For comedian, YouTube phenomenon and self-proclaimed fashionista Grace Helbig, the idea behind her second book — “Grace & Style: The Art of Pretending You Have It” — was to present her take on the world of fashion with a healthy dose of fun.
That immediately becomes clear at the beginning of the book as the New Jersey native dedicates it to “insecurity and fear: two of my best friends and closest enemies.”
In a call earlier this week, Helbig explained, “I wanted to ground the book in some seriousness, though humor is the major thrust. But I wanted it to have some grounding in seriousness, because I think beauty and self-image style, and that whole way we present ourselves in a physical aspect, is a real personal experience.
“So I wanted it to be silly, but I did want it to have some grounding in real human emotion.”
Speaking of true emotion, Helbig’s book gets right to the eating disorder she faced during her late teens.
“Then, after you read it, you’re rewarded with the silliness. It was good for me, in writing it, to give some context to beauty and fashion and style in a more ridiculous way.”
Helbig, who will be in our area promoting her book Friday with a 7 p.m. signing event at Anderson’s Bookshop, 123 W. Jefferson Ave., Naperville, told me she was inspired to write the most candid book she could, thanks to other high-profile people.
“When I watch people online or read their books and see that they reveal something really personal about themselves, it gives me more perspective on their perspective. I really enjoy that. I wanted this book to have balance between my personal relationship with beauty and the truly ridiculous nonsensical side of it all.”
The book delivers some real fashion do’s and don’t’s wrapped in a gloss of humor, and and Helbig understands that the many photos and strong graphics help add major punch to her point of view.
“I have to give so much credit to the photographer, a friend of mine, Robin Reumer. She shot my first book and she shot this book. I have a big stake in creating video content, so it was important to me to make the book visual. That was important for those who are coming from a digital world — the ones who watch most of my videos.”
Though her digital presence has had major impact on Helbig’s career, she doesn’t even try to guess the direction social media will take next.
“If I knew that answer, I’d be a billionaire! I really don’t know. I’m just as curious as the next person to see where it goes. The way we all consume media now is so different from the way we consumed it even two years ago. It’s interesting. I can place bets here and there where it might go, but at the end of the day, I truly don’t know. What is the impact of a TV show, vs. a book, vs. a short-form piece of content? It’s all blurred, and it’s kind of exciting today.”
One piece of advice Helbig shares in “Grace & Style” is to encourage her readers to be careful about investing too much in those of-the-moment style fads. She shares an anecdote about her father telling her to buy a good pair of jeans rather than blow money on a hot accessory that would be out of date within months, if not sooner.
“Until the book came out, my dad had no idea he inadvertently taught me one of the most important fundamentals of fashion — which is totally hilarious to him,” Helbig said with a burst of laughter.
“But frankly, I’m glad that there are some moments in the book that are grounded in true advice people can use. I want people to have a positive relationship with fashion and simultaneously, not take it, or themselves — or me for that matter — too seriously.”
Besides the introduction about her eating disorder, Helbig said “the hardest part was writing things that people might misinterpret or misunderstand. You never know how people take it. You’re not there to interpret your words for other people once it’s on the printed page.
“You can’t say, ‘This is what I meant by that!’ or ‘Read between the lines.’ ”
While Helbig has not spent a great deal of time in the Chicago area, outside of quick trips to do comedy shows or for the signing events for her first book, “Grace’s Guide,” she’s not unhappy about returning in early February.
“I know it’s the worst time of the year, but I do feel like it’s the more authentic Chicago experience — coming in the height of winter.”