Anna-Leena Harkonen


Antti Aimo-Koivisto/Lehtikuva



Unexpectedly, when my debut novel was published at age eighteen, I became a public figure in my home country of Finland. In such a small country, this meant that soon almost everybody knew my face.

For a couple of months, celebrity is wonderful and exciting. Then it becomes more and more chaotic. A sickness. Horrible. Fascinating. Necessary.

There is no natural way of dealing with celebrity, because celebrity is unnatural. Those conflicted about their celebrity are the worst off—as are those who are protecting their secret, in a desperate attempt to conceal that there is no secret.

THEY SAY THAT you cannot remain a celebrity against your will, which is true. But how could I work as an actor if I tried to hide my face from publicity? 

Authors are expected to contribute to marketing these days: your books will not sell if you refuse interviews. If your books don’t sell, you have no money—and the money is not that good even if your books sell.

Besides, I have grown used to publicity over the years and decades—I would no longer know how to live without it.

I’M A PUBLIC figure even in the privacy of my home. Constant self-consciousness is a pain. Everything I do is instantly reflected by people’s imaginary reactions in my head.

What would they think if they knew? They must never know! What do they think of me? How do I look? Why are they staring at me? Why are they not staring at me?

I’M NEVER ALONE. I have friends and relatives whom I have never heard of. Many people think they know me and are upset when I don’t know them.

Once I received a ballet ticket with a letter. “I feel we have a lot in common. We see things in the same way,” the letter read. “I will be seated next to you. Looking forward to seeing you.”

I would have liked to go, although I hate ballet, but I lacked the courage. I let him down.

WHEN I WAS IN drama school, a man insisted we had been in a long relationship and I had broken up with him.

He maintained that I was speaking ill of him on television and writing nasty articles about him for newspapers and magazines. Nevertheless, he kept leaving red roses at my door and calling me at night for weeks.

I once happened to be at home when he rang my doorbell late at night. He wanted to know why I had written yet another mean article about him. I was home alone, standing at the door in my robe.

“Come in,” I said. “Let’s have coffee and talk things through.” I wanted to be friendly. I felt I owed that to everyone.

Fortunately, he refused.

By Anna-Leena Harkonen

Whatsherface (Kindle Short Read) takes a frank and hilarious look at living with celebrity—the kind where your life events, including tragedies, are discussed and criticized in the entertainment sections of websites and magazines.

Anna-Leena Harkonen emerged on the literary scene with her debut novel at the age of eighteen. A year earlier, she had starred in a major feature film in her native Finland after the director spotted her at a youth theater event.

Harkonen had dreamed of becoming an author and actress from a young age, but the huge success of her literary debut introduced her to something that she was not prepared for: the circus called celebrity.

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