Did Ashley Judd take a page from “Mommie Dearest” when she wrote her own book about being raised by a celebrity mom? Judd’s new memoir, “All That is Bitter and Sweet” reveals painful details about her unconventional upbringing by her mother, country music singer Naomi Judd. Ashley’s version suggests the story mama Judd has spun for the media about Ashley’s poor-but-happy childhood with her half-sister Wynonna is as fake as margarine.
“My mother, while she was transforming herself into the country legend Naomi Judd, created an origin myth for the Judds that did not match my reality,” Ashley Judd wrote in an excerpt of her memoir. “She and my sister have been quoted as saying that our family put the ‘fun’ in dysfunction. I wondered: Who, exactly, was having all the fun? What was I missing?”
In the book “Mommie Dearest,” later turned into a hit movie, Christina Crawford spilled the caviar on her less-than-idyllic childhood with her glamorous movie star mother, Joan Crawford, a Hollywood legend whom Christina claimed beat her with a hairbrush and once attempted to strangle her. The book depicted Joan Crawford as an unhappy, controlling woman who lacked maternal instincts and adopted five children to enhance her image.
Unlike Crawford, Ashley Judd was not raised by a rich celebrity mother. In fact, Naomi Judd was a divorced single mom who struggled financially while attending nursing school when Ashley was a child. When Naomi traded in her scrubs for sequins and started pursing a country music career with her other daughter, Wynonna, Ashley claims she was often left alone for days at a time or shuttled to different relatives’ homes. “I often felt like an outsider observing my mom’s life as she followed her own dreams,” Ashley wrote.
Judd also claimed she was sexually abused by men, one of whom was a relative, and suffered what Ashley called “covert sexual abuse” when her mother took up with her current husband Larry Strickland. Naomi and Larry were “wildly sexually inappropriate, ” Ashley wrote. “A horrific reality for me was that when pop was around I would have to listen to a lot of loud sex in a house with thin walls.”
Although the childhood wounds of Christina Crawford and Ashley Judd were dramatically different, both women wrote books that disqualify their famous celebrity moms from ever receiving the “Mother of the Year” award. Critics of these two disgruntled daughters may fault them for airing their families’ dirty laundry in public, but Judd defends her decision to share details of her nightmarish childhood based on her humanitarian work in Cambodia and elsewhere.
Judd’s harrowing childhood gave her the insight and urge to help others. She told Meredith Vieira on “The Today Show” that as the “lost child” in her family she identifies with “people who are lost in our global system.” By highlighting her own harrowing childhood, Judd’s memoir draws attention to the shared humanity of all women whether they work in a Cambodian brothel or on a Hollywood movie set.
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