Nicole Richie on her past: ‘I made bad decisions; being ashamed is not ok’

Nicole Richie at the 26th Annual EMA Awards in LA
Nicole Richie really turned her life around when she got pregnant with her first child, Harlow, in 2007. Prior to that she was known for being Paris Hilton’s best friend, for partying and for getting a DUI. Richie pled guilty and received a four day jail sentence, of which she served less than an hour and a half before being released. Richie got jail time because it was actually her second DUI – she had another one four years prior. Richie has since said that being a mom made her realize that she could have killed someone and that she decided to be a better person for her daughter (she had just one child when she said that, she and Joel Madden now have two).

So that’s why I’m side eyeing Richie’s new essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny newsletter. Richie makes the dubious argument that she’s not ashamed of her past, that it made her who she is and that “I’m not going to apologize for me so you can get your triumphant ending.” Wow. I guess people say a lot of dumb stuff to her in public about how she used to be so wild, but still.

With my family and close friends, I am owning my past, relishing in the absurdity, slightly flinching at my own naïveté, and giving myself props for the unabashed bravery that streaked through my youth. But not trying to hide from it, not trying to change it, just allowing it to help propel me forward.

When I am out in the world naked and vulnerable, I acknowledge that I was young, had a lot of freedom, and made some “bad decisions” … but how bad are they if it’s part of a journey to understanding who I am and what I stand for? I feel the need to support women loving themselves. It’s by loving ourselves that we give permission to others to love us. Life is a roller coaster, and we all have had times where we need to get back on the up, but we can’t do it alone. We need each other’s love and support.

I finally realized that taking on someone else’s vision of you can be very dangerous. People attempt to categorize and label so they can feel upright and comfortable. If you are hard to understand, they don’t feel safe, so they put you in a box that they recognize. I cannot tell you how easy it is to believe someone else’s picture of you. Is it because it’s easier to be agreeable? Partly. Is it because of laziness? Partly.

It is no secret that I have, at times, taken advantage of my time on this planet. And as much as I have to look at those moments and learn from them, as we all do, it’s important for me to have gratitude for that time, too. Not shame. Being ashamed of your life is not OK. I realized I am actually extremely thankful I was so beastly in front of the world for a few reasons. It’s so bad in people’s minds that there’s nothing that can embarrass me now. I got a little surprise gift of freedom! I also truly believe if I didn’t have so many eyes on me, it would’ve been easier for me to slip back into my reckless behavior. I had people rooting me on and watching me at a time when I needed that.

Mostly, the utter freedom I experience from having all of my past out in the open allows me to truly accept and embrace my former self, allowing her and every subsequent version of me to know that we are going to be OK, because we are not static. And I don’t have to worry someone is going to put an embarrassing picture up on Facebook — the worst is already in strangers’ heads. How cool is that?!

I could fall into the role-playing that some people seem to want and say, “YES! I am so sorry. I was bad. I am good now! I promise.” But I don’t believe in that story of redemption, a good-prevailing-over-evil story. It’s one I’m just not in. I am not going to apologize for being me so you can get your triumphant ending. I don’t believe the world operates in absolutes, in black and white and short and tall — I like living in the gray, in the medium.

That’s because all of these things I learned by being me in my teens and twenties are just more tools that allow me to live in a more peaceful, safe way. The simple yet difficult act of forgiving yourself is so powerful, because it’s all within you. We have to embrace ourselves and hold every part of our journey in some type of light. Instead of reliving my past as a point of shame, I’ve embedded the lessons into my skill set.

[From Lenny]

What happened to her realization that little kids and innocent people get killed by drunk drivers every day? She was so high she was driving the wrong way on the freeway! This isn’t a harmless thing she did and she has two DUIs, not just one. I get that she wants to own her past and that she’s protective of her identity on her own terms, but there’s something to be said for being humble and accepting responsibility. I did some really dumb sh-t when I was in my teens and 20s and I’m ashamed of that. You can be both secure in who you are and how you define yourself, realize that it helped shape you and be ashamed of your past, when you could have killed yourself or others. I thought that’s how Nicole framed it until I read this essay. It’s like she’s saying she admires her old devil-may-care self instead of admitting she was wrong.

Nicole Richie at the 26th Annual EMA Awards in LA

Nicole Richie wears an all black workout outfit as she leaves the gym in Los Angeles

26th Annual Environmental Media Awards (EMA)

photos credit: FameFlynet, WENN and Pacific Coast News

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31 Responses to “Nicole Richie on her past: ‘I made bad decisions; being ashamed is not ok’”

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  1. Astrid says:

    entitled snot. regular people with 2 DUI’s would get more than an hour jail time. Had she really had to serve her time with the masses, I’m sure her experience and thoughts about her actions would have been different.

  2. Jennah says:

    i took it she likes take offense at people ever bringing up her past. sounds like she is just pissed at her ongoing fame to me?

  3. Cousin Erika says:

    Carrying around 20-year-old shame? No way. Doing that is crazy making and arguably damaging for one’s mental health. Sure, you can look back and recognize bad choices, but tethering yourself to shame for life? Are people not allowed to grow and become better people without always beating themselves up over past wrongs?

    • tegteg says:

      I look back and feel ashamed at certain things I’ve done, but it’s not like I feel shame ALL of the time. I think it’s important to feel at least a modicum of shame/regret over past mistakes, so that you don’t commit them again.

    • LiterallyaShambles says:

      I agree. To me it sounds like she’s saying you can own who you once where, learn from it, and grow from it without feeling shame. Shame is a nasty worm that can sneak into your chest and create a tightness that never goes away.

    • Snappyfish says:

      She states that she has “taken advantage of her time on is planet” I took that to mean she realizes she had it easier than most. I’m probably older than most here for the sheer point that I’ve been reading celebitchy since it launched. I think the idea we are our past is really rather ridiculous. Everyone makes mistakes. She has acknowledged them & paid a price that she recognizes was light. Most people don’t have US articles written about us. Privacy is fleeting for everyone & if you’ve ever had a modicum of fame rather nonexistence.

      She may not have conveyed her point as salient as she had wished but I don’t think she came across as unknownkingly entitled or a brat. Her past is hers just as our belong to us & no one should have to relive them. Like Oogway the Wise Turtle said in Kung Fu Panda. Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift. It’s why it’s called the present. Be happy!!

    • Minnieder says:

      I agree. What I understand is she recognizes how serious her behavior was, that having a child made her realize that she could have taken someone else’s away, but she has grown and changed, and isn’t going to live her life pretending she didn’t do some bad things. Of course a non celebrity would have served jail time, but that’s not the point. I have children, and I certainly made bad decisions in my youth, but I learned a lot with age.

    • sherry says:

      I think she’s trying to get across that because of her past, she is now a better person. I think she’s just grateful she learned life lessons and didn’t hurt or kill anyone in the process.

      IMO – You can’t be ashamed of your past if you’re grateful you learned something from it.

    • Cran says:

      I took it as she stated. She made her mistakes and bad choices and she understands that. She also expresses that she is grateful she went through it in the public eye because that exposure forced her to come to grips with her behavior in a way she would not have had that impetus not been in place. She is not going to live in purgatory & apologize to everyone she meets for the rest of her life.

      We are who we are because of the journey we go through in life. This includes ALL of our experiences good, bad and indifferent. That’s what she says. If she continued making bad choices that would be a different story but she lived, learned and grew. That is what life is about.

    • HH says:

      I understand what she was trying to say, but for me, she didn’t say it seriously enough (if that makes sense). It’s not like she had a harmelss sex tape. She wasn’t just a drunken hot mess. She did just do drugs. She had DUIs. She behaved in ways that have killed people. That’s different. I would have appreciated if she had said something which acknowledged this. It’s not simply that she went through this in public that has allowed her to learn, it’s the fact that she should be grateful she didn’t kill anyone.

  4. Mar says:

    She looks like a little old lady to me

  5. eggy weggs says:

    You know, I think Nicole is a fairly sensitive person; I think she carries a lot with her. I do that, too; even over the little things — the eighth grade embarrassments or the drunken mistakes. It’s not fun. Sometimes our mistakes help build us as people, but I hope some day we can all let our shame and sadness go.

    • Neelyo says:

      I am trying to face shame right now. It is awful and debilitating. Little mistakes at work, things I did when I was twelve, they are always with me and keep me from feeling that my existence is valid. It has kept me in a miserable job for years because I continually believe I deserve it and I couldn’t do better anyway. I am trying to crawl out of it now, but it is a daily struggle.

  6. Slowsnow says:

    I read it as a musing about the persona you need to build, as a celebrity, when you’ve really messed up. There is an expectation of eternal contrition that, as a human being is hard to sustain. I understand that. No one is all bad and throwing away everything you were by constantly apologizing is terrible for a healthy self. However, she should have said that that cannot apply to her DUI’s, it’s the kind of thing that sticks to you, as a responsibility, all your life and you can’t ignore it. Come to think of it, I prefer my celebrities sans think pieces.

  7. Fiorella says:

    Amazing eyebrows! Love her with this hair colour too, maybe it’s her natural colour?
    On the article, well it’s a little convoluted. She THINKs she has a point at least… But not very convincing

  8. HappyMom says:

    I think there is a current tendency (ala Elizabeth Gilbert) to do whatever you want and then explain it away with lots of pretty words and self-realization terms. I have conflicting thoughts about this. On the one hand I think of course, if you have learned from it and are able to move past it, yay you. But then again-I also think (especially if your actions hurt someone else) that you still need to retain a sense of regret. It just seems selfish and self absorbed.

  9. QQ says:

    Oh Another one in the Cringeworthy “I Forgive myself” club? LOLOL

  10. Abbess Tansy says:

    It seems as if she’s accepted her mistakes and owned her part in them. That’s fine and dandy but has she extended apologies to the families to whom she caused pain with her DUIs?

    • Kristin says:

      Exactly who does she owe an apology to? What families are you talking about? To my knowledge, she got DUIs because she was pulled over, not because she caused an accident or hurt anyone. So I’m confused as to whose pain you think she caused.

  11. Lexie says:

    Ugh, posts like these always make me wonder — why do I spend time reading about people I don’t care about who think I care about them? WHY!?!?!

  12. CityGirl says:

    I kind of get what she’s saying and truthfully I agree with her on all of it as long as she emphatically states all DUI’s notwithstanding – and I don’t mean just the 2 in which she got caught.

    • Starkiller says:

      Yep. Most people who drive drunk and/or high do so on a regular basis. They just don’t get caught every time.

      In the words of Scott Rudin, what a minimally talented spoiled brat.

    • Mae says:

      +1 CityGirl. I agree with her sentiments in general, but in the specific context of what her mistakes actually involved (other people’s lives at risk), I think she’s being too cavalier.

  13. DesertReal says:

    Arrogance is one hell of a drug.

  14. Anna says:

    I kind of understand the almost nostalgia-like view of stuff you’ve done in your past that was obviously horrible but for whatever reason part of you misses it. I feel like that about a lot of sketchy things I’ve done. Doesn’t mean she thinks it was okay, or that she’s ever going to do it again. Also, I couldn’t image how annoyed and angry I’d be if people continued to bring up the highlight reel of all the crappy stuff I did that happened over ten years ago.

  15. NeoCleo says:

    I did a lot of stupid stuff when I was young. No excuses, I was just really lucky that I did not hurt or kill myself or someone else.