One of our former contributors, Julia Allison, is now on a Bravo Reality Television Show called Miss Advised. The Emma-Esque premise follows a group of three women in the dating advice industry (relationship columnist Julia Allison, matchmaker Amy Laurent and talk show host Emily Morse) on their search to find love. You can watch the trailer here or tune in when it airs at 10/9c tonight.
Now, I’m no Austen fan, but it sounds cute.
That said, when we heard about it, our first question was why? Why would anyone want to be on a reality television show? So we talked to Julia about it. That and her 73 point dating checklist.
TheGloss: Why would anyone want to be on reality television?
Julia: For many years, until I left New York, really, I did very much want to have my own show. As with most things, I got the thing I wanted most when I stopped wanting it.
When I was a junior in college, Aaron Spelling TV optioned the rights to my Georgetown dating column to make it into a (fictional) show. That project fell through, but I always hoped that one day I would have an opportunity to create some sort of television project. So, as I continued in my writing career, I did a series of pilots – one for E! (as a news host), one for Oxygen (where I was a judge for a style competition), two others for BRAVO (one was a docu-series about my business, NonSociety, the other, a late night talk show panel) before this one stuck.
I was initially ambivalent about this show. I felt like I had gone through the media ringer in New York, and I had just moved back home to Chicago to get away from that nonsense. I wasn’t sure I wanted to go down that route nationally. Earlier that year (2011) I began writing a weekly internationally syndicated technology & social media column for Tribune Media Services, so I felt far away from the entertainment business and the snarky NY media clique, and I rather liked it that way. But I also wanted to … well, I wanted to finish what I started, so to speak. I had literally written down “get a television show” on my List of Goals when I was 20. I wanted to check it off that list – a decade later.
Also, I’m an experience junkie. I had done enough television as a commentator by that point (hundreds of segments on cable news shows and morning shows) so I suspected I knew what filming a documentary series would entail, but I wanted to see for myself. I was wrong, by the way – it was exponentially more difficult emotionally than I thought it would be.
Do you see this as a stepping stone to a larger goal?
Well … I don’t really know. I’m just appreciating the culmination of a decade-long goal right now, and almost two years of work on this particular project. I think for the first time in my life I’m following the advice I had tattooed on the back of my wrist to honor my beloved Grandmother (who repeated the aphorism to me often, but would have been horrified the idea of a tattoo): LIU – Let it unfold.
I do know I will write a book. But I didn’t need the show to do that. I needed the balls.
Is there any way to prepare to be on Reality TV?
Yes and no. Before we began, I set all sorts of rules for myself: “I will not discuss sex! I will not have even a sip of wine on camera! I will never lose control!” Right. Well, all of that s–t went out the window within about 6 hours.
What I didn’t do? Lose any weight. I am 5’4″ and 138 pounds, and all of that (mostly my ass) shows up on camera. Well. That’s just the way it goes. Maybe I should have, I don’t know. But I didn’t. I also didn’t purchase as many items of fashionable clothing as I perhaps should have … oops? I only realized about halfway through the first episode that there’s a REASON no one wears Lululemon, American Apparel and Uggs on TV. You look like crap. Or, more accurately, I look like crap. But again, what’s done is done. I guess I can take solace in the fact that when I moved across the country (which I did on camera), I moved like a normal person: in sweats. That might well be a first for reality TV.
Do you think all publicity is good publicity?
Not in any way, shape or form. I’ve never believed all publicity is good publicity. In fact, I answered this same question in Forbes about a year ago like this: “Anyone who says this is either delusional or a masochist. No one in their right mind believes that any publicity is good publicity. That’s just what well-meaning people say to their friends who get bad publicity so they don’t feel quite as crappy. Bad publicity is bad publicity, end of story.”
I will make one caveat to that, something that I’ve come to believe over the past year: at a certain point, if you are attempting to raise awareness for something greater than yourself, you can, in theory, justify all sorts of negativity. If you believe you have something to share that might help people in some way — a cause or a particular sentiment or a belief set or a worldview — That can put snarky press into perspective. You think to yourself, ‘as long as this publicity leads people to my message, which I believe in deeply, it doesn’t matter if a percentage of them don’t get it and don’t like me.’ But that’s next level. You can’t do that if your goal for publicity is just vanity or approbation.
Are you worried about how people will respond to this show, or are you used to criticism at this point?
Oddly, I’m less worried about what other people think than I have been in my entire life, and this (newfound) sense of self is – ironically – the greatest gift this show gave me. Because of the choices I made about the content of the show – to embark upon a serious quest as to why I haven’t had a healthy long term relationship – both experiential and in writing, for my ELLE.com column “Guinea Pig of Love” – it felt like ten years of therapy stuffed into four or five months.
Brutal. I hated some of it, really hated it. But it was THE BEST THING that could have happened to me, because as it turned out, I had been trying my entire life to garner positive reactions from the outside world – everyone from my parents to my friends to the men I dated to strangers on the internet. I wanted them all to love me. I thought that if they did I would be happy. But (duh) that’s not how it works. Maybe I knew this intellectually before, but I certainly didn’t know it in my heart.
So how did the show teach me that? By forcing me to show my worst, my messiest, my least lovable sides. Because you CANNOT possibly be on your best behavior for the number of hours they film you. I finally stopped trying to be perfect, and started just being myself. And at the same time I was in therapy, both conventional and not very conventional at all, in which I was forced to confront a host of issues stemming from my deep seated self-loathing, which began in childhood (doesn’t it always?). I didn’t feel lovable, and so it mattered deeply to me whether people praised me or criticized me. Whether they called me pretty or called me fat. Whether they thought I was talented or a hack. But now? It’s not that those insults don’t still sting. It’s that I know they don’t really matter. Not much does, when it comes down to it. I don’t mean that in the nihilistic sense – I mean it more in the Buddhist sense. Just be present with those you love, learn and grow and actively engage the world, take time for the spiritual, make your mistakes because you pushed yourself, not because you didn’t, and maybe hit a creative high now and again. Then forgive yourself when you don’t. That’s all you can really do.
Do you think this will change anyone’s opinion of you?
I don’t know, honestly. On the one hand, I hope so. On the other … who can really tell? I find the most common reaction I receive when I meet people in person who had heretofore only known me only through the myopic lens of New York gossip media is: “You’re totally different than I expected.” Of course I am. I was rarely who they portrayed me to be. I was rarely who I portrayed myself to be. And that, of course, was the problem. I guess I don’t really know how people will perceive me. I can’t always see myself accurately from the vantage point of others. Never could.
Some people have said this is a comeback. Do you consider it one?
Not really. I was incredibly proud of my syndicated social media column last year … THAT felt like a comeback to me. This feels much more like the end of a very, very long journey. I suppose it’s because comebacks feel like something you chase, something you need, something you’ll die without, something you’re doing to PROVE IT to others. I liked checking this off my list of things I’ve always wanted to do, but I didn’t need it for my ego by the time I got it. I sort of Eat, Pray, Loved my way out of the obsession with (what I believe to be) this false idea of success. I guess I just changed. I moved on. And isn’t “coming back” the opposite of that? I guess if they called it a “come forward” I would be more comfortable using that term. But that just doesn’t have the same ring ;-)
Do you feel like you were presented fairly on the show?
Truthfully, I have only seen the first episode, so I don’t know yet. I hope so. The producers were incredibly brave, thoughtful women who really cared about the show and I daresay about me, so even if I disagree with individual choices, I know they did what they felt best to tell my story in a way which resonated with the audience. I also am writing “blogs” (my first one was 3,200 words, so it’s more like a treatise) with explanatory commentary on Bravo’s site, so I do feel like I have a forum to expand, if you will, upon what the TV show portrays.
And most importantly…
DO YOU REALLY HAVE A 73 POINT CHECKLIST?
HELL YEAH, I do!! I wrote it about three years ago, in a blue notebook, when I hit 28 1/2 – which was the moment I decided I was done, um … fucking around. As it were. I remember the exact night things shifted, too. I was sleeping with my college boyfriend for the first time in years, and I thought, “Goddamn, I’m starting to LITERALLY repeat myself.” Prior to that moment, I had one criterion for dating: “Be Fascinating.” Nothing else mattered. Rich, poor, college-educated or not, lawyer, entrepreneur, unemployed, fat, thin, tall, short, chivalrous, a dick. I’ve dated them all. If they bored me, I was out. If they enthralled me, I’d stay until I was bored. But fascination alone does not a good marriage make.
So I sat down and did what I do when I want to make a huge change: made a List. I wrote down everything I thought I wanted (key term: “thought I wanted”) in a husband.
What’s the most ridiculous requirement? Maybe we know someone.
It ranges from the hardly controversial:
#13: Strong & consistent emotionally
#29: Makes me feel secure and loved
#34: Would make a great dad – and wants to have kids
#39: Does good for others
#44: Loves learning
#59: Talented lover
#63: Loves animals – especially [my dog] Lilly
To the slightly more … eccentric (hey! I was just dream-listing!)
#5: well-read / reads The Atlantic, Fast Company & WIRED
#28: Wants to live in a warm climate (preferably Palo Alto)
#33: Enjoys playing tennis, horseback riding, skiing, biking
#48: Can play piano or guitar or sing
#64: 75% homebody, 25% enjoys swanky events
I mean. Even I can see how some of these latter items are not, uh, by any stretch mandatory. That said, it was never meant to be a “mandatory” checklist. Just a general idea of the characteristics I think would be lovely to have in a partner. BTW, I think #64 is the most hysterical. Like, let me at your iCal and we’ll make a pie chart! But that was the only way of describing what I thought I was looking for … hahah …
I will say (slight spoiler) toward the end of the show I do “update” the list, removing a few items and adding some new ones.
Let’s put it this way … the addendum contains items like this:
#75: Be open, creative and encourage me to be the same
#78: Encourage my authentic self and personal growth
#80: Dedicate our relationship to learning, growing, evolving
#82: Create an unconventional life with me
#88: Loves me for my mess
;-) #88 is what it’s all about.