Suri’s Burn Book: Author Allie Hagan Talks About Suri Cruise–Inspired Tumblr
Popular Tumblr ‘Suri’s Burn Book’ is now a book. Its author, Allie Hagan, talks to Melissa Leon.
With Suri Cruise’s kitten-heeled shoes, flair for handbags, and stylish ensembles, it’s easy to imagine the 6-year-old as Hollywood’s littlest fashionista.
At least, that’s how Allie Hagan sees it. Hagan, a 25-year-old policy consultant in Washington, is the author behind Suri’s Burn Book, a blog written in the imagined voice of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes’s daughter. Hagan’s Suri is a pampered, haughty, and razor-sharp wit who revels in dishing out fashion critiques to her fellow celebrity offspring. She hates when babies go shoeless (“Seeing a wealthy person going barefoot in a Target is as unsettling as that time Vanessa Hudgens got invited to the Oscars,” she writes under a photo of January Jones and her bare-toed baby, Xander); she’s dying to be an Olympic gymnast like the Fierce Five (“I’ve never tried this hard to fit in with a clique before,” reads the caption under a photo of Suri doing a back flip at Chelsea Piers); and she even has an imagined, unrequited love affair with David and Victoria Beckham’s 7-year-old son, Cruz.
Hagan’s humorous take on the lives of celebrity children earned Suri’s Burn Book (named after the pink, havoc-wreaking burn book from the 2004 film Mean Girls) enough buzz in the weeks after its inception in July 2011 to have it named Time magazine’s Tumblr of the Week and, by the following January, a book deal was in the works. Suri’s Burn Book: Well-Dressed Commentary From Hollywood’s Little Sweetheart hits bookstore shelves today, filled with meticulous instructions on “how to be old money” (“Table etiquette is nothing to joke about. Bad dinner manners ruined Haley Joel Osment’s career.”), praise of Sasha and Malia Obama’s “tweenage couture,” and constant exasperation at Violet Affleck’s “granny” style.
But not everyone sees the humor. The Washington Post’s “Celebritology” columnist, Jessica Goldstein, recently posed a question to readers about the taste level of the blog and its frequent use of paparazzi-snapped photos. Commenters on the post ripped Hagan to shreds. “If She were a He and had an ‘off-hours obsession’ with little kids, what would we call her? Too bad this isn’t just sad; unfortunately it is also despicable,” one Internet user wrote. An editor from the Journal of Media Psychology warned that there was a “dark side” to the blog and that, given the ubiquity of celebrity stalker-ism, “you’ll end up having a Lindbergh-type situation where some baby is kidnapped because some information was learned on social media about where this kid goes to school.”
For her part, however, Hagan contends that the purpose of Suri’s Burn Book is not to perpetuate, but to make fun of the media’s celebrity-kid fixation. “As the Internet grew, it wasn’t just People magazine once a week; it’s become part of the 24-hour news cycle,” she says. “There are so many more celebrities now, and the obsession with the children is a part of that. My goal is to poke fun at that and how weird it is.”
Hagan limits her posts, she says, to kids whose parents are already “putting them out there.” “It’s definitely up for debate, but when you put your baby on the cover of Vanity Fair when she’s 7 months old, you’ve kind of taken away her privacy already,” Hagan says, referencing Suri’s own media debut. In contrast, Hagan cites the example of actress Neve Campbell and a recent Us Weekly article, headlined, “Bikini-Clad Neve Campbell Introduces Baby!” The article showcased photos of the actress and her newborn on a Los Angeles beach, unaware of the paparazzi snapping away. “She never put out a press release about whether her baby is a boy or girl; she didn’t say the name or even that she had given birth,” Hagan said. “To say that she ‘introduced’ her baby—that involves agency. I thought it went a little too far.”
Instead, Suri’s Burn Book is filled with the Beckhams, Jolie-Pitts, and Carey-Cannons of the world, with an occasional cameo from a Blue Ivy Carter or Louis Bullock–type (“He’s so debonair,” Hagan says of Sandra Bullock’s often snappily dressed, adopted son). But to help ensure that she draws the line somewhere, Hagan says, she often enlists a friend to offer second opinions on her posts. After seeing an awkward photo of a celebrity child on her way to ballet practice in a too-tight leotard, Hagan wondered whether making a “camel toe” joke might be going too far; happily, her friend informed her that even in the voice of Suri, “Of course you can’t say that.”
Nothing, however, tested Hagan’s sense of restraint more than the news that broke on June 29, 2012—the day the media learned of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise’s impending divorce. While tabloids and the paparazzi had a field day, the full extent of Hagan-as-Suri’s coverage of the news came in only two posts. On the day of the divorce news, a photo of Suri peering exasperatedly out of a helicopter was posted with the caption: “Official Statement: Please respect my privacy during this difficult time. (Just mine though—everyone else is fair game.) I will be vacationing in the Cayman Islands for the Independence Day holiday with my financier and going over my plans to seek sole custody of myself. I appreciate the concern and well-wishes.” The next post came on July 4, with a photo of a newly single Katie, laughing and playing in the surf with Suri. That caption read, “Let freedom ring.”
“There was a lot of pressure and I wanted to be more careful about it,” Hagan says of the divorce news. “I was really proud of what came out of it.”
There are no immediate plans for Suri’s Burn Book to run out of pages, says Hagan (at least not as long as there is something like the arrival of Kate Middleton’s baby to look forward to). “I figured [Suri’s Burn Book] would last two weeks and be one of those memes that runs around and then just dies. But celebrities keep having babies. I guess I’ll keep going until it’s not funny anymore or until people stop caring about celebrity children.” Like that’s ever going to happen.