Books by celebrities, especially memoirs, can sometimes be a gamble. You pick them up in the bookstore and fan through the pages, wondering, is it going to be an overly self-indulgent trip down memory lane? Is it going to be some grandiose, out of proportion version of the truth? Is it going to divulge quickly into a he-said, she-said Hollywood tell-all?
But in Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me, Lily Collins circumvents all of that and manages to deliver what is simply an honest and heartfelt collection of essays that could have been penned by your best friend or the quintessential girl next door as much as they could have been by a beautiful film star like Lily. Instead of a scandal laden memoir or a tragic cry for pity, Lily makes you feel like you’re chatting with someone who just gets you, and who gets life—in as much as anyone can get life. Through chatting about bad relationships, good memories, and quinoa chocolate chip cookies, Lily manages to do what so many stars in our day fight tooth and nail against doing; she reminds you that she’s one of us.
In large part, she does this by being not just an actress, but also an accomplished writer. Many people look at Lily Collins and see Clary Fray from The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (in which she killed it, I might add), Snow White from Mirror Mirror, or maybe even “the daughter of Phil Collins”. But in reality, Lily has been pursuing career level writing since she was a teenager, writing freelance for teen magazines and even working as a contributing editor for the Los Angeles Times Magazine, an experience which she recounts in her book. As a teenager who consumed glossy magazines like I was downright ravenous, I clearly remember reading Lily’s “LA Confidential” column in the trendy publication ElleGirl and thinking she was just about the coolest chick on the planet for being about my age and already having her own column. In Unfiltered, Collins reminds me that she is still just about the coolest chick on the planet, and proves that her writing experience is being put to good use, spreading positive messages and wisdom-beyond-her-age to women all over the world.
So with that, I give you: the five most meaningful things I took away from Unfiltered.
1. “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.”
So this is actually a quote from Maya Angelou, but admittedly, I hadn’t heard it before reading Lily’s book. In a discussion about abusive and unhealthy relationships, she shares an experience in which she was speaking with a friend about what was going on in her life, and he shared this quote with her. When I read that, it hit me upside the head like a brick. When someone shows you who they are….believe them. Damn. It’s so simple, and yet it’s so powerful. There have been so many times in my life when people have clearly shown me who they are—I mean crystal clear—and I have either given them the benefit of the doubt, convinced myself they could change, or somehow talked myself into believing that that wasn’t who they really were. That they were concealing a different, better version of themselves. But you know what? There wasn’t. There wasn’t any better version of them. They really were the image they put forth; they really were the people they showed me. It was up to me to believe them, and maybe if I had believed it the first time, I could have spared myself a lot of pain and trouble. But reading this particular chapter in Unfiltered was especially helpful for me, because it reminded me that I’m not the only one who has made the mistake of looking past the person I’ve been showing, of hoping for something more. Hopefully from now on, both Lily Collins and I can remember to believe them.
2. Sometimes doors are opened for you–and sometimes you have to kick them down.
At one point in her book, Lily talks about how everything happens for a reason, how the events in our lives can lead us down different paths and even if we might not see it at the time, perhaps a certain door closed because another one was meant to open. But I think what I took away from this book more so than that is that this girl just never stops opening doors. Sometimes in her life, one door closed so that another one could open and she could pursue a different dream, as she details in chapter 16. But sometimes, it really seemed to be like Lily was just going around kicking down those doors. Metaphorically, of course. Well, maybe she was literally kicking in doors, but she didn’t mention it. (Can’t you just imagine it? Firey little Lily Collins kicking in the door to a boardroom and marching in to tell some stuffed shirts what the hell is up?) She talks about walking into boardroom after boardroom pitching ideas for a talk show, and about pulling the phone numbers from the backs of magazines and cold-calling them asking to speak with editors so that she could pitch ideas for her column. I mean, that might not seem like a big deal to some, but that takes some serious balls (so to speak) to cold-call anyone, let alone an editor of a major publication. And at fifteen years old, no less. She says, “I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain.” And don’t we all? Don’t we all have everything to gain? I don’t know about you, but to me, it was really inspiring.
Definitely makes me want to go to start kicking down some doors.
3. Keep using your voice.
As a writer myself, I found Unfiltered relatable and inspirational in the sense that it felt like one writer speaking to another writer, rather than one celebrity lecturing down to one average, non-famous citizen, the way some books can come across. This sense of a writer-to-writer conversation was much more impactful for me, and one of my favorite things was when Lily says, “And, who knows, you too may already serve as a huge inspiration for someone. So keep using your voice, honoring your past, owing your story, and making new experiences to add to it…The more colorful your story, the more colorful your life.”
While this wisdom can be interpreted in a couple of ways, one being more literally in terms of writing and another being more metaphorically in terms of life, I took it more to heart in terms of writing. Writing can be a lonely, solitary, rejection-filled, and sometimes disheartening career choice, and while I’d never give it up because it is what I love most in the world, it helps to come across some encouraging words now and then, and that’s what these were for me. These words encouraged me to keep trying, to keep writing, and to keep using my voice. Maybe only one person is listening. Hell, maybe no one is listening. But like she says, it’s my story to own, and it’s my voice to use. What am I going to do with it if I don’t use it?
4. We can fix things with our dads.
I know, this is remarkably specific. It’s an oddly specific action phrase. But then again, is it? Our parents play such a vital role in our lives and the way we grow up, how we turn out, whether they’re a big part of our lives or not—or maybe because they are a big part of our lives or because they are not. Either way, parent-child relationships can be complicated, and that’s putting it lightly. In chapter 9, “A Letter to All Dads”, Lily talks about her sometimes rocky relationship with her own father, and reminds readers that “we must let them know how much we still need them and how it’s never too late to right wrongs or change patterns. It can get better for the both of us.”
And talk about things hitting me upside the head like a brick. This particular chapter was an arrow straight through my heart, and by the time I got to the end of the letter she includes in this chapter, I was basically ugly crying into page 102.
But suffice it to say, this is one bit of advice that I took very much to heart, and which spoke very specifically to my own life. If you already have a perfect relationship with your dad, and it couldn’t possibly get any better, good for you. That’s amazing. But if you have wounds to heal and burnt bridges to rebuild, Lily’s book will make you feel just a little bit less alone in that.
5. Everyone’s quirkiness manifests itself in different ways.
In Unfiltered, Lily talks about being quirky and different several times, especially in chapter one when she talks about how what makes us quirky makes us beautiful, and in chapter eight when she literally just lists a bunch of things that bring her joy that others may not understand. And as someone who the majority of the time feels like a giant weirdo, it’s nice to get a reminder that the people we often see portrayed via media as these beautiful people who seem to be legitimately unattainable levels of flawlessness are actually….just as freaking weird as we are. And that’s awesome. So many people nowadays want to act like they are perfect or some level of untouchable cool that makes them practically frigid, when in reality, we all have our own ways of being weird. While Lily is an extrovert and I’m much more of an introvert, at least we are both being ourselves, and it’s good every now and then to get a reminder that if you feel like a weirdo, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’re all weirdos. Some of us are just famous weirdos.
So what about everyone else? Has anyone else read Unfiltered yet? And what did you think were the best takeaways from it? Let me know in the comments below. You know I’d love to talk! <3