Penelope Trunk: an example to others, delusional or just another media whore?

UPDATE TO THIS POST: With her new blog, Brazencareerist.com, The Divine Ms. P now states: Penelope is the founder of 3 startups — most recently, Brazen Careerist, a web service to help companies find candidates.

Hmmm… Wait a minutes.  Previously (see below) she was oscillating between two or three startups, depending where you looked.  But both of these claims were made before Brazen Careerist.  Now, however, PT is trying to look like she really meant BC was one of those startups.

Nice try, honey, but that’s the nifty thing about this Internet you like so much: it doesn’t lie.  And it leaves a helluva trail.

Now, on with the article I originally wrote several months ago…But stick around to take the new polls at the end.

Perhaps you can best learn from this train-wreck of a human being by looking at everything she’s done and everything she advocates and doing and advocating the opposite.

The Internet has spawned a plethora of experts on every subject imaginable. Almost all aren’t worth the time of day. After all, if they had any clue, they wouldn’t blog for a living.

But I don’t think anyone comes close to the person known professionally as Penelope Trunk (and whose real name was originally Adrienne Roston, which was then changed to Adrienne Greenheart, then Adrienne GreenHeart with new capitalization, then again to Adrienne Eisen while she wrote online porn, and then finally allowed herself to be christened Penelope Trunk by Time/Warner executives for reasons that make no sense to me no matter how much vodka I drink) and who thinks that with no credentials, no successes, no career nothing really but a laptop and an Internet connection (or the free one she gets at the corner coffee shop, where she admits she does most of her work) she’s fit to advise people on their careers.

She writes under the banner “The Brazen Careerist,” brazen being Penelope’s favorite word for unethical. She used to do a column for Yahoo!, until even that wretched organization fired her. When you’ve been sacked by Yahoo!, you know you blow.

She had some print gigs at one time too, but they seem to have all dried up. Last time I looked she listed the Boston Globe as one of her current gigs, but they don’t seem to agree.

Her online bio for Hatchette Books reads: Trunk spent ten years as a marketing executive in the software industry and then she founded three companies of her own. (Note: remember that number. It’s important for later.) She has endured an IPO, a merger and a bankruptcy. Prior to that she was a professional beach volleyball player.

I can’t seem to find the company she spent ten years working for as a marketing executive. (Of course, this is tough, being she has more aliases than a double-agent during the Cold War.) Nor does she ever say exactly what she did. (“Marketing executive”? What the hell’s that? Everybody these days is some sort of “executive” or, even more commonly, “consultant.”) She doesn’t list the three companies she founded—they should be all over the Internet, but they’re not. Why doesn’t she tout them the way she constantly does her book?

However, the last sentence, “Prior to that she was a professional beach volleyball player,” is truth. That is easy to look up online, including her rather unspectacular ranking. The rest of her career is as murky as the bottom of Loch Ness after Nessie takes a shit. She keeps claiming to be a “serial entrepreneur,” someone who’s always starting businesses, and she’s forever dropping references in her blog to venture capitalists she’s meeting with, and all sorts of people who are salivating to buy her business. As far as I can tell, her “business” consists and has always consisted of one thing—blogging. For free. Oh, and while she had some print columns going she finangled someone into publishing her book, which has never even seen a paperback reprint. Interestingly, on Amazon she admits to test-driving her advise before spewing it. On her blog she admits she has been “fired a lot.” Are those really good points to mention together?

Oh, and here’s the other killer factoid: in her Amazon interview she says she founded two startups. Elsewhere she claims three. Has she forgotten a startup, or just confused her fibs?

Back to the Hachette (hatchet?) bio, it continues: Trunk started writing business advice when Fortune magazine published an open call for a woman to write about her own life as an executive. Trunk auditioned with a piece about her brother’s stupid Internet ideas, and a piece about her boss’s sex appeal, and she won the job.

Well, that’s reason enough never to bother reading Fortune again. Seriously, what’s next, putting oiled babes in bikinis on the cover? (Note to Fortune execs: if you do this next month, I want my cut for the idea.) Furthermore, her bio states, “Her syndicated column runs in more than 200 publications worldwide.”

This is an oft-repeated claim that doesn’t seem to be provable by the facts. Were it so, Googling her should provide links galore to all sorts of outlets. Even if they’re just online outlets, I’ll accept that. But everything you Google about her takes you to one blog, her own. Hmmm…

Then comes the killer line: “That said, as a career adviser, Trunk realizes that a bio is not so much factual as aspirational…” Yeah, it says that. It really does.

Well, at least she’s honest about being, err, dishonest.

It continues: “…she feels compelled to put an aspirational paragraph in her own bio. Otherwise, how can she advise other people on setting goals for themselves that are a bit of a reach?”

Ah! So that’s the justification. Okay, in that case, I am an astronaut, three-time Indy Champion, and I’ve dated Heidi Klum and Tyra Banks. At the same time. In fact, they fought over me. Oiled and in bikinis. Hey, talk about aspirational.

In another post, she says she is gifted when it comes to composing personal profiles. (This is followed by another howler: “My profile-writing abilities are the same as my resume-writing abilities.”)

I guess a less charitable way to put this would be to say she carries a big shovel and isn’t afraid to use it. Sadly, in our presently sick and warped society, where selling one’s daughter into prostitution isn’t seen as an ethical quandry anymore, this kind of behavior has proven to be a career-builder, not a career-ender.

Some people—lots of Gen Y bloggers, predictably—don’t seem to care about Penelope’s fibs. I found this blog in which the writer, someone named Jory, takes offense at a certain John Grabowski for apparently posting something nasty about the Trunk. Then Jory says the most revealing thing, which I think drives Penelope and most media whores these days: she says her biggest fear isn’t being wrong, isn’t disapproval, isn’t, basically, competence or incompetence. Her biggest fear is irrelevance. Being ignored.

Or as the saying goes, any publicity is good publicity as long as they spell your name right.

The same thing seems to drive Penelope. Seems she’ll talk about anything to keep readers coming back to her blog. Most disgusting among these is her divorce and her husband’s alleged inadequacies—I say alleged because he doesn’t feel it necessary to broadcast his personal life, and her personal failings, and I’m sure she has them aplenty, so I have no idea if what she lays on him is true. Whether it is or not, however, it has nothing to do with career advice and therefore is not an appropriate subject for a career blogger, or any blogger for that matter. It is, however, appropriate for a Jerry Springer-type media whore, which is exactly what this creature is, in my opinion.

It’s interesting that people comment on her blog about how much they learn from her and how intelligent she is. If this is what people are learning, then tomorrow’s American workforce is going to be even sorrier than today’s unable-to-compete-with-Europe-and-Asia employees. Truly, God help us.

Trunk disses about her husband—often and brutally. Were a man to do this about his spouse, he’d be vilified by the same feminist career bloggers who stand up and cheer her on. (“You go, grrrl!“) She writes all about his inadequacies—sexual and otherwise—as though their shared private life were hers to post all over the Internet. Doing this doesn’t seem to give either her or her adoring readers, most of whom seem to be female, the slightest pause.

You know who Penelope Trunk Barnum makes me think of? Janet Cooke. For those of you too young to remember, Ms. Cooke was a high-flying reporter for the Washington Post back in the early 80s. She won the Pulitzer Prize in Journalism for a story about an eight-year-old heroine addict, Jimmy. Only problem was, the kid didn’t exist. She made him and the whole story up to further her career. You might call it aspirational reporting. But famed Watergate reporter Bob Woodward, her boss, didn’t think so. (She got caught, by the way, because of inconsistencies on her resume, such as the number of startups she founded—err, I mean the number of papers she’d worked for.)

Janet’s career ended then, and hasn’t resurfaced, despite several attempts at a revival on her part. The world apparently wouldn’t forgive Ms. Cooke.

Now, if it had happened today, she could have started her own blog, told readers she had aspirational goals and was simply stretching her resume a little bit, and you should too. In fact, that’s what she was there to do, teach you to stretch and aspire to greater things, such as winning a faux-Pulitzer. It’s not dishonesty, it’s heightened achievement. Yeah…

And I’ll bet she’d have a new career. Because today, people can twist and rationalize anything. We had at least some standards back in 1980. Not much—we liked ABBA—but we had some.

Janet was born 20 years too early.

Penelope also reminds me of Ed Wood. Seriously. Because no matter how much his films sucked, Ed Wood’s delusion was utterly bottomless. He always thought he had done great and an even better work was just around the corner.

Back to Penelope, the New York Times, another publication that is sinking like the Lusitania when it comes to standards, recently did an article that mentioned Penelope. As it pointed out, the blogs trashing hubby are among her most popular. So Jory would be relieved, irrelevant PT isn’t.

But hey, in the process, Trunk drags her kid into the fray. Her young son has Asperger’s Syndrome. He’s a subject of her blogs, too, and I doubt she asked permission. (Even if she did and even if he said yes, that’s still crossing the line.) Now, when he grows older, he can enjoy the fact that his friends and classmates will know all about the intimate failings of his mom and dad’s sex life and marriage, and his mom’s sordid love affairs and massive insecurities, because mom blogged about it online to get readers and speaking engagements. Nice.

Walt Disney’s brother Roy once said branding is what you do when there is nothing original about your product.

Well, whoring is what you do when you don’t even have a product.

Sorry, Time/Warner guys, I’d say Penelope Cunt would have been a better name for her. Hubby, you got the better part of the deal. Penelope is now banging a farmer somewhere in the midwest—and blogging about it all. Poor guy. I hope he realizes his private life could end up all over the web. All that stuff about cows…

The Times rather softballs their disapproval of her, in my opinion:

More painfully, she has written about the problems of a son who has Asperger’s syndrome and said that both she and her husband believed the challenges of raising him helped cause their divorce.

But this kind of brutal honesty is not a good idea for children, especially since most harbor feelings of guilt about their parents’ divorce anyway, said Irene Goldenberg, a professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“It is not good for children to get personal information in that way,” Goldenberg says. “The way they feel now will not be how they feel in two years, and there is no way it can be retrieved.”

Not surprisingly, Penelope Trunk disagrees.

“It is a generational issue.” (Note: everything to her is a generational issue.) “We think it will be a big deal, but it won’t be to them. By the time they are old enough to read it, they will have spent their entire life online. It will be like, ‘Oh yeah, I expected that.’ ”

So she’s now an authority in children’s developmental psychology and psychiatry, as well as a career expert who’s in 200 publications, eh? Has any other beach volleyball player ever achieved so much?

She may be right about one thing, though. Her son will probably say “Oh yeah, I expected that.” Because that’s just the sort of thing you’d expect from Penelope Trunk.

By the way, if you visit her blog, note that spyware will be deposited onto your computer in the form of tracking cookies.  Lavasoft will remove them (the lame Spybot Search and Destroy won’t), but still, it’s pretty damned rude if you ask me.  I guess this is just another example of her brazenness.

26 Responses to “Penelope Trunk: an example to others, delusional or just another media whore?”

  1. I don’t know if what she writes is true or not, but I would like to put my penis into her butt!

  2. She is exactly like a car accident – so horrible you can’t help but look to see how mangled the next body is that they pull out of the wreckage. I have been to her site several times over the last few months and each time I think “why should I take anything this woman writes seriously? What credentials does she have to give me advice about anything except how to live a life full of drama?” Most normal people out in the real world, not cyberspace, dislike people who’s lives are all drama or smoke and mirrors. People connect and relate to people who are genuine, honest, willing to put forth real effort to make something of their lives, caring and empathetic without being a pushover – people who are real. I don’t understand at all the pedestal people like her are put on like they should be emulated. Are employers and customers/clients (if you own your own business) really looking to employ/do business with people who are all flash and no substance? If that’s the way it’s going – personal brand is everything, even over actual skills, intelligence, work ethic – then I’m in trouble and shouldn’t hope for sucess or financial rewards. If Gen Y and the generation behind them are going to advance their careers and eventually run the working world based on who can craft the best comic book character persona and BS their way to money and success without actually providing anything else of value in this country, I’m moving to a primitive tribe in the jungle and live with the real people, not the cyberspace generated cardboard cut-outs.

  3. Hugh Jorgan Says:

    Comment 1 – Ibod Catooga – Maybe if you stuck it in her butt there would be no need for an abortion !!!!

  4. I think she is honest.. sometimes brutally honest but I think we do benefit from some of the insights she publishes. She is just looking at the world from her stand point. However, the idea that maybe the publicity is getting to her, could be why she so eagerly spills personal issues, but at the same time isn’t that extremely brave of her, she has opened up her life for other people and holds nothing secret – has no security for herself. You may see it as she has “sold her soul” but perhaps as she stated before, this is just the way of the future – with internet and social media and such.. Facebook is already going to still have pics of teens wen their parents which I am sure their kids are going to find! Maybe kids are going to be hardened with these new advances….possibly its not her you hate so much but the lack of control and censorship of communication in the 21st century. I mean its her loss in many ways but clearly she finds somekind of thrill or power in doing this so at the same times…its her gain. It’s like celebrities that say rude things to the press about their husbands…I personally dont believe she should be pulling her husband or son into it.. but they are part of her life and its her right to discuss her life…. its hard to to know where to cross the line. All in all, anyone who starts living in the spotlight.. is going to have haters and those that respect them… its the way of the world.

  5. Anonymous Says:

    you forgot to mention that Penelope herself has asperger’s syndrome. Hypocritical and a big oversight when accusing someone of not telling the truth about their life. Omission counts as a lie too, you know.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    I believe she self-diagnosed her Aspergers. And, no, I don’t think saying you have Aspergers over and over again is enough to make it so, and no, I don’t think it’s the ultimate catch-all excuse for every problem you might have. She’s going down in flames right now–basically fired from her own company, readership seemingly down (if comments are any indication of popularity), relationship with the Midwestern farmer on the rocks, etc. And not a moment too soon, in my opinion. What a fraud!

  7. I like her. I like her writing. She’s entertaining and inspirational at times.

    It’s her ideas I like.

    If I ever find out she plagiarized everything then I will hate her.

  8. Hey guys – great to see that someone’s out there still bringing the hate.

    I read a lot and this woman could write you into a ditch.

    The truth hurts, don’t it?

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  10. So, she “married” the farmer, but not legally. I’m willing to bet her ex is paying child support and she wanted the $$.

    I like her writing style, but her career advise is dismal. Why doesn’t she try a novel, since fiction is her forte?

  11. She has also accused her father of child abuse. Which is disturbing because if true, it means that a Harvard educated, former Chicago Biglaw partner, who quit law to TEACH, and then quit teaching to open a solo practice in Iowa practicing special needs child advocacy law!

  12. Yikes, did she turn you down in a bar or something?

  13. Anonymous Says:

    I picked up her book “Brazen Careerist” in bookstores long before I started following her blog. I graduated with a BFA. I wanted to make a lot of money but had no idea how to navigate the corporate world. Her book addressed the majority of my concerns and sparked an interest in the whole idea of taking control of my career (which, at the end of the day, I think is the really PT’s mission statement: quit being a victim). I emailed her a couple times in 2008 when I was struggling at my job, and she provided valuable advice. Now, 6 years later after starting from scratch as someone’s gofer/assistant, I am in management and will be making over 6 figures by the time I’m 30 while my classmates are struggling to find work waiting tables.

    I just wanted to point out that I am one example of someone’s life she completely changed for the better.

  14. Narcissistic, character-disordered, shock jock con woman.

  15. I found her blog when looking for blogs about Asperger. Something doesn’t seem right – it’s like she’s read up on Asperger’s & then painted herself with it? The tweet that she had a miscarriage & was glad she didn’t have to have an abortion – is that supposed to be the lack of empathy we hear about AS? Or just brutal callousness & attention-seeking?

  16. I”ve linked your post to my post on this very subject. My bullshit detector went off big time with Penelope. Like you say, she seems to forget she leaves a trail of evidence of her inconsistencies in her writing

    http://www.aspergerschild.org/1/post/2011/08/penelope-trunk-aspie-or-attention-whore.html

  17. entertainment|news|celebrity|tv shows|charlie sheen|funny|video…

    [...]Penelope Trunk: an example to others, delusional or just another media whore? « Unvarnished Truth[...]…

  18. Had the absolute misfortune of speaking to her once. Whatever you think you know about her–she’s worse.

  19. “…nothing really but a laptop and an Internet connection (or the free one she gets at the corner coffee shop, where she admits she does most of her work)…”

    the internet should be FREE for everyone, even snotty jerks like you.

  20. Penelope actually wishes she had assburger’s syndrome, lol. ;)

  21. econobiker Says:

    Actually Penelope Trunk moved her blog from Brazen Careerist to her own named blog.

  22. I worked at eCitydeals, she didn’t found it as she claimed, she was hired to run it by the Founder, but she ran it into the ground with her cliques and incompetence and ineptiude, and it went under. Loser, here she shows up again under a different name.

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    Insightful capture of Adrienne. I used to play volleyball with her. Anyone can play in tournaments if you pony up the entrance fees. See my illustration.

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