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In Lurv With Lainey: Elaine Lui’s rise to the top of the gossip pantheon

Elaine Lui became one of the world’s most influential celebrity gossips by exhibiting a bratty disregard for the pieties of showbiz. What happens now that she’s nearly as famous as the stars she skewers?

In Lurv With Lainey: Elaine Lui's rise to the top of the gossip pantheon

Elaine Lui, who has cultivated a vast network of Hollywood sources, claims she’s never paid for a tip

Elaine Lui is 40 but has the bearing of a 16-year-old, boundless and brash, her body language filled with aggressive eye rolls, giggles and wild gesticulation. Sitting in a green room at the CTV studios on Queen West, writing a post for her blog, ­LaineyGossip, she takes a long drag from her e-cigarette, a bejewelled bauble that looks like a tube of lip gloss and emits a trail of vanilla-scented vapour. Then she resumes clacking away at her keyboard. It’s a busy day for Lui. The Golden Globe nominations have just been announced, and she’s struggling to keep up with the ­Sisyphean celebrity news cycle. In an hour, she’s scheduled to shoot an episode of her daytime talk show, The Social, and tape interviews to be banked for eTalk and CP24. She takes another hit from the e-cig as her stylist douses her with hairspray, engulfing Lui in a toxic cloud of chemicals.

That e-cigarette goes everywhere she does, doubling as a calling card and neurotic crutch. She sucks it surreptitiously at restaurants, blowing vapour out the side of her mouth. When she gets excited, she waves it around like a Canada Day ­sparkler. At parties, it dangles between her fingers while she stands back and monitors the room. She started smoking it in 2012, giving up regular cigarettes soon after. In one slender, shimmery package, it crystallizes Lui’s paradoxical persona: she’s at once a bubbly, bitchy, perma-teen gossip queen and a shrewd social anthropologist with an arch Dorothy Parker wit. She polarizes readers with her candor and celebrity partisanship.

People love Lainey, but they love to hate her even more.

When you Google “gossip blog,” hers is usually the second hit, preceded only by Perez Hilton. It’s as loud and brassy as she is, a digital Candyland of Smurf blue and Barbie pink, with a pair of smiling fuchsia lips sipping a martini in the corner of the screen. At the top of each page is her daily editorial, called “Dear Gossips,” a free-form monologue about whatever’s on her mind—the Oscar nominees, Chinese New Year rituals, Mariah Carey’s latest Instagram photos. She posts, on average, 10 or 12 times a day, roughly 3,000 words total, sassing the celebs she hates and fluffing the ones she loves, supplementing the posts with candid snaps or red ­carpet photos she obtains from paparazzi agencies. On a recent Wednesday, she speculated on a possible affair between the actors Ewan McGregor (who’s married) and Mélanie Laurent (who’s not his wife), assessed the rising star of actor Nicholas Hoult and worked digs about Rob Ford’s Steak Queen video into a post about Rachel McAdams walking her dog. It was a typical day in Lainey land: a frenetic pastiche of pop culture and politics, catty malice and fawning praise, in-depth reporting and shallow musing. Her prose reads like James Joyce as interpreted by Mindy Kaling—a sharp, girly stream of consciousness for the Internet age.

More than any other source—tabloids, glossies, even the most formidable publicists—the blogosphere controls the 2014 star system. Last year, weekly celebrity magazines suffered a steep decline in newsstand sales: People dropped by 14 per cent, Us Weekly by 12.9 per cent and Life and Style by 17.7 per cent. Bloggers like Lui report the same news, only faster and in greater quantities. Unlike the traditional outlets, the blogosphere runs in real time, operating on an infinite feedback loop of star sightings, insider tips and reader demand.

In Lurv With Lainey: Elaine Lui's rise to the top of the gossip pantheon

Lui on the set of CTV’s The Social.

In the taxonomy of gossip blogs, Perez Hilton is the shit-disturber, sneering at his subjects and tagging their photos with lewd graffiti. Jared Eng of Just Jared is the suck-up, cooing at cute new couples and celebrity babies. And Lainey Lui is the philosopher queen. She deconstructs the artifice of celebrity, reveals the backroom deals and institutional ­hierarchies, and positions those pixie-dusted demigods as symbols of our values, prejudices and obsessions. Of the thousands of bloggers prowling the Internet, she’s risen to the top echelon by delivering a ­mix of gossip, barefaced opinion and trademark ­mischief that readers find irresistible. Yet her posts are so effortless, so breezily conversational, you can practically hear Lui speaking them over ­cocktails, stretching her vowels and crackling with Valley Girl vocal fry. “My goal is to have a direct discussion with readers,” she says. “I mean, I’m like they are. I just want to talk shit about these people.”

Lui has leveraged her brand into an expansive media footprint: since 2006, she’s served as eTalk’s red carpet reporter, a gig that sends her to Cannes, Sundance, the Super Bowl and the Oscars. Her first book, Listen to the Squawking Chicken, is out this month. Last year, she moved back to Toronto after 13 years in Vancouver to join The Social, a daytime talk show. Now, whenever you walk along Queen West, her face smirks down at you from a 20-foot billboard.

  • Seannie5

    I am a big fan of Lainey but I have to be honest, she’s not always right. All of us are on the internet now and follow our favourite celebs with a passion and we can see when what she says is bullshit. She usually ignores if what she has professed to being an “exclusive” is incorrect or says “gossip is a buffet, take what you want!”. I still like to read her opinion on everything, I just don’t think she is gospel. She looks at every single story and celebrity from a business angle and rarely from them being human beings. Even celebrities have emotions! I feel like her blog isn’t quite as good as it was. She is definitely stretching herself very thin and that reflects in the blog. I, for one, don’t care to read what Duana thinks about baby names. Zzzzzzzzzzzz!
    I prefer her to Perez Hilton any day!

  • Darren D

    Send all the gossip blogs, paparazzi and muckrakers into a salt mine for a month and force them to do some honest work for honest pay instead of leeching off of others.

  • Gerry M

    Never heard of her.

  • Monday

    she is entertaining and natural but unfortunately has to share the show with those other pretentious attention seeking loudmouths (exception Tracy Melchor)
    please give Lainey her own show

  • jhardin

    boring redundant formula …like most of canada’s media..

  • Mimi

    She’s an asshole and bullies certain celebrities that are pretty harmless. Her writing is completely over the top and she needs to take it down a notch it’s just gossip

  • Fraggle

    Lainey’s is one of my go-to-blogs for gossips and I read it since early 2009. I agree that’s it’s not as good as it was. And over all this time I had to notice her bias towards certain celebrities which really annoys me. I’m not talking about reality TV starlets, she does not feature them and Im grateful for that. But if Lainey can’t stand a certain celebrity there’s no way she would let a opportunity pass to remember all of her readers about it – it’s tiresome. I learnt years ago you can’t stand Gerard Butler – so please ignore him for God’s sake. On the contrary she’s fawning over some stars – it’s tiresome as well. I can manage to live a week during christmas time without reading about some stupid instagram pictures of Mimi.

    The worst for me is something different… while I appreciate (I really do!) her take on diversity in Hollywood – or better: the lack of it – she really was hitting my nerve this year’s award season. I totally understood her point of view, I agreed with her! But ranting again and again about actors because they’re working and therefore not campaigning for one of you favourite films? Holdigng an inexplicable grudge against some? Wow… yeah, even I would call that being a bitch.

    So I read Lainey’s blog but I skip certain posts and sometimes I ignore her posts comepletly and only read Duana or Sasha’s. Because yeah, she’s judgemental – and I’m sorry to say this… she seems not on top of her game lately. Maybe interviews TV show and book finally take their toll.

  • Stephanika

    Did someone actually read this? pathetic. Utterly pathetic and I mean Toronto Life. Lets write about a 40 year old Gossip Girl. Serious stuff guys.

  • Stephanika

    Yes what the world needs is another show gossiping about celebrities. It’s called having friends. Try that.

  • Mark Hayman

    Her job is to talk/gossip about people in the news – could someone please explain to me in simple terms how the story became about her? Really? And Ms Landau there is actually a “pantheon” of gossip writers? And a “taxonomy” of gossip writers? Seriously – please get a grip and actually be a real journalist. This was a prefect opportunity to just take this pretender to task. She brings a whole load of disrepute to your profession. Why oh why aren’t you pointing this out???

  • stella

    i’ve seen this woman around Toronto the last few years and must say i feel sorry for her, she is a 40 year old woman gossiping about things she could have no real idea about, she lacks talent and charm and comes across as a desperate older woman trying to keep her job relevant.

    god toronto life, if this woman is famous than you must be the new york times.

  • Heisenberg

    suggestion – do porn.

  • FadedYouthBlog

    That Lainey girl is crass and hateful. I pity the people who have to work with her.

  • mike

    OMG SHE IS NOT WORLD FAMOUS, YOU NEVER HERE OF HER SITE IN THE US. THIS IS SUCH NONSENSE

  • cattyface

    Lainey you are nothing but an insulting narcissist.

  • cattyface

    I must say one more thing.Of all the shows of this nature this is the worst.These women are dumb in responding to anything.I have tried several attempts but refuse to watch you hags.Tracy I’m not including you.I like Tracy Melchior much more

 

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