Diary of a Diva: Behind the Lipstick, by Barbarella Fokos, is a compilation of fifty of the author’s published columns in which she writes about her life experiences for the San Diego Reader. Selected from over five hundred that have been produced over a ten year period, these are included alongside commentary from both the author and her husband. Do not be fooled by the cover as I was. This is not the fluffy, superficial, amusing if somewhat narcissistic journal that I expected when I requested a copy for review. Rather, it is a searingly honest account of an individual with life issues that she copes with through writing, and which she is then willing to share.
The reproduced columns provide the structure for the book, but it was the commentary around them that held my attention. Covering as it does a lengthy period, the author has grown as a person over this time. She discusses her early relationship with her husband, her many and varied neurosis and how they have both dealt with these, her family to whom she is remarkably close, and her issues with depression and social anxiety.
When I requested the book I knew little about Barbarella. From what I initially picked up I expected this attractive and highly groomed, media type person to be lightweight, fixated on mixing with names and being seen. I was wrong. I lost count of the number of times, as I turned the pages of her book, that I found myself nodding vigorously as she described an all too familiar experience, the anxiety it created and how she coped. Her writing is the antithesis of superficial.
Barbarella is close to her family in a way that I find hard to comprehend. I empathised more with her husband’s upbringing, but it is Barbarella’s analysis of her neuroses that made this book seem real. Her fear of being late, her dislike of raw meat and seafood, her concerns about running into anybody she knew whilst out shopping, all read as familiar. I am left wondering if many people feel this way but simply hide it for fear of negative judgement.
The book offers an honest series of snapshots of a life and I found it affirming to read. Whilst I may not aspire to the lifestyle that she chooses, Barbarella thinks and feels in a way that resonated. If more people could be as honest and talk as openly as she writes then perhaps we would all gain in understanding and judge a little less harshly.
I was amused by the tales of travel, particularly the observations on how Americans are perceived when abroad. I sympathised with Barbarella’s wish to embrace and enjoy new and foreign experiences, whilst inwardly hankering after the cleanliness and comfort of home. The search for WiFi was hilarious, particularly the image of her hunkered down on a kerbside trying to ‘steal’ a stranger’s connectivity whilst a local tried to converse in a language she could not understand.
Barbarella comes across as a human with flaws and I applaud her for acknowledging them. In a world of social media, so many present only edited highlights. This book was a refreshing offering of balance that was as educative as it was entertaining to read.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the author.