Kennedy (Johnson), Erica 1970(?)-
Kennedy (Johnson), Erica 1970(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1970, in NY; father a pharmaceutical company executive, mother an interior designer. Education: Degree from Sarah Lawrence College.
ADDRESSES: Home—Brooklyn Heights, NY. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hyperion, 77 West 66th St., 11th Floor, New York, NY 10023.
CAREER: Writer, 1998-. Worked for a recording company and in public relations for fashion designer Tommy Hilfiger.
Bling, Miramax Books (New York, NY), 2004.
Contributor of articles on fashion and entertainment to periodicals, including Us Weekly, Vibe, and In Style.
ADAPTATIONS: Film rights to Bling are owned by Miramax.
SIDELIGHTS: Erica Kennedy drew on her background as a fashion and music journalist when writing her debut novel, Bling. The story concerns an innocent young singer's rise to the top of the hip-hop music world, and her struggle to maintain her own identity in a subculture that looks upon women as commodities. The central character is Marie Jean Castiglione, a twenty year old whose Haitian father abandoned her Italian-American mother many years before. Talented and attractive, Marie is discovered by Lamont Jackson, a powerful hip-hop record mogul who, at the age of thirty-eight, feels himself being edged out by younger producers. Lamont sees Marie as ultimately marketable. Her ethnicity gives her appeal across racial divisions, and she is alluring to men, yet non-threatening to women. Lamont pressures her to leave behind her girlfriends in her original music group and strike out on her own. He begins to carefully craft her image, seeing her as the key to his own fortune. Marie takes on the stage name Mimi Jean, has plastic surgery, and begins wearing clothes that are at the cutting edge of hip-hop fashion. She is introduced to key people in the business, and learns that if she wants to get ahead, she may have to abandon her morals.
The plot of Bling is a well-worn one, but according to Boston Globe reviewer Joanne A. Skerrett, "Kennedy's memorable supporting cast of characters, energetic writing, and skilled plotting put a new shine on something that could easily have turned out as hackneyed and overly predictable." Skerrett further stated that watching Mimi "lose her inhibitions and become Lamont's creation, and later his lover, can be disconcerting." She concluded that while Bling lacks depth, "it has hubris, tragedy, and comedy."
Kennedy got to know the hip-hop world well, beginning in her high school years, when she dated a music producer. The fact that the characters in Bling bear some resemblance to prominent people in the entertainment and fashion industry, led to speculation that the novel is based on real people. Kennedy has insisted that this is not the case, and was quoted in Newsweek as saying that the suggestion "diminishes my skills as a fiction writer." To an interviewer for the Book Remarks Web site she added: "I could have very easily written an entire book where I cribbed real dialogue, real situations from things I know but I didn't do that. That's a bore." Booklist reviewer Vanessa Bush concluded that Kennedy's inside knowledge is key to the success of Bling, which captures the author's "strong feel for character, dialogue, and the pulsing life of the hip-hop music scene."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Black Issues Book Review, March-April, 2004, "Erica Kennedy," p. 8.
Booklist, May 15, 2004, Vanessa Bush, review of Bling, p. 58.
Bookseller, October 24, 2003, p. 27.
Boston Globe, August 12, 2004, Joanne Skerrett, review of Bling, p. D4.
Essence, June, 2004, Deborah Gregory, review of Bling, p. 138.
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2004, review of Bling, p. 461.
Library Journal, July, 2004, Nancy Pearl, review of Bling, p. 71.
Newsweek, June 21, 2004, Johnnie L. Roberts, "Keepin' It Real—Real Tantilizing," p. 68.
New York Times, July 22, 2004, Lynda Richardson, review of Bling, p. B2.
New York Times Book Review, July 11, 2004, Sia Michel, review of Bling, p. 26.
Publishers Weekly, August 18, 2003, John F. Baker, "Book, Movie Deal for Hip-Hop Author," p. 14; June 7, 2004, review of Bling, p. 30.
USA Today, June 29, 2004, Deirdre Donahue, review of Bling, p. D6.
Book Remarks Web sitehttp://www.book-remarks.com/ (February 8, 2005), Cydney Rax, review of Bling and interview with Kennedy.