Anna Kendrick has been in six movies in 2016. She sings eight songs on the soundtrack to the movie Trolls, which she also voice-stars in. She just released her first book, a memoir called Scrappy Little Nobody. Anna Kendrick is the song you haven’t been able to get out of your head for the past nine months. Her name is the first thing in your brain in the morning and the last thing you think at night. When it’s the first of the month, instead of waking up and saying “bullfrog,” say Anna Kendrick. She’s an inescapable force.
According to the J-Law principle — which holds that the more overexposed you become, the less “relatable” you seem — Kendrick should be in the full backlash phase by now. But somehow, Kendrick is still among the small group of constantly likable celebrities — see also: the Rock and his spiritual son, Zac Efron; Chance the Rapper; and Martha Stewart — in 2016. How does she do it? How does she manage to be everywhere, all the time, and still manage to get an “Anna Kendrick? Yeah I like her, sure!” award? Some early theories: Her hair is clean, and so are her nails. She seems polite; her movies are nice to watch on cable. She has a nose that says, “I’m relatable, but I’m also sort of bitchy.” But Scrappy Little Nobody holds the real keys; it’s an unvarnished look at what it takes to write several hundred pages about yourself and still not be hated. Here are the 12 key steps to cracking the 2016 celebrity likability code, as discovered by Anna Kendrick. Read on.
- Make fun of your awkwardness repeatedly, over and over, to the point that time loses all meaning: I wish I could tell you the specific count on this one. Here’s an estimate: Kendrick says that her inability to be “Kool” started around age of 5, and she’s now 31 years old, so if she spends — just a rough estimate — four hours a day making fun of herself, then that would be … 37,960 hours of self-deprecation. The point is: You need to do it a lot, and with pluck. In the book, Kendrick admits that she once vomited all over a dentist’s chair, forgot the lyrics to “On the Good Ship Lollipop” during a recital, and wore wide-legged jeans — just in the prologue. It turns out that scientists recently discovered a brand-new Anna Kendrick Awkwardness Reaction cycle, which goes like this: First you think “Oh, that’s charming!” and then eventually you think “Please. Stop. You’re a human Ben Stiller movie,” and then she keeps going and going until all of a sudden, her awkwardness is endearing again. It’s the only truth you know, and so reassuring.
- Don’t write a feminism chapter: This seems counterintuitive, especially in 2016 when you need to take a stand or get the hell out of my box office. But asserting your definition of feminism often invites a lot of backlash, as people like Amy Schumer, Lena Dunham, Taylor Swift, or any other young, white celebrity who pontificated about what it means to be a feminist or not a feminist has realized this year. Rather than using her memoir as a platform to reassert What Feminism Means to Anna Kendrick in 2016, Kendrick wrote a pro-feminist book that avoids the F-word. This way she can be pro-women but not be mocked on social media accounts or at dinner parties or on The View.
- Make fun of the following things: Relatives, child actors, yourself as a child actor, Los Angeles, New York, yourself, the suburbs, yourself, shopping at Wet Seal, your family’s loose affiliation with the KKK, heels, your job, not having money, not having money but then suddenly having money, yourself, Zac Efron.
- Reveal your hidden talents: I once met a newspaper editor who told me he didn’t think anybody could be a really good journalist unless they were exceptional at something other than writing and reporting. He didn’t care what — marathon running, classical piano, macramé — you just needed to demonstrate drive and perfectionism in some other area. That rule applies to journalists (I am great at grilling assorted meats), but also to actresses. Their demonstrated dedication to another talent they have means they will dedicate themselves to their craft (getting us to like them) with the same drive. Kendrick, as well as being likable, can sing! She was nominated for a Tony Award at the age of 12! She had a song about a plastic cup that was regularly played on top-40 radio! They are making Pitch Perfect 3! How lovely to know that Anna Kendrick and a cappella will continue to thrive in America.
- Have weird body complaints: Anna Kendrick doesn’t have a lot of physical flaws: She can fit a sample size, her hair is very glossy, and her nails are very strong, I suspect. But, she reminds us, she’s a very small person. Teeny. Polly Pocket, basically. Being small hasn’t been easy for her. Her small stature, she writes, “gave [me] a specific role in life” — a role that allows her to have a quirky noncomplaint about her appearance that reinforces she’s attractive, but not so attractive you would hate her.
- Like your mom: Kendrick writes so favorably about her mother, who’s an accountant and the breadwinner in her family. Also, Kendrick almost killed her mom when she came out of the womb because she was “so fat” (see: Have weird body complaints). All this makes her mom sound like a champ, which she truly is, but it also makes Kendrick look cool for appreciating her and not bringing up any of that petty mother-daughter shit.
- Suck at middle school: Listen, it’s obvious, but if Anna Kendrick was like, “I was the most popular sixth-grader,” you wouldn’t trust her. Instead, she reminds her readers that in middle school she: had several unrequited crushes, had no boobs, had to shop in the children’s department, and was weird because she had an agent. It’s not a perfect formula, but at least she didn’t get asked to slow dance.
- Suck at dating: Can you imagine hearing an actress say, “I know how to look a lover in the eye and then make them my sexy love slave,” and then still wanting to follow her on Twitter? Anna Kendrick gently reassuring us that she sucks at Tinder is really important. She understands that man-eaters do not win Miss Congeniality Awards, which is why she wrote a section called “Boys” that contains two incredibly relatable chapters dedicated to how bad she is at dating (“Boys and the Terror of Being Near Them,” “I Guess We’re Doing This, or How Does This Scene End”) and two chapters (“He’s Just Not That Interesting,” “Guys in LA”) that assure us she’s actually not “terrified” of dating, it’s just hard for everyone. Including her, Anna Kendrick, our best friend.
- Suck at being an adult: Isn’t it nice to know that you can have money and access to Zac Efron and designer clothes, and still struggle to plan a party menu? (Individual cranberry baked-brie puff pastries, Brussels sprouts with caramelized onions and crispy bacon, fried mac-and-cheese balls with truffle oil, lobster mashed potat — Anna, stop, you know, like we know, no adult human can pull off that many options in one dinner party without having a meltdown and/or burning down your apartment.)
- Wear jorts on your book cover: Jorts are a great equalizer. Everyone wears jorts. They are stylish, but not stylish, and the decision to wear them to an important event — say, posing for your book cover — is an assertion of normalcy. Your best friend at camp wore jorts. So did your lifeguard and your dad. You get to wear jorts on the best, most relaxing days of the season. How could you hate jorts? How could you hate anyone who wears jorts?
- Always be an us: Anna Kendrick has made out with Zac Efron, which makes her not like us, but she wants you know that she’s not like them, either. She doesn’t fit in with people like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung, both of whom she says were once dismissive of her fashion choices. Celebrities like Gigi Hadid are a different class of person than she is. If it came down to sitting at the US lunch table or the THEM lunch table, she would choose us, every time. Do you know how I know? Because she included a Group Reading Guide for OUR book club. And the last, most important lesson:
- Say it about yourself before they can say it about you: Kendrick knows that you might read her book and roll your eyes. You might read her very popular, sparky Twitter feed and do the same thing. You might watch Pitch Perfect and barf a little bit, which is why she’s going to cut you off right there and say, in a footnote, what she suspects we’re all about to say. Kendrick writes, “Famous white girls are really fun to be mad at.” With those words taken out of our collective mouth, what else is there to say but “Anna! I like her!” I do. And 12 steps later, you can, too.