The web during the pandemic is like a dinner party gone on too long. Guests are drunk and rowdy, and airing dirty laundry. It’s good news for us—celebrity gossip, in late-stage pandemic, has started coming straight from the source. Robbed of the human right to be photographed on red carpets, celebrities are suddenly revealing what they have been trained to never reveal—their actual thoughts and opinions.
We’re used to the coy little compliments celebs dole out when asked about each other in interviews. Major gossipy moments—see: Mariah “I Don’t Know Her” Carey, the Kim-Taylor snake emoji debacle, and John Mayer simply comparing himself to a white supremacist—are special occasions, like a rare comet, or a new Lorde album.
But recently celebrities have started talking shit. It’s as if they keep getting caught on hot mics, except they’re doing it on purpose. It’s fairly harmless—and very fun.
On the podcast Armchair Expert, Rachel Bilson told host Dax Shepard a fascinating, revealing story about how Rami Malek once asked her to take down a funny TBT pic of the two of them. She told the story in detail—quoting the back-and-forth with Malek and citing their mutual friend’s opinion that the ask was part of Malek’s Oscar campaign. She apologized, she told Shepard, but never heard back. It’s the kind of insular, Hollywood story you just know Malek and his team thought Bilson would keep between the two stars. It doesn’t particularly flatter either of them, except that it’s endearing that Bilson chose to share it with the general public. It’s not some big scandal. It’s just juicy.
Just one degree away from Bilson, and also on a podcast, Adam Brody casually told Unqualified host Anna Faris that when he met his wife, Leighton Meester, he “just kind of assumed” she wasn’t a good person. We so rarely hear media-trained major celebs saying the quiet part out loud like this! It is hard to imagine the star of a hit TV show about spoiled rich kids would be a good person. But also—Brody was the star of a TV show about spoiled rich kids too, so wasn’t his assumption hypocritical? And what does this mean for his opinion about his and Meester’s former costars? Again, it’s not a story that really flatters anyone. But it’s compelling!
And in a recent Instagram promotional video for the dating app Bumble, Serena Williams told the camera, “Marriage is not bliss.” It’s a pretty anodyne statement, but it’s a huge departure from the rose-gold, First Family of Pop Culture image Williams and her husband, Alexis Ohanian, usually project. When the interview inevitably spawned headlines like, “Serena Williams Admits Alexis Ohanian Marriage Is Not Bliss,” Ohanian doubled down.
“People gotta be more honest about how marriage isn’t bliss without work,” he wrote on Twitter. “I think it’s even more work when it’s interracial marriage (and most of the time it’s on me, tbh). We need more sunlight these days, not less. Appreciate S for leading per usual.” Okay, this story casts them both in a fairly gracious light. But it’s also much more revealing than it has to be. Usually, if a celebrity couple tells us their relationship is perfect, we believe it. We want so badly to see celebrities as gods. It’s thrilling when they openly admit they are not.
A lot of the celebrity gossip in this recent, revealing news cycle isn’t negative, just juicy. Iggy Azealea made a TikTok video, bragging that accounts with tens of millions of followers—she covered up the names—slide into her DMs. Asked about his ex Jennifer Lopez, Ben Affleck extolled her looks (“Where are you keeping the fountain of youth?”) and her work ethic. On a more serious note, Kate Winslet said in an interview this week that she knows a number of celebrities who are concealing their sexuality for fear of losing out on roles. “I can think of at least four actors absolutely hiding their sexuality,” she said. “It’s painful.” There is a level of candor happening that just isn’t typical.
In the early days of the pandemic, celebs joked they were falling apart. They made kooky little videos, with the let’s-put-on-a-show energy of high school theater kids dealing with a canceled spring musical. They acted out bored-ness, angling their Insta stories and TikToks just so, so we wouldn’t spot their cooks, their childcare workers, the magnificent expanses of their homes. They showed off baths the size of Hummer limousines. They did their best to disguise the fact that they were not threatened by poverty, trapped in small spaces, forced into unsafe working conditions, or terrorized by the prospect of losing access to health care, like other Americans. Maybe this change is because as we inch closer to mass vaccination, celebrities are, at last, genuinely, deeply bored.
Or maybe it’s because our relationship with celebrity culture has never been more tenuous. An industry of influencers threatens the standard of celebrities who start as actors, athletes, and models. Influencers get fame from exposure, not from exclusivity. While an actress might share her skin-care routine, an influencer will show you exactly how she cleans her toilet. It could be that more stars have realized their currency isn’t just their looks and talent; it’s their access to other famous people.
It’s also no longer possible for celebrities to assume their positions are eternal. Armie Hammer was an A-list heartthrob in giant blockbusters. Now, after serious accusations of sexual abuse and rumors that he identifies as a “cannibal,” his career seems finished. New York governor Andrew Cuomo, who emerged as a kind of father figure / heartthrob / Moses early in the pandemic, has since been unmasked, accused of sexual misconduct by a growing group of women, many of whom are former employees. The walls of the old boys club that protected many celebrities from needing to know the meaning of the word consequences, have been breached.
Or maybe celebrities are just trying to stay relevant. Awards shows are much more subdued, premieres are stalled, and no one knows if they’re starring in the next Queen’s Gambit or in a movie people will half-watch while scrolling on Instagram. In any case, it’s an exciting time for those of us who feel the most alive when we hear gossip.
As celebs tire of hopping between mansions, generating passive income, and covering up evidence of international travels, here’s hoping they keep the tea coming.
Jenny Singer is a staff writer for Glamour. You can follow her on Twitter.
Originally Appeared on Glamour
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