Actress Jennifer Grey wrote her new memoir “Out of the Corner” to take ownership of her life story. Up until now, she’s felt as if everyone else has dictated her story.
The book starts in the late 1980s with a prologue that clarifies misconceptions about the infamous rhinoplasty that left her virtually unrecognizable—despite her being a high-profile actress at the time.
“In the world’s eyes, I was no longer me,” Grey, who starred in “Dirty Dancing” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” writes. “I had unwittingly joined the Witness Protection Program.”
Though she addressed the incident with grace, compared to the rest of the book, Grey’s retelling of the nose job story felt like her fist pounding on the metaphorical lectern of her life. She’s declaring that she will no longer be defined by the trolls that have chastised her appearance for the past three decades.
“Out of the Corner ” is Grey’s process of “owning” her entire life story that too often has been mischaracterized and lampooned by those who don’t know her. And the throughline of the book is a deeper dive into how Grey seeks to exorcise her propensity for people-pleasing.
“I was born and bred to please and to not hurt anyone and not disappoint anyone,” Grey told the Journal. “I don’t want to hurt anybody ever.”
“I was born and bred to please and to not hurt anyone and not disappoint anyone.” – Jennifer Grey
The opening chapters chronicle her early life living at Central Park West in New York City with her brother and parents Jo Wilder and Joel Grey—both prominent stage performers at the time. She proudly details her Jewish upbringing in the chapter “Who Jew You Think You Are?”
Although she describes being born into a family of “Broadway royalty,” they downplayed their Jewishness in public so it wouldn’t affect their professional prospects. Joel would go on to win an Academy Award for his 1972 performance in “Cabaret.”
While Grey has much love and affection for her family, she does not shy away from recalling conversations with them and other adults in her life that left her feeling insecure for years to come.
When she was 13, her mother said to her, “Your brother is beautiful. You are…interesting looking,” Grey writes. Then, when she was 14, her grandparents’ landlord grabbed her from behind and began to lick her neck. Her parents and grandparents dismissed Grey’s distress when she told them what happened.
Even as she proved to be a talented actress as a teenager, the belittling added up. She recalls one of her first headshot sessions, which was filled with hurtful snarky comments from the photographer that left her doubting her own smile.
“Out of the Corner” engages the reader on Grey’s journey of discovery and doubts about herself. It started as a collection of essays about “change everything” moments in her life, and evolved into an opus of triumphing over self-doubt. It came at the cost of having to relive the many hurtful words hurled at her over the years.
“I never put something in quotes [in the book] that was not exactly the words that were burned into my head,” Grey said. “They were seared because of the shock of it, or because it was, it was very, impactful.”
The book chronicles her experience with Matthew Broderick in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” that became a secret romance between the two. Grey also looks back at the production of “Dirty Dancing” and the dynamic between her and Patrick Swayze. She opens up about being jealous of Swayze for getting the bulk of the acclaim, even though she was in almost every scene.
Grey then circles back to the day she felt “reduced to a punchline” following the surgeries that she refused to let define her.
“One of the things I want to do better is be more honest and be able to own my story and be able to tolerate people’s displeasure or disappointment or hurt feelings or people’s dislike of me,” Grey said. “I feel like what I’ve dealt with in my life has created a lot more resilience about the fact that people are gonna say whatever they wanna say about me, and if I’m at the mercy of that, then I’m just screwed.”
Grey is far from screwed, and her memoir serves as proof that Jennifer Grey won’t let anyone put Jennifer Grey in a corner again. Anyone who has ever lamented that they listened to others too much will find “Out of the Corner” a cathartic story of taking a stand.