bad, why didn’t it die on the movie shelf? Clearly, there was something to it. It’s one of the top MGM top selling videos of all time, and people are watching it. It’s a cult classic now! I’m really looking forward to taking what I have become to really sink my teeth into a really juicy role or a comedy, I love doing comedies. I’m ready to step into that really good kind of role that you’re talking about, so we’ll both be excited at that moment.
EC: I once tweeted Cher, telling her she should do a movie with you! She never replied, but hopefully she saw that and has that in mind.
EB: I love her! I love her. That would be genius!
EC: Speaking of Showgirls, did you know there are people on Facebook who have created “Nomi Malone” profiles, and they quote your character in the film, or just take the character and run with it? It’s the funniest thing, they even have the Human Resources lady from the movie, that you have a one-minute interview with, she even has a Facebook page!
EB: (Laughs) I can’t wait to check it out.
EC: My next question is, for you, you’ve done so many amazing films and television shows, but if there were one movie or tv show in a time capsule to represent your talent the best for the future, what would it be?
EB: I think that I’m getting ready to do that one, I don’t there is one I would put in a time capsule yet. There are things I’m so proud of, but also, you know it’s so hard when you’re creative, I mean as a writer, yourself, when you see an article you wrote, there’s always something after the fact you wanna do better, or when you grow you can’t but look back and think “oh I wish I could do it again” but you can’t. So it’s hard for me to say that, because of my own personal growth, I wanna explore something new. I mean there moments I am proud of or experiences I take with me like working with Al Pacino or the great ladies of First Wives Club or working with Woody Allen. So those are amazing memories so me, but in terms of a full arch of a character, I am looking forward to that particular thing that makes me go “oh my god!” that represents what I can really do. I don’t think people have seen yet what I can really do. Only appetizers!
EC: I can’t wait for this film you’re talking about!
EB: I’m excited too! The last two years, this [book] has been my baby! It needed so much care and devotion. It was like being in labor for the past two years. Like this year I had to pass on a few things, including a Broadway show, to put this book out properly, which thankfully, I’m sure you’ve done your research because I can tell you’ve put a lot of care into this interview, I mean the fact that it’s number two on the New York Times Best Sellers List and the fact that it’s getting in the hands of all the girls who need it, and the meaningful connections I’m making in every city. I’m glad I’m able to be present for it, because it would have been sad to put it out in any other way.
EC: I hope that there is no critic that there that is bashing this book. I mean you deserve the critical acclaim. I mean this book is a beautiful thing, it isn’t trashy, you are out there helping these girls. It’s a positive thing.
EB: No! This has been received in such a beautiful way. It felt like a big hug! Even some of my guy friends have said, “oh my god, I need to be reminded of this.” It’s like we all have an adolescent girl in all of us. We’ve all been there. It’s just a lot of the issues are universal. And it’s the truth; I’m not pretending where everything is perfect and tied up in a pretty bow. There are times when we’re gonna have really great highs and lows, but what’s the choice what are we gonna do in those moments? Are we gonna be a victim, or are we gonna feel the feelings that have value and take action to change our situation, if we can.
Elizabeth Berkley's book "Ask Elizabeth" is currently on the New York Times Best Sellers List.