SL: What inspired you to write the book?
AK: I worked in fashion photography in Hollywood for seven years, and I’ve witnessed some crazy behavior. I’ve been that girl on set in flip flops alongside my boss and a movie star, and all of a sudden they’d say, “Let’s go to Vegas for the weekend!” Meanwhile, I’m in denim cut-offs!
SL: So, your boss really did make you go to Vegas?
AK: Yeah, there are so many things in the book that really happened, but not necessarily with one job. I combined seven years of different people I worked for into one story, but those things did truly happen to me and I’d tell my friends and family. They’d say, “Your life is not real life. Your life is a movie, it’s a book. It’s something that just doesn’t happen to normal people.”
We always joked about that. Then, as people do, I was pushed and pushed and pushed to the edge when I finally just broke. I couldn’t take it anymore and needed to get out of LA. My best friend had moved out of state with her husband, and they told me to come stay with them for awhile and take a break, so I went. My self-esteem was down, I was so devastated. I had sort of a similar situation that Lucy (the main character) had in the very end with Isabella, and I was at the bottom of the barrel of sadness.
My friend Lindsay suggested that I write a letter of sorts to get things off my chest, never with the intention of showing it to anyone. She said, “You have so much in your heart, and you’re so sad. Why don’t you write it all down? Look at it on paper and decide how you feel, how you’re going to move forward. And then we’ll go in the backyard and you’ll burn it, and we’ll start all over again and you’ll only work with a certain caliber of people. You won’t let yourself fall into these situations.”
I thought that was such a great idea, and so I wrote it all down, and had fun with it. And the more I wrote about the things that made me really sad, and things I was so upset about, the more I realized that they were funny. I was able to step outside myself, and I made it about this girl named Lucy. I sort of got carried away, and before I knew it, I had a story. I showed it to my friend, and she said “We can’t burn this because it’s awesome.” and I said, “really?” And she said, “You’ve got to do something about this. You’re really good.”
SL: People who don’t live in Los Angeles or New York may have a hard time believing that this behavior exists.
AK: It’s funny because the reactions I get outside of LA or New York are basically that. People say, “This story is just so outrageous.” Then people I talk to from LA say, “Oh, yeah. I see that every day.” It all sounds so outrageous, but that’s the way it is.
SL: A lot of young girls are so eager to break into fashion, PR and other seemingly glamorous fields, like Lucy did.
AK: Yeah, and this is more of a “cautionary tale” than a “warning.” Somebody asked me at my reading the other night, “If you were to meet Lucy before she entered Hollywood, what advice would you give her?” It would be the same advice that I’d love to give myself when I was 21. Separate your work from your play. Separate business from personal. If you’re going to go work for this big fashion photographer, at the end of the day when your job is done, go home to your friends. Go see your family. Shut off that part of your life. You did your job, now go somewhere else.
SL: Did your parents feel the same way about your lifestyle as Lucy’s did?
AK: Up until a week ago, my parents always asked, “What are you doing with you life?” The dedication page in my book came directly from my mother. (“Don’t count on this book happening. Get a real job,” Kingsley mother was quoted as saying).
I would go home to Seattle, where my friends are doctors, lawyers or work at Microsoft. They were really making it conventionally, and they have 401Ks and insurance. I was running around Hollywood and living on a prayer, paycheck to paycheck. My life looked very glamorous from an outsider looking in, but really it was very unstable. I never had insurance, and I never had savings. I’d go home and people would treat me like I was some kind of rockstar when I was looking at them like, “Wow, they really did it. They’re rockstars. They got their masters.”
SL: Would you say that you’re in a better place these days?
AK: Yes. It’s been years since I’ve been in that situation.
It’s weird, because once you start hanging out with celebrities and are treated like “one of them,” you start thinking, “Well I am like one of them.” It’s very intoxicating and you sort of just get used to it. It’s very bizarre.
SL: Are you still a photographer?
AK: I am, for fun. Photography is where my heart is and most of my friends still work in the photo industry. A really good friend of mine is a producer and I’ll tell her when I’m getting the itch and want to be on set, then she’ll hire me to PA or something for the day. I absolutely love it.
SL: Would you ever put the photos you’ve taken over the years on display like Lucy did? Perhaps in a coffee table book?
AK: Oh my Gosh. That would be a lawsuit! (laughs) Could you imagine? Yeah, Lucy wouldn’t have made it that far in the real world because I’m quite sure those photos would have been taken down right away.
SL: How did you end up collaborating with celebrity stylist Robert Verdi?
AK: My favorite show in the whole world is Sex and The City. Every moment of your life can be related to it. What I love about that show is how the city is a character in its own right; it was a co-star.
When I wrote this, I wanted it to be about materialism and how it takes over your life, I decided that I wanted the wardrobe to be the fifth character, like New York was in Sex And The City. I love fashion, but I am by no means a fashion expert, so I knew that in order to give the wardrobe an A-List feeling, I had to bring in a professional stylist. I needed someone who knew fashion and could create styles and looks for these characters, and really run with it.
I created a list of my top five favorite stylists, then I met Robert Verdi briefly just fell in love with him. I thought “If I’m going to be stuck on a book tour with someone, I want it to be him.” And so I stalked him. He was on board right away, and he was so awesome. We sat down for six hours the first time we met, and we went through all the characters in the book. Verdi wanted to dig deep and know where the characters were from, what did they study? Then he created a style based on that. He then went through the entire book, and we would sit there in front of our computers, and he would match up the scene with what the character would wear. He’d google an image, I would describe it in the book, then we would move on. It was so much fun, and it really gave the book so much life. And it’s the first time it’s ever been done. It’s my favorite thing about the whole book. It’s just the best.
SL: What’s next?
AK: There are some cool projects in the works that are a dream come true (can’t talk about them just yet), and I also a nation-wide book tour.
SL: Any noteworthy celebs you’ve worked with?
I worked with Jennifer Lopez. It was surprising, because she has this bad reputation, but she was one of my most favorite people to work with. She was the nicest person; so warm and so lovely. I expected the worst, and I braced myself. She offered to get me water.
AK: Emma Stone was so adorable. She makes everybody cupcakes and brownies, and makes us all really fat (laughs). She’s a seriously talented baker, and you cannot turn down her sweets.
Josh Groban is the nicest, funniest, most amazing person. He’s like the big brother you always wanted.
There are really good people out there. You just don’t hear about the good stuff.
Oh, and did we tell you we’re giving away a copy of Kingsley’s book to one lucky reader? To enter, email firstname.lastname@example.org with a horrible job story. All entries must be received by September 16th @ 11:59pm PT.
Photo by Duane Fernandez.