“For anyone who’s ever felt different or felt unloved, or felt like an outsider or even been bullied...you are not alone.” — tagline from Ashley Jude Collie’s rousing dystopian novel, REJEX.
“I guess I’ve always felt like an outsider: someone who doesn’t quite belong anywhere. And I still feel like that lost, interracial child who had a lot of nerve to believe I can succeed at anything at all in this world.” — superstar singer Mariah Carey on receiving her recent Billboard Icon award
I’m reciting REJEX’s tagline to myself as I stroll along the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a walk I do daily to my gym, stepping over the five-pointed terrazzo and brass stars on the pavement, permanent homage to stars past and present. But do something noteworthy and you just may get a star including musicians, actors, directors, producers, musical and theatrical groups, fictional characters and even Lassie the dog!
It’s estimated 10 million visitors from around the world grab selfies next to these stars and look on in awe. They’re all here, over 2600 of them—Chaplin, Bogart, The Duke, Marilyn, The Beatles, and Michael Jackson to contemporary stars like Lady Gaga. The first stars were placed in 1960, and the legend goes that Joanne Woodward, who was married to fellow actor Paul Newman, was the first to pose with her star for photographers.
Anyway, having interviewed some legendary Hollywood stars (Jane Fonda, Anthony Hopkins, Marvel’s Stan Lee) and many contemporary stars, it brought to mind how many of them admit that growing up they felt like they looked gawky or ugly, that they felt like outsiders and were alienated, or were even bullied. Very much like the “rejex” and group of “outsiders” in my novel REJEX—if they don’t conform and fit in, they’re cast out to the island of Geto where they are to be forgotten.
But the challenge of growing up on Geto, seems similar to the challenge that many “creatives” face in Hollywood, bravely dealing with the adversity of making yourself stand out. In fact, the trials, tribulations, highs and lows of the entertainment industry seem to focus and inspire these creatives. Of course, the truth is that many outsiders in Hollywood do not succeed, but here are some quotes from those who have, several of whom I’ve interviewed in my own time in Hollywood.
•Steven Spielberg, multiple Oscar winning, megastar director
"I was a nerd (back in school). Outsider, like the kid that played the clarinet in the band and in orchestra, which I did."
•Lady Gaga, superstar singer and actor
"I always got it thrown at me. Being teased for being ugly, having a big nose, being annoying. 'Your laugh is funny, you're weird, why do you always sing, why are you so into theater, why do you do your make-up like that?'"
•Taylor Swift, multiple Grammy winning singer
"The reason I started writing songs was because I was alone a lot of the time. I'd sit there in school and I'd be hearing people like, ‘Wow, this party that we're going to is gonna be so awesome on Friday. Everyone's invited except for [me].’ “
•Christian Bale, Oscar winning actor
"I took a beating from several boys for years. They put me through hell, punching and kicking me all the time."
•Zac Effron, former Disney channel heartthrob
"Growing up was hell. I was a geek, I was into musical theater, which isn’t perceived as the coolest thing. There were guys who were 6’ 1” with beards and big muscles and I was a gawky 17-year-old, a skinny, awkward kid.”
•Cameron Diaz, actress, author, producer and fashion model
"When I was high school, I was a total goon! All the kids used to make fun of me. I was like all skinny and gangly and guys were like no thank you."
•Jennifer Garner, superstar and supermom
“I was a real nerd. I wasn’t the popular one, I was one of those girls on the edge of the group. I never wore the right clothes and I had a kind of natural geekiness. I was in the school band and I think that has a bit of a stigma at the age of 13. If you’d asked me what I wanted to be, I would have said something like a librarian.”
For those creatives reading this who have eyes on a career in the entertainment business, take heart, you can overcome personal challenges if you persevere, are brave, and create some luck.
Just like my characters on Geto, the ones who were cast out, who band together to take on their oppressors, and ensure that like the people who have their stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, they overcome adversity to ensure they will not be forgotten.
Ashley Jude Collie’s dystopian novel, REJEX, is available on Amazon from America and Canada, to the UK, and in Europe in countries like Netherlands, all the way to Australia. Get your digital e-book copy of REJEX for about a Buck or a Quid or a Euro. For anyone who’s ever felt like an outsider...
Ashley is an award-winning journalist/author/blogger who has written for Playboy, Toronto Star, Movie Entertainment, Sports Illustrated, Maclean's and others. He's interviewed various "leaders" in their fields, including: Oscar winners (Matthew McConaughey, Jennifer Lawrence, Alicia Vikander, Jane Fonda, Mira Sorvino, Geena Davis, Anthony Hopkins); Grammy winners (Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Ice Cube, Pete Townshend); MVPs in sports (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, Kobe Bryant); and, business leaders (Amazon's Jeff Bezos). He has an upcoming novel, REJEX, coming out on Pulp Hero Press. And he has written several episodic TV shows, appeared on CNN, and blogged for Mademan, Medium, GritDaily and HuffPost.