“When I was in college, I was the person all my friends went to to ask what happened on Buffy,” Jessica Morgan explains. “I’d send them a really detailed email about the episode. A friend at the time told me I was really good at it, and I remember thinking, ‘I wish there was a job where I could get paid to retell what happened on a television show.’”
“…and there is!” she says, laughing. “It all worked out great.”
Jessica is a writer. She has written a few books with her business partner and BFF Heather Cocks and the two run the very popular celebrity-fashion site Go Fug Yourself. They have made careers on snakily critiquing red carpet looks and analyzing television shows in a light, friendly way. They are esteemed guest writers for New York Magazine and have a clear, hysterical point of view. It is absolutely unsurprising that they’ve become so successful: it’s easy to love what they do.
Jessica sits on a puffy teal arm chair in the living room of her Beverly Hills apartment. An open Macbook rests on a golden Moroccan poof within feet of a bookshelf filled with brightly colored books and a few CDs from the nineties through the early aughts. The room is bright and welcoming, just like Jessica: it would be a great place to work—and this is typically where all the Fug madness happens.
“I’m an LA native,” she explains. “I’ve had family in the area for over a hundred years. I grew up in Alhambra and went to high school in Pasadena and then moved out to attend UCLA. I have an English degree from there. I’ve constantly been an Angeleno.”
After graduation from UCLA, Jessica landed a few different writing jobs that eventually led her to where she is now. She started as a copywriter, landed a job writing television recaps, and eventually worked in television as a story producer. Everything is related and, as she believes, is important to her successes now.
“I worked at Television Without Pity for a while, which was really great,” she says. “It’s weird to look back on: I really liked the website and pitched myself as a recapper and they took me on. If that hadn’t happened, nothing in my life going forward would have happened. It’s so crazy that any little thing can take you somewhere.”
“It’s the butterfly effect,” she says with a smile.
Television Without Pity is also how Jessica met Heather: both of them were writing for the site. “She was living in Austin at the time and got a job here by the strength of her recaps, story producing Making The Band,” she says. “Heather moved out here in 2001 and didn’t really know anyone. We read each other’s stuff and were Internet coworkers so we went for drinks and she saved me from a creepy old man hitting on me at a bar and we’ve been friends ever since.”
Jessica eventually segued from recapping to story producing as well, working on various shows from Growing Up Gotti to Morgan Spurlock’s FX show. The two started writing together when they founded Go Fug Yourself in 2004. They eventually sold the website and got a book deal, which made it very difficult to continue working a taxing “day job.”
“We quit TV in 2006,” she says. “We sold a book based on Go Fug Yourself called The Fug Awards around that time, and we realized we couldn’t do our jobs and blog and write a book simultaneously. We took the advance for the book and then took a leap. The plus of working for television was that it’s all contract, that we could pop in and pop out when needed. We knew if things went to hell, we could hopefully get a job again.”
“I really enjoyed working in television, though—and I learned a lot,” Jessica adds. “I learned all kinds of stuff that I actually use now. Like story structure, which isn’t used so much for the blog but definitely for the books. I do miss going into the office and seeing friends and gossiping.”
She clarifies: “But, I prefer being my own boss.”
Jessica doesn’t see Los Angeles playing a big part in her work though, an irony in that she writes about people and happenings taking place in the city. She finds this because she’s from here: she’s doing things the only way she knows how to. “It’s hard for me to see LA in what I do because I grew up here,” she says. “It feels like home.”
“But there is something to be said about being a celebrity/fashion critic in Los Angeles: we get to see them in their natural habitat. We’ve said this before—and I don’t remember if Heather or I came up with this—but when you are at fashion week, it’s like celebrities are in a zoo and you are supposed to look at them and have to ask them questions and you have to pay attention to them. When you’re in LA, it’s like they are in the wild. You don’t know where they are going to be and, if you see one, you need to just be cool. Fashion week is the zoo and LA is the wild.”
“Being in Los Angeles can demystify the concept of celebrity too,” she continues. “You see them at Bristol Farms buying brownie mix. And at the same time, it also brings home to you how bizarre celebrity culture is because when you leave Bristol Farms, there are forty paparazzi waiting because it was actually Halle Berry buying that brownie mix. It’s interesting to have it be part of your daily life, which I’m sure is true in New York too.”
“It’s also fun to be on Instagram and share a photo of the set of the Oscars or things like that,” she says. “Sometimes there is a benefit in my line of work of being able to report from the streets.”
“In terms of writing, our previous two books—Messy and Spoiled, the young adult novels— are both set here. And living here was really helpful, because they are the story of two girls whose dad is a huge movie star. You could really visualize what was being written. You want to put yourself in your characters’ shoes. If we were writing a scene where Brooke Berlin—our heroine —goes to The Grove, I’ve been to The Grove a thousand times and know how it smells and looks like and where she’s going and where her car is parked and how she gets there. I know all the details. That led to LA being a sort of character in those books: there’s a sense of place there.”
“That’s really helpful in a way that I didn’t realize until I started writing a book set in England,” Jessica says, alluding to her and Heather’s current project The Royal We. “Our first two books were young adult novels but this is totally new and for adults. Every time I say that, people always ask, ‘You mean like an adult book?’ No, it’s not erotica: it’s just intended for an adult reader!”
“It’s loosely based on Kate Middleton and is about an American girl who goes to Oxford for a semester and falls in love with a guy and he happens to be a prince and there are issues and his family is crazy, and her family is crazy and there are dramatic shenanigans. So far, it’s been really fun. That’s why we were in England at the beginning of the year: It’s really helpful to be able to get a eyes on the place you’re writing about, to get the feeling, to understand the setting and the sense of place. I didn’t realize how important that was until I wasn’t living in my setting anymore.”
Jessica plans to continuing her writing—but does have one local predicament she’s trying to figure out in the near future. “As an Angeleno, my thought process now is that I need a new car. That’s what I worry about!” she laughs. “That’s my big LA life situation now.”
“We’re also finishing The Royal We, which comes out in Spring 2015, and we want to keep growing Go Fug Yourself, to get it as popular and great as it can be. I mean, there are only two of us and there’s only so much work we can do, so the book and the blog feel like enough to tackle at the moment. We also want to celebrate Go Fug Yourself’s tenth anniversary, which is this July.”
“I really enjoy the fiction writing,” she says. “I do non-fiction writing all day: fiction is like flexing a different muscle.”