For my birthday this year, my daughter bought me two 99¢ records—or “vinyls” as the kids call them these days—at a vintage store. One was Peter Paul and Mary’s first album. The other—Petula Clark. On the flip side of the Petula Clark album is a photo of the artist in-studio and one of the most delightful bios I’ve ever read. It starts like this:
PETULA CLARK, who is not much taller than a hyper-thyroid fire plug, should look more Brünnhilde-ish. All that voice coming from that cuddly little thing. But the voice…she sounds like Lawrence Tibbett* was her little brother.
Petula complains some about that. About how people never believe she—this 5’2” English teenybopper type—can really belt like a big, big grown up broad. People seem to think of it like Atilla playing piccolo.
I was immediately enthralled and read the entire bio/tribute out loud to my family. It was, after all, my birthday, so reading a record jacket out loud came with the title of Princess for the Day. And what a delight!
Today you’d be shunned for writing some of these lines, like when her producer calls her a “deceptive wench,” and keeps up the riff about her stature for thirteen paragraphs. But it still scores off the charts in readability, memorability, and sheer charm.
You don’t have to be a big star to have a bio these days, but my have they become snoozers. There’s a template, and we follow it: Look what I can do. Look at the impressive jobs I’ve had. And I’m human, too, because I’ve included a couple lines about how I spend time with my lovely family and interesting hobbies. So in the end, the photo is the only thing that makes you unique on your bio page. And tell me that wasn’t taken at least 10 years ago.
Can you brag about yourself and make it interesting? You can certainly try. Instead of a laundry list of achievements, why not highlight the accomplishments that brought you the most joy. You don’t want to come across as super human. Why not try just being human? Express your passions. Express your personality. Make the reader smile.
I think the best way to close is with a little more from Petula Clark’s bio:
As of this writing, since “Downtown,” darling Petula has recorded eight singles. Each one has become, in the moving terminology of the record business, a monster. “Monsters” from a puny little lass who makes Julie Andrews look like a Dead End Kid.
Eight in a row, fans!
I can’t get enough of the energy and the irreverence. Want to put a little edge into your bio? Let’s do it!
*Famous baritone opera singer, recording artist, film and radio actor. The Time obituary for him said: “Tibbett had a big, bronzelike, dramatically eloquent voice that combined ringing power with remarkable agility …”—thank you Wikipedia.