Book Review: Tough Titties by Laura Belgray

5 out of 5

Tough Titties

by Laura Belgray

published by Hachette Books

release date: June 13, 2023

provided by Hachette Books

“I’ve been a fan of Laura Belgray’s hilarious, tell-it-like-it-is writing for years. She was an early influence on my own craft, and I count her among my teachers. Laura’s for anyone who keeps waking up disappointed to find they didn’t become a different, more pulled-together person in their sleep.”

Holly Whitaker, New York Times bestselling author of Quit Like a Woman

Last year, I started following Laura Belgray on Instagram and subscribed to her email list. Why? When you decide to delve deeper into a skill. You want to learn from an expert.

Laura Belgray is an excellent copywriter. She is also the founder of Talking Shrimp and co-creator of The Copy Cure with Marie Forleo. I have been curious about her background. She frequently shares bites of her life in her newsletter. However, I did not know much about her before reading this book. I wasn’t sure if Tough Titties was going to lean more toward memoir or personal development. After reading it, I’ve found that it’s much more of a memoir. But, her life is ballsy and inspiring.

Laura Belgray, courtesy of Talking Shrimp

To me one sign of an excellent memoir is relatability. This book hits that mark. It has actual relatability for me in key areas.

I felt a kinship and understanding about Laura’s background with food and men. Maybe it’s because I’m an elder millennial, which makes me a little younger than here, so I definitely grew up with “toxic diet culture.”

In the section “Watch the Potato Chips”, Belgray mentions that she and her friends failed at bulimia. “I’d already devoured every novel, pamphlet, encyclopedia entry’s and after-school special about eating disorders…and knew habitual barfing could make your face puffy and rot your teeth, not to mention stop your heart, so I was half-relieved I couldn’t get the hang of it.”

Tough Titties

She mentions making diet sandwiches and elaborates “I know, can’t you just feel it sticking to your teeth?” Actually, yes, I still keenly remember doing the same. “It sucks up all your bandwidth, this body-image business” is another line that I empathize with.

This is the type of thing that is so rarely talked about these days, but I did the same. I watched all of the Lifetime movies that were out there during puberty and they have a lasting effect on your psyche. Sometimes, we are even made to feel bad for admitting that these things happened. That not always perfectly loving your body is normal. As Laura says “I’m not supposed to admit all this. Body positivity is the thing now, and you’re not even allowed to fat-shame yourself…”

Laura Belgray, courtesy of Talking Shrimp

Tough Titties also has that sometimes elusive quality of human relatability. As a reader, who does not come from the same socioeconomic bracket, location, or career, I can still relate to Laura as a person.

Themes, such as finding yourself and your confidence are woven throughout. I think many of us can relate to those personal struggles. Tough Titties made me feel like it’s okay that I haven’t become a “huge success” yet. It also infers that those parts of your life that aren’t shiny and social media-ready make you who you are and that’s a GOOD THING.

All of that said, Laura, does come from a privileged background, which she acknowledges. This seems to be a part of her story that some readers are not fond of. I think being true to yourself is the most important part of a memoir. Not everyone has the same lived experience and that’s okay. In fact, that’s part of what makes us interesting.

I, particularly, enjoyed some of those parts of the book. I can’t time travel and be an underaged Gen Xer attempting to sneak into Studio 54, but I loved reading about it in the section “See Ya at Studio.”

When Belgray delves into her early career, I was fascinated. I never knew there were plants on television message boards back in the day, though it makes sense in hindsight. Her early career and experiences working online are very interesting and make me a bit nostalgic.

Over the years, Belgray has written for Bravo, Fandango, FX, NBC, HBO, USA, Nick at Nite, Nickelodeon, TV Land, and VH1.

Though Laura has sometimes been described as a late-bloomer or a slacker, her truth is that she works hard at what she cares about, and shouldn’t we all?

“It’s rare and lucky for someone to offer you money to show up and be you. Love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life. Yeah, duh. Give me something to do that I love, and I’m there. It’s what I’ve spent my whole career looking for and-fine, with varying degrees of effort and initiative-working toward.”

Tough Titties

The only thing missing for me is I would have liked to read a bit more about the more current parts of Belgray’s life, her career in particular. This is probably more in line with what she delves into in her courses though, so it’s understandable that it wouldn’t be included. So yes, I’m left wanting a little more. However, it’s a nice short, compelling reading at around 300 pages.

You can learn more about Tough Titties and pre-order the book on You can follow Laura Belgray and Tough Titties on goodreads as well.

Laura Belgray, via Talking Shrimp

Disclosure: I pre-ordered the audio version of this book. I was gifted a physical and digital ARC (advance reading copy) from Hachette Books. This was contingent upon my pre-ordering a version of the book. As this is an ARC, parts of the book mentioned above may still change before the publication date.

Related Reads:

Jenny Lawson on Booze, Books, & Mental Health-my interview with the author

Book Review: American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

Selfies in the 2000’s: Remembering Daily Mugshot 2009-2012

Books Interviews

Jenny Lawson on Booze, Books, & Mental Health

I am super excited to have had the opportunity to interview the super hilarious, talented writer The Bloggess, aka Jenny Lawson. Jenny recently released her first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir). After the book’s release on April 17, 2012, it soon rose to the number 1 spot on the New York Times Best Seller List.

Jenny Lawson with copies of “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened” from Jenny Lawson

However many of us have been fans for quite some time. In early 2010 an online friend let me know that you could receive free sex toys and lingerie from the site EdenFantasys provided that you review the products for them. Enclosed in my first package was the official EdensFantasy magazine Sexis, which included a hilarious article by TheBloggess. 

I immediately had to visit her blog, I soon found out that she was not only immensely entertaining but boldly honest and compassionate. I was officially hooked.

Mary Miracle with “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”, from Mary Miracle

Of course, I found her book to be amazing. I greatly appreciate her taking the time to answer the following questions about “Let’s Pretend This Never Happened”.

There are times in your book that you mention writing a second book? Would it be more of the same types of stories or drastically different?
I’m working on my second book right now. Same tone but a little more focused on mental illness.

What is your favorite spy movie?
La Femme Nikita

Do you now drink bottled water (having grown up with contaminated tap water)?
I drink a lot of booze, actually. It purifies everything.

You mentioned that raccoons seem to have OCD, do you think that many other types of animals also have mental health issues?
Every pet is completely insane. That’s why we love them so much.

Do you plan on writing more in-depth about your anxiety issues in the future?
In book two it’ll be covered a lot more, I think.

Did you ever contact anyone interesting with your Ouija board? Did you ever use it alone?
I tried to use it but it didn’t work the way I expected. No doors to Hell opened. At least none that weren’t open before.

How does your husband Victor feel about his initial characterization as a badly dressed Doogie Howser?
I’m not entirely sure that he’s even read the book yet.

Do you feel that therapy helped you with your eating disorder or do you think it was more the acceptance of your new beau at the time?
Therapy helped a lot. I realized I was trying to control my eating because I felt out of control about everything else in my life. It helped me take control of the rest of my life.

What is your favorite item on the Dairy Queen menu?
The peanut buster parfait, although I’m lactose intolerant so I can’t have more than a spoonful.

Which antidepressant made you suicidal?

Does Xanax also make you hungry?
Nope. Just sleepy. 

Do you always read the book prior to seeing the film adaptation?
I try to to. The book is almost always better.

Which one book would you want to have with you to reread in a post-apocalyptic zombie wasteland?
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.

What book(s) are you currently reading?
The Miniature Wife and Other Stories

What is your favorite wine?
Chambord. Does that count as a wine? Because it should.

Note: Her answers are in bold. This interview was conducted via email. I have not edited her answers.


Book Review: American Rose: A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee

3.5 out of 5

American Rose
A Nation Laid Bare: The Life and Times of Gypsy Rose Lee
by Karen Abbot
published by Random House
released on December 28, 2010 (hardcover) and March 13, 2012 (paperback)
provided by NetGalley

“America was flying high in the Roaring Twenties. Then, almost overnight, the Great Depression brought it crashing down. When the dust settled, people were primed for a star who could distract them from reality. Enter Gypsy Rose Lee, a strutting, bawdy, erudite stripper who possessed a gift for delivering exactly what America needed. 

With her superb narrative skills and eye for detail, Karen Abbott brings to life an era of ambition, glamour, struggle, and survival. Using exclusive interviews and never-before-published material, she vividly delves into Gypsy’s world, including her intense triangle relationship with her sister, actress June Havoc, and their formidable mother, Rose, a petite but ferocious woman who literally killed to get her daughters on the stage. 

Weaving in the compelling saga of the Minskys—four scrappy brothers from New York City who would pave the way for Gypsy Rose Lee’s brand of burlesque and transform the entertainment landscape—Karen Abbott creates a rich account of a legend whose sensational tale of tragedy and triumph embodies the American Dream.”

from Penguin Random House
Gypsy Rose Lee from Isabel Santos Pilot

When I first started reading this book I hopped right on Goodreads and exclaimed how awesome it is. I had never heard of Gypsy Rose Lee before reading this book. I chose it based on the cover and a sentence about the plot. I was immediately intrigued by her life.

Gypsy Rose Lee was a famous burlesque dancer. Not only did she live an interesting life but the history of her family is also fascinating. Once I dug into the book a couple of things bugged me about it. 

The book also includes a huge amount of info on the history of burlesque including a ton of info on the Minsky Brothers of NYC. While this was cool to learn about it detracts from Gypsy’s story. During the first 100 or so pages it seems like you’ll never really get into Gypsy’s story because the author is providing the backstory on everyone else. This reminds me of the quote from the movie Wonder Boys, “even though you’re book is really beautiful…it’s very detailed. You know, with the genealogies of everyone’s horses, and the dental records…”. I would guess that the author was having difficulty editing herself but I bet that she was simply so enamored with all of the details that she felt compelled to include them. 

My other issue with the book is that it jumps around back and forth between different time periods constantly. This combined with all of the extra info makes it a confusing read, especially when you are first starting the book. I once read a review of a film that used nonlinear storytelling and it said that if your story is interesting enough (and the format isn’t a part of the plot) then it’s unnecessary to format media in this way. I tend to agree.

I wanted to mention these issues in case you also went into the book a blank slate. Plus I wanted you to know why I took away 1.5 stars. Other than those issues I found the book fantastic. I particularly enjoyed how the author included slang from that time. The author also reconstructs scenes and tried to make you feel like you were there as events were happening. I think that she did this through a combo of investigation and assumption. This doesn’t bother me but some sticklers may take issue with it.

Gypsy Rose Lee at Key West International Airport. Photo from Jeff Broadhead Collection.

Gypsy herself, is amazing. Like my favorite movie heroine Nomi Malone, Gypsy is described as being untalented. Yet she was able to find a way into the spotlight. To give you a small amount of back story on her, her mother Rose was considered the ultimate stage mother who took Gypsy (then Rose Louise Hovick) and her younger sister June Hovick (then Baby June) on the road doing vaudeville as children. June was considered extremely talented, she was a natural dancer who also put a ton of effort into becoming even better. Meanwhile, Rose Louise was considered to just be there, basically, so she just did whatever was needed in an act. Their mother, Rose, often had an unpaid bevy of young men or young women who toured with them. 

Eventually, June went off on her own. Rose and Rose Louise continued to tour during the ebbing of vaudeville and found themselves smack in the middle of burlesque. Since there was money in it they created a burlesque celebrity out of Rose Louise, aka Gypsy Rose Lee, despite her mother’s initial objections to what she considered a tawdry profession. The book deals with all of this and the complex familial relationships between Gypsy, her mother, and her sister both before and after Gypsy’s rise to fame. 

Some describe this book as racy. It definitely goes there. You learn all about the behind-the-scenes workings of burlesque. I particularly enjoyed the nuggets on how the stripteasers and vaudeville acts pulled off some of their tricks. There are also several suspicious deaths. Plus you find out about the decency crackdown in NYC that affected burlesque and a few nuggets here and there about prohibition.

The story of Gypsy’s mom, Rose is crazy, as is her family history. The changing of her daughters’ names and personal histories is also disconcerting (example-cannibalism). 

I was so intrigued by this book that I had to watch both film adaptations of the musical Gypsy that was somewhat based on her life (the next remake will star Barbra Streisand!). I also intend to read Gypsy’s autobiography in the future. 

If you are interested in burlesque, vaudeville, and Gypsy Rose Lee (and her family) you should read this book.

Note: I was able to read a galley of this book for free via NetGalley and Random House. This doesn’t affect my opinion on it.